PORT TOWNSEND — The new album “Sing Your Song” is both a gift and a prayer for our well-being, Keeth Apgar said.
His musical ensemble, The Harmonica Pocket, released this record during another challenging year for performers.
With a rare live appearance set today during Port Townsend’s First Night festivities, Apgar seeks to spread a message about loving life and being yourself.
“This record, for me, is a very uplifting and optimistic record,” Apgar said in an interview this week from his Marrowstone Island studio. “It’s joyful, it’s playful. These are heavy times. Kids have been really impacted by this pandemic as well.”
“Sing Your Song,” available at www.harmonicapocket.com/store and on major music-streaming platforms, has 13 tracks, ranging from the giddy “Everything is Everywhere” to “One Two I Love You,” “Ukulele Lullaby” and the Harmonica Pocket rendition of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.”
That latter song’s message is still quite relevant to Apgar. It speaks to society, to families and to young people, he believes, and it’s a crossover: You could play “Stand By Me” in a bar, Apgar said, and you can certainly play it for kids.
The Harmonica Pocket’s new album features Apgar’s wife, singer Nala Walla, and their son Montana, 10, along with musicians Johnny Bregar, Tom Gilhuley and Kevin Rapillo, a well-known Nashville percussionist.
But today, in his 3 p.m. set kicking off First Night inside the Cotton Building, 607 Water St., Apgar will step up as a solo performer.
“I have a bunch of tricks up my sleeve,” he promised.
“I’m going to be doing some wa-wa guitar solos,” along with playing ukuleles, bass and harmonica, “and I have a bunch of surprises I’m going to literally throw at the audience,” which he hopes will be youngsters, elders and everybody in between.
“Sing Your Song” is Apgar’s eighth album; his records for kids and families include three Parents’ Choice honorees, “Sundrops” (2015), “Apple Apple” (2012) and “Ladybug One” (2008).
Harmonica Pocket albums for adults include “Underneath Your Umbrella” (2002) “Lemonbomb” (1997) and “The Humans and the Robins” (1996).
When asked about his target audience for this newest release, “I say zero to grandma. If you want a more serious answer, 2 to 10,” Apgar added.
Every month, Apgar does interactive “Sing-a-ling” programs for families via the Port Townsend Library website. Those are booked through May, and the links to the free online story-and-music hours — including the one at 10:30 a.m. Jan. 20 — can be found at www.ptpubliclibrary.org.
Apgar’s Sing-a-ling, said Library Director Melody Weaver, is a mix of Mary Poppins, Mister Rogers and “Reading Rainbow,” one that combines early literacy, music and an unabashed love for nature.
“He is a treasure to our community,” she added.
Apgar has been recording his own music since he was a teenager with a four-track machine. Circa 2005, he went to a neighbor’s house to borrow a tool; he was invited in for tea. It was that day he met his neighbor’s friend, who worked at a preschool. She invited Apgar and Walla to come play music, and the pair was a hit.
“I came to find that it’s very inspiring to hang out with kids … when they’re 4 or 5, they’re in this magical state. I like going there, lying on my stomach and discovering things,” Apgar said.
With his music, he hopes to reciprocate that inspiration. His songs offer gentle reminders: Don’t forget to go outside and play, every chance you have. And say what’s in your heart.
Yet 2021 “has definitely been a challenging year — with a lot of gifts, too. A lot of creative time,” the singer-songwriter said.
Highlights included making a video of “Sand Song,” on a sun-splashed Marrowstone Island beach last summer.
Apgar’s friend Gabe Van Lelyveld produced the clip, a musical comedy involving swimming and sand that gets into sandwiches, hair and various articles of clothing: www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzlocxwq5zm.
Apgar said he’s at a crossroads in 2022. Live performances are still too few, and he can hold out only so much longer on his savings.
“I have to figure out how to pivot my creative energy and start making a living wage again,” he said.
“There’s a lot of grief, a lot of emotions wrapped up in that — to come to terms with that and also dream big. I have a few ideas for some businesses I might put energy into,” while still hoping to play live shows again.
“I’m looking forward to moving through this uncomfortable, unstable time,” Apgar said.
“I’m looking forward to breaking through, seeing what’s next; seeing what blooms in spring.”
Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]