Itty Bitty Beats is the musical pairing of Jenny Payne and Lucy Hiku. The New Zealand based duo has been busy making original kiwi music for kids around the world. The pair met at Jazz School in Christchurch back in 2002 (where they also met their music-making husbands). Since having their children, the two friends decided to create music for their kids, which snowballed into this awesome adventure. Jenny’s husband Rob Payne has produced all of their music.
Their music is so incredibly fun! When I first heard their new album, Imaginarium, I was struck by the production quality and how well every song was put together. These two are professionals and their songwriting is proof of that. Their catalogue speaks for itself with millions of streams on Spotify each year. Itty Bitty Beats has a magical way of channeling the language of kids into music.
Not only are they masters of their craft, they are two of the kindest humans on the planet. They are advocates of children's music and give back to artist like me whenever they have a chance. I was honoured to have the opportunity to interview them for my blog. Keep reading and go listen to their music with your little ones.
Itty Bitty Beats has released 4 albums, 3 EPs (is it more than this now?), a multitude
of singles and videos, and you're also published authors. How did it all start and what
keeps you motivated to keep creating?
We have been friends since we met at Jazz school in 2002. Jenny was on the Jazz
course & Lucy on the contemporary course. We also met our husbands there! Rob
(Jenny’s husband) is our producer and Clayton (Lucy’s husband) produces some of our
We loved the idea of making music for children that could be used in a daily routine and
loved by all ages… Our debut album Bath Time was the result of this idea! Things
snowballed from there, Bath Time became a finalist for Best Children’s Album in the NZ
Music Awards and we realized we were onto something good!
Winning Best Children’s Album & Best Children’s Song the following year, was
absolutely amazing and we met a whole community of like minded Children’s music
artists with Kiwi Kids Music Collective.
We are both super creative, with constant song ideas running through our heads… our
problem is there’s not enough time in the day to produce all the music spinning around
Having our book ‘Christmas in Summer’ (written with Suzy Cato) published by
Scholastic was a dream come true and we were delighted that it was just released in a
mini version for Christmas.
Our kids keep us motivated and inspired. It’s wonderful when a song comes from
something they say or a game we are playing together.
You've been making and releasing music together since 2014. What has been your
biggest career highlight so far?
So many highlights! To name a few…
Winning the Tui award for Best Children’s Album & Children's song. Having the
Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra perform Christmas in Summer was incredible. Seeing
our music video’s being played on TV. Collaborating with incredible kindie artists around
The newest album, Imaginarium, is filled with bright narratives, fun adventures, and
captivating production and songwriting. Where do the creative ideas for your songs
come from and are any of your songs based on real events or people we might know?
I'm specifically wondering about the opera-singing hippos, the tea party with dragons,
and the messy monsters that are woven into this unique project.
Imaginarium allowed us to collate all of our creative, silly and crazy ideas into one
album… the world of Imaginarium seemed like a world of possibilities, the perfect place
to introduce some of the characters and adventures we have been writing about.
Marpo The Hippopotamus - The idea of an opera singing hippo, popped into Jenny’s
head whilst she was cooking dinner and she had written the hook in the time it took for
the spaghetti to cook (there’s a song in that) and Marpo is the nickname of one of her
friends. We workshopped the song and it came together very quickly!
Tea Party with a Dragon was a cute idea that Lucy had. We loved the sweet absurdity
of a friendly Dragon joining a child for a tea party… which could also represent as a
child taking time away to calm and understand their big feelings.
The Sock Mess Monster - An idea that the Loch Ness Monster might have a cousin
seemed too good to pass by! The idea that he was very messy, meant the name ‘Sock
Mess’ fitted perfectly. The song quickly took on the feel of an Irish Jig and Jenny’s
friend Killian Tanner was the perfect choice to voice the gruff sounding, but fun loving
Has your creative process and your music changed over the years or do you have a
consistent process that you stick to?
Our creative process usually comes from one of us having a song idea, or wanting to
write a song for a specific occasion. Then one, or both of us will start the song writing
process with a lyric or two, or sometimes even most of the song.
We then workshop it between us (usually over voice message). Jenny will then work on
the form and chord structure, then the pre-production before we hand it over to Rob our
producer, who brings the magic with his incredible arrangements before we lay our
vocals down. There is usually some ridiculous adlib silliness that goes on when we
record to add the final sprinkle of magic.
Do you like to work on projects on your own, or do you enjoy collaborating with other
artists? Are there any artists in or outside of your genre that you would love to
We LOVE collaborating with other artists!
We’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with many NZ artists (including Suzy Cato,
Music With Michal, Loopy Tunes, Chris Sanders, Levity Beet) and international artists
including Mr Nick Davio from Chicago and Benny TIME in Australia. Our upcoming
collab EP Sunshine & Kindness with Claudia Robin Gunn will be out early this year.
If we could collaborate with anyone outside of our genre…? hmm we could write quite a
long Wishlist… Teeks, Sara McLachlan, Newton Faulkner, Post Modern Jukebox, Paul
Simon, India Arie, Jacob Collier, Fleetwood Mac, Tower of Power… the list is endless!
Out of all the songs you've written, which one is your favorite to perform live and why?
This is such a hard question! So many to choose from, but probably Florence The
Florence (played by Jenny’s daughter Izzy) joins us on the stage for this one, in all her
pink fabulousness and teaches us her fun dance which everyone joins in with. Such a
crowd pleaser, so much fun to perform and the children absolutely love her! We get to
shake and get silly… it’s very fun!