Meet the Artist: Francine Wheeler of The Dream Jam Band

When a band cites among its musical influences the Beatles, Duke Ellington, the Grateful Dead, Woody Guthrie, Led Zeppelin, and Mozart, you know you and your family are in for a wild ride. And that's exactly what the Dream Jam Band delivers. Recently, we spoke with singer Francine Wheeler about the band, its members and all those influences.

Meet the Artist: Francine Wheeler

The Dream Jam Band Album Cover

How did you all get together?
We've all been professional musicians and teachers in the New York area for a long time. Maestro C and Barry G had been teaching and Erin the Red had been performing. I'd been doing a lot of musical theater. And so we all met around that scene. I'd just had a baby and was also teaching preschoolers and I had become totally inspired by them. I realized that I love kids so much that I wanted to sing to them.

You and Barry G both have kids. Do you try out the music for them?
I have a 6- and a 3-year-old; Barry's twins are 6. We do play our songs for them. When they enjoy something, they say so: "Yeah! I like that!" Sometimes we'll even perform part of our show for them at home, just to feel them out and see what they think. And they love when we do that.

How can you tell if a song isn't going over very well?
Kids are really positive people, but they're very clear too. They won't tell me, "I don't like it." Instead they'll say something like "I want to hear that other one more -- I want to dance to that one!" Mostly I'm looking at their reaction. I'll know whether a song is working immediately by looking at my 3-year-old. If he's singing, if he's moving, if he's dancing, it's a good song.

Do you write songs as group or individually?
Sometimes we write our own and bring them in finished, and then our producer, Rick Chertoff, will help us arrange the songs in different ways. On the new record there's a song -- I can't pronounce it the way Maestro C does -- called "Boing." He brought in the idea, and then we all started playing. It's essentially a song of psychedelic music with some other sounds thrown in -- oh, and a freeze-dance in the middle! So we sort of all worked on that one together. When we get together to rehearse, we always come up with something good to add to a song, no matter how it was written.

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