First Rule of Songwriting


Jim Rule isn't building a career in children's music for the money (not much of that yet), or the fame (ditto) or the silly hats (he doesn't wear one). He's in it for the nudge.

"I wrote my very first song when I became a father," explained Rule, a.k.a. Dad to Emma, Tim and Casey (ages 2, 4 and 7 respectively). "So I write about things that happen in families, the kind of songs I hope will make kids and parents nudge each other and say, 'Hey, that happens with us.' "

Rule hopes to see a lot of nudging Friday night in his concert at Anaheim's Pearson Park amphitheater. The 90-minute show heralds his second recording, "Let It Shine," a 12-song collection that celebrates family life and encourages us to laugh at the less-than-Kodak moments.

Rule's concert, part of Anaheim's Just for Kids series, will also feature tunes from his first album, "Share This World," a 1994 Parents' Choice Award winner.

Rule, a former piano tuner and musical theater performer turned Santa Ana kindergarten teacher, may already be familiar to listeners of children's station Radio AAHS (AM-830). His "Underwear," a cheeky salute to kids' giggling fascination with skivvies, and "Three Little Pigs Rap" get a fair amount of airplay.

He's also made the rounds at community events including Taste of Orange County and Imagination Celebration, and he has performed his "Share This World" show at local schools through Opera Pacific's outreach program. In November, he'll perform a solo concert at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. Meanwhile, he's negotiating a songwriting deal with the producers of "Barney" the television show.

To create "Let It Shine," Rule and producer Tim Horrigan spent six months in Horrigan's San Juan Capistrano studio. Helping them were professional musicians and singers from across the county, including several teachers and even more kids (Rule's three among them). The recording also features the bilingual Rule assisted by 10-year-old Enrico Lopez-Yanez singing Spanish and English versions of his "Si, Se Puede/You Can Do It" and "La Sombra/My Shadow," a musical version of a Robert Louis Stevenson poem.

Except for one or two tunes that are overtly group-huggy, the result is an eclectic, sophisticated mix for listeners in preschool and up, especially fun for lower-elementary schoolchildren and their parents.

"First and second grade is great for my stuff because that's the age when their creative juices are really starting to flow," Rule said. "They're reading and writing and starting to appreciate clever wordplays and even irony."

"Gingerbread Girl" is a good case in point. Set to a sassy doo-wop beat and featuring impressive vocal improvisations and body percussion by Alan Cason, Angela Harrison and Joel Steven Hammond (in concert, Rule accompanies himself on a guitar with recorded instrumentals and backup), the tune ponders the question: What if that nursery rhyme scamp switched genders and continents for a spree in Australia?


Although Rule admits his music won't appeal much to preteens ("12-year-olds don't want to be thought of as kids . . . so they're probably not going to like anything their parents and younger siblings like"), he has penned one tune that may coax a smile out of that crowd. It certainly should set their parents nudging.

"Telephone Twist," set to a classic rock 'n' roll beat, depicts a harried dad trying to conduct an important phone conversation while his kids vie heatedly for his attention. The tune's a hoot--and good therapy for any parent (or older sibling, for that matter) who's been there.

Ditto for "Because I Said So," a Calypso-styled answer to the musical question why? Next time your kid asks it, try belting out this chorus. It may not convince anyone, but you'll feel better, and the neighbors will get a good show.

With the demands of work and home life, Rule and his schoolteacher wife, Jody, have to wring the most out of every free moment. For Rule, that means songwriting gets squeezed in somewhere between floor time with his kindergartners and lights out at his Lake Forest home.

"My only real down time alone is in the car, so I get a lot of work done there," he said. "Sometimes I'll get a lyric or tune in my head in the middle of washing the dishes . . . and Jody will play tag team so I can run to the computer for five minutes. But that's pretty rare. Like any other parent, my eyelids are fluttering by 9 o'clock."

Jim Rule's recordings are sold locally at Borders Books & Music stores, Whale of a Tale in Irvine and Reading Rhinoceros in Mission Viejo. Or you can call/fax Rule's mom at [312] 463-2879.

* Who: Jim Rule in concert.

* When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

* Where: Pearson Park amphitheater, Lemon and Sycamore streets, Anaheim.

* Whereabouts: Exit the Riverside (91) Freeway at Lemon Street; go south. Park is at Lemon and Sycamore streets.

* Wherewithal: $1-$2.

* Where to call: (714) 254-5274 or (714) 635-3751.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World