Don’t worry.

Feb 14

A year ago at this time, I was in Duluth, Minnesota, reeling from the unexpected death of our friend Jon Western. I was raised United Methodist, and to the extent I’m anything, I guess I’m that, but I think I was doing whatever my equivalent of sitting shiva is. I rented a little place on Park Point and spent a good bit of time looking at the lake and sitting with my grief.

I’m back here again after a year of deaths, some I guess expected and a lot not. There was Jon, but there was also Morgan, (another) Jon, Jeffrey, Mark, Alan, Art, Nancy. Our friend Erik died in 2020 but his celebration of life was in 2022 due to the pandemic.

I’m 51, and I know that some of this is just what happens. But half of those are my contemporaries and it seems too soon.

Anyway. Like I said, I’m back here and I’m trying to process. For me, a lot of processing stuff is music, and a lot of it is walking. So this morning I went for a walk from my place on one of Duluth’s many wonderful walking paths, and I wanted something familiar. So I put on Frank Turner’s album from a few years ago, Be More Kind.

Ella and I saw Frank open for The Hold Steady in December 2017 (here they are together, there are swears), so we got to hear one or two of the songs from that album early—I mostly remember him doing “Make America Great Again” (which isn’t what you might think it is).

“Don’t Worry” had honestly never made much of an impression on me other than as a pleasant album opener, one I’ve heard dozens (hundreds?) of times. But this time, walking with Lake Superior perhaps 1,000 feet to my left, avoiding slipping on the ice, it resonated.

Don’t worry if you don’t know what to do 
I’ve spent a little time in worried shoes 
I wore them out through walking 
It wasn’t any use 
Don’t worry if you don’t know what to do

Don’t give up if you just can’t get away 
Don’t listen to the bitter things they say 
Put those thoughts behind you 
Tomorrow’s a new day 
Don’t give up if you just can’t get away


Don’t let your heart get hardened into stone 
Or lose yourself in looking at your phone 
So many so-called friends 
And still you feel alone 
You should spend more time 
With the do’s than with the don’ts

Gosh. Yes.

I’m trying on all of this. Trying. But it’s nice to be reminded that it’s okay to sometimes not be able to get away.

My mom pointed out that part of me knowing a lot of people who died is me knowing a lot of people, and that’s definitely true, and it is, absolutely, true and a good thing. But Frank’s right: it’s easy to still feel alone.

We talked with Frank way back in, gosh, late 2013, when he was touring with our pals Koo Koo Kanga Roo:

We’ve all changed a ton, obviously, except that I still wear a lot of Hold Steady shirts. Frank still seems to be kind and generous and thoughtful.

But, to steal from another one of Frank’s songs—this one featured today on a fantastic teaser for Ted Lasso, Season 3, that I saw right when I got back from that walk:

I still believe in the need 
For guitars and drums and desperate poetry 
And I still believe that everyone 
Can find a song for every time they’ve lost 
And every time they’ve won 
So just remember, folks, we’re not just saving lives, we’re saving souls 
And we’re having fun

Somehow I knew that Be More Kind was the record, and “Don’t Worry” the song, for this particular time I’ve lost.

Frank will be at the Fillmore in Minneapolis on April 29.

See you there, even though it’s a LiveNation venue. Go listen to his new record. It’s so good.

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The Grammy nominations

Dec 01

The Grammy nominations came out recently. I’ll talk about them a bit on the radio this weekend but thought I’d expand briefly here.

Every artist nominated is white; four of the five are white men. At a time when, more than at any point during the fifteen-plus years we’ve been doing this show, I believe there are more BIPOC folks making family music, and when so much of that music that is amazing, it is inexplicable that this would be the slate of nominees.

(Actually, it is entirely explicable, but not for any good reasons.)

Pierce Freelon; SaulPaul; Lucky Diaz; Jazzy Ash–the list literally goes on and on. Pierce’s record was the best family record of the year.

It is true that many of the nominated records had non-white artists on them. Cool. Whether it is as it should be or not, it is inarguable that the name that is nominated is far more noticed than the supporting players.


