Mister G now rocks kids’ worlds
By Tricia Despres For Sun-Times Media November 6, 2013 7:40PM
Mister G will perform a kids' concert at Schubas on Saturday.
Mister G, 11 a.m. Nov. 9, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport. $8-$10. (773) 525-2508; schubas.com
It would have been easy for indie rocker Ben Gundersheimer to stick with what he knew. He spent years touring internationally and sharing the stage with everyone from Phish to the Spin Doctors, so Gundersheimer had gotten somewhat used to the rocker life on and off the stage. But just as he was reaching the pinnacle of his career, Gundersheimer burned out.
“I was so disenchanted by it all,” he says. “I had a lot of great experiences and all, but I also had lots of near misses. I was growing increasingly cynical with the state of the music industry. I think anyone who knocks around in that club circuit long enough has some battle stories, ya know?”
The indie rocker went back to school and became a teacher, quickly adopting the name Mister G. He sang songs to his classrooms of students, finding it a more worthwhile way to get children to learn concepts such as math and social studies. Soon, he recorded his first album, and four years later, the boy from Philly finds himself scoring his first Chicago gig at Schubas,where he’ll be singing bilingual songs to children.
“It really never occurred to me to write a song in Spanish,” chuckles Mister G from a recent tour stop in Northampton, Mass. “I played some of my bilingual songs to the kids on the streets in Colombia while on my honeymoon, just a few weeks after releasing my first children’s album. The way they laughed and engaged with the songs convinced me that I was on to something. I found that I loved the visceral energy of the kids and the purity of the performing experience after years of living within the rock world.”
The son of noted children’s book author and illustrator Karen Gundersheimer, Mister G originally learned Spanish as a youngster dreaming of becoming a major league baseball player, in the hopes of using it to communicate with his future teammates. These days, he uses the language to change the concept of children’s music.
“From the beginning, I wanted to approach the production and songwriting of these children’s albums in the exact same way I did when I was making music for adults,” says Mister G, who wrote his first song at the age of 9. “People tell me that it sounds different than the other kids’ stuff out there, and I love that. I love that kids and adults can appreciate the musicianship and the narrative arc of it.”
And while he has no kids of his own (“I’m sitting here with my four-legged kid Josie”), Mister G certainly knows how to delight the younger set, whether it’s the Latin grooves of “Hola Amigos” or the infectious melodies of “Frota tu Panza” played within the venues he once only dreamed of playing.
“Schubas is one of those clubs that not only has an amazing nightlife, but puts on these kids’ shows during the day,” he says. “I mean, imagine being 5 years old and heading to a rock club to listen to music. That’s just totally cool.”