I Am Your Food - Liner notes and stories about the songs  

  • Produced and Performed (except for special guests) by Gunnar Madsen
  • Cover Art: Leftover Food artwork by Noah Scalin (noahscalin.com)
  • All other art: Gunnar Madsen
  • Recorded at: G-Spot Studios, Berkeley, ca
  • Mastered By: Myles Boisen at Headless Buddha, Oakland ca
  • Love & Thanks To: Beth Blenz-Clucas, Justin Roberts, Frances England, Bill Harley, Marcella Madsen, Quinn Madsen, Myles Boisen & David Jouris (sampler quotes) and so many more, for their support and inspiration. 

My brain is always thinking, drifting off hither and yon. I like leaving it off leash, seeing where it goes…

Song #1 – 10,000 Pancakes – Back in the mid-70’s, both me and my roommate were earning our way through college by working as custodians. We’d go to work at 5pm (when everyone else at the University was leaving their jobs) and we’d empty trash, clean toilets and polish floors until 2am. When we woke up in the late morning, we’d be powerfully hungry. I don’t know that we ever ate 10,000 pancakes, but our stacks were very, very high! Nothing filled us up so well and so cheaply. These days I’m satisfied with a mere short stack.

Song #2 – Divine Bovine – For years I’ve been buying fresh milk, direct from the cow (well, direct from the farmer who milks the cow). Some weeks it will be all from dear sweet “Buttercup”, the next week from “Bubblegum” or “Frosty”. The color of the milk changes with the seasons, the milk varies slightly from cow to cow. When the cows have babies, their milk goes to feed their babies, and I have to go without their milk for a few months. This all somehow got me thinking about all those cartons of milk, from cows we don’t know, and how those cows might feel about it. Cows seem content, maybe it really doesn’t bother them. But I feel it’s worth a shout out to all those cows, and give thanks for their milk.

Song #3 – Diet of Worms – My good friend David Jouris suggested the song title, told me about how Martin Luther (of Lutheran Church fame) argued with the Catholic Church at the Diet of Worms. The ‘worms’ in this case was the name of the city in which the ‘diet’ (in this case a meeting of a legislative body) was held. Whatever. To me it suggested something more along the lines of a bowl of gross noodles, and I went to work writing a song based on the title.

Song #4 – What if I? – When I was a kid, there was a guy named Neil Diamond who sang searing emotional songs about what it means to be a man (I Am, I Cried; Solitary Man). Other popular songs in the same vein included “If I Were a Carpenter”. These songs were in my mind as I worked on a song idea about a man who loves certain foods, but wonders of his lover will accept him, weird foods and all. The song came into focus when I put the man behind a deli counter – smelling of all things deli. Is he still love-able? Is he worthy?

Song #5 – In My Soup – There’s an ancient joke, popular in American Vaudeville but probably dating to the Pharaohs of Egypt, that goes…
          DINER:   Waiter, what’s this fly doing in my soup!
          WAITER:   The backstroke, sir.
That’s basically what this song is all about.

Song #6 – Egg Salad in the Sun – Driving home one day, I heard the comedy duo Drennon Davis & Karen Kilgariff introduce a song they’d written called “Goths in the Sun”. The song title kicked my mind into overdrive, and before I’d opened my front door the idea of Jim Morrison singing about an Egg Salad in the Sun was a completed thought. All I had to do was write the song 🙂

Song #7- I Am Your Food – “You Are What You Eat” This old phrase is used to admonish us all to think about the food we put in our bodies, to try to eat a healthy diet. But, what if the connection between what we eat and who we are were a little more real? That’s the question I endeavor to answer with this song. Why should the voice of food sound like Tom Waits? I don’t know, but when I tried it as Lionel Richie, it just wasn’t right.

Song #8- Liver – I’m not a fan. It is truly the only food I can’t stand. Never could. As a child, when liver was served at our home, I was forced to sit at the table in front of my uneaten liver until bedtime, when I would be served a spanking and then sent to bed. My dad thought that experience might make me change my mind about liver. He was wrong.

