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Kids and Teen Blog

Category: Music

The Storyteller’s Son: Sebastian Robertson

by Alisha
Kids + Music / October 21, 2014


As the bus pulled off the dirt road of the reservation to the pavement of the highway back to Toronto, Robbie would stare out the window, waving good-bye. "Hey, Ma, I wanna be the storyteller one day."

Sebastian Robertson, a dual citizen of Canada and the United States, lives in Los Angeles where he works as a composer. He has written music for major television series and is the head writer for a music library, We the People, which he owns and operates. More recently, he has become an author with the publication of Legends, Icons & Rebels in 2013 and more recently, Rock and Roll Highway: The Robbie Robertson Story. His new title, released today, is a heartwarming tribute to his father, Robbie Robertson, the famed songwriter and guitarist who discovered his love of music and storytelling on a First Nations reservation in southern Ontario. Dedicated, talented and driven to succeed, Robertson rose quickly through the ranks to perform alongside rock-and-roll legends as a teenager. Written for children ages 6 to 11, Rock and Roll Highway is a story that will inspire young and old alike. In an e-mail interview yesterday, Sebastian shared his thoughts on music, reading, and his relationship with a Canadian legend.

Your close relationship with your father is evident in the telling of his life story. How much were you influenced, if at all, by your father’s reputation, when you were young? As a successful composer and musician in your own right, how have you been able to carve out your own identity, separate yet complementary to his own?

As a kid I didn’t really understand my father’s fame or profession all that well. By the time I was born he had ceased touring and he really kept his work life and home life separate. I just thought it was really cool when people would ask for his autograph. That gave me a sense of pride. As far as my own work is concerned I forged a new path in an area of music that is separate from my dad. Not on purpose, but because I was pulled in another direction and found it to be the most fulfilling for me. However, he’s an amazing guy to be able to bounce ideas off of and we’ve collaborated on a number of projects.

One of the most powerful moments depicted in Rock and Roll Highway is your father’s decision, as a teen, to sell his beloved guitar and amplifier in order to buy a bus ticket and join Ronnie Hawkins in the American south. His sense of mission, and at such a young age, is unusual but I am intrigued by the amount of synchronicity, almost destiny, that plays out in the book. It’s as if Robbie was always at the right place at the right time and that fate was always one step ahead of him. But when did Robbie first know, really know, that music would be his life’s work?

My dad spent a lot of time with his mother’s relatives and they were terrific storytellers and quite musical too. He was bitten by the music bug and immediately knew he was going to completely give himself to the process. At the age of nine, he got his first guitar and after a few lessons, he taught himself the rest. This clearly is an unusual amount of commitment and discipline for a young boy but it speaks to his talent and success.

Your previous book, Legends, Icons & Rebels, profiles the musical legacies of popular music's most influential voices, and is accompanied by two CDs that include recordings by Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell, and many others. The book, aimed at pre-teens, was recently nominated for a 2015 Red Maple Non-Fiction award. (Congratulations!) With the publication of Rock and Roll Legend, you appear to be carving a path for yourself as a writer of music history books for young people. Where does your desire to preserve—and celebratemusical history originate from? And why young people (as opposed to an adult audience)?

First off I’m honored by the nomination and also that I have the opportunity to share an art form with those I believe to be the most open minded, honest and interesting peoples of our world, children. When I play music for my son, Donovan who is nine, he approaches it with no judgment or baggage, just curiosity. This allows him to appreciate everything from Curtis Mayfield, Billie Holiday to Iggy Azalea and M83. This is what I consider a perfect audience.

In the book, you describe the incredible support and love Robbie received from his relatives. At a young age, he and his mother would often visit the Six Nations Indian Reservation located two hours north of Toronto, his hometown. “It was here where it all began; it was here where the rhythm, melodies, and storytelling of Robbie’s First Nation relatives captured his imagination.” It’s apparent that his ancestral legacy played a part in developing his intense connection to music. What do you consider to be your father’s most important legacy? And as a musician and writer, and most importantly, as a father, what do you hope your legacy will be to your own son?

For me, his most important legacy will always be as a loving, kind, generous and devoted father. I’ll never forget his handcrafted, early morning western omelettes before a big 8:30 am little league game. I’ll never forget the compassion when I miss-stepped as boy and into my teens. My goal and my legacy are simple: To be the best friend, son, father and husband I can be.

In your own Q & A section at the back of Rock and Roll Highway, your father mentions a love of reading and particularly enjoyed the classics by Steinbeck and Faulkner when he was on the road. He also reveals he was inspired by these books, saying “…some of the songs I wrote were about historical times and events, and the reading I was doing really helped me paint pictures with the lyrics and expand my vocabulary.” How much of your own work as a television music composer is inspired by the books you read—and who are some of your favourite writers?

When I started out playing in bands, reading was an integral part of the writing process. I have always felt that you needed to read in order to write. I was greatly impacted by Steinbeck but also loved authors of “darker” literature, like Camus, and specifically enjoyed Hunger by Knut Hamsun, The Ginger Man by J.P. Donleavy and some of Aleister Crowley’s works. I suppose these books stay with you forever and impact any creative endeavor you give yourself to.

Eleanor & Park: Drop EVERYTHING and Read!

by Megan
Music + YA Fiction / March 18, 2013


“You can be Han Solo," he said, kissing her throat. "And I'll be Boba Fett. I'll cross the sky for you.”