I commend to you this statement by the Family Music Forward organization, an organization taking a vital lead role in dismantling racism and white supremacy in family music. You’ll recognize many of the founding members as folks who have appeared on the show, often guest hosting (June of this year I dedicated almost entirely to shows guest hosted by people of color). You’ll hear more from them in the future on the show as well. I’m going to keep listening to them and amplifying their voices.

I also commend to you WeeNationRadio. You’ll recall that Devin guest hosted the show just a few months ago; you can listen to that now. His work is essential.

The Grammys have never been a huge deal to me; I’ve noted that before. But they are unquestionably a central part of how musicians are recognized and they make a real difference in the artists’ lives, as I understand it.

The records nominated are very good records, every one of them made by friends of mine. But any process that results in that slate is a fundamentally broken process. If I were a nominee, I’d like to think that I would choose not to be part of that process until it gets fixed, including this year. Declining a nomination is absolutely a sacrifice; it seems like a small one to make to noisily reject the process that led to this.

Note: as of December 9, three nominees—Alastair Moock, Dog on Fleas, and The Okee Dokee Brothers—have written to the Academy asking not to be listed on the ballot. I do not think this was because of my post, to be clear; I am glad they did so.

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Some thoughts after fifteen years

Aug 22

So, we’re fifteen years into this radio thing, which maybe makes it so I have some ideas about radio for families that others might find interesting. But I’m going to start about music radio writ large.

There are two things that I think make it so that music radio continues to be compelling, at least to me—and I think to others. 

First, it’s music that is selected more or less by human hands rather than even a smart shuffle—and selected with more than segues in mind. That is, it’s sets that are put together to tell a story or represent influences on an artist or just to be goofy. (The non-comm classical station in Austin, KMFA, has being “gently educational” in its mission statement, and I always liked that.) That is part of why we include non-kids’ music in the mix, because I think that’s one way to (gently!) teach about the broader world of music.

Second, it’s that music being presented by people with a voice and a point of view.  I know that if I turn on the radio during Mary Lucia’s shifts on The Current that I will get some dry sarcasm but a lot of humanity; I know that Jeff McCord on KUTX has a deeper knowledge of Texas music than anyone else; I know Monte on The River is not just connected to but an integral part of the Pioneer Valley; and so on.

I think those factors both apply, or should apply, to music programming for kids. The music should be (I don’t like this term, but don’t know a better one) curated, and it should be presented in an interesting way.

Maybe more importantly, I think those two factors should be overlaid with the critical fact (or at least my view) that kids deserve high quality music that is made for them just the same way that they deserve high quality literature that is written for them. It doesn’t have to be exclusively music made for them (see: our show playlist), but the experiences kids go through are unique to them and their ages, and family music done right reflects and resonates with that in quite precisely the same way that kids’ books can (should) do so.

All of that together gives us an opportunity to show kids (and to remind adults) what it is that radio and music can be in their lives—not just the music bed to a YouTube video or the background to a TikTok, but part of how they navigate life. 

An aside, sort of: That all goes for live music, too. I am not exaggerating when I say that one of the best traditions I have with Ella since she started college is meeting her in Brooklyn the weekend after Thanksgiving to see The Hold Steady, and that Liam is super excited to start doing the same thing (you know, if live music ever starts). I’m 100% confident that their love of live music, and their recognition of the centrality of live music to any city’s ecosystem, comes from growing up going to shows I was booking or promoting.

When we started all of this, I wasn’t thinking about this in quite these terms, though I think it was always there subconsciously. I was thinking about how it would be fun to do a radio show and to hang out with my kids while doing so. But I was writing this up for another reason and thought I’d throw it out there.

Anyway! Thanks for fifteen years. Here’s to another fifteen. We love you all.

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George Floyd and Michael Ramos

May 31

Today’s Austin newspaper has two different stories relating to my kids. On the front of the Metro section is Ken Herman’s column hoping that the class of 2020 will be part of a new Greatest Generation; that column is accompanied by photos from our neighborhood graduation, which included Liam and a dozen or so other kids graduating high school. The front section included extensive coverage of the protests of the killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Michael Ramos here in Austin, protests that both of our kids attended (and came home from with pepper spray burns).