Song #9 – Food Too Fast – I was wondering one day: What if food were really fast – I mean, like a car is fast? What if you had to chase it? I suppose that’s how it was for early humans. Chasing their food (animals, not berries) was a literal concept for them.

Song #10 – Lunch is in a Paper Bag – Inspired by Charlie Brown, sitting on a bench with his lunch, pining for the little red-headed girl. Also inspired by my own memories of all the cool kids with their lunchboxes with all the latest superheroes or cartoon characters on it, while I’ve got a wrinkled paper bag. They seemed so lucky, like they owned the future and everything in it.

Song #11 – City of Sardines – On a family vacation to Japan, we visited a restaurant that served nothing but sardines. Sardine salad, Sardine soup, Sardine bones (delicious and crunchy!). The restaurant is called “Iwashigumi”, which means Gang of Sardines. Back home, the idea of a bountiful harvest of sardines came to me, and the words poured out. For the music, I toyed with various synthesizers in the computer, creating loops, and then cut up the music and pasted it together in different ways until it became what you hear.

Song #12 – Shelf Life – My father ran a garbage company. I worked at a recycling center all through High School. My older sister, who I admired greatly, was a devotee of organic gardening and composting and aphorisms such as “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”. And so I carry, deep in my consciousness, a sense of frugality and a concept of utility. The music for this song was intended as an instrumental, but when the phrase “Shelf Life” came to me, so did the whole idea of a song about not letting food go to waste.

Song #13 – The Longest Night – I’ve known Justin Roberts for years – he’s hosted me at his home and at some of his Chicago concerts over the years. He’s a cool cat. And I love his voice. I really wanted him to sing with me on this album, but the song had to be just right to take advantage of his charms. I sent him many different ideas, but this one, a memory about big family meals at winter holidays, struck home for both of us. I’m so pleased to finally get to sing with Justin on a recording.

 

One Page Bio

Gunnar Madsen is an award-winning composer, singer, pianist, writer, sound designer, filmmaker and actor. As the founder and songwriter for the acclaimed a capella group The Bobs, Madsen fractured and re-constructed rules for popular music. His solo efforts have yielded critically acclaimed albums across dramatically different genres.

Mr. Madsen has received commissions from Lincoln Center, the Los Angeles Theater Center, the Minnesota Opera, Oberlin Dance Collective, ISO Dance Theater, National Public Radio and many others. His music is featured in episodes of HBO’s Sex and the City, and in the films The Break Up, Just a Kiss, Breaking the Rules and A Special Providence. He is a featured performer on the soundtrack of At Play in the Fields of the Lord, in the National Geographic Special Asteroids: Deadly Impact, and is the emotionally charged voice of Sammy Davis, Jr. in the Emmy-award winning HBO film, The Rat Pack. He can also be seen in the Vince Vaughan/Jennifer Aniston hit “The Break Up” (for which he also arranged the music).

Madsen’s musical career has constantly pushed the boundaries. After 10 years in the studio and on the road singing acapella (no instruments) with The Bobs, Madsen’s first solo album, Spinning World, 13 Ways of Looking at a Waltz was a stunning collection of instrumental waltzes (no singing). The album has won millions of listeners worldwide. Released concurrently with Spinning World, Madsen’s second solo effort, The Power of a Hat, (“David Byrne-meets-Rinde Eckert art-pop” SFBG) charted on rock and college radio. Next, he turned his creative and versatile musical vision to work for children, releasing award-winning family CDs, Old Mr. Mackle Hackle, Ants in My Pants!, and I’m Growing. Inspired by his compositions for many hit video games, his recording, Fall of Troy, was a deliciously dark orchestral epic. In 2009 Madsen recorded an album of solo piano at world-renowned Skywalker Sound, Two Hands, that charted on classical crossover radio. In 2014 the cast album of his music for the Off-Broadway musical The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World released, while work on music for the film adaption began. 2018 was marked by Gold awards and a flurry of recognition for his album I Am Your Food.

Filmmaker. Children’s Book Author. Off-Broadway composer.

