FINISHING THE HAT: “Kindergarten Love Song” – A Conversation with Drew Gasparini
All of the great lyricists have said (in one way or another) that lyric writing is about concision and character. When those two things collide, musical moments achieve an organic level that can only breed honesty. Lyrics where not one word is wasted are amazing to behold. Drew Gasparini represents a rare form of honesty in lyric writing and I am thrilled to have him share with us a bit of what makes “Kindergarten Love Song” work so well.
THE STORY: This stand-alone love song is among the most popular of Drew’s work largely because it works so well in cabaret/concert settings, and the charm of the text is well received by audiences.
THE SET-UP: A kindergartner expresses a first crush in the only way they know how – simply and honestly.
I SAW YOU HAD A MARIO LUNCH BOX, WELL…
LOOK I HAVE ONE TOO.
BUT MINE HAS A STRAP AND A MATCHING THERMOS
IS THAT SOMETHING THAT IMPRESSES YOU?
I NOTICED YOU NOTICE MY CRAYON COLLECTION
AND I NOTICED YOU WERE MISSING YOUR BLUE
YOU CAN BORROW MINE IF YOU WANNA…
IS THAT SOMETHING THAT YOU’D LIKE TO DO
DO YOU WANNA HOLD HANDS?
I MEAN FOR RED ROVER… I THINK THERE’S A GAME ON THE GRASS
OR MAYBE WE- OH… YOU’RE TALKING TO KILEY.
SO NEVER MIND. I’LL SEE YOU IN CLASS.
I SEE THAT YOUR MOM PACKED YOU SOME NILLA WAFERS.
HEY! THAT’S MY FAVORITE FOOD. I’LL TRADE YOU YOUR WAFES FOR MY JELLO PUDDING
IT’S NICE THAT I CAN SHARE WITH YOU
HEY, WANNA COME PLAY? I LIKE PLAYING NINJAS, OR WE COULD PRETEND WE CAN FLY
THE REASON I ASK IS ‘CAUSE I THINK I LIKE Y-
NEVER MIND. YOUR MOM’S HERE. GOODBYE.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE LETTER OF THE ALPHABET SO FAR?
MINE IS “M” MMMM. MMMM. MMMM.
DO YOU LIKE DOGS? MINE’S OUT IN MY MOM’S CAR!
SHE’S A LAB AND HER NAME IS GENEVIEVE
I HAVE A QUESTION! MY FAVORITE COLOR’S MAGENTA
GUESS WHAT! I’M TURNING 6 ON FRIDAY.
THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW, IN CASE YOU WANTED TO MAKE ME A CARD.
MY MOM’S BRINGING CUPCAKES TO CLASS. MY DAD CAN’T COME ‘CAUSE HE HAS TO WORK.
HE SAYS OBAMA TAKES HALF OF WHAT HE MAKES. I DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS
DO YOU LIKE MY HAIR CUT?
I HAVE A SCOOTER AT MY HOUSE. DO YOU HAVE A SCOOTER? WE SHOULD RIDE SOMETIME.
I LIKE THE HANDSHAKE WE MADE UP TOGETHER.
IT’S HARD, BUT IT’S JUST SOMETHING WE DO.
DO YOU THINK IT’S WEIRD THAT YOU’RE FRIENDS WITH A GIRL.
‘CAUSE I DON’T, I HOPE YOU DON’T TOO.
YOU WANNA COME BY FOR SOME JUICE AFTER SCHOOL?
IT’S THE JUICE WITH A CAT ON THE CAN.
IF NOT IT’S OKAY, I JUST… WAIT YOU DO? GREAT! OKAY. IT’S A PLAN.
DB: Tell us a little about the creation of the lyric generally.
DG: [When I write,] depending on what the lyric is for, I personally have to allow myself to be possessed by either my emotions and reactions or the emotions and reactions of the character I’m writing for. Writing lyrics for pop music is very different than writing for theater songs. Writing songs in the context of a musical is very different than writing a song that is a theatre song but a stand-alone. I’m always character-driven. So staying true to the character I’m writing for, or staying true to ME as an artist who will be performing the song, is more important than anything. Honesty is what makes a great lyric.
DB: Was there a rhythm pattern you were looking to achieve in this song? What was the goal of the flow of the text?
DG: For “Kindergarten Love Song,” there wasn’t any kind of rhythm pattern in mind because the idea is that the brain of a developing young person who has a crush (which is the simple/genuine premise behind “Kindergarten Love Song”) is that their thoughts are slightly sporadic. The reason it starts softly and cutely is because there’s an element of shyness to this character.
DB: Thematically, where does the lyric reach its “moment”…meaning, is there a particular line that serves as the heartbeat of the song?
DG: At the bridge, the character sings, “What’s your favorite letter of the alphabet so far?” I like that she says “so far”… she has so much more to learn. I like that it’s the moment where she shifts from trying to make plans to trying to have small talk as if she were playing pretend and acting like an adult. It’s where the character shows the most guts I think.
DB: If you had the chance to re-write this lyric – knowing what you know now, what if anything would you do differently?
DG: I’d probably give the character a speech impediment. Might be fun with rhymes.
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