The kids, of whom we are very proud, went there to be part of standing up against police brutality and to provide support to the voices of people of color. And they brought water and medical supplies and sunscreen and were ready to help–once camp counselors, always camp counselors. They joined their brothers and sisters in blocking I-35 and were on the receiving end of pepper spray as a result.

During the time that the kids were at the protests, I won’t pretend I wasn’t holding my breath. I watched livestreams; I followed Twitter; I watched their little dot on Find My Friends. I texted them regularly. And I was intensely aware of the fact that this sense of worry–this background noise that simply by being out, they were in danger–was something that parents of children of color have to contend with every day. I try every day to understand more the extent of the privilege we enjoy to have that basic comfort.

We recorded today’s show before basically all of this and so it doesn’t address it at all. Next week, I plan to essentially reuse the show we did after the protests and murder in Charlottesville, where I tried to put together a show featuring almost entirely artists from, as I put it then, “almost entirely music performed by artists from groups of which I am not a member: people of color, LGBTQ people, immigrants.” It’ll air here in Austin basically right as we pull into our new home in Saint Paul. (We will continue to be on the air in Austin with KUTX as our flagship station, just coming from Minnesota.) I wrote about Charlottesville back then, and it still rings all too true now, three years later.

I’m not the right guy to write about this, really. I’d commend you to Claudia and Dan Zanes’s Facebook page, where they have explored these issues with such love and care, and have excellent reading recommendations (many of which I have taken). I’m just a guy with a silly radio show, but I hope that silly radio show can be a positive influence.

Black lives matter.

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Rocking In The Age Of Covid-19

Mar 15

If you’re like, well, just about everyone with or without kids, you’re probably trying to figure out what you’ll do over the next days/weeks/good-lord-months of reduced social time. Here are some suggestions. I’ll try to keep this updated.

  • No Nap Family Happy Hour. Catherine Prystup of LiveMom and I were so bummed not to get to bring you all a ton of amazing family music during SXSW that we decided to do it anyway. We’ve launched the No Nap Family Happy Hour, presented by Springfree Trampoline. Every weekend for at least five weeks we’ve got some of the best performers around live-streaming on Facebook Live for you. We hope it helps you out, and we’re proud to be paying the artists too. Check it out here.
  • Listen to the radio. We’ll still be on ( at 6 pm central every Sunday (with host(s)). And KUTX is of course on 24-7. The station is mostly running without on-air staff right now, but every song is still hand-selected. MPR’s The Current has a pretty great stream for families, Rock The Cradle.
  • You can listen to our show going all the way back to 2012 right here on the website. Go to the Playlists tab and, thanks to the magic of PRX, you can stream, what, almost 400 hours of indie music for indie kids.
  • Watch some videos. We’ve got 184 videos on our YouTube playlist. Maybe start off with The Not-Its! doing Vacation?
  • Our sister station, KUT, is easily the best place for news and information, both locally and nationally.