In the fall of 2000 Gunnar journeyed to Russia to write and direct a documentary on a remarkable farming community for disabled people. The film, finished in May 2001, was an official selection of the Ojai International Film Festival and enjoyed a week-long run at Berkeley’s Fine Arts Cinema. Madsen’s colorful storybook adaptation of his song Old Mr. Mackle Hackle was published by Little, Brown in 2005. Gunnar’s stage musical based on the outsider group The Shaggs (with collaborator Joy Gregory) has played in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York to critical and popular acclaim. In 2011, in a historic co-production by Playwrights Horizons and The New York Theatre Workshop, it electrified Off-Broadway. According to The New York Times, it is “Unsettling, disturbing, challenging, even a little awe-inspiring.” It was nominated for a Drama Desk and Lortel award, won Best Original Score from Entertainment Today, the Ovation Award for Best World Premier Musical, and Musical of the Year and Best Score from both LA Weekly and Backstage West.
Gunnar’s work has received dozens of awards, including a Grammy nomination, Izzy nomination, Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award and the ASCAP special award for 15 consecutive years. His family CDs have received the Parents’ Choice Gold Award, Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold, NAPPA Gold, Scholastic Teacher’s Pick Award, and the CMW Best Recording for Older Children award.

Gunnar’s albums with The Bobs remain in print on Rhino and Rounder Records. I Am Your Food is Madsen’s fifteenth (15th) CD, and his combined album sales total more than 150,000. A Bay Area native, Gunnar Madsen currently resides in Berkeley, CA where he continues his many music, theater, film and writing projects.

2-line Slug, 100 & 200 word bios suitable for fine arts programs

2-Line Slug-fest:

Gunnar Madsen, the Grammy-nominated songwriter and founder of The Bobs, creates some of today’s freshest and funniest music for families. “Uproarious”, “dizzyingly imaginative” and “musically very hip”.

Grammy-nominated composer Gunnar Madsen is one of the most singular compositional voices working today – Wry, angular, unashamed to be romantic, and a true eclectic.

100 words or less:
Grammy-nominated composer Gunnar Madsen has written for the Minnesota Opera, Lincoln Center, NPR, and the National Beef Council; performed on PBS, the BBC, The Tonight Show and on every “Good Morning!” show in the U.S.; founded the acclaimed acapella group The Bobs; won virtually every major award for children’s music; provided the singing voice for Don Cheadle’s Sammy Davis Jr. in “The Rat Pack”; has music featured throughout “Sex and the City”; co-wrote the award-winning Off Broadway musical “The Shaggs”, which the NY Times called “awe-inspiring”: appeared in and wrote music for the Vince Vaughan film “The Break Up”.

150 words:

Gunnar Madsen is a Grammy-nominated composer whose work is featured in numerous hit movies and TV shows, in hit video games, and in some forgotten commercials. His performances range from dingy nightclubs to Lincoln Center, from “Good Morning Omaha” to “The Tonight Show”, and he did the singing for Don Cheadle’s Sammy Davis Jr. in HBO’s “The Rat Pack”. Gunnar did not grow up dreaming of being Sammy – he dreamt of being a Beatle (he was the sheepish yet proud owner of 2 Beatles wigs [to cover the severe crewcut his dad gave him every week]). A college degree in music led to him delivering singing telegrams to Frank Oz, Richard Avedon, and others, while simultaneously writing music for Brechtian theater troupes. He fulfilled his boyhood Beatle-esque dream of singing to screaming fans by founding the acapella sensation The Bobs and touring the world.

