Interview: Suzy Cato and the Itty Bitty Beats talk about Christmas in Summer
Itty Bitty Beats is the musical pairing of Jenny Payne and Lucy Hiku. The pair met at Jazz School in Christchurch in 2002. Since forming in 2014, they have celebrated four years in a row of being nominated for NZ Children’s Music Awards. Suzy Cato is a beloved New Zealand children’s entertainer and TV personality, and is best known as the host of Suzy’s World and You and Me, as well as hosting a YouTube channel, Suzy & Friends’ Treehut TV. Suzy Cato and the Itty Bitty Beats talks to NZ Booklovers.
Tell us a little about Christmas in Summer.
ITTY BITTY BEATS: Christmas in Summer is a fun song celebrating the food and fun we experience during the festive season in NZ and Australia. Instead of soft, white snow we have a sweet, squishy pavlova. Instead of toasty fireplaces, we have flickering BBQs.
What inspired you to write this song and book?
SUZY: Itty Bitty Beats are best to answer this one as Jenny contacted me to see if I would like to join them in creating the song and I jumped at the opportunity because they are both such talented singer/song writers and I love their work and have loved performing with them at events in Chch and Auck over the last few years.
ITTY BITTY BEATS: Jenny is English and grew up with winter Christmases and we have grown up listening to Christmas classics like, ‘Winter Wonderland’ and ‘Let it Snow’ - although they are great songs, they don’t really reflect our sand, surf, Pōhutukawa trees and sunny weather. We really wanted to create a catchy Christmas song for Kiwi kids to relate to.
What research was involved?
SUZY: Our own experiences of Christmas in summer was all that was needed – we tapped into our hearts and felt the beat of a Christmas in Summer and of reindeer hooves getting into the groove.
ITTY BITTY BEATS: We spent lots of time discussing what makes our Kiwi Christmases special. We enjoyed talking about our traditions and the things that make a cracker summer Christmas.
What was your routine or process when writing this book/song?
SUZY: Jenny and Lucy invited me to join them in the lyric writing process. They had the gem of the melody in place and as we shared lyric ideas we bounced around where the bridge should be and how the story would progress. It was all down Lockdown styles – via the internet as they live in Chch and I live in Auckland – but it was completed in October last year, before even a hint of Covid 19 had hit our sand covered shores.
ITTY BITTY BEATS: Because Jenny and Lucy live in Christchurch, and Suzy lives in Auckland, we had some cute catch ups on Zoom to remotely brainstorm ideas. We sent melodic and lyrical concepts back and forth and constructed our song together. We really enjoyed the collaboration process.
What did you enjoy the most about this project?
SUZY: Working with such wonderfully talented people, who care just as much about kids and about whanau as I do. It really was a fun project. And then to have Carla Martell provide such gorgeous illustrations. I’d actually worked with Carla many years ago on a Christmas event so it’s wonderful to have the circle complete, when we’re back working on a Christmas project together, again.
ITTY BITTY BEATS: Working with Suzy is such a blast. She brings an incredible bright, sunny energy. Recording the song and the music video all in the space of a few hours was so much fun. Getting to dance together and dress up in Christmas colours! It created a memory we will hold forever.
What did you do to celebrate finishing up on this project?
SUZY: I think the get together we’ll have during the promo weekend is when we’re really get to celebrate properly – all three of us. The last time we were all together was when we recorded the song and the music video which was all part of a whirlwind trip to Chch last year!
ITTY BITTY BEATS: We will all be together this together this weekend in Auckland to perform some shows, then back to Christchurch to do the same. So we are getting together at Suzy’s place for dinner to celebrate our book! There will be a few happy dances when we get together!
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
SUZY: Oh my goodness, I have a huge pile of kids books all set for review for my YouTube channel. There are so many standouts, for so many reasons but I don’t think anything quite rivals reading your own book, fresh from the printers. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it!
ITTY BITTY BEATS: It would have to be Diary of a Wombat. We got it out from the library and we all laughed so hard. It was a great book to read together as a family. (Lucy)
I’ve been reading Awful Aunty by David Walliams with my 9 year old son... so good! We love snuggling up at bedtime and reading a chapter together. (Jenny)
What’s next on the agenda for you?
SUZY: Christmas in Summer! With my whanau and friends. 2021 looks to be an exciting one with some more wonderful projects… some of which I will be able to share with NZ Booklovers too!!!!
ITTY BITTY BEATS: We have been working on our Bubble album. An entire album of songs celebrating the humble bubble! We also have some more music collaborations in the works with other Kiwi Kids Musicians. We are always creating. Song writing is so much fun. Especially co-writing and collaborating with friends.
Scholastic New Zealand