Ten years ago, Dan Zanes was a struggling rocker thinking about a new career path.
Today, he’s one of the most popular family performers, widely recognized as the person who made it safe for real musicians to play kids’ music. Just ask artists such as Lou Reed and Sheryl Crow, who have guested on his albums.
amNewYork spoke with Zanes as he prepared for his annual Mother’s Day weekend show.
Why do so few people record music that both kids and adults can enjoy?
People were doing it, but they’re either dead or old. What we were trying to do was an updated version of what Leadbelly, Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie did. Families making music together for all ages is an old concept.
Why did you decide to make the transition into kids’ music?
I don’t think of myself as a kids’ musician, I think of myself as someone who plays all-ages music or social music. There are a lot of creative possibilities in family music. [In] between songs about taking a bath and songs about drinking and old girlfriends is a really rich, limitless place where themes can be universal.
What do you like about playing for kids versus playing for adults?
Young people are everything I always wanted grownups to be. It’s hard for adults to become uninhibited. Young people are naturally uninhibited. They’ll jump up and dance. ... I could never say that playing with my old band.
If you go: Dan Zanes is playing Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Ave., 212-535-7710