200 words or so…
Gunnar Madsen is a composer, writer, actor, singer, director and gadfly. He’s written for the Minnesota Opera, Lincoln Center, Universal Pictures and National Public Radio; he has performed on The Tonight Show, the Smothers Brothers Show, PBS, BBC, and major stages in North America and Europe; he’s won nominations for a Grammy, a Bammy, and an Izzy, and awards from ASCAP, the LA Weekly, the LA Drama Critics Circle, the Bay Area Theater Critics Circle, and UC Berkeley. He founded the internationally acclaimed acapella group The Bobs, and for ten years was a driving creative force in their success. His family CDs, “Old Mr. Mackle Hackle”, “Ants in My Pants!”, “I’m Growing”  and “I Am Your Food” have won virtually every major award for children’s music. He provided the singing voice for the portrayal of Sammy Davis Jr. in the film “the Rat Pack”, and his ravishing waltzes are featured throughout the 2nd season of HBO’s “Sex and the City”. He co-wrote the award-winning Off Broadway musical “The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World”, which the NYTimes called “awe-inspiring”. His documentary film about an organic farming community for mentally disabled people in Russia was an official selection of the Ojai International Film Festival. His picturebook “Old Mr. Mackle Hackle” (Little, Brown & Co.) is called “Ebullient” by the Horn Book, and he and his music are in the Vince Vaughan/Jennifer Aniston film “The Break Up”.

 

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The Entire History of Gunnar bio

THE HISTORY OF GUNNAR

Whence Gunnar? From deep in the furthest regions of the arctic circle. At least, that’s where my great grandfather Gunnar Eriksen was from (Tromsø, to be exact). Other ancestors come from Copenagen and points north and points unknown. These various ancestors emmigrated in various ways (legal and illegal) to the west coast of the U.S., and, eventually, I was born. I come from 2 generations of garbagemen. Both my father and his father ran garbage companies. The Bobs’ song “Trash” was written for a safety awards ceremony at my father’s company (one of the Bobs’ first well-paying gigs). The ways to a career in the performing arts are many.

I was a boy, a son of a garbageman with a funny name. Yes, kids made fun of my name. Music was not part of our home life. My parents had few records. Our record player was a strange sleep-teaching device with a clock built into it. Until the age of 8 I had one record – Huckleberry Hound. Then I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. My life changed. I mowed lawns, I washed cars, I did whatever it took to buy Beatles records. For Christmas my parents gave me a transistor radio, which I went to sleep with every single night. Music became my passion. I took piano lessons for 6 months or so, but gave it up, discouraged because I sounded nothing like the Beatles. Still, I listened to records.

Then I was a teenager.

I bought a stereo, I needed my music louder than the sleep-teaching contraption could deliver. My older sister left her folk guitar behind when she went off galivanting one summer. I picked it up and started strumming. I followed the diagrams in her Joan Baez songbook and learned chords. I took the guitar to the piano and found how to make chords on the piano. I wrote songs with friends. I made music!

My mother thought I made noise.

Still, she offered me piano lessons for my 17th birthday. I studied classical piano, practicing 4 and 5 hours a day. I worked as a garbageman for 6 months, saved up enough money to go to UC Berkeley. I studied music there, like a demon. A wonderful professor urged me into a job as an arranger for a little-known Brecht play “The Measures Taken”. It was a hit. I got more work, mainly writing for Brechtian theater, then Shakespeare, then all kinds. I graduated. I got a job delivering singing telegrams for Western Onion. It was a blast, the perfect job for me at the time. But suddenly, the market for singing telegrams evaporated, the company went broke, and I was out of work…

Out of work along with countless other singing telegram deliverers. The great singing telegram depression of 1981…

One of the unemployed, Matthew Bob Stull, and I got together and thought it would be fun to form an acapella group (which eventually became known as The Bobs). We drew up a 25 words or less ad for the free classifieds, looking for a bass singer. We got one call. From Richard ‘Bob’ Greene. He was not only a bass singer, but a songwriter and recording engineer. We rehearsed for 6 months, a beer-in-the-afternoons kind of thing, then went to an open mike. At a cuban restaurant. A line of flamenco guitarists stretched out the door, waiting for their turn on stage. The promoter, sensing the diners’ apathy towards nylon strings and wood, moved our acapella trio to the front of the line. If memory serves, we treated them to Psycho Killer, A White Sportcoat, and a few others. They loved us. We had our first fans.

Still, that wasn’t a paying gig. I continued making my living by working in a video store, accompanying for voice teachers, and so on.

