The Children’s Museum of Memphis is hosting children singer/songwriter Owen Duggan this month. Duggan, the father of two, is on tour promoting his latest CD, Puppy Dog Jig. His performance takes place Sunday, October 20, at 1 p.m.
Duggan’s folksy tunes reflect his own musical roots. Growing up in Winnipeg, Canada, he often attended the city’s international folk music festival each summer. He became further influenced by singer/songwriters like Burl Ives, Pete Seeger, and Tom Paxton. In addition to writing his own music, the 55-year-old Duggan is an accomplished musician who plays guitar, banjo, ukulele, and the Irish tin whistle. He also works as the music director for a San Antonio-based church.
Parents will find themselves humming along to these cleverly written songs, with melodies that veer from folk and blues to jazz. Duggan isn't interested in being watered down adult rock. His is children's music, at times playful and silly but always well-crafted. We spoke with Owen from his home in San Antonio, Texas, to learn more about his musical journey.
How did you get started as a performer? It was really out of necessity. I was teaching preschool and looking for songs that kids would respond to. Then, with the arrival of my son, Donny, I started writing and recording. I landed a distribution deal fairly quickly and released my first CD, An Elephant Never Forgets, in 2005. It was rereleased in 2008. You can hear those tunes here.
Who is your music for? I appeal to young children, up to age 5 or 6. My songs are geared to things that are going on in the world around them. I focus on preschoolers because I enjoy how open they are; it’s so easy to get them involved. We’re dancing and singing and interacting all the time.
How does your new CD, Puppy Dog Jig, differ from your first? I borrow from more literary sources in this recording. I’ve included poems by Rudyard Kipling and Sandra Boynton, as they both have stories and clever images that stick with kids. Many of these songs talk about everyday activities that kids do with their families.
I understand your son struggled with childhood cancer, but now, at age 11, is cancer-free. How is he doing?
My son, Donny, was on chemo for four years. Thankfully, he is now recovered. He’s quite musical, he plays violin and is learning to fiddle, and he loves bluegrass. My daughter, Molly (7), plays piano. Both enjoy my music but they’re in school. I’m hoping to tour next summer so they can come with me. Owen’s first CD, An Elephant Never Forgets (OLDmusic Productions/MRI Associated Labels, 2008), has won awards from National Parenting Publications, Parents’ Choice Foundation and International Association of Independent Recording Artists. To learn more, go to owenduggan.com [Photo by Marks Moore]