An accomplished singer, pianist, guitarist, and songwriter, Andy Baum worked for different record companies for many years, which was fun but wasn’t exactly how he wanted things to be. After a visit to a career counselor, reaching out to two people whose jobs he coveted, and an episode of The West Wing, he decided to pursue music by singing for kids. A job he didn’t initially like, he soon found himself singing and strumming at parties and playgroups all over town, and Rockin’ With Andy became a full-time gig. On today’s podcast, Andy joins Tesa Baum to relate the zigzag story of leaving his corporate job to pursue his authentic passion and the realizations and insights he gained along the way.
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Andy Baum On Finding His True Passion Singing For Kids
I’m excited for you to know my next guest, Andrew Baum, also known as Rockin’ with Andy. He is an accomplished singer, pianist, guitar player and songwriter. In his earlier career, he worked for many big names record companies and some big-name artists. At the same time, he was performing solo and with bands on the New York City club circuit. Andy believes kids can like real music. Even when he plays classic kids tune to kids all around the tri-state area, he sings them in a way that respects kids for who they are. “Childlike doesn’t mean childish,” according to Andy. He believes music can be meaningful and it’s a mistake to diminish it by singing down to them. I’m thrilled for you to know Rockin’ with Andy’s zigzag story.
Andrew, how are you?
[bctt tweet=”Childlike doesn’t mean childish. Music can be meaningful, and it’s a mistake to diminish it by singing down to kids.” via=”no”]
Where are you in the world?
I’m in Manhattan in my apartment because that’s where we’re supposed to be these days.
I am happy that we’re talking now. We always have the best conversations and I think that you are an inspiring person and I want to share it with people. My question to you is, what was your most impactful zigzag story if you can share that with us?
I’ve always been a musician. I worked for different record companies for many years. I knew that music was always going to play some role in my life. Working for the record company wasn’t the way it was going to happen for me. I reached a point where I couldn’t be there any longer. I ended up going to a career counselor who got my brain thinking and working differently. One of the suggestions she made was to reach out to people who had the job that I was jealous of. I couldn’t think of too many people who had a job I was jealous of. I did reach out to two people. One was someone who was working in politics. The other was a person who was making a living, mostly as a musician with different streams of income.
I was inspired to go down to Washington invited. I was down there for about a week. I met with lots of different pollsters, consultants, lobbyists, different people in the world. Part of the excitement for me at that point and doing that was involved emotionally with the TV show, The West Wing. I thought, “I could do this. This could be my transition.” I was proud of myself for having done that. At the same time, I was talking to this other person about how he was able to make a living as a musician, with different streams of income. I came home on the Acela Train from Washington to celebrate taking that first step and trying to figure out this transition. I bought a bottle of wine and ordered my favorite dinner. I watched an episode of The West Wing. I started to tear up as I was watching it because I realized that what I loved about The West Wing was that it was a well-written soap opera with politics as the backdrop.
Once I realized that was the biggest part of the appeal, I realized I didn’t need to consider that as the transition. I pursued music. Singing for kids wasn’t something I’d imagined doing. I’d always been singing for adults. I tried singing for kids for a while. I didn’t like it initially because I didn’t fully understand the job. The job is not singing and playing songs for moms and kids. It’s playing guitar and singing was what my job was, then everyone on YouTube would have my job. That’s not my job. That’s an element of what my job is. I met a number of people as I was beginning this process of singing for kids, trying to make a name for myself. I was asked to participate in an event. The woman who was running the event weirdly reminded me of a character on The West Wing. I was playing with her, playful banter stuff. At the end of the event, I approached her and I said, “Thank you. This was fun. If you don’t mind me saying, have you ever seen the TV show, The West Wing?” She said, “Andy, I was on The West Wing.”
We became friendly and she invited me to participate in another event that she was hosting. She said, “I want to tell you a little secret to get you excited because you’ve mostly volunteered to do this for me. I’ve invited the cast of the show to be with you at the event.” I thought, “That’s exciting.” I went and I did the event and there was the cast walking around. A couple of the people who were there for this event brought their kids, including this woman who brought her daughter. I was sitting there singing and playing, but the adults, because I also sang for adults, as I mentioned before. I’m singing and playing for the adults who happened to be on the TV show, The West Wing. As some of the kids were running around where I was singing and playing, all I could think was I’d rather be singing and playing for them.
[bctt tweet=”To understand your demographic, figure out what would make them happy, not what would make you look good in their eyes.” via=”no”]
Look at how you find your passion. This is so wonderful.
That’s when it became clear to me that the way I thought I was going to be making a living in music, singing for adults, writing my own songs, I didn’t seem to have the motivation to do that. The desire to look into politics was too confusing in my head with the emotion of the TV show and the well-written soap opera. Having the chance then to meet the people who inspired a lot of those thoughts didn’t end up meaning as much to me as the moment I experienced that evening, when I thought, “I’d rather be singing for these kids.”
