Robin Bienemann on Collaboration with "Hey Nonny" song

2020: THE YEAR of COLLABORATION continues. Enjoy this post from guest commentator Robin Bienemann. 

Chip Brooks at HeyNonnyAH in Arlington Heights invited Jenny and me to pitch a regular series on a Tuesday night at their excellent music club. We came up with the idea that “Tuesday is TWOS-day,” featuring us and another duo. Chip and his team turned that into the TwosDay Night Special: Jenny & Robin Bienemann w/ Small Potatoes” and we had our first one last Tuesday, 1/28. (The next one is April 28.) 

Our pitch included the notion of a theme song. I had been noodling around with ideas for quite awhile. But now, with the inaugural "Twos-day" show one just week hence, the theme song needed to get done. 

Writing songs on assignment suits me. I would have been a perfect Mad Men-era jingle writer describing products and their exquisite virtues. 

If I have any consistent process it involves testing simple melodies, matching them with phrases from "research" scrawled across many pages of my eel-skin notebook: wiki-fed historical factoids; ridiculous rhymes with "Nonny"; spelling games. No filters allowed. Experience bears that I might end up hanging a song's hat on the most peripheral detail. But I REALLY need to keep an eye on the cracks and corners. 

I was tickled that this might be a song that ONLY made sense to play at Hey Nonny, and even more mischievously, only at our Twos-day event. 

After a week of intermittent dutiful solitary labor I was stuck. I had exactly one Mambo-esque line referencing the race track. Not exactly a sing-a-long anthem. It is the line that became the intro: "Hay ... is for horses ..." 

By Saturday morning I expressed to Jenny that this was NOT going well AND I was resenting the hours it was stealing from my precious weekend, which was exposing this whole enterprise to negative vibes. In literally one minute Jenny said it should "go like this" and hummed a simple nursery rhyme melody into an iPhone voice memo. Each line ended with a loopy phrasing for "Hey Nonny". 

That is the melody (NOT the one I labored over) that we spent the next day and a half living with - riffing on silly puns, rhymes and word games about the days of the week, counting to 2, and the venue's unusual name. 

It happened to be a weekend when we could check in on and off for 36 hours straight. Advocating for a phrase here, agreeing to compromise on a phrase there. Ultimately our loose criteria was to keep an idea if it kept us laughing even after the 2nd and 3rd time we heard it. 

The first performance may not have been technically perfect, but was especially gratifying that the audience spontaneously sang along every time the "Hey Nonny" phrase came around. 

Enjoy! Thanks to Ron Lewis for recording. 

Robin Bienemann

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