Ed Helms, The War & Treaty, Gaby Moreno, Punch Brothers & More join Kristin Andreassen and Kari Grof, MD on The Bright Siders album

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 in the public consciousness.

Releasing on January 21, 2021 via Smithsonian Folkways Recordings on CD, LP, and digital formats, the album invites listeners to think deeply about empathy and self-compassion as they navigate the beauty and complexity of their emotional lives. The group announced the album today, and shared the first single, “The Moon and the Stars and Me,” inspired by a conversation Andreassen had with Dr. Groff’s young daughter about being afraid of the dark. The song speaks to how the darkness protects the colors so they (and we) can rest and become bright again in the morning. 

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. She has always had a passion as well for songwriting and playing the fiddle. 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. When she was a young doctor, she started writing her own material based on the issues brought to her by her patients, weaving psychiatric advice into 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 old-time string band Uncle Earl (Abigail Washburn, Rayna Gellert, KC Groves) and “folk noir” trio Sometymes Why (Ruth Ungar, Aoife O’Donovan). Andreassen’s songwriting achievements include the kids’ radio hit “Crayola Doesn’t Make a Color for Your Eyes.” 

Performances and workshops (in person and online) are part of The BrightSiders’ long-term plan to reach kids. In 2019, they appeared with Eldridge at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage and Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival, while experimenting in smaller venues with ways to engage audiences through guided conversations and songwriting exercises. 

Still, says Dr. Groff, “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.

“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.

Visit www.folkways.si.edu andhttps://www.thebrightsiders.com for updates.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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