That’s the gem of this because as you zigzag, you much feel what motivates you, where does that momentum come from? You are drawn to one thing, you’re like, “Yes, kind of,” and then you kept on going and got to the heart of it. You’re like, “Now this is real. This is authentic. It’s also giving me exactly what I am satisfied with. This is giving me that whole feeling.” That is landed.
There’s an old proverb that goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I started to meet those teachers. One of them was an actual teacher, my singing teacher who helped me to understand what my job was, which I can tell you if you’re interested, the words she used. The other were people that I met in my life who seem to sense that I had something to offer them that they would appreciate, but then I wasn’t quite clear on the best way to deliver it. Most of the best success that I’ve had over these years in doing my job has been the result of being open to and listening to the good advice of smart people in my life.
Those are the teachers. My singing teacher, who was the actual teacher, I was describing my frustration, trying to figure out how to make the singing for kids thing work, because it wasn’t early on. He works with all different types of singers, rock stars, people who sing for kids, religious people, teenagers, anyone. He said to me, his experience is such that there are two kinds of singers and he uses rock stars as an analogy, thinking that I would appreciate that analogy.
He said, “One type of singer comes out is like a David Lee Roth from Van Halen who comes out and says, ‘Audience, how am I doing?’ The other is James Taylor kind of singer who comes out and says, ‘Audience, how are you doing?’” It occurred to me that I was trying to David Lee Roth these kids. I was trying to make them love me when all I needed to do was figure out what would make them happy, not what would make me look good in their eyes. That helped me to then understand who my best demographic was. It helped me to understand people in general and it helped me in my job.
It goes all around. You got much out of this whole experience and you’re also open to it. I feel everything in our life is a learning experience. When I feel that I need more information, it does seem to come to me as well at the right time. I feel I’m at a standstill. I don’t do much when I’m at a standstill. I allow that pause. I set a gentle intention and then the information comes to me. I ask the question, “Where am I supposed to go now?” It is then presented. It’s not a matter of going out there and trying hard. It’s allowing for it to come to us. With you trying to build it, did you have regrets at that moment where you’re feeling like, “Did I make a big mistake leaving my corporate job?” Was there a moment when you freaked out?
[bctt tweet=”We are all the sum total of our decisions.” via=”no”]
I didn’t, because I’d been there for so long and I was incredibly sure that I didn’t belong there, that when I was trying to go on some interviews that were being set up for me by the career counselor, they all felt totally wrong. I was walking around the park with one of my friends at that time, as I was transitioning, leaving this job, trying new. I had some apprehensions at that point. I hadn’t fully committed to this. I knew I was going to be doing this. I was asking different questions as I wanted to do. He said, “Can I be honest with you? I cannot listen to your shit anymore. You asked me the same questions. I give you the same answers. It’s time for a little action.”
I took that to heart. He asked me one more thing, “Do you think that if you left your job and you tried something new that you don’t have any difficulty getting a job like that again?” I said no. He then followed up by saying, “Do you think, if you left this job and tried this new thing, however it went, you would regret finally getting out?” I said, “No.” He said, “I have no more questions. Those are all of my questions.” What I think of the word regret, the only thing that comes to mind is as someone who’s been writing songs since I was fourteen, I devoted so much time to trying to build this kid business that I can’t even put a number on how many songs. I don’t even know, but I’d have to believe somewhere around 150 to 200 songs, they’re mainly on cassettes in my bedroom.
The only people who have heard my original songs at this point were the people who would come to see me when I was playing in clubs in the ‘90s and I don’t know what will then ever happen to all these songs other than remain in the cassette. I haven’t been able to reconcile them, but that was not necessarily for me who I was at the time. I didn’t have the wherewithal, the motivation, the maturity, the desperation at the moment to push everything, to try to actively aggressively pursue getting a record deal, all that took to do that. With the kid thing, I didn’t need to do any of that. Once I figured out what the job was and saw that I had an ability, the rest started to fall into place because I was doing something that I felt like I wanted to do and that there was a demand for it. A demand that I didn’t even know existed. That’s when things took on a little bit a life of its own stuff.
I have a question for you because what’s the driving force? Is that surge? The whole zigzag theme for me also is that lightning bolt. What carries us throughout all of this is the energy and it’s the passion. It’s a no-brainer, it’s nothing to do with our minds. It has to do with our spirit and everything about us. You had a driving force and you saw it was an easy path. As you were going there, it built up momentum. Do you think it starts from a strong dissatisfaction to get to more satisfaction? Do you think that has any part in this? You had no interest in continuing what you were doing so you had to pivot and you didn’t exactly know where that was going, but you knew you had to pivot. It’s interesting to me. Do we have energy when we are satisfied? Things are much status quo. Could the energy come from that or it has to come from a need to pivot our life? I liked that thought because talking to you, that came to me.