Richard and I did all the arranging, it was all cover tunes at first. Then we began writing songs together. We felt the need for another voice, so we auditioned and found Janie ‘Bob’ Scott. Our stage show began to gel. We did weekly shows at a Jazz club (there were no acapella clubs), and a local record company approached us. We signed, made our first record (“The Bobs”), and then we had offers to tour around the country. We did. Richard and I got nominated for a Grammy for our arrangement of “Helter Skelter”. We got on radio shows, TV shows, we traveled to Europe, we did festivals, huge concerts. We met a dance troupe named Momix (they later changed their name to ISO). We improvised together and worked up a show with them. The collaboration continued over the years, with a commission from Lincoln Center and a one-hour presentation on PBS. Life was exciting, it was a blast.

It was very much a blast. My childhood dream of a Beatle-like existence had come true. And, in 1991, I decided to quit.

Why?

Our performances, our songs were beginning to feel flat to me. I was tired of touring. I had a lovely woman waiting for me at home. More than anything, I wanted something more, but I didn’t know what. Just something more.

I suppose it was time for my midlife crisis.

The ways out of a career in the performing arts are many…

Life after The Bobs was miserable. I’d grown quite used to having hundreds of fans making me feel good one out of every three nights, and I had nothing to replace it. I gave some concerts, I got commissions from ODC/SF, NPR, the New Music Theater Ensemble and others. I learned improv, I wrote a film score, I did some more theater scores, produced a record, I sang on a film score, did some small acting gigs. Life was not empty, but it felt like it. I was depressed and couldn’t find a way out. Things were dark.

The ways out of depression are many…

I began to study acting. Deep, rich, method-style, with a very gifted teacher. It was just the thing for me. As I delved deeper into my own self, I found new freedom, new power and joy in performing. (Sounds holisitic? Well, it is!) Life was still hard, but eventually the gloom started to clear. It wasn’t an all-at-once kind of wake-up-and-be-happy scenario, but every day became a little bit easier, even a little bit better. Out of the blue, I was offered a job writing video game music for Atari. More money than I’d ever made in my life. And my first ever regular job behind a desk in a corporation for 40 hours a week. And it was exactly the right thing at the time.

Life is weird. No doubt about it.

The Atari job filled my days and my bank account. Evenings I continued to write. I wrote a bunch of waltzes, and they were recorded and almost released by a record company, until they ran out of money. Then I got a huge bonus from Atari, and the stars were suddenly in alignment, and my eyes lit up, and I suddenly knew EXACTLY what I wanted to do: Record my own record.

I’d been writing all kinds of pop/folk songs for years, I had a big catalog of songs to choose from. I gathered together my favorite drummer; a guitarist who knew how to get wild; a great bass player from the Seattle area; my good friend to be engineer and producer; a French-Canadian Djembe player on a motorcycle – and we all gathered on 100 acres in the bend of a river somewhere in nowheresville in Washington State, where an incredible recording studio had been built into a huge log cabin. We recorded from 9am to 4am, we recorded outside with the birds, we recorded inside in the dead of night. Every one of us is an accomplished cook and we made huge delicious meals in the kitchen upstairs. We were like the Rolling Stones, living the high life while making a record – Except we all liked each other and didn’t have to be the Rolling Stones! It was one of the best weeks of my life.

Quit your day job – take a chance!

The resulting album, The Power of a Hat, was mixed in late 97. I quit my job at Atari and became a full-time actor for 5 months, working with Culture Clash in their production of The Birds at South Coast Rep and at Berkeley Rep. While at South Coast Rep, I landed a job doing the singing for Don Cheadle’s portrayal of Sammy Davis Jr. in HBO’s “The Rat Pack”. I got to record with a 17-piece big band, I got to record in Capitol Records Studios, under a huge portrait of Nat King Cole (one of my heroes) looking down on me. It was another childhood dream come true (not singing like Sammy Davis Jr….the part about recording at Capitol Studios)!
I released The Power of a Hat and I licensed the rights to release the waltzes (Spinning World: 13 Ways of Looking at a Waltz), and all of a sudden I was the head of a record label.

