Phase: Trucks! Exclusive Interview with Jim Gardner of Twenty Trucks

At some point in our lives, we have all gone through different phases of “favourites”. These phases became more apparent to me as a Mum. As a toddler, my eldest first developed an interest in buses. He influenced his younger brother, and subsequently my youngest, his sister. Over time, their interest in buses waned, and they became fascinated with trains. The train phase went by, then entered the dinosaur phase. Phase: Dinosaur also eventually phased out, then they became captivated by aeroplanes, shouting out the model number each time a plane flew past. Recently, their interest in dinosaurs came back.

No matter the phase our children are at, as parents, we often try to feed their interest by introducing, or reinforcing information. It can be through interaction with play materials, first-hand experiences, hands-on activities, reading books, and/or listening and moving to music! For each of the phases my children went through, I now have a steady amount of related books and play materials, and a good repertoire of related music, for them to create their own stories and play scenes.

When I was still teaching in preschool, themed lessons about Transportation excite the children, because they are often able to catch various types of transportation on the roads, and they like to talk about them. I like to build on their interest by introducing books related to transport, and letting them listen to music about their favourite vehicles and machines. Through reading books, listening to music, and interacting with play materials, children can gain a good amount of skills for Language (e.g. vocabulary and grammar), Math (e.g. counting and sorting), and even simple Science (e.g. “Which material is best for making a boat?”)!

One of my favourite YouTube channels for songs about trucks and machines is Twenty Trucks. The videos are quite educational; they show the trucks/machines in action, the lyrics are informative, and the music is catchy and just plain fun to dance to. I admire the effort taken to produce such precious resources for teachers, parents, grandparents, everyone(!) and having it within such easy access as YouTube! I am very pleased, and mighty thrilled to be able to share with you, my interview with Jim Gardner, President of Hammershark Media, and co-creator of the Twenty Trucks YouTube Channel! Read on to find out how Twenty Trucks was started, and what inspires the music and videos created for the enjoyment of children and adults alike (email interview has been edited for clarity and continuity):  

Jim Gardner

How/why did Twenty Trucks get started?

I have twins, a boy (Pierce) and a girl (Kassidy), who are now 18 years old and just started college. When they were about two years old, my son became very interested in trucks. Whenever we would drive in the car, my son would call out the names of all the trucks he could see. Soon, his sister started competing with him to see who could find and name trucks the fastest. Their interest in learning more about trucks inspired me to want to create fun videos that would focus on different kinds of trucks and work machines.

My first job out of college was at a video production company. Later, I started a computer training and publishing business where I produced a series of computer training videos. So, I had experience with video production. I also had some first-hand knowledge of trucks. When I was growing up, my grandfather owned a lumber yard, and my dad was a General Contractor. I learned to drive stick on a small Dump Truck when I was sixteen and worked on job sites driving a small tractor. At my grandfather’s lumber yard, Flatbeds and Fork Lifts loaded and delivered construction supplies.

Based on these experiences, I decided to create a video specifically designed for young kids, that would feature real trucks at work. Since Kassidy and Pierce, and their friends all enjoyed naming and counting things so much, I decided to call the show “Twenty Trucks”. Pierce and Kassidy helped me make my list of potential trucks and we set out to get the video.

Once I had all the footage I needed, I asked my brother Rob, who is a composer and songwriter, to write a song for Twenty Trucks. “Can You Name Twenty Trucks?” briefly introduces the trucks. Then the video spends 2-3 minutes explaining more about each truck and showing them at work. The song repeats again to end the show, reinforcing the numbers from 1 to 20 and the truck names.

The video was a hit, and we received requests from kids and parents for a sequel; which led to the idea for Truck Tunes.

Children are innately attracted to music. How/Where did you get the idea to use songs to introduce trucks?

I have always loved music, and tried to share this passion with my kids. As I was developing the concept for the sequel to Twenty Trucks, I decided that I wanted to write a song about each vehicle. In order to make the project a little less daunting, I determined that it would feature just ten machines. I pitched the idea to my brother, and told him I wanted to call it Truck Tunes. He was unsure about the prospect of writing so many songs about trucks. I promised him that I would write all of the lyrics, and sketch out the basic idea for each chorus and verse. He agreed to give it a try.