  • If you have an HD radio, you can listen to an all-Austin stream on KUTX’s HD-2 channel. It’s the same stream you hear at the airport, and it’s awesome.
  • A lot of artists are doing streaming events (you can find an easy-to-use calendar at this handy Google doc). I’ll link to a few select ones I know about below and, as I hear about more, I’ll try to keep this updated with some of my picks. Remember that these days/weeks/good-lord-months without shows can be devastating for artists, so if they have a way to support them and you have the means, please do so, whether it’s a Patreon, an online merch store, or something else. That Google doc above has links to how to contribute to many of them.
    • Red Yarn: Andy has three half-hour Facebook Live events planned–Monday at 10 am, Wednesday at 10 am, and Thursday at 5:30 pm. Those times are all Pacific. Find him here on Facebook.
    • Laura Doherty: Chicago favorite and long-time friend of the show Laura will be on Facebook Live on Wednesday at 3 pm central.
    • Lloyd H. Miller: Lloyd was scheduled to do a sensory-friendly show at Jalopy today (Sunday) at 11 eastern, and will do it via Zoom instead. Because he wants to keep it focused on kids who will specifically benefit from that format, and to ensure everyone involved on the interactive portion has the right permission, it’s an invite thing: email him at lloydhmiller AT gmail DOT com. He is also doing Facebook live shows Tuesdays and Fridays at 10:30 am eastern.
    • Dan and Claudia Zanes: Dan and Claudia have been doing a delightful series of “Social Isolation” videos on Facebook Live. They’re just lovely.
    • The Lucky Band: Lucky Diaz and Alisha–frequent SXSW visitors and the best humans around–will be playing live on their Instagram story at 10 am PST and is on at that time pretty much every day. Starting tomorrow (March 16) it’ll be on their Facebook page.
    • 123 Andrés: Frequent Austin visitors Andrés and Christina will be live on YouTube today (Sunday) at 5 eastern and probably more times coming.
    • Joanie Leeds: Joanie Leeds–who you just heard guest DJ last week in connection with her kick-ass new album All The Ladies–is jumping into helping in this situation with characteristic full power. She’s got the Quarantine Kids Concerts with a subscription-based service with daily shows for both Jewish songs and secular songs. There’s a charge, but it’s pretty modest given the number of live shows you’ll get. (Plus, if you go with the larger fee, you’ll get not just a couple of weeks of live shows, but also her entire catalog, including the new record.)
    • Mil’s Trills, who did that great chart linked above, is also offering free online lessons to help with kids dealing with (understandable) stress or isolation. Details here.
    • Justin Roberts is doing Facebook Live every weekday at 10:30 with concerts on Thursdays. Go to his Facebook page (and probably sign up for his email list).
    • Jarrett J. Krosoczka, while not technically a musician, is a long-time friend of the show and books the author side of Meltdown (which we cannot wait to return). He’s doing a drawing lesson daily at 1 central on his YouTube channel.
    • Thao from Thao & the Get Down Stay Down will be live on her Instagram feed on March 18 at 2:30 central with a Thao For Kids livestream.
    • Brady Rymer, a/k/a the Nicest Human In Family Music, will kick off “Live from Brady’s House” on Sunday, March 21 at noon central.
    • Hopalong Andrew is telling tales and singing songs about being a cowboy in the city. Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 9 central on his Facebook page.

