Q&A with LISA ROTH – The “ROCKABYE BABY!” Renaissance Woman Talks: Building A Successful Music Series and Record Label
Posted On 26 Jan 2016
Tag: Aerosmith, Al Green, All Access, All Access Music, All Access Music Group, allaccessmusicnicole, Barbara Streisand, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Café Wha, California, Canterbury Records, Carole King, Chris Stapleton, ColdPlay, Curtis Mayfield, David Bowie, David Haerle, David Lee Roth, Downtown, Dylan, ELTON JOHN, Funny Girl, George Jones, Goodnight My Someone, Greenwich village, Greenwich Village Club, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Hello Dolly, Heroes, I Know a Place, I Love to Laugh, Indiana, James Taylor, Jidenna, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, Joan Rivers, Kendrick Lamar, Kirk Hamett, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Lisa Roth, Louie Armstrong, Lullaby Renditions of David Bowie, Lullaby Renditions of David Bowie– Rockabye Baby!, Manny Roth, Marvin Gaye, Mary Poppins, Mary Travers, Metallica, Motown, New York, New York City, NYC, otis Redding, Pasadena, Petula Clark, Philly soul, Pit Bull, R&B, Richard Pryor, Richie Havens, Rockabye Baby, Rockabye Baby series, Shirley Jones, Shorefire, Shorefire PR, Smokey Robinson, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, soul music, Space Oddity, Spotify, Stax Records, Steven Tyler, Sweet Baby James, Tapestry, The Four Tops, The Music Man, The O'Jays, The Rolling Stones, The Spinners, The Staple Singers, The Tears of a Clown, The Temptations, The Wizard of Oz, Van Halen, Way Over Yonder, Zenith, Ziggy Stardust
For LISA ROTH , who is the CMH Label Group Vice President and Creative Director, a career in the music industry was circuitous, but in the cards. She was a nutritionist for 20 years, with private practices in Los Angeles and New York. During this period, she began advising recording artists, often going out on tour with them, as well as executives at EMI Records.
After transitioning into television production for Discovery Channel and National Geographic, Roth was asked to join the CMH team and began working side-by-side with owner David Haerle in overseeing and being involved with everything from new business development and the creative, to setting policies, hiring and administrative.
But Roth has truly excelled in helping to create and grow brands that have become tent poles for CMH. She and former CMH Art Director Valerie Aiello came up with the idea for what would become Rockabye Baby! Lisa’s inspiration came about after looking for baby shower gifts and failing to find anything that would bring pleasure to both newborns and parents. In 2006, she helped launch the highly successful Rockabye Baby franchise, which has now spawned more than 70 studio albums packed with Lullaby versions of songs by artists ranging from The Beatles and Jay-Z to Bob Marley and Metallica.
In addition to overseeing the Rockabye Baby music line and being involved in almost every aspect of the label’s creative and development process, Roth and her team are expanding Rockabye Baby beyond albums into merchandising. She is also involved with CMH’s foray into the live music arena with the label’s Vitamin String Quartet, a collective that has spawned more than 200 albums featuring string renditions of pop and rock hits.
But for now, Roth intends to continue the approach that’s already resulted in label-wide success: big picture thinking, going with her instincts and an eye for detail and quality.
Read more below as All Access Music writer, Nicole DeRosa chats with LISA ROTH about her musical roller coaster ride through life so far!
Hey there Lisa! How are you today? What’s on the agenda today besides our interview?
I’m doing well, thank you. Building world peace one lullaby at a time. Today is a pretty typical day here at the label. I’ll be listening to some upcoming Rockabye Baby! albums that are in production and will make notes to send back to the producers. I have art meetings and marketing meetings, and the owner of the company, David Haerle and I are in negotiations with a consumer electronics company about partnering with Rockabye Baby! in a way we haven’t done before, so I’m sure we’ll be redlining contracts.
And since the weather is beautiful today, I’m going for a jog at lunch along the lake around the corner from our office. On my route there’s what’s known as the chandelier tree. It’s a large oak tree with crystal chandeliers hanging throughout it. During the day the sun shines through the crystals and it’s stunning, it completely takes me out of my head.
