On October 7, 2011 Tyler Foundation president, Kim Forsythe, and Director, Mark Ferris, were interviewed on the Metropolis Magazine podcast, known as “Metpod“, by friend and long-time Tyler Foundation supporter, Kamisami Kong.
You can download the audio file here: (Download MP3, 19.7 MB)
Below is the interview transcription.
KONG: In this edition of Metpod, we’re going to be talking with the people who have made this brand new CD for the Tyler Foundation called Shine On! Songs – Inspired by the Tyler Foundation. Once again, let’s welcome to the Metpod, Kim Forsythe!
KIM: Hello Kong! Happy to be back!
KONG: Always good to have you with us in the Metpod!
KIM: I’m happy to be here!
KONG: And you brought some handsome gentleman with you. His name is?
KIM: His name would be Mark Ferris, also known as my husband.
KONG: Mark! Welcome to the Metpod.
MARK: Hey, Kong! Good to be here! Thanks for having us!
KONG: It’s great to have you! Last time we saw you, you were on stage in a tuxedo doing an auction.
MARK: You know, I’d like to say I’m a man of many talents, but sometimes you get asked to do things and you can’t say no and so I was up there doing the auction. I had fun, though. I had fun.
KONG: And you did a great job with it! I have to say, I thought you were a pro!
MARK: Thank you! Well, I’ve had some practice because there’s a few charities around town, ours and a few others that have invited me over. And I’m happy to do it. I love doing that stuff!
KONG: And I think you love helping kids. Both of you love to help kids. And the reason for that, Kim, is?
KIM: Well, you know, we lost our son to cancer about 6 years ago and we started to Tyler Foundation in his memory to basically help kids and families who are going through what we have already been through. And it’s a Japanese non-profit for kids in Japan. We currently have programs in 13 hospitals from Hokkaido down to Kyushu.
KONG: Thank you very much for doing that. You have a brand new album that’s going to help the cause. Can you tell us about it, Mark?
MARK: Sure! My job in the foundation is fundraising, and I was thinking there’s got to be an easier way than just beating the streets and talking to our very generous sponsors all the time about donating cash. And we also share a love of music in our family. Kim and I sing in a choir and we just love to do music. Some years ago, Tim Rice, the wonderful lyricist from England, and Alan Menken donated 2 songs. And that really was the impetus. We said we’ve got to do something with these songs, which is meaningful, and that came to the idea of the album.
KONG: Let me stop you right there. Tim Rice. Tell us who Tim Rice. Sir Tim Rice.
MARK: Sir Tim Rice. An absolute gentleman. On the one hand, he’s been to visit us a couple of times and he’s attended our fundraising events. In the early 70’s, he and Andrew Lloyd Webber did the work on Joseph and JC Superstar, and then he’s gone on to do wonderful things like the Lion King and other things like that.
KONG: And of course he’s helped you with this CD.
MARK: He donated lyrics for 2 songs, one of which is on this CD. We’re holding one back for that because that’s for Volume 2, when we get around to that.
KONG: Let’s get a little sample of one of the songs on the CD. What should we listen to briefly here?
MARK: Why don’t we try Play With Me.
KONG: Play With Me. Set that up for us.
MARK: Sure. Play With Me is a song I wrote. It was a song, when I was thinking about our daughter Natalie, Tyler’s brother—
KIM: Tyler’s sister.
MARK: I’m sorry. Okay. Yeah, I sometimes get gender-wrong, don’t I?
KIM: It’s true, it’s true!
MARK: So Natalie is a delightful 10-year-old girl. When I wrote this song, she was only 7, and it’s all about the things she loves to do and how she navigates her very busy social life. There’s a band based in LA called The Big Phat Band. Phat spelled P-H-A-T. And they’re a wonderful group of 20 jazz musicians, principally jazz musicians, and they’re performing on this song. Wonderful!
KONG: And here it is. A song written by a man, as you said, with many talents. Song again is titled Play With Me.
[Music sample played]
KONG: Beautiful song, Mark! You wrote this song? Who’s singing this?
MARK: This is sung by a delightful young lady called Amber Lily. She’s only 14 years old. She’s based in California. She’s done a lot of Disney projects and she’s now got her own album out and a number of singles. And she’s just got a huge future ahead of her and we’re so lucky to have her on our album.
