Two-time NZ Music Award Winner, Simon Stanley releases a new song and an accompanying picture book for young children. Simon talks to NZ Booklovers about his latest project.
Tell us a little about Floating Down the River.
'Floating Down the River' is my 2nd single, the first being ‘Marley Sitting on a Pumpkin Seed’ which won the best kids song NZ music award. Up until then, this was just a fun side project but that inspired a little more attention. The song was conceived in Wanaka, and fully realized in Nashville with all of the parts recorded remotely during lockdown. Having such a clear narrative the book seemed like a good idea. It’s been amazing to see it all come together.
What inspired you to write this book and song?
My parents live right next to the Clutha River in Wanaka. After a river trip there with the whole fam I started singing the main melody to my niece, Marley. I made a voice memo and upon returning to Nashville I re-lived, and embellished our day on the river and voila!
What research was involved?
It’s all pretty intuitive so not too much research, though for the USA version I had to find alternatives for the native NZ birds in the Kiwi version. ‘A Tui and a duck and a fantail too’ became ‘a robin and a duck and a chickadee too’.
How did you go about working with the illustrator Emily Boswell?
My father, a graphic designer, put me in touch with Emily’s teacher and then her. It was one of her first projects but I love what she did. I’m quite picky about what I want and she made all my dreams come true, in addition to injecting lots of her own ideas and colour. It was all done via zoom and email.
If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?
Julian Bailey Dennison from ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ would be a good fit for the boy, my niece Marley would have to play the girl, Marlon Williams for the Dad, and maybe Lorde for the Mum?
What did you enjoy the most about writing this song and book?
It really enabled me to put myself on the river and try and capture that vibe. I also enjoy kids music for being lavish with colour, but also trying to keep within classic, folky inspired traditions.
What did you do to celebrate finishing this project?
Came back to New Zealand! It’s a little tough right now with Covid but I’m looking at doing a release show.
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
I went on a bit of a classics kick with Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Anna Karenina in the middle of lockdown. It’s hard to beat War and Peace! I also really loved Purakau: Maori Myths Retold by Maori Writers. Poignant retellings of classic stories.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I’m continuing to write more songs, and am looking into another book hopefully next year. My normal job is playing guitar with different touring musicians so when I return to the States I’m back doing that and drawing inspiration from all the wonderful things I see along the way!