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Donna Larsen wants more than Wiggles & Raffi

Turning a cloudy day into children’s play

Donna Larsen set out to make the kids’ music she wanted them to hear.
Donna Larsen set out to make the kids’ music she wanted them to hear.

Donna Larsen knows singing, songwriting, producing, and promotion. But when it came to making music (and eventually books) for kids, she fell back on the most reliable test market she could find: her own children. “They had a lot of trouble falling asleep,” recalls Larsen, who’s throwing a musical launch party for her new project In My Own Backyard on December 11 at Amethyst Moon in La Mesa. “So as I lay next to them, naturally, my way to soothe them was to sing them to sleep. I missed performing, but always kept writing music, and so I would just build on to the little ditty from the night before that I had made up.”

Past Event

Donna Larsen

  • Saturday, December 11, 2021, noon to 4:30 p.m.
  • Amethyst Moon, 8329 La Mesa Boulevard, San Diego

After a while, she says, “I came to realize that I had enough to do a little show that I called Pajama Time. We would lay blankets and pillows down on the floor, and parents would set their kids there. It’s a fun memory, seeing all these little ones crawling all over each other while parents sat watching and listening. You really have to be a performer to keep kids’ interest. I don’t remember any meltdowns. But it did really take the village to keep them all corralled.”

Larsen grew up in Redlands, but moved down to San Diego to major in drama. After studying at Grossmont College (former school of famed music critic Lester Bangs), she moved over to Ocean Beach, which she loved for “the vibe, and being able to take my dog to the beach each day.” A stint in Lemon Grove found her running Soundsations Recording Studio during her first marriage.

Time spent at O’Hungry’s in Old Town led to jamming in twos and threes; she joined a band called Sapphire, and then one called Messenger. Her second marriage caused her to set music aside, partially for the kids, while she worked in federal court — although she did release a solo album, Expectant World, around 2000.

She loved discovering stuff with her kids, but noticed “there was so much children’s music out there with really bad drum loops, people singing off-pitch, and lyrics that were just, well, lacking in substance or joy… There seemed a belief, somehow, that children’s music needn’t be held to the highest standard. I just didn’t get that. And I didn’t want that for my kids. Other than Raffi, the Wiggles, and Trout Fishing in America, I couldn’t find much kids’ music that was worth listening to.”

Her zeal to rectify the situation led her to create (and now launch) In My Own Backyard, an illustrated children’s book with songs included on an accompanying CD. For an illustrator, she picked San Diego native Michelle Haglund. “She does such amazing works of art in encaustic — painting with melted beeswax.”

Larsen stresses that “In My Own Backyard is written from a different perspective than the old love songs I used to write, or the music from Expectant World. That was about the world from my cosmic point of view, a very adult point of view examining our world. Writing, to me, has always been a spiritual experience. As human beings, we are also energetically connected to the archetypes of angels, fairies, dragons, birds, butterflies. It all has symbolism and deeper meaning, so I’m hoping parents will enjoy that part of In My Own Backyard. Some of the songs, like ‘I Forgot to Ask the Angels’ or ‘The Magic Key,’ may seem overtly spiritual or at least introspective to an adult. The song ‘This Tiny Thing’ is about a little flower bending in the wind in the rain. A child would see it that way, but a parent may think more deeply about how the words we use, and the situations we put our fragile little ones in, can mold a child for their entire life. ‘It’s A Sunny Day’ is just a fun simple, bouncy blues song. But if you take it deeper, it’s about our choice in how we perceive things: Could be a cloudy day/But we still can play.”

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Donna Larsen set out to make the kids’ music she wanted them to hear.
Donna Larsen set out to make the kids’ music she wanted them to hear.

Donna Larsen knows singing, songwriting, producing, and promotion. But when it came to making music (and eventually books) for kids, she fell back on the most reliable test market she could find: her own children. “They had a lot of trouble falling asleep,” recalls Larsen, who’s throwing a musical launch party for her new project In My Own Backyard on December 11 at Amethyst Moon in La Mesa. “So as I lay next to them, naturally, my way to soothe them was to sing them to sleep. I missed performing, but always kept writing music, and so I would just build on to the little ditty from the night before that I had made up.”

Past Event

Donna Larsen

  • Saturday, December 11, 2021, noon to 4:30 p.m.
  • Amethyst Moon, 8329 La Mesa Boulevard, San Diego

After a while, she says, “I came to realize that I had enough to do a little show that I called Pajama Time. We would lay blankets and pillows down on the floor, and parents would set their kids there. It’s a fun memory, seeing all these little ones crawling all over each other while parents sat watching and listening. You really have to be a performer to keep kids’ interest. I don’t remember any meltdowns. But it did really take the village to keep them all corralled.”

Larsen grew up in Redlands, but moved down to San Diego to major in drama. After studying at Grossmont College (former school of famed music critic Lester Bangs), she moved over to Ocean Beach, which she loved for “the vibe, and being able to take my dog to the beach each day.” A stint in Lemon Grove found her running Soundsations Recording Studio during her first marriage.

Time spent at O’Hungry’s in Old Town led to jamming in twos and threes; she joined a band called Sapphire, and then one called Messenger. Her second marriage caused her to set music aside, partially for the kids, while she worked in federal court — although she did release a solo album, Expectant World, around 2000.

She loved discovering stuff with her kids, but noticed “there was so much children’s music out there with really bad drum loops, people singing off-pitch, and lyrics that were just, well, lacking in substance or joy… There seemed a belief, somehow, that children’s music needn’t be held to the highest standard. I just didn’t get that. And I didn’t want that for my kids. Other than Raffi, the Wiggles, and Trout Fishing in America, I couldn’t find much kids’ music that was worth listening to.”

Her zeal to rectify the situation led her to create (and now launch) In My Own Backyard, an illustrated children’s book with songs included on an accompanying CD. For an illustrator, she picked San Diego native Michelle Haglund. “She does such amazing works of art in encaustic — painting with melted beeswax.”

Larsen stresses that “In My Own Backyard is written from a different perspective than the old love songs I used to write, or the music from Expectant World. That was about the world from my cosmic point of view, a very adult point of view examining our world. Writing, to me, has always been a spiritual experience. As human beings, we are also energetically connected to the archetypes of angels, fairies, dragons, birds, butterflies. It all has symbolism and deeper meaning, so I’m hoping parents will enjoy that part of In My Own Backyard. Some of the songs, like ‘I Forgot to Ask the Angels’ or ‘The Magic Key,’ may seem overtly spiritual or at least introspective to an adult. The song ‘This Tiny Thing’ is about a little flower bending in the wind in the rain. A child would see it that way, but a parent may think more deeply about how the words we use, and the situations we put our fragile little ones in, can mold a child for their entire life. ‘It’s A Sunny Day’ is just a fun simple, bouncy blues song. But if you take it deeper, it’s about our choice in how we perceive things: Could be a cloudy day/But we still can play.”

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