I’ve become that annoying person who can’t shut up about a book. I leave the corner of the book cover peeking out of my purse in the hopes that some casual passerby will take note, giving me the chance to reel said person in for a nice, fat book chat. In my defense, it’s simply fantastic.

Eleanor & Park is the story of (you guessed it) Eleanor and Park, two teens in mid-1980s Omaha, Nebraska, who meet and begin a gradually and timidly deepening relationship through those mighty elixirs of high school outcasts everywhere: comic books and the melancholy melodies of the Smiths.

Eleanor is overweight, a red-haired, quirky girl from a troubled, claustrophobic home. She is quickly targeted by the school bullies on the bus as “Big Red”. Park is half-Korean, a lover of comics and music, desperate to get his driver’s license, and having a difficult time connecting with his father. While not an active target of the bullies, he has a built-in Teflon sheen that lets him slide under their radar. He wants nothing to do with Eleanor, who is, for all intents and purposes, the equivalent of a big red target.

Eleanor sits next to Park on the bus. He actively ignores her, hating her for disrupting his invisibility. She reads his comic books over his shoulder. He notices, begins to wait a little longer to turn the pages. He leaves comics for her to take home and read. They talk about them. They talk about music. Mixed tapes are made. The relationship evolves in this way, with cautious steps and sideways glances.

At times reminiscent of the vinyl love in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, at times displaying the quick, sardonic dialogue of John Green (who is, by the way, a BIG fan of this book too!), I have never read a book that so accurately captures the machinations of first love. The awkwardness, the feeling of being separate from the unwieldy goings-on of one’s own body, that magic moment of holding someone’s hand for the first time and persevering through a nervous sheen of sweat that lights between palms…

The scenes of hand holding in this book are intense—more likely to make your heart a-flutter than any contemporary romance novel. Take this line from Park, which I re-read three times and after which I needed to take a starry-eyed breather:

“Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.”

The characters in the book are complicated and real, the writing beautiful. The story carries with it a quiet power that will hit and will hit you hard.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough – definitely one of my favourites of 2013.



Because no review of this book is complete without mention of the music, here’s my recommended Eleanor & Park playlist (*when you’re done, check out author Rainbow Rowell’s playlists for more excellent tuneage) Some of these are Park's picks from the book, some my own.

Eleanor & Park Playlist

1) The Smiths - How Soon Is Now?
2) Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart
3) Elvis Costello - Alison
4) The Smiths - There Is a Light That Never Goes Out
5) U2 - Bad
6) The Smiths - Ask
7) The Dead Milkmen - Punk Rock Girl
8) The Cure - Boys Don’t Cry
9) Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers - The Morning of Our Lives
10) Dead Kennedys - Police Truck
11) New Order - Blue Monday
12) XTC - Love on a Farm Boy’s Wages


Indie Rock Coloring Book Launch Party!!

by Danielle
Art & Photography + Contests + Events + Music / September 04, 2009

If you live in Montreal, please stop by Librairie Drawn and Quarterly for the Canadian Book Launch for THE INDIE ROCK COLORING BOOK!!


Date: September 5th (Labour Day weekend)
Time: Between 2-4PM
Location: Librairie Drawn and Quarterly
211 Bernard Ouest

CHILDREN WELCOME! Juice, coloring and a special performance from a member of the Yellow Bird Project family provided!!

So, I'm giving away an official Yellow Bird Project T-Shirt and Book. So pretty! Enter the draw to help spread the word. Word, word, word, Yellow Bird is the word!(or words)!! cool smile Message me (Danielle) on Twitter. Let me know who your favorite Indie band is. I'll make a random draw to pick a winner. Contest closes next Friday September 11th. Contest open to Canadian residents only. Sorry.


Yellow Bird Project is a Montreal-based non-profit initiative that was started in 2006. Yellow Bird Project has worked with an amazing range of indie rock musicians (Bon Iver, The Shins, Joseph Arthur, The National to name a few) to create unique t-shirt designs (designed by the musicians) that benefit an array of charities. Each charity is chosen by the musicians as well, so YBP has given money to a variety of charities; St, Jude's Children's Research, AIDS society, Mercy Corp, etc!. The goal of Yellow Bird Project is to do something fun that encourages philanthropy in young people and support the artists we love.For more information about YBP's mission, and to purchase T-shirts crafted by some of the bands in this book, please visit http://www.yellowbirdproject.com.

Learn to Speak Music Video

by Dan
Music / August 31, 2009

Having already mentioned two of my favourite kids books today, I'm going to add a third to the list: LEARN TO SPEAK MUSIC by the Broken Social Scene's John Crossingham and illustrated by the amazing Jeff Kulak.

A book for kids interested in forming a band or just making music, LEARN TO SPEAK MUSIC explores everything from songwriting and artwork, to shooting a video and setting up a practice space. It includes neat tips for buying your first instrument and setting up your own gig, secrets of home recording, plus advice from pros like Feist and MTVA-nominated video director Christopher Mills.

If you're interested in finding out more about the book, publisher Owlkids have set up a MySpace page and Facebook fan page for additional information and goodies such as this book trailer:

More cool books for budding indie rock stars:


ROCK ‘N' ROLL CAMP FOR GIRLS by Carrie Brownstein


FAMILY by Laura Dukoff (foreword by Devendra Banhart)

ELLIOTT SMITH by Autumn de Wilde