ENTREPRENEUR OF THE MONTH: NOVEMBER 2015
Hang on to yer hat, cowpoke. One listen-to and read-through of Sandra Boynton’s illustrated country-music songbook/CD combo “Frog Trouble,” and you’ll be humming your way through the day.
By Hope Katz Gibbs Publisher, Be Inkandescent magazine
When it comes to embracing the art of resilience, it’s wonderful to look to successful people who continuously reinvent themselves. Such is the case for illustrator, author — and now songwriter — Sandra Boynton.
Created for children ages 1 to “older than dirt,” the fun yet poignant title “Frog Trouble” is Boynton’s fifth foray into merging music, words, and art. Like the others she’s created with keyboard player Michael Ford, it’s likely to become a certified Gold, and an award-winning New York Times best-seller.
This collection of ditties is packed with star-power — including musical performances from Linda Eder, Brad Paisley, and Dwight Yoakam — and the message of the book is as charming and iconic as the lyrics and illustrations by Boynton herself. From “I’ve Got a Dog,” to “Deepest Blue,” and “More Frog Trouble,” this 64-pager is filled with wit and wisdom — as well as lyrics and sheet music so readers can sing and play along.
We wouldn’t expect anything less from the successful artist and author, who has been writing books and drawing charming animal illustrations since the 1970s. “I love illustrated books, and I’ve always been smitten with records, so I guess it was inevitable that I’d eventually want to put the two together,” Boynton tells us from her home office in Connecticut. “I think I’m happiest in a recording studio, working with great singers and musicians. Making a record is pretty much the most fun a person can have. Though drawing confused hippos is way up there, too.”
How did the native of Orange, NJ, make her way to the recording studios of Nashville? “If you love recording, sooner or later you’re going to find yourself in Nashville,” she believes. “And y’all might even start saying ‘y’all’ without even realizing it.”
Boynton admits that snagging stellar singers as Eder, Paisley, and Yoakam for “Frog Trouble” wasn’t easy. “It took foolish optimism on my part. But they all said they really loved the songs, so that helped.” To seal the deal, Boynton sent each country star a gift of a stuffed animal (Mr. Chicken, to be precise). “Surely there’s nothing so persuasive as receiving an unexplained stuffed chicken,” she says.
Being clever about accomplishing her goals has long been Boynton’s style.
As an undergrad at Yale, she started designing gift cards and Christmas cards, which her Uncle Bill, a printer, made copies of. She then trudged around to various East Coast stores selling them. The cards took off — and so had her love life.
“Jamie McEwan was a tall, swarthy, and cheerfully subversive Yale wrestling captain/1972 Olympic bronze medalist when we met,” shares Boynton, who married and moved with him to a farm in the foothills of the Berkshires. “Then we collaborated on four perfect children and two quirky books.”
Those stories were “The Story of Grump and Pout,” and “The Heart of Cool.” Dozens of books by Boynton followed. Then, in 1996, she met her professional partner, Michael Ford. “We’re a very lean team,” she explains of her collaboration with the Pennsylvania-based music man. “I write all the lyrics and most of the melody, and from there, Mike and I create each song together in our own small New England music production studio, with Mike playing scratch instrumental tracks on keyboard and helping with all the technical stuff, which he’s masterful at. I call him The Computer Whisperer.”
What is Boynton working on next? She’s reinventing an old classic. “I re-researched, rewrote, and re-illustrated my 1982 seminal work Chocolate: The Consuming Passion, which Workman Publishing just released last month.” And, she has started working on a new album of infectious-beat dance songs, which is tentatively titled, “Hog Wild!”
How can you stay as clever and as buoyant as Boynton? Here are six tips to keep the bounce in your flounce.