It might seem an unexpected pairing: Dave Kinnoin––whose songs have been sung by Mickey Mouse, Kermit the Frog and Winnie the Pooh among other animated characters––and Randy Sharp, a Grammy-winning tunesmith for Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Dixie Chicks and many others. With the release of their second full-length album, Life On A Trampoline, the pair interjects a zingy lyrical elasticity into a suite of smart children’s songs populated by a cast of zany characters.
At Randy Sharp’s studio the duo is surrounded by a vast collection of guitars and stringed instruments, among them a pedal steel, a Coral Electric Sitar and a 12-string bajo sexto. These musical tools are utilized to orchestrate tracks across Randy & Dave’s broad stylistic spectrum: from Tin Pan Alley, to blues-rock to folk and beyond. “So many times people come in with a stack of how things are supposed to be and how they’re supposed to be done,” Sharp observes. “That can be such an obstacle. I like that we work at a place where that is not true––we don’t assume it’s not going to be right until we give it a shot.”
Sharp had met Kinnoin at songwriter organizations and events. When Kinnoin hired out his studio the two began tinkering with songs. Sharp regarded children’s music as an untapped genre. “Dave created an opportunity for me to go somewhere I had never been before.”
Kinnoin, who has worked on assignment for Disney, Henson, and many other major entertainment companies, says that it was time for him to orchestrate a new career course. “I made few bucks. I am a certain age. I thought I’d like to be the genesis of projects.”
One of the teams’ first co-writes, “Enormously Inconvenient,” came from a phrase that Kinnoin brought into the writing session as he remembers. “Randy came up with the idea how enormously inconvenient it would be to not be able to be friends with somebody because of their ethnicity, or religion or something like that, and if you could just peel that away then you’d have a better life and you wouldn’t be afraid of people.”
As Randy & Dave, the two artists released their debut full length, Calling All The Elephants in 2015 and it won a Parent’s Choice Gold Award among many other honors. The prolific duo has already completed all of the songs for their third project and is working ahead on a fourth collection.
Sharp emphasizes that although the end results might seem sometimes silly, he and his partner’s shared dedication to the craft of storytelling is anything but. “We are both conscious of staying in the voice of our perceived character. We are not kids, but in the concept as the songs we stay in the mindset of a kid. It gives us freedom. Kids will use words wrong, or flip phrases over, and that expands our vocabulary. So we’re talking in a world where other things are allowed.” Adds Kinnoin, “Randy is a big believer is finding out what the song wants to be. As if we were puppets of the song and we have to conform to the bigger picture of the music.”
Although Sharp plays many of the instruments on the tracks, the duo’s projects have become family affairs with participation from Sharp’s daughter, the accomplished songwriter, artist and saxophonist Maia Sharp, with additional vocals from his wife Sharon Bays. Kinnoin’s two sons, Oliver and Grady, have contributed five-string bass and pedal steel guitar respectively. “Fortunately our family members are really good musicians,” says Kinnoin.
Although both partners work on separate projects, they maintain a dedicated work schedule, convening twice weekly in the studio to summon forth songs that are a delight for their young listeners and certainly for their creators. “We are two songwriters who love writing songs, and we feel lucky that we ended up together,” say Kinnoin. “We are so good at it and it’s so much fun. I’m going to focus on the Randy & Dave thing and get it into the world as profoundly as possible. I will do the other work as it comes in, but this has become my passion, my job and my joy.”