Multiple studies have said that music can work wonders on our sleep. Music is like a magic wand, waving away stress hormones such as cortisol that can disrupt our slumber. This is great news since being stressed or anxious can lead to a bad night’s sleep. The best part? Listening to music can lower cortisol levels, easing our worries and lulling us into a peaceful slumber.
We truly believe in the power of music and often listening to music or lullabyes have helped us fall asleep faster and better. This is why we are very excited to introduce you to, Sing You to Sleep.
We had the opportunity to interview the producer, Dan Watt and Tony Award nominee and Drama Desk Award winner, Anika Larsen for this special piece.
Let’s dive in!
Sing You to Sleep
2014 debut solo album from the Tony Award nominee and Drama Desk Award winner. SING YOU TO SLEEP features 12 soulful songs ranging from ‘Summertime’ to ‘Make You Feel My Love.’ Anika, whose Broadway credits include RENT, AVENUE Q, ALL SHOOK UP, and XANADU, is currently starring in BEAUTIFUL: THE CAROLE KING MUSICAL in the role of Cynthia Weil. From Anika: ‘I’ve cared for a lot of little ones in my time, and I have sung all of them to sleep with some of my all-time favorite songs. I am so thrilled to be able to share this unique combination of ballads and dreamy standards through this album.’
Interview with Dan Watt
1. Tell us a bit about your connection with Anika Larsen and how the story started.
I was working for Simon Cowell at the time and part of my job was to go see up and coming Broadway Shows that could potentially be turned into films. I went to see BEAUTIFUL – The Carole King Musical while it was in San Francisco before it went to Broadway. Anika and Jessie (Mueller) are two powerhouses in the show and most of Anika’s songs were “Belters” – but there’s a song later in the show called, “Walking in the Rain” and I was gobsmacked with her voice…soft, textured and it grabbed me, I needed to hear her sing more like that. So when the show went to NYC, I went backstage after and told her this story and that she needed to do a CD and I wanted to produce it. She gave me a definite, “Definitely Not, but thank you.”
2. Anika has such a compassionate and full of soul voice. How did you know you wanted to produce Sing You to Sleep with Anika? Like why a Lullaby CD?
After 6 months of begging, talking and trying to figure out what Anika would feel comfortable doing she actually came up with the idea of doing a CD that would be classic songs that the parents could sing along with but recorded in a “lullaby” way, if that makes sense, so it could be used at bedtime. You might have not noticed but the songs actually get softer as the CD goes on in anticipation of the kids falling to sleep. It introduces a new generation to these amazing songs that the parents know, yet recorded in a way that you can put the CD on, sing a few and quietly leave the room as your child falls asleep. David Cook, who by the way is now Taylor Swift’s Musical Director, did an amazing job orchestrating these songs for us.
3. What do you love the best about Sing You to Sleep? Do you feel it is a timeless soundtrack?
We have such amazing songs on here: “Make You Feel My Love” by Bob Dylan, “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars, an amazing duet of “You Can Close Your Eyes” with Jessie Mueller (Tony Winner for BEAUTIFUL) written by James Taylor – These songs have brilliant lyrics and the orchestrations are so fantastic that I hope Anika’s versions will be as timeless as the originals. Oh, and my favorite song, “Baby Mine” from the Disney Film Dumbo.
4. There are 12 tracks on this CD, how were the songs chosen and finalized for the final cut? Any bonus tracks to be released soon? 😉
I took a page out of Simon Cowell’s Playbook. I asked Anika to come up with 25 songs that she loved and always wanted to sing. Once we had that list, I asked her to narrow it down to her top 20. This makes the process not seem so overwhelming – you have your short list and then just make it shorter. Then we sat with Michael Croiter at Yellow Sound Label who would be overseeing the recording and sound and Anika made her final list. Anika had to sing them and I wanted to make sure she felt them and wanted to do them so the actual final song list are ones she wanted.
5. Dan, you truly have a gift in producing pieces that are full of heart. What made producing this CD extra special for you?
It’s actually a very selfish thing…I wanted to hear Anika sing some amazing songs that weren’t the better show stopper songs she was usually given. I heard an amazing voice in her quiet moments in the musical and fell in love with her voice. I believed others would too. We must have pulled it off because Hoda Kotb talked about the CD on the Today Show and added it to her playlist and the one and only James Taylor reposted the video to his song, “You Can Close Your Eyes” – when he did that I was like “Ok, you can relax now – you did good.”
6. Is there any new and exciting projects that we should look out for? We can’t wait to see what you do next. 🙂
My documentary Everybody Dance is out now on Amazon Prime, AppleTV, iTunes and Google Play. I follow 5 kids with different disabilities on their journey through life and toward their dance recital. These kids, their parents and their amazing dance teacher, Bonnie, will uplift and inspire you. There’s another “Untitled Documentary,” I’m producing currently but can’t talk about it quite yet…I’ll let you know!!!
