Pre-Pilgrimage Festival Q&A with Ralph Covert

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Ralph Covert, of Ralph's World, chats with Nashville Parent during a quick Q&A before the long anticipated date of the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival.

Before the hustle and bustle of the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival on Sept. 26 – 27 in Franklin, we were able to get a few questions answered by the top performer for the kids area, Ralph Covert of Ralph’s World. Once you’ve read what he’s got to say about performing at such a venue, rounding up other children’s entertainers and what’s coming down the road for him, you’ll see that it’s easy to like him. He’s such a cool guy and his love of music and sharing it with families shows.

Nashville Parent (NP): We know that you have been on the Disney Channel and music venues all over, but have you ever performed for a venue such as this (one that meshes favorites of both adult and children’s music)?

Ralph: I’ve performed quite a few times at both Lollapalooza and at Austin City Limits. In this modern era where parents can share great music with their kids, it is awesome that some of the major Fests welcome parents and kids by programming top flight family entertainment in the heart of their Fest (Kudos to Tor Hyams and Sarah George for the pioneering work they’ve done in this field). The families have a blast, and it’s a great chance as a musician to interact with your peers in other genres. This is my first opportunity to curate a stage. My goals were:

  • to create a bill that was the best of the best in the genre while being as diverse as possible in terms of styles of music
  • to select artists that reflected cultural and gender diversity
  • to create additional activities in the area that were unique, and that allowed the kids and parents to interact with the artists
  • to create opportunities for MainStage artists to perform on the family stage and share special performances of their music with the parents and kids

NP: So, we heard you were organizing all the children’s entertainers for this event. What helped you decide on the performers and why do you think the children will like them?

Ralph: LOL! I jumped the gun on that question! All of the acts are great musicians and fun entertainers. We have rock n roll, bluegrass, alternative, country, hip hop, blues, R&B, western swing and Dixieland music represented. It’s a great opportunity to be entertained.

  • Secret Agent 23 Skidoo performs high energy hip hop, including break dancing and freestyle rapping. It’s very fun for the audience — and very interactive and engaging.
  • Jazzy Ash performs Dixieland music. It’s timeless, tuneful fun, and she’s a great singer with a warm and engaging personality.
  • Local Nashville favorite son Farmer Jason (of Jason and the Scorchers) airs his music videos on Nashville Public TV, and is a great performer. His songs are country, and he incorporates many elements from his own love of farming.
  • Casey Campbell is also a Nashville native. He performs a history of bluegrass mandolin show that has been featured at the grand Ol’ Opry Museum.
  • I’ve known Chicagoan Laura Doherty since she was in charge of the Old Town School of Folk Music’s famed Wigggleworms program. She and her band put on a bouncy folk music oriented show which is especially appealing for the younger members of the audience.
  • Among our special guests we have Tom Mason and the Buccaneers, a rollicking pirate band; MainStage artist Kingfish, a teenage boy who plays the blues guitar; national headliner EmiSunshine, who is a 10 year old singing old-time western swing; The Band From Nowhere, an all-star band of Nashville kids from the WO Smith music school; and Pilgrimage co-founder Kevin Griffin of Better Than Ezra. There may be other surprise guests as well!

NP: Also, is there anything the kids should look forward to during the breaks between performers … or maybe anything during the show (like interaction, etc.)?

Ralph: We will have a Musical Petting Zoo where the kids can meet the musicians and try out different instruments. Members of Secret Agent 23 Skiddoo will be leading both hip hop rhyming workshops as well as breakdancing workshops! Jazzy Ash will be working in a special crafts area, where she will help kids make decorations they will then use in a Mardi Gras parade to her show. Each day will end with a big parade of all the musicians and all the kids and families where they will take a mass group photo together. There will be other activities as well.

NP: Now that you’ve got a new CD (by the way, when was that released?), should we expect to hear any new music from that CD at the festival?

Ralph: Oh, yes, good point. On top of all that, I’ll be performing with Ralph’s World! We’ll be doing old songs, new songs, sing-alongs, dancing songs, silly game songs, and all with a giant splash of rock and roll! The new CD, which was released this summer for my extensive library tour, features many of the songs that have been incorporated into my different children’s books through the years, and so I’ll be interacting with kids both before and after the sets to sign any CDs, books or pictures they might have. And of course to deliver as many smiles, high fives, fist bumps and hugs as are needed!

NP: Just for fun, because children love your music so much, we want to know if there’s a fun process you go through when it comes to writing a new children’s song?

Ralph: Writing kids music allows me to have an imagination as wide as a kids! It’s the perfect chance to go on an adventure — I allow myself to daydream about where I’d like to go, and when I write the song and perform it, I have the chance to bring my little listeners and their parents along on the journey with me.

NP: What inspired you to become a children’s music performer?

Ralph: I started teaching Wiggleworms classes at the Old Town School when my first daughter Fiona was born, and I was having so much fun that when she aged out of it I kept doing it! I love both interacting with the kids and with their parents, and entertaining all of them. I also love the creative freedom I mentioned above. Finally, I love the wild abandonment with which they throw themselves into the music. Years ago fellow Chicagoan Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins came up to me in a record store and said, “You have the best fans — they laugh, they dance, and you feel happy just watching them have fun.”

NP: Care to share anything that you have coming down the road?

Ralph: I produced the pilot to a kids TV show called Ralph’s World: Time Machine Guitar. We are hoping to start creating more related videos and segments this winter, and will be releasing a new album of songs from the projected first season of the show next spring.


Learn more about the Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival including dates and prices. Be sure to use #MakeThePilgrimage when posting while you’re at the festival, too!

DON’T FORGET! Children 10 years or younger receive FREE admission when accompanied by a paying adult. (VIP tickets are full price for all ages, infants 2 years of age or under are free when accompanied by a VIP paying adult.)

Learn all about the children’s entertainers here: the-festival/family-stage

Kiera Ashford is associate editor of Nashville Parent and mother of three.

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