Road Trip 101: Kids Music - Matt Heaton's Happy You Made It!

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Oct 11, 2014 / 0 comments

When our daughter was small, I remember searching (and searching, and searching) for kids music to play on road trips that well, to be honest, my husband and I could listen to and not run screaming from the car. You know what I'm talking about (let's not even mention kidzbop). Luckily, there are a few great kids music cds that can withstand road trips, early mornings at home, and afternoon danceathons, little kid-style. The best I've found is Matt Heaton's Happy You Made It!  Now, you may remember Matt from our interview with his wife Shannon about their new cd, Tell You In Earnest, but I'm so pleased to share Happy You Made It! with all you traveling families.

The songs on the cd range from traditional songs (Wheels on the Bus, Oh Susanna, Down in the Valley, Itsy Bitsy Spider) to new songs written by Heaton. His open, friendly voice welcomes kids to listen - and sing along. My favorites include Bad Case of the Twos, Backhoe (in the back of my mind), and Pick Up Your Toys, Baby - I can certainly imagine using that song every day for a quick house pickup with the kids - or as a room sweep as you're leaving the hotel! Perhaps the best song is saved for last - Goodbye, Safe Home, Goodbye. It's a bit of Gaelic (safe home) introduced into a lovely farewell song that both closes the cd experience and teaches about wrapping up an experience. Too often, when our daughter was small, she hated to end anything. I can see this song being played to help kids move on to the next activity (including special times and travel).

This cd is a welcome addition to the genre, and one that your whole family will enjoy singing to on the road (or at home). It's creative, interesting, full of familiar and new songs, and a great deal of fun. Highly recommended!


Road Trip 101: Kids Music - Matt Heaton's Happy You Made It!


We were lucky enough to catch up with Matt, and chat about playing kids music, music education for kids, and enjoying music with your kids. Here's what he had to say...


How did you get into playing music for kids?

I, like many, started becoming profoundly interested in children's music once we had a child. I was struck by the fact that, just like everything else, there is a lot of really, REALLY horrible music being sold to unsuspecting parents. And, just like everything else, if you do a tiny bit of digging you can find some fantastic music.

I started performing after going to a bunch of free sing alongs at local libraries. I found that some performers were wonderful, but a couple made me think, "I could do better than that!" And so with Shannon's help, I put together a set of children's music, at first just enough for a half hour sing along. But that led to writing songs, recording a CD and getting very into performing for younger audiences.


Matt Heaton and a singalong at the watertown library. From Road Trip 101: Kids Music - Matt Heaton's Happy You Made It!

Matt Heaton and a singalong at the watertown library


How is your kid music approach different/similar to your other performing acts?

The main thing I learned performing for kids is that the pacing needs to be very different. Adults often like to hear a bit of chat between songs; when Shannon & I perform we talk a fair bit, giving information about the tunes, etc. Kids want another song. Now. Also, if something is not going over well, you'll know it immediately. And by the same token, when kids are into a song, there's no more enthusiastic audience on the planet.


Are you always a solo performer for kids?

I do about 85% of my gigs solo; when I play for outdoor festivals and such I bring my band, which is a bass player and drummer.


The Outside Toys at an outdoor concert. From Road Trip 101: Kids Music - Matt Heaton's Happy You Made It!

The Outside Toys at an outdoor concert


What types of venues do you play/like to play?

I really do enjoy the library sing alongs, because I love that they are free to the public. I don't think exposing kids to live music should be something only rich people can do.


There are a lot of programs out there designed to "teach" music to kids. What are your thoughts on music education?

With very young kids, the goal is just to expose them to music, and make it fun. When I teach classes, my goal is for them to have an enjoyable musical experience, so as they get older, they associate music with fun, and are drawn to it.


 Me, Nigel, and my new guitar. From Road Trip 101: Kids Music - Matt Heaton's Happy You Made It!

 Me, Nigel, and my new guitar


How can parents enjoy music with their kids?

Seeking it out. Going to concerts is best, or sing alongs, or Irish sessions, or contra dances, or church services--anywhere where there is live music. If you can play an instrument, play to/with your child. If you can't, listen to recordings and really pay attention; sing, dance, clap along. It's all a matter of paying attention.


Kudos from librarians:

"Matt Heaton's music is peppy, creative, and interactive. It gets kids and parents alike singing and dancing along!  He's always a huge hit and keeps little ones of all ages engaged and excited." --Denise Robinson, Watertown Free Public Library

"Matt is a wonderful and talented musician. He is also clever and funny and keeps the entire room delighted. We feel very blessed to have him as part of our library performers." --Karen Dillon, Arlington, MA Public Library



Learn more at:

Toddlerbilly Troubadour (engaging kid's music with rockabilly and surf soul.)





Note: We received a review copy of Happy You Made It! from Matt - thanks so much!