In my experience, it was desperation, mine wasn’t inspiration. Mine was seeing no way out of where I was. I used to joke that at the record company, I was a fire retardant. I couldn’t get fired. Everyone there liked me. The pay scale was working well enough for them, with me. I could not get fired. I was going to have to do something and I didn’t know what that was or how to do that. I don’t necessarily think that’s true for everyone.
I’m getting that from you because typically a lot of people feel where the creative force, they feel inspired and other people too feel that there’s a desperation that they have to pivot out of. It’s different for different people for sure.
Mine was definitely the desperation, but it was also informed by the idea that I don’t think I ever fully took responsibility for my choices. I thought that cause and effect. I thought that things were happening because they were supposed to, but I didn’t at the same time, look at what role I was playing in letting these things happen. Circumstances were happening to me as opposed to me trying to create new circumstances.
That’s such an important thing because it’s like, “Where are we?” As children, a lot of times you go with the flow. You’re either the rebel or you’re the good kid that goes along with things. Somewhere in your life, you may wake up and say, “Am I doing this just because I was put here, or did I want this?”
[bctt tweet=”You do not have to feel trapped. You are not destined to remain someplace forever because you have to.” via=”no”]
All the decisions that had led up to that place where I was, I had to accept responsibility for all of those decisions, not blaming anybody else but me because I made them and/or I allowed them, and I didn’t do anything to change them. Once I got to that place where I was accepting the blame for all those, I didn’t feel like the slate was then wiped clean because we’re all the sum total of our decisions, but I then wanted to use it as the way I operated moving forward, which was that, “I’m in a new circumstance. I don’t like this. Am I just going to accept it because that’s the way things go?” Is it more like, “No, I’ve done that before?” I’m letting things remain the way they are. If I don’t like them, it didn’t work out too well last time. I’m going to change them again in each new scenario and look at it through that prison, as opposed to, “This is what I need to put up with.”
I love seeing people wake up. I love it when I see people claim who they are and know that they co-create with whatever’s happening in the world. I love your story. One more question that I’m looking at this as with anyone sitting at home, and we’re all sitting at home, this is a different time. We could all go to that zero points. We were all back to clearing the slate in a sense like, “Let’s look at our life.” There may be more inspiration and more desperation for a lot of different people. We’re all able to make changes for the better at this point. Any note you would like to offer for people, especially during this time that we’re all in a pause because of what’s happening in the world? Any idea or inspiration that comes to you?
Bring it full circle. When I was leaving the record company, the department I was working in, some other people threw me a going away party. They asked me to say something at the end and I know that it might not have been the smartest thing to say, considering that the people I was working for who had employed me for all those years were there, were throwing me a party. I was looking around the room and a lot of the people there had been my friends in that scenario for a long time. I would say the line share of them were close to where I was emotionally, desperation-wise, but could not find a way out. When I was asked to say a few words, I couldn’t help but say, “You do not have to feel trapped. You are not destined to remain here forever because you have to. I chose to look into how I could find a way to do something else that might’ve made me happier than being here. No offense, and I did. It took me about sixteen years to get to the point where I could even begin that process. For you, it may take a shorter amount of time, but that’s what it was for me. Know that you are not trapped here.”
I’m seeing this within the context of the irony that we’re all trapped at home now. This is an environment where we’re being asked to do something for the greater good. You can argue whether or not this is being overdone, overplayed, underplayed, but the trapped nature at the moment, that’s not exactly the same as being on a path that you don’t like. This is an unusual circumstance where if there’s any upside, we do have more time to reflect, consider, and rethink if necessary once things start to ease up and lighten up, “Do I want to go back to what I was doing? Do I like it enough to go back to that, or is it time to consider something else?”
Andrew, this has been such a pleasure. Thank you for sharing your story to me. It’s inspirational. It was a great gift that you gave to a lot of people out there. Enjoy the rest of your day. I am looking forward to chatting soon.
It’s very nice of you to say. Thank you for inviting me.
About Andy Baum
As a 1970s kid in Chappaqua, NY, Andy Baum grew up to a soundtrack of AM radio feel-good vibes or, as Andy puts it, “the songs you heard in the back seat when your parents were driving.” The Beatles. McCartney. Billy Joel. Elton John. Cat Stevens. As he got older and became an accomplished singer, pianist, guitarist and songwriter, those artists were his inspirations.
When the working world beckoned, Andy landed jobs at a couple of big name record companies, with some big name artists. Which was fun. But all along, he kept writing and performing, solo and with bands, on the NYC club circuit. Eventually, he put out an album of his own originals, Release.
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