Interview with Anika Larsen
1. Tell us a bit about where you are at today (life, family and career).
Well, I got pregnant with my oldest son while we were recording this album (not literally while we were recording it, that would’ve been super awkward for the sound engineer), and he is now 8, and my youngest son is 6. My boyfriend at the time, Freddie Maxwell, who played trumpet on three of the tracks on the album, is now my husband, and we still make music together when life allows as part of the Larsen Maxwell Quintet. We are happy most of the time, and exasperated a lot of the time, thanks to the relentlessness of those kids.
My last Broadway show was Almost Famous last fall, and it closed too soon, due in large part to the fact that Broadway is still not fully recovered from Covid. But it opened up a window of time for my new life’s mission, which I (only half jokingly) like to say is “helping Broadway save the world.” I joined the board of the Broadway Green Alliance to help theater as an industry be more sustainable. I’ve become a passionate ambassador for the UN Global Goals for Sustainability, and I created “The Broadway Vlog to Save the Planet,” which is seventeen 10-minute episodes where I talk to different Broadway stars and designers about what the theater community is doing to help achieve each Goal. And I am writing a play for NYC Children’s Theater called The Pocket Park, which is “infused with the Global Goals”, and which NYCCT will produce next fall in combination with its award-winning arts-in-education programming in NYC schools to teach kids about the Global Goals and to empower and activate them and their families to help achieve the Goals themselves!
2. Your nieces and nephews inspired you to do Sing You to Sleep and a little neat piece that we also heard was that you were expecting your first baby while singing this CD. How did that make you feel during the recording? What was the recording like for you?
I very clearly remember the day Freddie came in to record his trumpet stuff for the album. We were trying to conceive, and I knew that the following day would be the first day that enough time had passed since ovulation for me to take a pregnancy test. Freddie and I were old parents, I was 40, and my mother had struggled for 4 years to get pregnant with me, so I didn’t have any reason to believe that baby-making would go easy for me, but I just felt I was pregnant. I watched Freddie blow for take after take, and he’s a jazz man, so each take was different and extraordinary and I didn’t know how we’d choose which one to go with, and my heart felt so full of love for him and hope for our future family. Cut to about 9 years later, and both my sons are so musical, and they’re taking piano lessons, and we harmonize together and sing in rounds, and the Partridge-style family band is ON! We’ve told the boys since they were born that if they’re not musical, we’re sending them back. Crisis averted.
3. We just need to ask, have you played your CD for your little ones to listen to and do they know it is mommy who sings? How have they enjoyed it?
The boys have listened to the album almost every night of their lives. Even at 6 and 8 it still soothes them. Sometimes I’m so fried at bedtime that I feel super grateful that it gets me out of their bedroom a little faster—it’s like having my understudy go on for me. I tell the boys that most kids don’t have an album of their mom and dad singing and playing lullabies for them, but they don’t get it yet.
4. Since the release of the CD in 2014 (which is the year my daughter was born and this CD would have benefited us both), what was the biggest surprise for you?
I’m not sure if this qualifies as surprise, but I’ve heard the album SO many times at this point (I’m real sick of hearing myself, if I’m honest), and each time I am still so humbled and astonished at how amazing the talent surrounding me is. Yes, Freddie is phenomenal, but so are ALL the musicians. The caliber of their work! And David Cook’s musical direction! Never mind my wonderful friends Jessie Mueller and Kenita Miller who came and sang alongside me! I was clear from the start that I wanted the album to have a sophisticated musical palette because A) I think kids can handle it, and B) sometimes grownups need lullabies too, but this album was even more well-produced than I ever hoped. Thank you Dan Watt and Michael Croiter!
5. Is there any exciting or new projects in the works for you?
I’m really focussed on The Pocket Park, and on my efforts to spread the good word about Sustainability with a capital S: “shared prosperity on a healthy planet.” Follow on me on Instagram at @GreenMomAF (the AF stands for Almost Famous, but I do know what the kids today mean when they say it—Sustainability can be cheeky) for updates on all that green stuff!
We had the honor to listen to a few of the songs from Sing you to Sleep and we love it! Sing You to Sleep is a great CD for children and adults alike. I have to admit that it is now on my playlist to fall asleep to or when I find myself overwhelemed, it keeps me at ease. Anika’s voice is captivating and full of heart. A pure talent that we are so excited to share with our worldwide readers! After this interview, we are more in love with the CD, artist and producer!
A special heartfelt thank you to Dan and Anika for your generiosity in time and for enlightening us so very much.
To purchase a copy of Sing You to Sleep, click here. It’s like having a personal lullaby to rock you to dreamland!
Until next time…Happy Parenting!