I am a big fan of your Rockabye Baby! series which takes hit bands, (everyone from Coldplay to Metallica) and re-imagines their classic songs by transforming them into child-friendly instrumental lullabies to play at bedtime. The series has accounted for almost 1.6 million album sales and more than 1.5 million digital single downloads. That is incredible! Who or what was the catalyst for you to start the series?
About 10 years ago, I was shopping for a baby shower gift for a friend who loves music, and I couldn’t find any baby music that was adult friendly. I just started working at our label and thought that we could probably do something about that. My desire was to create something for the baby that the parent would enjoy, something fun and ironic, something that bridged the gap between life pre-baby with life as a parent. My coworker at the time, Valerie Aiello, had a similar idea and a year later Rockabye Baby was born.
Many talented artists have complimented your series including: Elton John, Kirk Hamett from Metallica, your brother David Lee Roth and Steven Tyler (who even wrote the liner notes for your lullaby renditions of Aerosmith). Which artists would you love to have lullabye next? (or is that a secret…just one!!! I must know!)
We release six to eight lullaby albums a year, and we come up with our release schedule a year in advance, so I know who the next eight releases are going to be. Short of telling tales out of school, I will tell you that it is a diverse lineup with something old, something new and some surprises. The series started out as predominantly rock oriented, but we’ve been adding in other genres on a more regular basis. After all, every genre has it rock stars.
Also, our ten year anniversary is this year, and we have something special planned for that!
Who have been your inspirations (be it movies, artists, musicians, person) growing up that also inspire you today?
As a little girl, I loved Barbara Streisand and Joan Rivers. I remember seeing Joan for the first time on our old black and white Zenith TV. She was waving her hands, talking loudly and making people laugh. And Barbara was equally boisterous and funny, and her voice was beautiful. I used to stand up at the dinner table and do my best impression of Barbara singing “People” from the Broadway musical Funny Girl, and “Hello Dolly” where I sang both the Barbara Streisand and the Louie Armstrong parts. Joan and Barbara were strong, funny, independent women who were bucking trends. They looked different and sounded different and I loved that, still do.
And everyone who knows me, knows I love the movie The Wizard of Oz. It’s the first movie I remember watching, and it was my introduction to the use of metaphor. Everything and everyone on the screen was symbolic of something or had a deeper meaning than met the eye. This concept blew my mind.
“To this day, I always look beyond the apparent for the deeper meaning, to see what’s not being shown, or to hear what’s not being said. It’s how I operate in the world, both professionally and personally. It’s the one skill I have that I’m most confident in and that I truly value.”
As a young child growing up in Indiana and Massachusetts, you fell in love with music during frequent visits to your uncle Manny Roth’s Greenwich Village Club, Café Wha? That must have had a great impact on you, seeing so many great musicians play at such a young age?! What was your favorite memory from that time?
“To be honest, I was too young to appreciate the music, but as I got older, I understood that what my Uncle created was very special, and the legacy of talent that played the Café Wha? during the 60s was phenomenal. A very young Bob Dylan played there. My Uncle found him a place to crash, gave him a job backing up visiting musicians on his harmonica, and then fired him after he was late for a few gigs…that always makes me laugh.”
Jimi Hendrix played when he was known as Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. And there was Richard Pryor, Richie Havens, Mary Travers, Bruce Springsteen, and many more.
The thing that impacted me most at the time was the scene. I remember clearly my first visit at age four. My Uncle Manny picked me up in his arms and carried me down those dark narrow stairs into a noisy, smoky, dimly lit club packed with people. I was completely captivated and blown away by the sites, smells and the din of the crowd mixed with what I remember to be a steel drum.
“I was so excited and over-stimulated that I’m pretty sure my little four year old brain short-circuited. During that visit, my Uncle told my brother and I that anytime we visited we could order whatever we wanted just by snapping our fingers. For weeks after that first visit, I practiced snapping my fingers.”
