Ida Whispers a Prayer for 'Lovers' The band Ida specializes in indie rock and children's music. The unusual duo stops by the studio to play some songs from their new album called Lovers Prayers.
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Ida Whispers a Prayer for 'Lovers'

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Ida Whispers a Prayer for 'Lovers'

Ida Whispers a Prayer for 'Lovers'

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(Soundbite of music)


That's the band Ida, and in over a course of a 15-year career, the group would add members from diverse corners of the music world - from the punk band, the Hated to the lady bassist of the Beekeepers, to the violinist from the Mekons.

Okay, there was a deal with a major label that didn't suit the band, so they went back to their independent roots. And now they're set to release their 7th full-length album due out tomorrow. It's called "Lover's Prayers."

Now the band has been praised by the New York Times, Spin and Mothering magazine. They see along the way life happened. The lead singers of Ida married and had a child and launched an alternative career making music for kids that didn't make parents want to run screaming in the traffic.

It turned out to be as successful as their, everybody in the van rock lifestyle. Here's a track from "You Are My Flower."

(Soundbite of song, "You Are My Flower")

Ms. ELIZABETH MITCHELL (Singer, Ida Band): (Singing) One day, two days, three-days old, four days, five days, six days old, seven days, eight days, nine days old, 10 days, 20 days, no days old.

I'm a little baby, one day old, I'm a little sweet thing two days old. I'm a little dew bug three days old and I'm little cutie pie four days old. One day…

STEWART: In studio today to chat with us and play for us, music from their duo careers, Liz Mitchell and Dan Littleton who are also the husband and wife team that front Ida.

Thank you for coming, Dan, to New York City, you guys.

Mr. DAN LITTLETON (Singer, Band Ida): Thank you.

STEWART: From the woods…

Ms. MITCHELL: That's right.

Mr. LITTLETON: From the woods.

Ms. MITCHELL: …from the mountains, down from the mountains.

STEWART: So how long has it been since the last Ida record?

Ms. MITCHELL: I think three years.

STEWART: And what's been going on in that span?

Ms. MITCHELL: Well, there was still a lot of music. I mean, the children's music definitely took the front seat for a while. We made an album for a Smithsonian Folkways and that's been an incredible, unexpected adventure working with them. So that's called "You Are My Little Bird" and so that took a lot to of time,

Mr. LITTLETON: Mm-hmm.

Ms. MITCHELL: …wished(ph) it didn't.

STEWART: Were you still writing Ida songs in the meantime, you're doing the, the children's music, but spending other time on your music for your band?

Mr. LITTLETON: I think it's - we're like in a perpetual state with it. It just keeps - we keep doing it all the time.

Ms. MITCHELL: Well, we…

Mr. LITTLETON: When we were writing this whole, the whole…

Ms. MITCHELL: We made "Heart Like A River" mostly when we were living in Providence, Rhode Island. We moved there for two years after leaving the city, and then we moved to Woodstock in the summer of 2004. And I think the songs for "Lover's Prayers" started to emerge around then.


Ms. MITCHELL: And so then we also started to record them up in Woodstock with, at this, at The Barn.

STEWART: The Barn is a very cool thing. Dan, explain what The Barn is for people who don't know.

Mr. LITTLETON: Levon Helm of The Band's home studio. I mean, it's where he lives. He puts on shows there. It's big enough that, you know, 150 people maybe can come in. You know, he had shows there almost every weekend. And that he opened that - we heard that he opened it up to the public for recording.

STEWART: Was it set up in such a way that you could tell that a musician had created this studio?

Mr. LITTLETON: Oh, yeah.

STEWART: Was there something special about it?

Mr. LITTLETON: Yeah. There was, you know, there's, it's all wood. There's, you know, it's a perfect sounding acoustical space. It's just so - it's such a warm, full sound in there. And there's, I don't think there's any metal nails or anything at all like wood nails. And, you know, there's a fireplace in the room and you just, you can feel that that people use this space to play music.

STEWART: "Lover's Prayer" has how many - a ton of tracks on it?

Ms. MITCHELL: I think it's 14, perhaps, is that right, Dan? Fourteen.


Ms. MITCHELL: Fourteen, yeah.

STEWART: Well, which one of the 14 songs do we get to hear?

Ms. MITCHELL: Let's just "See the Stars."

Ms. LITTLETON: All right.

(Soundbite of song, "See the Stars")

Mr. LITTLETON: (Singing) See the stars. Look at the stars. There they're only light left in the sky.

Mr. LITTLETON and Ms. MITCHELL: (Singing) There's a girl with the darkest eyes that I've seen, she made sure that I say what I mean. She's the sun in my heart. She's the cool, running stream.

Day is done. When day is done, don't you know you belong here with me? In your heart I'll come to rest. Don't you know you're my girl and I love you the best? You know you're my girl and I love you the best.

STEWART: That was Ida. You're listening to Liz Mitchell, Dan Littleton and Jean Cook on violin. That was beautiful.

Ms. MITCHELL: Thanks, Alison.

Mr. LITTLETON: Thanks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: What prompted you to make the transition into deciding to record children's music?