Wash your hands, rock out, and have a good week, y’all. We love you.

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Kindie Says No to Kids in Cages

Jun 21

I prepared the following statement with input from Lucky Diaz, Dan Zanes, Laurie Berkner, and others.  Following it is a list of people who have emailed me (show at sparetherock dot com) and requested to be added as signatories.

As performers and other members of the family music community, we jointly and strongly condemn the separation of children from their parents at the border. This inhumane treatment of families is counter to what we do to bring families together, and what we believe the United States should stand for. The “Zero Tolerance” directive that has led to the division of families—and to the caging of innocent children apart from their families—is cruel; it is immoral; it is counter-productive; it is un-American. We call for its end, and we hope our fans and listeners will do the same.

We recognize that as a musical community there is much we can be doing to understand and oppose all forms of oppression. We commit to educating ourselves and finding ways to be more useful and active in doing so.


  • Bill Childs, Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child Radio and Spare the Rock Records
  • Lucky Diaz & Alisha Gaddis, Lucky Diaz & the Family Jam Band
  • Dan Zanes
  • Laurie Berkner
  • Stephanie Mayers, Mayers Consulting
  • Lloyd Miller, The Deedle Deedle Dees
  • Mindy Thomas, Sirius/XM Kids Place Live, Tinkercast
  • Elizabeth Mitchell and You Are My Flower
  • Molly Ledford, Lunch Money
  • Aaron Canwell, Ryan Chouinard; Micah and Me
  • Frances England
  • Ratboy Jr.
  • Grandfather Paul Stark, Musical Merry-Go-Round Family Radioshow
  • Virginia Ralph and Robert Matthews, Mömandpöp
  • Matt Lynch
  • Brian Smith, Señor Fancypants
  • Mo Phillips
  • Jeffrey Cohen, GeekDad Contributing Writer
  • Joanie Calem
  • Marsha Goodman-Wood
  • Steve Denyes, Hullabaloo
  • Todd McHatton
  • The Not-Its!
  • Chris “Boom” Wiser & Rob “Dr Rock” Martin, Sugar Free Allstars
  • Patricia Kjolhede, Tunes ‘n’ Tales
  • Claudia Robin Gunn, Little Wild Music
  • Vivi Melody & Family
  • Lucy Kalantari
  • Ann Torralba, Little Miss Ann
  • Dana Boulé, Dana & the Petit Punks
  • Michael Romero, the Mr. Michael Group
  • Suzi Shelton
  • Dave Loftin, Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl radio
  • Steven Erdman, Lard Dog and the Band of Shy
  • Margot Bevington
  • Andy Furgeson, Red Yarn
  • Paul Butler, Kids Crossroads radio
  • Jay Mankita
  • Patricia Shih
  • Heather Hirshfield and Eddie RosenBerg III, The Green Orbs
  • Josh Lovelace, NEEDTOBREATHE and solo
  • Danny Weinkauf, The Red Pants Band and They Might Be Giants
  • Sagan Thacker, Radio Active Kids, Asheville, North Carolina
  • Bob Anthony and Mark Maziarz, BARK
  • Andrew A. Hunt (Cowboy Andy), The Salamanders
  • Ben Lee
  • Joanie Leeds
  • Deep Fried Pickle Project
  • Mista Cookie Jar
  • Jumpin’ Jamie
  • The Oot ‘n’ Oots
  • Dan Elliott, The Pointed Man Band
  • Kat Brotherton, Ms. Kat’s Music, Texas Community Music Festival
  • Mariana Iranzi
  • Noam Brown
  • Bear and Lion, Bears & Lions
  • Pam Donkin
  • Milo, Eliot, Emmet, Krisdee and Adam Donmoyer, Rockaroni & Cheese
  • Jack Forman, artist and Sirius XM Kids Place Live
  • Recess Monkey
  • Brook Packard, Sleepytime Club
  • Liz Gumbinner, Cool Mom Picks
  • Kari Thomas Kovick
  • Spring Bees
  • Elizabeth Waldman Frasier, Waldmania PR
  • Laura Doherty
  • Lisa Mathews, WTMD’s Young at Heart
  • Milkshake
  • Jennifer Paskow
  • Renee & Jeremy
  • Ben Rudnick
  • Vanessa Trien, Vanessa Trien & the Jumping Monkeys
  • Lou Gallo
  • Rolie Polie Guacamole
  • Like Father Like Son
  • Ben Gundersheimer & Katherine Jamieson, Mister G and Missus G
  • Matt Baron, Future Hits
  • Andrew Barkan and Polly Hall, Andrew & Polly
  • Steve Elci, Steve Elci & Friends
  • David Ladon and Seth Adams, Animal Farm
  • Alison Faith Levy
  • Alex Mitnick, Alex and The Kaleidoscope
  • Karen K & the Jitterbugs
  • Beth Blenz-Clucas, Sugar Mountain PR
  • Mike Messer, The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
  • Stephen Jacobs, The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
  • Adam Jacobs, The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
  • Annie Elmer, The Dirty Sock Funtime Band
  • Nick Deysher, In the Nick of Time
  • Sukey Molloy
  • Johnny Clay and Dave Gulick, Ants Ants Ants
  • Ralph Covert, Ralph’s World
  • Keeth Apgar, The Harmonica Pocket
  • Marc Bazerman, Baze & His Silly Friends
  • Gunnar Madsen
  • Ezra Idlet, Trout Fishing in America
  • The Bazillions
  • Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer
  • Brady Rymer
  • Lisa Loeb
  • Katherine Dines
  • Stacey Peasley
  • Dana Cohenour
  • Dave Hamilton
  • Christina Hamilton
  • Evan and Vanessa
  • Mr. Singer and the Sharp Cookies
  • Nina Stone, Miss Nina
  • Justin Roberts
  • Joanie Whittaker
  • Katie Stone, The Children’s Hour Radio Show
  • Randy Kaplan
  • Jon Samson
  • Sara Lovell

If you’d like your name to be on this list, please email me (again: show at sparetherock dot com).  Please be patient if it takes a little to get your name added.

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