For my brother, that first visit was seminal to him becoming a musician. He was seven and had never seen anything like that scene, but he knew then and there that he wanted to be a part of it. He carved his initials in one of the bannisters that night, and fifty years later in 2012 he returned to the club and played a special show with Van Halen, and my Uncle Manny, who was 92 at the time, was in the audience. Talk about full circle.
What was the first album you bought for yourself (or) the album that has had the greatest impact on you?
My very first purchase was actually a single that I bought at Canterbury Records in Pasadena California. I was around eight years old, and I saved my allowance (25 cents a week) and bought the 7” record of “The Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. I brought it home, put it on a portable turn table and danced the pony for hours in my avocado green kitchen. Decades later I can still sing the entire song in my sleep.
As far as first albums, I had two, Sweet Baby James by James Taylor, and Tapestry by Carole King. I’d lay on the living room floor in front of our Marantz stereo system and listen to those songs over and over. When James Taylor was playing, I pretended he was singing to me, and when Carole was playing, I pretended I was the one behind the piano singing to an audience of my 7th grade peers.
“I shared a room at the time with my baby sister and I would sing the songs from Tapestry to help her fall asleep at night. I couldn’t carry a tune to save my life, but I could sing “Way Over Yonder” with a lot of heart. My sister was a captive but appreciative audience.”
What was the first song you fell in love with and why?
It’s impossible to pick that one song. My house was filled with all kinds of music, and I loved so many songs. I listened to a lot of musical soundtracks as a little girl, and as I mentioned, “Hello Dolly” and “Funny Girl” were two favorites. I fell in love with and memorized “Goodnight My Someone” from the musical The Music Man. Shirley Jones sang it and I thought it was the prettiest song I ever heard. I sang it to my baby sister, the dog, anyone who would listen. And I loved “I Love to Laugh” from Mary Poppins, because it made me laugh.
Around the same time, I’d say the first pop song I fell in love with was Petula Clark’s “Downtown.” My dad had her album I Know a Place, and “Downtown” was my favorite song on it. And then I saw her sing it on television and that sealed the deal. She was wearing a shiny black patent leather coat with the city lights behind her, and I thought to myself, when I grow up I want look like her, wear what she’s wearing, and I want to live downtown where, like the song lyrics say – “the lights are much brighter, you can forget all your troubles and forget all your cares.” As if I had so many troubles and cares at age six.
My favorite album in the series is Space Oddity, Lullaby Renditions of David Bowie– Rockabye Baby! Did you ever have the pleasure of seeing the legendary Mr. Bowie before his untimely passing?
I never had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Bowie in concert. What a missed opportunity. I loved his music, it was part of the sound track of my life, but I was equally influenced by his look and fashion. I really wanted to look like David Bowie.
“I rocked the Ziggy Stardust hairstyle in the 70s, and the more slicked back look on the Heroes album cover. I had a couple of t-shirts with one sleeve back then, and a favorite striped blazer that I bought thinking he’d approve.”
Who is in your current playlist? What artists or bands are in current rotation for you?
I work at a record label, but my taste is very broad and basic, definitely not hip…at all. A perennial for me is 60s and 70s R&B and soul music – Motown, Philly soul, Stax Records. I love Al Green, The Four Tops, The OJays, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Marvin Gaye, The Spinners, Otis Redding, The Staple Singers, Curtis Mayfield, The Temptations and on and on and on. There’s absolutely nothing better.
Other artists I’m currently listening to are Jimi Hendrix, Kendrick Lamar, Chris Stapleton, Lightnin’ Hopkins, The Rolling Stones, Pit Bull, Dylan, Jidenna, George Jones and many more. And over the weekend I found a 70s funk playlist on Spotify that I can’t stop listening to.
What’s on tap next for you, Lisa? What are you most excited about for this year?
As I mentioned, we’re investigating new partnerships for the Rockabye Baby brand, which is exciting. The reality is that we’re not only in the music business now, we’re also in the baby business, which is a great asset given the changing landscape of the music industry. From what I can tell, babies are not a trend, so there are many possibilities for our brand in the future, beyond just music.
For me personally, I’m in pursuit of the work/life balance thing, and the perfect piece of chocolate cake…with a little more energy going towards the chocolate cake.
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