Cigars and Limousines?

Running your own record company is better than not putting out records at all. And it’s better than a bad deal at somebody else’s record company. But it’s real work. Endless phone calls to DJs whose offices are stacked to the ceilings with Cds they’ve never had the time to listen to. Press releases, glossy 8x10s, mailing labels, promos, glad-handing and huge long-distance bills. I do very well, get good airplay, made the charts – I sell Cds. But glamorous? Not quite.

Feeling Silly.

Part of my reason for leaving the Bobs was that I was tired of being funny. I wanted to be serious and be taken seriously. With The Power of a Hat and Spinning World: 13 Ways of Looking at a Waltz, I was now bona-fide serious. It felt seriously good! And Spinning World was turning out to be especially successful. My obvious next step was to record a follow-up CD to it. Every fiber of my Record Executive Being screamed at me to make “Spinning World 2”. But the pesky little recording artist in me decided it was time to record a children’s record.

Children’s music?

WAY back in 1986, I teamed up with 3 other songwriters to write some songs for the burgeoning children’s market (think Raffi). Our project didn’t go anywhere, but our demo tape did, and it landed on the desk of a book publisher in NY. She liked the song “Old Mr. Mackle Hackle” and gave me a contract to write a book based on it. I bought my first computer with the money, and the book almost came out, except the editor quit her job, and her replacement didn’t like my book and cancelled it. Only somewhat daunted, I made a demo tape of my children’s songs and sold them through the Bobs’ fan club for a few years. But gradually my dreams of being a children’s author/songwriter faded. It wasn’t SERIOUS enough for me!

Seriosity chilled the cat…

I guess, having finally achieved seriosity, I was ready to really get silly and do the children’s’ thing. I wrote and recorded “Old Mr. Mackle Hackle”, the CD, in a flurry of activity. When released in 1999, it turned out to be a hit. Kids, parents, and librarians loved it! I was invited to perform for kids (which, it turns out, is way different than performing for grown-ups), and I began to learn the intricacies of making a good kids’ show. I made a follow-up CD, “Ants in My Pants!”, which was another big hit. And then, I was invited yet again to write a book based on the song “Old Mr. Mackle Hackle”. 19 years in the making, the book, published by Little, Brown & Co., hit the shelves in 2005.  It failed to make the Best-seller list, but I kept writing songs and stories, and released “I’m Growing” in 2008.

No More Serious?

Oh, no. All the while I’m putting out these children’s Cds and books, I’d been working on a serious new musical – The Shaggs, Philosophy of the World. It’s deep. It’s not without humor and some light, but we’re talking about a serious piece of drama that explores some dark stuff. Not for kids. And I took a year off to travel to Russia and make a documentary film about a farm for disabled people that my brother had been working at. And my sketchbook continued to fill up with material for the follow-up to Spinning World, “Two Hands”, which came out in 2009.  The Shaggs musical was produced in LA and Chicago, and made its Off-Broadway debut in 2011.  I’m hard at work on new songs for the film adaption of the that musical, currently in pre-production.  NOTE:  Our son was born in 2002.  THAT is ongoing Serious Fun, every single day.

No More Silly?

Here’s the thing. I am serious about children’s music. Some of it may be silly, but I am dead serious about making sure that the music, the lyrics, the stories are of the utmost highest quality. I want anyone of any age to be able to listen, read and enjoy this music. I want families to be able to enjoy it together. Just because it’s silly doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be GOOD.  Your honor, I submit as evidence:  “I Am Your Food”.

AND, I now recognize that I am both a serious and a silly fellow. I need to do both. So, I can’t say if the next project will be silly or serious, ‘cause one day I’m writing a new silly book for kids, and the next I’m writing a piece for chamber orchestra. The winds blow me this way and that. And I like being blown by the winds. Beats trying to hold still in one place. And it sure beats trying to make my own wind!

