“The Story Pirates” is a nationally touring musical theater company that just released their first album “Nothing Is Impossible” on September 28. Featuring songs like “Fart Out Loud Day,” the album is full of originally written and recorded tunes based on story ideas submitted by children. The 12-song album offers listeners an eccentric array of topics, from penguins who work in an office to a carrot who lives on Saturn and longs to be eaten, with a unique, and uniquely fun, insight into the imaginations of children.
All songs originally aired on The Story Pirates Podcast, which has been repeatedly selected as one of the best podcasts for kids. The Story Pirates have won acclaim from educators, parents, and more than 500,000 young people around the nation. Each week, the crew aboard the Story Pirates’ ship—including world-class actors, comedians, improvisers and musicians—takes original stories from real kids around the country, and turn them into a comedy series for all ages. In spring 2018, the Story Pirates also published their first book “Stuck in the Stone Age” (authored by New York Times best-selling author Geoff Rodkey).
The Story Pirates believe that every child has a story to tell. This critically acclaimed media organization, founded in 2004, has headquarters in New York and Los Angeles, and produces an array of original projects based on collaborations between kids and world-class artists. The group is made up of renowned comedians, musicians, authors, designers and teachers who use kids’ own words, and ideas as the source material for everything they do. Adding professional polish, the Pirates bring to life on stage, on screen, in books, and through their popular podcast, what young minds scribble down on paper. By inviting kids into the creative process, the Story Pirates offer a participatory new approach to kids’ media that’s fresh and engaging, not to mention hilarious. Story Pirates is also proud to be a leading advocate for arts education. Through Story Pirates Changemakers, their partner non-profit, the Pirates provide life-changing literacy and creative writing programs to thousands of kids around the country, including those in Title I schools and homeless shelters.
Based in NYC and LA, the Story Pirates have been touring the country for 14 years, visiting elementary schools, theaters, performing arts centers and festivals with their unique brand of sketch comedy and songs that are all based on stories written by kids. There are literally hundreds of performers and creators – actors, musicians, composers, writers, puppeteers and directors. Story Pirates are basically a huge collective of artists who believe that kids have the best ideas and write the best stories. Music has always been a huge part of their live show, and for the first time, “Nothing Is Impossible” packages that music into an album.
Lee Overtree, one of the co-founders of The Story Pirates, recently discussed all this and more via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): What inspires your songs and do you typically write lyrics or melodies first?
Lee Overtree (LO): All of our songs are inspired by original stories written by kids. Through our podcast and touring, kids submit hundreds of stories to our website every week. It’s really hard to choose which stories to turn into songs (because all the submissions are all so good), but once we find one, we pass it on to one of our dozens of composers on both coasts, who turns it into a song. Each of our composers works differently, but they all try to stay as faithful to the source material as possible. Our goal is to realize each kid author’s vision and bring it to life in the most exciting way possible.
MM: How did you think up the name of your band?
LO: Regular pirates steal treasure, but for the Story Pirates, kids’ stories are our treasure.
MM: How is your recent album different from others?
LO: This is the first time we’ve put our music out in this form. Lots of our fans will recognize some of these songs from our hit podcast, but on the album, these songs have been remixed, mastered and polished to a degree that Story Pirates’ music never has before.
MM: You inspire children to write, why do you think that is so beneficial?
LO: We believe kids have the best ideas and write the best stories. We want kids everywhere to feel like their voices are heard and that they are valued for their creativity. When kids learn to love writing, they are learning to share their brilliance with the world, which makes the world a better place for everyone.
MM: You also arrange Creative Writing Programs! So, how does the curriculum work and where are these programs implemented?
LO: Our in-school creative writing curriculum is present in more than 250 schools nationwide. You can also find our creative writing lessons in the back of our recent book Stuck in the Stone Age.
MM: Of all your songs, which are your favorites and fan favorites?
LO: We hear a lot from our fans about ‘Fart Out Loud Day’, and the funny interactions it inspires. The song is really funny but it also has a great message about body positivity. One of my personal favorites is “Frank The Monster Who Isn’t Scary” because it sounds like a song that could be on any radio station, even those for adults. We feel strongly that we’re making music that appeals to everyone, not just kids, and ‘Frank’ really encapsulates our approach.
MM: What experiences with fans have been most memorable to you and why?
LO: When we choose a kid’s story to adapt into a song, we are starting a relationship with that family. Meeting these families and learning about their lives is incredibly meaningful to us, because these kids’ stories truly inspire us. The first time I Skyped with the family of the kid, Ethan, who wrote “Riding A Seagull Was Good” I learned that Ethan has been dealing with a rare heart condition his whole life. Here’s what Ethan has to say about the inspiration for his story:
“I am a boy named Ethan and I have heterotaxy so I have a special heart and a battery. I love to run and catch a seagull but I can’t even jump that high so I writed a story about it. That’s because if you can’t do something you just imaginate [sic] it and then you can write something about it.”
We had no idea about this layer when we chose his story, and it blew us away! Every single one of these songs, even though they are often silly and hilarious, have a deep meaning for the kid authors and their families.
MM: When you started out making music why did you focus on music for kids?
LO: Honestly, we just like the stories that kids tell. We think that kids are funnier and more profound than adults and their stories inspire us to make the best music we can.
MM: Overall, what are your biggest goals for the future?
LO: We want every kid to realize that they have a story to tell and that the world needs to hear it.
MM: Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
LO: Our next book, “Digging Up Danger,” by Jacqueline West — based on an idea from an eight-year-old named Phoebe Wolinetz — comes out in January from Random House! If you want to hear more stories and songs based on stories written by kids, check out The Story Pirate Podcast from Gimlet Media: http://podcast.storypirates.com/
Catch the Story Pirates live this fall and winter by checking out their many school and public performance schedules at storypirates.com, and view the animated music videos for “All 8 Unicorns” and “Fart Out Loud Day” on Story Pirates’ YouTube channel. Kids everywhere are invited to submit their own story ideas. Learn more at storypirates.com and via Twitter @storypirates, Instagram @storypirates, and Facebook.com/storypirates.
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