When I was a kid, I spent several happy summers at Camp Wakeshma, nestled in the woods in rural Michigan. Swimming at the lake, weaving plastic lanyard keychains and running my cabinmates’ underwear up the flagpole was fun, but the best by far was always singing camp songs. So what a nostalgic treat it was to listen to Lisa Loeb’s new CD, Camp Lisa, her second kids album, which celebrates the magic of summer camp.
The album begins with a bang with the song “Ready For the Summer,” the theme from the campy-on-several-levels 1979 movie Meatballs. Other songs include camp classics like “The Cookie Jar Chant” and original tunes like “The Disappointing Pancake,” with guest spots from a handful of stars (Jill Sobule and Steve Martin among them).
At the same time she released the CD, Loeb also created the Camp Lisa Foundation, which will collect money and funnel it to the non-profit Summer Camp Opportunities Provide an Edge, which helps underprivileged kids go to camp. Since the organization began in 1992, it has sent more than 10,000 children to camp. The CD is now available at Barnes and Noble and on Loeb’s website. Loeb talked to Babble about how summer camp planted the seed for her career in music and why camp is important for all kids. – Jennifer V. Hughes
Your CD really got me thinking about all my wonderful years at sleep-a-way camp! What do you think it is about camp – why do you think it creates such fond memories?
I loved day camp and sleep-a-way camp because it was the first time to be in a safe place but have a lot of independence. I loved the arts and crafts and singing. I loved learning and school was really important but I liked the idea of learning in a situation where it was not about doing homework. You learn about respecting other people and you have your own second life away from your normal days. For adults, we remember that time of freedom and challenge and accomplishment.
What was one of your favorite childhood camp experiences?
I think it was learning how to play the guitar. We had a few quiet times in the summer because it was 110 degrees out and it would be so hot we’d get this rest time. I remember my friend Almadoll showing me how to play guitar: I’m still friends with her. She eventually met her husband at summer camp.
I also remember “the glob” which was this huge pillow in the lake and we’d jump off the deck and try to balance on it, and then someone one else would jump on it and you’d do a flip. It was like this big plastic pillow in the water.
Favorite camp song?
I really liked a song called “The Old Banjo.” Another one was the gross-out song “Granmas in the Cellar.” Obviously that stuck with me, because I put it on the album.
Can you tell me about one of your original songs – the story behind where it came from?
“I loved camp because it was the first time to be in a safe place but have a lot of independence.” One of the things we wanted to do was to highlight all the big events around summer camp - like in the song “Going Away,” where you try to bring every single thing with you. We had the song, “It’s Not Goodbye,” which is about how at the very end of summer camp you’re in tears because it’s the end. There are also songs about different times of day, like “The Wake Up Song,” or “When it Rains.” We thought it would be cool to inspire kids to look at life in a different way, and if it’s raining, it’s not the worst thing.
I think it is so cool that you are going to be raising money with this CD to help underprivileged kids go to camp.
I’ve heard a lot from the people who work with the kids [who benefit from the charity, Summer Camp Opportunities Provide an Edge] and there is a lot of research that shows that when kids are engaged over the summer, reading or doing arts and crafts with other kids, they retain more of what they have learned during the school year. If not, they lose more of what they have learned. So kids who go to summer camp are better off than kids who don’t have a way to go.
How did you get into children’s music, anyway?
I always loved kids’ music growing up, like “Free To Be You and Me,” and “Really Rosie” – to me they just sounded like regular music. That’s probably because all the musicians who were playing on them were real musicians, they were playing with people like James Taylor. I wanted to make music like that for kids. Right now there is this huge wave of people making modern kids music that adults can like too. With Camp Lisa, I wanted it to be for a little more grown-up kids.
Well, my four-year-old loved it.
I’ve been interested to hear what age of kids are drawn to it. I was just trying to make music I would like to listen to. Some songs, like “Peanut Butter and Jelly,” sound like a little kid song, but you can just as easily be a fifteen-year-old standing on a bench in the cafeteria and singing it really loud, too.