The End? I doubt it…

 

How I Got Into Children's Music

1986. Four young songwriters join forces to write and record songs for the then-burgeoning children’s market. If Raffi can do it, why not us? We have access to a recording studio, lots of talent, a marketing plan and chutzpah.

1987. Our plans having led nowhere, we break up our consortium and head our separate ways. Then, the phone rings. It’s New York. It’s an editor at Orchard Books, looking for the guy who wrote the song “Old Mr. Mackle Hackle” on that demo tape by the songwriting consortium…

  • Gunnar (into phone): “Um…That’s me. Well, Richard and Ruth helped on some of the lyrics, but it’s mostly my song.”
    Editor: “Would you like a contract to write a book?”
    Gunnar: “Uh, sure. Oh, wait. I don’t know how to write a book.”
    Editor: “Don’t worry. I’ll help you.”

1988. The editor helps me tremendously. I’ve got a great story, we’re looking for the perfect illustrator, I’m working on more stories, when the phone rings. It’s New York again. The editor who has mentored me and paid me says she’s leaving to pursue a different career.

1989. The phone is NOT ringing. My new editor doesn’t call. I get the distinct feeling she doesn’t like my work. My feelings are confirmed when I get a letter from her canceling my contract and suggesting I pursue a different career.

1990. I go and get myself a literary agent, she sends my stories around to all the publishers, but nobody’s biting.

1991. My stories remain unsold. I leave my singing group and sole source of income (The Bobs) to pursue some different careers. I forget all about the so-called children’s market. I’m too busy looking for the career I might be right for.

1994. Atari Games seems to think that my talents as an acapella arranger are well suited to writing music for video games. Who am I to argue? I go on to write music for multiple video games, gaining recognition and money. I have a new career.

1999. Another new career turns out to be running my own record company. I put out 2 CDs for adults (by yours truly) and one of them, Spinning World, is a big success. But I’m seized by a sudden urge to put out a recording of children’s songs. The resulting collection, entitled “Old Mr. Mackle Hackle”, is a big hit, wins all kinds of awards, gets lots of attention.

2000. The phone rings. It’s New York. It’s Orchard Books again. They’ve got a copy of my CD and absolutely adore the song “Old Mr. Mackle Hackle”. Have I ever thought about writing a book based on that song?

  • Gunnar (into phone): “Um…I had a contract with you folks 12 years ago to do a book like that.”
    Orchard: “Really? Well, water under the bridge. All the old people are gone now. We’re new. We
    really want to do this.”
    Gunnar: “Great.”

2001. Orchard books suddenly undergoes a major corporate restructuring, and all the people I’d been talking with are suddenly gone. My dreams of authorship are once more dashed. I put out another CD for children, “Ants in My Pants!”, and it’s another hit. I like doing songs for kids and families, it’s an itch I love to scratch!

2002. I attend a local meeting of children’s booksellers to ask advice on the best way to display and market my CDs in their stores. I sing for them, acapella. I’m a hit. After the meeting, a woman comes up to me and says…

  • Woman: “Have you ever thought about writing a children’s book based on that song?”
    Gunnar: “Let me tell you a little story…”

2003. The woman turns out to be a highly reputable agent, and she helps me adapt “Old Mr. Mackle Hackle” (again) into a viable format for a book. We search together until we find the perfect illustrator. We land a contract with Little, Brown and Co. My new editor at Little, Brown is MOST excellent and helps me bring the story and the words into sharp focus.

2005. “Old Mr. Mackle Hackle”, the Book, is finally released to the world. It’s well-received, but is not a best-seller. I get busy writing a new off-broadway musical.

2008. Inspired by our young son who I am stay-at-home Dad to, I put out another CD for children, “I’m Growing”. It’s another success.

2009. I fulfill a lifelong dream of recording and putting out an album of solo piano compositions. It’s moderately successful.

2010. I take the phone off the hook and dedicate myself to taking care of our son. It’s bliss.

2018. Our son is 16, no longer needs taking care of. I’m itching to do more music. I’m also incredibly hungry. I write songs about food, release “I Am Your Food”.

And on it goes…