During quarantine parents have found themselves trying all sorts of things to entertain their small children from colorful art projects to cooking lessons to lengthy nature hikes. Hit songwriter Luke Laird and his wife, Beth Mason Laird, just did what came naturally—they made music. The result is The Cool Chips, a six-song EP written and recorded at home with their sons Jake, 6, and Mack, 4, featuring five new tunes along with a classic that has long been a part of their family.
The catchy debut single, “Rocks, Worms, Dirt,” is out now and the whole children’s project will be available digitally May 29. It’s being released on CN Records, the record division of Creative Nation, the Nashville-based publishing, management and record company Luke and Beth co-founded in 2011.
“We just had so much fun,” Luke tells Sounds Like Nashville. “We did that first song ‘Rocks, Worms, Dirt’ and of course Beth—being the business person she is—she’s like, ‘You should do a few more and we’ll put it out.’ It was so much fun. My boys crack me up so much. I told Beth what I’m most excited about is having a little time stamp on this time in our lives because they are six and four, and in a few years they’re not going to think anything we do is cool.”
To the rest of the Nashville community, the Lairds are known as two of the coolest, most respected people in town. Beth is one of Music City’s most savvy businesswomen and successful publishers. Luke is a Grammy winner who has written 50 radio singles, including 23 No. 1 hits, among them Carrie Underwood’s “Temporary Home” and “Undo It,” Sara Evans’ “A Little Bit Stronger,” Rodney Atkins’ “Take a Back Road,” Eric Church’s “Drink in My Hand” and “Give Me Back My Hometown,” Little Big Town’s “Pontoon,” Luke Bryan’s “Fast,” Thomas Rhett’s “T-Shirt,” Kenny Chesney’s “American Kids” and many more.
While stuck at home during the quarantine, Luke and Beth were looking for ways to keep their sons from getting bored and those activities found their way into the songs on the new EP like “Rocks, Worms, Dirt.” “We spend a lot of time outside and my boys are like at that stage where they are just fascinated with bugs and stuff. It had recently rained so there was all these worms on the driveway,” Laird says. “I asked Jake, ‘What do you see out here?’ And he said, ‘Rocks.’ I recorded him saying that and I said, ‘What else?’ And he said, ‘Worms, dirt.’ So I turned that into a beat. I went inside and Mack likes beatbox like I do, so I recorded him doing that, making a little loop. I put some guitar chords underneath and wrote a couple verses. I had my laptop set up in the kitchen and that song was pretty much finished after they took their naps.”
Beth loved the song and hatched the idea to record a collection of songs for kids. “She was like, ‘We should do this. We have time. Why don’t we make a little project?’ And I was like, ‘Sure,’” Luke recalls.
Musically, the project features a variety of styles including pop, country and hip hop and covers topics most parents and children can relate to in songs such as “Shootin’ Hoops” and “I Don’t Wanna Brush My Teeth,” which is an absolute ear worm. “That’s like the ongoing battle with the kids in the morning: ‘Brush your teeth.’ ‘I don’t want to brush my teeth,’” Luke laughs. “Literally, there’s a song. I just started singing it in my phone.”
“Don’t Be Mean, Be Nice” shares a sweet sentiment. “I’m not trying to make any big statements, but I’m like, ‘Who doesn’t need to hear that?’” he says. “And that little melody just kind of came to me. It felt like an old Mr. Rogers song. I could hear him. His voice on it would have been amazing. I just thought this is something nice and I hope I live that way.”
The album closes with Mack singing the classic “You Are My Sunshine.” “At night when we put them to bed, Beth has always sang that song to him. And from the moment they were both born, I always do ‘Amazing Grace’ with them at night. It’s just my favorite hymn,” Luke shares.
“We decided to put one cover on there and I asked Mack if he wanted to sing ‘You Are My Sunshine,’ and he did it in about two takes. It is cute too because again, we’re just capturing that moment in time and capturing his sweet little voice. I sent that to my mom and dad right after and of course they loved it.”
Luke credits six-year-old Jake with coming up with the name The Cool Chips. “That’s a perfect example of not over-thinking it,” he says. “We were sitting on the couch watching a movie and I said to Jake, ‘Hey what would be a cool name for our group?’ He literally didn’t even look over at me and was just looking at the TV and said, ‘The Cool Chips.’ He probably just ate some chips or something. Beth and I were like, ‘Okay let’s not over-think it.’ It’s from the mind and the heart of a six-year-old.”
Though it is children’s music, the making of the album wasn’t all child’s play. In producing the project, Laird enlisted some of the top talents in the industry. It was mixed by Mike Stankieweicz, whose credits include Kesha, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Urban and Avicii, and it was mastered by Andrew Mendelson at Georgetown Masters. “Mike and I have worked together a lot and fortunately he had time to mix it,” Laird says. “Andrew Mendelson, who I’ve used for a lot of mastering on projects, had time so we did it all pretty quick, but as far as all the production, I didn’t go into a studio with any musicians. That’s me getting to play everything and have Mack do some beatbox. It was pretty simple.”
Laird is hoping other families enjoy listening to The Cool Chips as much as his family enjoyed creating the project. “During this season of life we’ve felt very fortunate that we got to spend time with our kids,” says Laird, who admits as a songwriter he’s often able to adjust his schedule to prioritize family time. “The boys are at that age where they aren’t going to their friend’s house and things like that. They are still young enough where they like hanging out with their mom and dad. We’re trying to cherish that as long as we can.”