Jim (middle, in grey) and Rob (middle, in blue) with others in Abbey Road Studios

Who is on your music team? How do you work together to produce these fun, catchy, and educational tunes? 

My brother writes, performs and produces all of the music. I write all of the lyrics, although he does make changes when necessary to make the lyrics work within the context of the song structure. We have now produced more than fifty songs for the Twenty Trucks channel. And we have released Trucks Tunes 1-5.  

The lyrics are meticulously written about the job, function and attributes of the various trucks. Did you have to do a lot of research to learn about the trucks before you write the lyrics? 

The ideas for the trucks that we feature come from many sources. We have now written songs for all of the original Twenty Trucks (with the exception of the Grapple Truck, which we are still working on.)  Kids, parents, grandparents have all offered suggestions. And equipment manufacturers and operators have contacted us with ideas for other videos.

When I begin the process of writing the lyrics, I always start by researching the trucks. I make a list of all of the most important functions that the machine performs, as well as key terms and concepts. Over the years, I have learned that kids love to show off their knowledge to friends and to adults. So I love to try and incorporate words that might seem too complicated for young kids.

For some videos, we shoot the footage ourselves. Ideas for lyrics are sometimes inspired by the experiences working with the vehicles in the field. Other times, we obtain footage from equipment operators or manufacturers. Working with these experts and reviewing their footage also provides us with fun and educational details for the lyrics.

Rob conducting the London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road Studios

I noticed that the truck tunes are written in different music styles. Where do you get the inspiration for the music? 

Since my brother and I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, we are definitely influenced by the musical styles of those eras.  But we try to vary the songs as much as possible and match each one to that truck’s job or characteristics. For example, our Beach Cleaner song is styled on beach music of the ’50s and ’60s.  The Pickup Truck was deliberately written to have more of a country western feel. And because the Ice Resurfacer features skaters at a rink, we chose to write that song as a waltz.  

What else do you have up your sleeves for our young listeners, and fans of your YouTube page? 

We hope to continue to find new and interesting machines, and to write and produce music that will educate and entertain our fans!

What would you like to say to your young truck fans from Singapore, and aspiring musicians? 

Thanks so much for your support! Always work to develop your talents and to find ways to share those talents with others. It’s so rewarding to know that other people enjoy your work. Knowing that our fans like to dance and sing along to our music makes us so happy!

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Twenty Trucks merchandise – Ultimate Trucks Download Package

Looking for last-minute Christmas gift ideas for your little truck fans? Check out Twenty Truck‘s Digital Downloads, among other merchandise. Follow them at their pages for awesome music, tidbits about your favourite trucks and machines, and updates:

Website: www.20trucks.com
YouTube Channel: www.YouTube.com/user/twentytrucks
Facebook: www.facebook.com/twentytrucks
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TTrucktunes/

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Do you want to be able to write and produce songs just like Jim and Rob Gardner? Let Bloom School of Music & Arts help you develop your musical talents, and in turn, you can share your talents for others to enjoy, just like Jim and Rob have.

Check out our Musikgarten programmes (starting from pre-pregnancy to 3 years old), our Tutti programmes (4-6 years old), and our instrumental classes (piano, drum, violin, guitar, ukulele). Fill up our Online Enquiry Form for a free assessment for instrumental classes, or to register for our Musikgarten trial (currently at a promotional rate of $27)!

 

Also, join our 2020 Christmas Giveaway, and stand to win this lovingly handmade, Christmas-themed set of musical instruments! Included in this set are a Spin Drum, a Bauble Shaker, Jingle Bells and a Mini Accordion (make-believe music 🎶).
Stand a chance to win:
1. Follow @bloomschoolsg‘s Instagram page
2. Share this post in Your Story (ensure you tag @bloomschoolsg , and Your Story is public)
3. That’s it!
Get 2 extra chances to win by:
1. Following the above steps
2. Additionally, register for a trial Musikgarten class with us
3. DM @bloomschoolsg with a screenshot of your trial class confirmation
4. Now, you have 3 chances to win this set!
• Giveaway is open to residents of Singapore
• Giveaway ends on 5 January 2021
Goodluck, everyone!

And here’s wishing you,

from all of us at Bloom School of Music & Arts,

Merry Christmas!