Interview John

This new feature will include answers to some of the most frequently asked and most interesting questions students and teachers have asked me.

If you would like to ask a question or questions regarding a topic that isn't already covered here please send your questions to MJ Dayger via our contact form or via regular mail at

Questions for John
c/o/MJ Dayger
PO Box 68
Edmeston, NY 13335

If you would like, include the name of your school, where it is and the first name only of the person submitting the question. I may not be able to answer all questions on the website but I do appreciate all submissions and I'll answer as many as possible, especially the most interesting and unusual questions.

This first group of questions comes from 3rd grade teacher Carren Ward's class at the Violenschool International Department in Hilversum, The Netherlands.

Clemens: Why and how did you become a singer/ composer?

John: I became a songwriter and performer because I like music so much. When I listen to music or a song that makes me feel happy or sad, or that makes me think differently about something, I believe that song is connecting me with the writer and other people who have had those feelings. When I write songs I hope they do the same thing for those who listen to them, that is, make the listener think and feel connected to something bigger than him or herself.

The answer to how I became a singer / composer is the same answer to the question the tourist asked the police officer in NY City. The tourist said, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” and the police officer replied, “Practice, practice, practice!” If you want to be a writer, write a lot. If you want to be a singer, sing every chance you get, and don’t worry whether others like it or not. Write and sing for yourself and if you have something you want to share with others, share it. The only true failure is the failure to try.

Samir: Why did you choose to sing mainly for children?

John: Because I like kids better than grown ups. They’re more fun, they’re usually nice to each other, they’re honest, and they laugh at most of my jokes. 

Tom: What is the story behind the song "I Like Ants"?

John: Ahhh, the “story” behind “I Like Ants.” Never had that question asked quite like that before. Here’s the answer I usually give but to be totally honest I’m not sure it happened exactly like this but I like this story and you asked for “the story.” My wife and I, our five children, and pets have spent most of our summers at an old farm house on Prince Edward Island in Canada for the past 18 years. When we’re not there the rest of the year, other tenants move into the house including flies, mice, red squirrels, bats and other creatures. One summer when we had only been at the house a few days and thought we had evicted (that means “kicked out”) the other residents we awoke one morning to discover that a massive army of ants was holding some sort of demonstration or march across the kitchen floor. There were thousands (at least a hundred) of them. I thought it was kind of funny but my wife, Ann Marie didn’t and she started to hop around in such a way that it kind of looked like she was dancing. Actually, she is a very good dancer and this looked more like “hopping around,” but watching her gave me the idea for the first line of the song, “I like ants, they make my Momma dance.” The rest of it was just playing around with different animals names and then searching for rhyming words. The “you, and you, and you, and you, and me – a lot too!” came from singing with our children initially and then with other children. That was one of the first kids songs I wrote. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. It’s still one of my favorite songs to sing. Thanks for asking.

Marko: When did you start playing the guitar?

John: When I get asked this question in concerts I answer with a question which is, “Did you ever hear of the 1960’s?” Well I was around in the 1960’s and guitar playing was very popular. The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, The Rolling Stones (same guys only much younger), Sly and the Family Stone, Joan Baez, Jimi Hendrix and The Byrds are the names of some of the musicians and groups I listened to. They all had guitars in most of their songs. I didn’t start to play until I was in college which was in the 1970’s. 

Drishte and Rosie: Why did you publish your songs all around the world and specifically in Japan?

John: I didn’t specifically publish songs for children in Japan but I did do a recording of songs that was used by many English teachers in Japan. I have been to Japan three times to sing in English with Japanese children and teachers. They have also taught me some songs in Japanese. I think that if more people around the world would sing each others songs together then we would have fewer wars and we would look for more ways to understand and help each other. If soldiers had to stop and sing songs with their enemies before they did things to hurt each they would probably decide not to hurt each other. 

There is a wonderful song was written by a man from Virginia named John McCutcheon. The song is called “Christmas in the Trenches,” and I recorded it on my CD “Season of Light, Hope and Peace.” It is a true story of how German and English soldiers heard each other singing on Christmas Eve during WW1 and they decided to go across the battlefield and say hello to each other. They sang together, shared gifts with each other and played a soccer game but the next day they had to go back to fighting because the generals and other leaders ordered them to. If we sang together more we would fight less. If I were in charge of the world I would make all the countries presidents and generals get together and teach each other songs, give each other gifts, and play soccer together.

Emma: Why did you choose to have your children participate in singing the songs with you and did they want to do it?

John: Cheap, available labor. Plus they sing well and most of the time I think they enjoyed doing it. There were times in the recording studio when they would fool around or get bored and I would get mad at them. If that happened I don’t think they felt like doing it but other times when a friend or two, or some cousins would join us I think they liked it. I guess you’d have to ask them to get the real answer and they’re not here right now because two of them are in college and three are in high school. They sure grew up in a hurry.

Callum: How did you choose music as a form of expression? Why not painting, etc?

John: Another great question. For one thing I don’t draw or paint very well though I do like to do it and I plan to practice more when I get older. But, the bigger reasons are probably 1. I like singing and playing with other people and music is a wonderful group participation activity. 2. I also enjoy being in front of an audience and having the challenge of presenting something live and fresh that others will enjoy and appreciate. 3. A third reason is that music combines language, rhythm, and expression and I find each of these elements are important to me as I try to communicate with others and understand more about myself. 

Ryan: Why did you choose to play the guitar and not another instrument?

John: I played the piano when I was in elementary school and I like playing but I didn’t always like practicing and one year I stopped. After that I was really most interested in playing sports through all of high school and most of college. Towards the end of college though I started to see how much fun it was to sit around and play guitar and sing around campfires or at the beach and I decided I wanted to learn. Guitar was easy to carry around with you and fairly easy to sing along with. You couldn’t carry a piano around very easily then and you couldn’t play the harmonica or saxophone and sing at the same time. Also, my older brother played the guitar and so did my friend Moon and I thought they were both pretty cool so I guess that’s one of the reasons I started playing, to emulate them. Now, one of them is a landscape artist and the other one is a lawyer and business man. Neither one plays much guitar anymore but they both were inspirations to me.