KONG: Now I guess we can actually see pictures of some of these artists because Kimberly, you sent me a video. Is that correct?
KIM: Yes, yes! We have a kind of mini-video that’s summarizes all of the songs and all of the songs individually will have music videos made of them as well.
KONG: And how can we find this video?
MARK: You can look on our website called ShineOnSongs.org, which has its own YouTube channel, and we are going to be posting the videos of the individual songs over time. We don’t want to put them all up at once. We want to stage them slightly. You can also look in the Tyler Foundation website, which is TylerShineOn.org, and you’ll see the video’s posted there as well.
KONG: Alright. Now you said this can be purchased and the proceeds go to the Tyler Foundation to help children. Where exactly do the proceeds go?
MARK: Well, let’s start by saying a hundred percent of the proceeds of your purchase go to the Tyler Foundation. The album was funded by the artists who donated their time, and other donors. So all of the proceeds of this go to the Tyler Foundation. And the money will be used by the Tyler Foundation to fund our many programs. As Kim said earlier, we’re now in 14 hospitals and we hope to be in 20 by the end of this year. We have our own staff working directly with the kids. We have some initiatives in the Tokoku area, which obviously needs special attention now. So all of the cash from the proceeds go to the Tyler Foundation.
KONG: Now I noticed another big name on this album is Maxi Priest. How did you get Maxi Priest involved?
MARK: You know, a good friend of ours called Nick Wood, who runs Syn in Japan, which is a music company. He has worked with Maxi 7 years ago. And I won’t say it was easy to nail Maxi down and get him involved in this album, but once we did, you just got to hear him sing. He’s so passionate about this song and he just wants to be involved. And luckily, he performed our song in Billboard just a couple of weeks ago. So we were able to get video footage of that. So I hope you listen, as well as watch for the video of Maxi in Billboard.
KONG: Alright. Kim, would you introduce this song for our listeners?
KIM: Yes, this is called African Sky, being sung by Maxi Priest, but the song was composed by Mark and in part inspired by his homeland.
KONG: Let’s check it out right now. Here’s Maxi Priest to sing African Sky.
[Music sample played]
KONG: That’s Maxi Priest singing African Sky. And you wrote that song, Mark?
MARK: I did. I did. It’s not the most cheerful song but I’m looking back on very fond memories in Africa and trying to pull something positive out of that.
KONG: And Kim said that was your homeland. South Africa is your home country?
MARK: Yeah. I finished my high school in Zimbabwe. I went to University in South Africa. So I spent a lot of time in Africa growing up.
KONG: And how long have you been a song writer?
KIM: Since I met him, about 19 years ago!
MARK: I’ve always loved to write songs. I hesitantly take on the mentor of song writer, but I’m eager to see if your listeners will buy our album.
KONG: Do you play any instrument?
MARK: I’m a very moderate pianist, but I compose around the piano and I like to use the piano to get my ideas out.
KONG: Now I understand you had some involvement from some of the kids in Tohoku. What’s the story there?
MARK: You know, Tyler Foundation’s been going up to Tohoku now for at least 4 or 5 months and working directly with the kids. So we wrote a song based on a poem which is really inspiring for the kids, inspiring for anyone. It’s Ame ni mo Makezu is the name of the poem. It’s very well-known in Japanese literature. We wrote that song and we asked the kids at Ofunato School in Tohoku to sing the chorus and Rie fu, a wonderful, young Japanese artist-singer, she agreed to lead this song. And so we have wonderful video material of the performance of the song and a 150 kids singing our chorus, which was very exciting.
KONG: What’s the name of this song?
KIM: Who I Want To Be.
KONG: And did you write this again, Mark?
MARK: I did write this. I had fun writing this song, too.
KIM: I think I wrote like one word in that song.
KONG: Let’s check it out right now. Again, the title is?
MARK: Who I Want To Be.
[Music sample playing]
KONG: We’re listening to a song from this brand new album called Shine On! Songs Inspired by the Tyler Foundation. We’re looking at the album right now. Beautiful cover! Who did the artwork here?
MARK: We’re so lucky to have our friends Tony and Elliott, who run an agency, now based in Perth. Williams-Woolf is the name of the agency and they’re really accomplished designers. And they took the artwork of some of the kids that we worked with in the hospitals and they made this into the album. We think it’s spectacular!