Ms. MITCHELL: Well, I had been a teacher at the Roosevelt Island Day Nursery School here in New York City before Ida started touring. And I loved working with kids and singing, you know, country, blues and folk music with them in the classroom. And Daniel and I had made a tape of that stuff at the end of the year, that year of teaching, for the kids just as a gift. In the back of my mind, I'd always thought, you know, I really would like to re-record those songs, do them properly. And one day, that opportunity just emerged. We had a day off from a tour. We were in Livonia outside Detroit.

Mr. LITTLETON: We were touring with Sunny Day Real Estate. We're having a day off.


(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MITCHELL: A funny tour we did. And so we made our first children's album "You Are My Flower" in one afternoon at Warren's(ph) house. And we, again, just intended to give it as a gift. And - but we got a really amazing response to it, very unexpected, and thought, hmm, okay, maybe this is something we pursue. And then we had a child, and Storey was born, and it became clear that this was, you know, really beautiful part of our lives and why not, you know, express it musically as well. So then came "You Are My Sunshine" and we just keep going.

STEWART: You also tour with the children's music. I'm curious, can you compare and contrast what it's like to play in a, like, the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. or versus playing at a library at a room full of kids. I can imagine the kids might be the harder audience.

Ms. MITCHELL: It's definitely much more unpredictable. It requires much more thinking on your feet. You have to be much more flexible. The whole thing, it's very challenging and equally rewarding, I think. How about you, Dan?

Mr. LITTLETON: No comment.


(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LITTLETON: No, no, I just wanted to say actually that it occurred to me just the other day that we've been doing music with children for as long as Ida has been a band, you know? I don't think we ever actually, you know, made some kind of conscious decision about, you know, doing it as a career or anything like that. It just kind of - for me, they're so connected.

Ms. MITCHELL: And we've, you know, we've played the Midnight Rambles up at Levon's as Ida, and we've also started doing Kids Rambles with Levon as well, which are incredible. So - and the Kids Rambles actually got a little more…

Mr. LITTLETON: That kind of rowdy.

Ms. MITCHELL: …high energy.

STEWART: Are they?

Ms. MITCHELL: …on our part. And when Ida takes the stage at a ramble, it can be a real somber situation. And then we get up with Levon at the Kids Rambles and play "Mystery Train." You know, it's so exciting.

Mr. LITTLETON: Yeah, I know I think that that's about as fun - as much fun as…

Ms. MITCHELL: …as you can have as a musician.

Mr. LITTLETON: Yeah, there's no question. It's so much fun.

STEWART: Let's get your other band member here.

Ms. MITCHELL: All right.

STEWART: Please, introduce who's coming on in…

Ms. MITCHELL: Storey, Ms. Storey Lee, yes.

STEWART: Storey Lee.

Ms. MITCHELL: In the house.

STEWART: And how old is Storey Lee?

Ms. MITCHELL: She is six and a half.

STEWART: Six and a half. And I think we might actually have part audience. Is Casey going to come in and watch? Casey, you want to come in? We've got a guest audience member. Casey is…

Ms. MITCHELL: Hi, Casey.

STEWART: How old is Casey?

Unidentified Woman: Casey is four.

STEWART: Casey is four.

Ms. MITCHELL: Four, wow.

STEWART: So what song are you going to play today?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MITCHELL: We're going to be play a song called "Green Green Rocky Road."

(Soundbite of song, "Green, Green Rocky Road")

Ms. MITCHELL: (Singing) When I go to Baltimore, need no carpet on my floor.

Ms. MITCHELL and Mr. LITTLETON: (Singing) Take my hand and go with me. We'll go down to Galilee. Singing green, green rocky road, promenade in green. Tell me who you love. Tell me who you love.

Ms. MITCHELL: (Singing) Red light, green light round the town. Found a penny on the ground. Met a friend I'd never known.

Ms. MITCHELL and Mr. LITTLETON: (Singing) Walking down the rocky road. Singing green, green rocky road, promenade in green. Tell me who you love. Tell me who you love.

Ms. STOREY LEE LITTLETON: (Singing) See that bird up in the sky. She don't walk. No, she just flies. She don't walk, no, she don't run. Just keep flying up to the sun.

Ms. MITCHELL and Mr. LITTLETON and Ms. LITTLETON: (Singing) Singing green, green rocky road, promenade in green. Tell me who you love. Tell me who you love. Green, green rocky road, promenade in green. Tell me who you love. Tell me who you love. Tell me who you love.

(Soundbite of applause)

STEWART: Is Storey's mic still on?

Storey, is that fun?


STEWART: Yeah. Oh, she nods. Okay. Yes, it's radio.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MITCHELL: Good job, Storey.

STEWART: The name of the new album is "Lover's Prayers." It's in stores tomorrow. Are you going to go on tour?

Ms. MITCHELL: We're hoping to tour this summer in conjunction with the children's music tour. So it will be a two-for.

STEWART: Yeah, yeah. Liz Mitchell, Dan Littleton, Storey Littleton, Ida, the band.

Mr. LITTLETON: Alison Stewart.

STEWART: Jean Cook.

Ms. JEAN COOK (Violinist): Thank you.

Mr. LITTLETON: Thanks for coming.

Ms. MITCHELL: Thank you.

Ms. LEE: I want to play the…

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: And you can see a video of that performance a little later on our Web site

You're listening to THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT from NPR News.

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