is a little yellow guy from the sun who is making all kinds of waves in the kids music world. He's the creation of Morgan Taylor, a musician and a self-taught illustrator, who came up with the character when he was doodling on the job at a record store in Ohio.
Years later, those doodles turned into the an award-winning series of CD/DVD sets that have found fans among preschoolers, teenagers and their parents too. Taylor's mellow, fantastical songs explore Gustafer's crazy adventures here on Earth. They're clever and catchy and sweet. And the live show features Taylor singing about Gustafer and his friends as illustrations are projected on the screen. It might sound slightly bizarre but it's fantastic entertainment for kids.
Taylor will be at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro for an 11 a.m. show on Saturday. Click here
for details and tickets. He took the time out the other day to chat with me by phone as he finishes up his next CD/DVD set expected to come out in February.
Here's some of our conversation:
Go Ask Mom: Can you explain what you do for readers who aren't familiar?
Taylor: We call it a musical moving book. And the concerts are not just music. It’s a multimedia show and it’s based around the character Gustar Yellowgold, who is a friendly visitor from the sun who has landed in Minnesota and is exploring a greener world than he ever had on the sun. And he’s made some friends. He’s got a pet eel. His best friend is a terradactyl. And he’s coming up with some of his own rituals and hobbies and things like that that might seem unusual to earthlings.
Go Ask Mom: When you came up with him, it wasn’t originally a kids thing, it was just a character?
Taylor: The character himself I came up with back in the 90s when I was working at a record store in Ohio. I had this character that kept reappearing not really with any specific story or home except that he was this yellow, cat-faced pointy headed guy. It was almost ten years later when I was taking a break between bands that I was in and my wife Rachel said why don’t you do something different, do that kids book idea that I had. I knew I had these songs that were kind of funny, jingly, that were definitely fiction, first person songs ... and the idea was going to be to make a children’s book with a CD in the back. ... We took them around to people and one of the people who we showed them to was this production company that Rachel had known. And they said you should animated this. They said it’s actually pretty easy. We were like OK. ... It’s sort of the accidental combination of still images and light movement that gives this whole thing its feel and made it more storybookish.
After the first DVD was assembled, we had nine songs and then we actually saw what we had. We duplicated 1,000 DVDs and started passing them around and started booking shows and selling DVDs and the reaction was really surprising. We kind of realized what we had accidentally made. We’ve gotten a lot of good attention really quick.
Go Ask Mom: Tell me some of what you’ve done with Gustafer?
: One of the cool things that happened, we got invited by The Polyphonic Spree
, which is a band from Dallas. And they liked Gustafer and they do these big Christmas extravaganzas every year and they invited me to their Christmas extravaganza in Dallas in 2005 and I went and did that. The reaction from the teenage audience was so overwhelming. They thought it was this crazy weird cool thing and we saw the crossover appeal to what we were doing. Seeing that reaction made me see that no matter what we do we have to keep this the same. I just need to keep our foot in both worlds. Obviously it’s cartoony and it’s catchy so it’s good for kids. But there’s kind of a weirdness and emotional depth that makes it appealing to older kids and adults too.
So that sort of became our formula. And everything we’ve made since we make sure that stays intact.
Go Ask Mom: So tell me about what you're working on.
Taylor: It's called Gustafer Yellowgold’s Infinity Sock. It’s the first kind of narrative story thread. The others have been more of a collection of songs. This is a story. And all the songs are connected through that story. There’s no talking. It’s just all musical and visual. There’s a beginning, middle and end and there’s a visual narrative that drives the story, which is exciting.
Go Ask Mom: Are you going to play some of the new stuff in Carrboro?
Taylor: Yep. I’m going to be debuting two or three new songs. It’s going to be fun. It’s kind of exciting. It’s all gearing up for next year, the big release, giving people a little taste of what’s coming. And it’s exciting for me because we play over 100 shows a year. It will be the first time the songs will be all new.