KONG: Absolutely! A gorgeous cover and you said the kids did the artwork for this?
MARK: Kids did the artwork and Williams-Woolf took it and designed it to make it beautiful.
KONG: Now what about that video that’s on YouTube? We saw that, of course. We were talking about that a little bit earlier, but that looks very professionally done as well.
MARK: Another very close collaborator is Duncan McIntyre and SAI, Struggling Artists International is his company and he’s been a huge help, not just as a video guide but as a communicator. He’s helped to take our message and express it through a lot of wonderful video material.
KIM: We’ve been collaborating with him for years with the Tyler Foundation. He’s supported us for a long time.
KONG: Now you mentioned that there will be another album coming out sometime in the future, but do you have any plans for like a TV special or a concert, anything like that?
MARK: You know, one thing at a time, Kong. We’re getting the album out and we do need to plan. We’re working on publicity now. The other thing I want to mention is the merchandizing that we’ve created. We have a set of 2012 calendars, we have T-shirts both for men and women. We have stationery kits with greeting cards and a bunch of things that people can buy because what we feel we’re doing here is creating a brand, not just an album, but a brand, and hopefully people will think of Shine On and come and buy merchandize from us. So there’s long=term plans in that regard. But yes, there will be another album. Exactly when, we’re not sure.
KONG: You mentioned long-term plans so I assume that you guys are not planning to leave Tokyo any time in the near future? You guys have no fear when they talk about the radiation coming from Fukushima?
KIM: You know, we’ve lived in Tokyo for 22 years and the Tyler Foundation has been here for 6 years and we plan to continue doing exactly what we’ve been doing: helping kids in Japan for as long as we possibly can, for as long as we can keep raising money to support the programs.
KONG: Well I think that about wraps it up. Have we covered everything, Mark?
MARK: Yeah, I think we’ve got everything! I just hope that your listeners get excited by our music and can support our project.
KONG: And Kim, how can we find your website?
KONG: And we can buy the album from there and you said we can buy the entire album or download it song by song.
MARK; Yes, you can download the entire album or song by song, and you can buy hard copies, if you like. We’ll have those sent to you.
KONG: Before we go out of here, can you tell us the names of all the various singers that you have on this CD?
MARK: Well, the ones that I’d like to feature are Julian Lennon, who sings a spectacular song called Children of the World.
KONG: You’re talking about John Lennon’s son?
MARK: Yes! Julian’s been a huge supporter and Nick Wood has worked with him in the past. We’ve heard from Maxi already. We heard the Big Phat Band and Amber Lily. I’d also like to mention Monday Michiru, she’s interesting because she spans both the Japanese and she now is based in US and she did a wonderful song for us and really made that song her own. Wendy Parr is an artist who is credited on the soundtrack of the movie Slumdog Millionaire. And she sings beautifully for us. We recorded her in New York. Tin Cup Gypsy is a Nashville-based country-western kind of band. They really got a unique sign and a lovely sound. We’re delighted to have them singing 2 songs on the album.
KONG: Well I know all of these songs are your babies, but if you could just choose one more song to take us out, what song would that be?
MARK: Well I’m thinking we’re sitting here in Tokyo in the Northern hemisphere and summer is probably close to over. We have a song called Summer is Over, which I wrote 3 years ago at a similar time of year when it was time to move on and face the autumn and the winter. Again, it tries to take some positives out of that. It is sung by Tin Cup Gypsy and they’ve done a wonderful job with it.
KONG: Kim, can you give this the big introduction please?
KIM: Here it is, Summer is Over by Tin Cup Gypsy, composed by Mark Ferris.
KONG: We’re listening to music from the brand new CD, now available on your website. Again, this is called Summer Is Over, written by Mark Ferris. Kim Forsythe, thank you very much for joining us again on the Metpod.
KIM: Thank you, Kong for giving us an opportunity to share.
KONG: Do you have a message you’d like to share with all those listeners right here I Japan and around the world.
MARK: Well, I think Shine On songs is going to be good. This album’s going to be good and watch us for the next few years because we can build something really special. Thanks for your support!
KONG: Kim Forsythe, Mark Ferris, thank you very much.
KIM: Thanks Kong!
MARK: Thanks Kong!