Bringin’ It Backwards: Interview with The Bright Siders

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Together with American Songwriter, we had the pleasure of interviewing The Bright Siders over Zoom audio! 

The Bright Siders is a unique musical collaboration between Nashville-based Americana songwriter Kristin Andreassen and Brooklyn-based child psychiatrist Kari Groff, MD. Together, they create music with the purpose of helping children connect to their emotions. 

Ten years in the making, their carefully crafted, star-studded debut album A Mind of Your Own arrives just when the world needs it most, and as the importance of mental health resurfaces. Releasing on January 21, 2021 via Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the album invites listeners to think deeply about empathy and  self-compassion as they navigate the beauty and complexity of their emotional lives.

Together with an inclusive cast of inspiring vocalists – including Ed Helms, The War & Treaty, Gaby Moreno, Punch Brothers, Joey Ryan (The Milk Carton Kids), Oh Pep!, Kaia Kater, and more – Andreassen, Dr. Groff and their co-producer, Chris Eldridge, offer a profoundly empowering collection of songs and skits for elementary age children and the grownups who love them. 

Kari Groff, MD is an accomplished physician running a child psychiatry practice in Brooklyn, New York.  Her side passion has always been as a fiddler and songwriter.  Through her clinical work as a child psychiatrist, Dr. Groff has seen first-hand how powerful music can be in helping children to process emotions. As a young doctor, she started writing her own material based on the issues brought to her by her patients, weaving psychiatric advice within her catchy lyrics.

Kristin Andreassen has toured world stages as a singer, clogger, square dance caller and educator, first with the Maryland-based Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, and then with oldtime stringband Uncle Earl (Abigail Washburn, Rayna Gellert, KC Groves) and “folk noir” trio Sometymes Why (Ruth Ungar, Aoife O’Donovan). As a songwriter, Andreassen’s achievements include the kids’ radio hit “Crayola Doesn’t Make a Color for Your Eyes”. 

It was a chance meeting between Andreassen and Dr. Groff that launched The Bright Siders as a shared musical endeavor. The songs and skits, along with Dr. Groff’s “Try this at home…” suggestions contained in the liner notes, are all intended to set the stage for conversations with children about common emotional themes and experiences they’re likely to have while growing up. 

“More than anything, we encourage parents, educators, and caregivers  to listen to this music with their children. Where does the real magic of this album happen? It’s in actively listening to the music with children and then talking about what they experience in response to the music,” says Dr. Groff.

“Children should understand that their feelings are valid and important to the adults around them,” she continues.  “And parents can help children live rich and meaningful lives by helping them accept and understand their emotional experiences with compassion – even if they, as parents, cannot directly fix a problem that is making them anxious or sad.”  

With playful lyrics and contagious melodies, this music cuts through the monofocus of our pandemic-centered times, offering a practical guide to raising emotionally intelligent children who, one day soon, will take those skills with them as they experience the beauty in growing up and becoming themselves.

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