Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Jeannie Caryn. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Jeannie, appreciate you joining us today. So let’s jump to your mission – what’s the backstory behind how you developed the mission that drives your brand?
There are two parts to the story behind my mission:
1. First, I want people to know that they can start over at any age. It is never too late to learn something new, open a new business, gain a new skill, or pursue a dream. I taught myself how to play guitar in my 30’s, during my divorce, but I didn’t perform out live at an open mic until I was 41. Luckily, I was hired right away for gigs, and now I’ve had a very successful career as a singer songwriter for over ten years, and I am booked regularly as a performing musician for paid gigs at venues all over North Georgia. I have also recorded and released an album, MOTHER’S SELF-RISING, with Grammy Winning Producer, Larry Mitchell. The album is a ten song collection, representing my various writing styles, and celebrating ten years of songwriting, and I am about to head back to the studio again later this year! Despite starting my career as a musician later in life, this success has been a dream come true. So again, it’s never too late to start anew!
2. Second, PLEASE keep dogs away from Xylitol and other dangerous foods! I became a children’s author/illustrator after my pug, Hugo, almost ate a piece of gum. Had he digested it, he would have died that day as Xylitol is fatally toxic to dogs, shutting down their liver within hours– sadly, Xylitol is a common sweetener in many people foods. The book project started organically as just an Instagram post! I was simply sharing the urgency of my message about Xylitol with family, friends, and followers, but while my sweet pug was at the vet all day having his blood drawn every three hours, I took that post and turned it into a larger story! This year, I released Book One of the series of THE ADVENTURES OF HUGO THE ROUND PUG (now for sale on Amazon), to share fun pet stories, to teach pet safety and health issues, to encourage pet adoption, and to inspire kids to enjoy reading poetry (the book is written in rhyming verse with fun illustrations) – My larger goal is to help pets of all kinds and especially to make people aware of the dangers of certain human foods and dogs while inspiring kids to read!
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
I’ve always been a writer– as a kid, I would hide in the giant pine trees in our yard writing stories about animals — my mother still has those stories that I wrote in little composition books. I became an English major in college for my love of story and a teacher for my love of sharing story. I’ve enjoyed teaching students of all ages and have taught middle school, high school, and now university aged students for over twenty years.
Honestly, the answer of how I got started in the music industry isn’t as simple as it should be. I picked up the guitar in my 30’s and started teaching myself how to play songs that helped me deal with the chaos in my world- divorce/sharing custody of my two young kids. It was very cathartic and good to push all of my anger and sadness into the struggle of learning chord progressions and shapes. So this is how I got started with music. Of course, right away, I started writing songs as well.
At my high school teaching job, I was very lucky to have great colleagues who were also musicians who encouraged me– I helped run the guitar club with one of my teacher friends, Joe Green, and shared song and guitar struggles with two other musician friends, Jeff Wheeler (drummer/singersongwriter), and Tom Flugum (guitarist/singer songwriter). While Jeff had been in many bands, performing all around, Tom and I had never even performed at an open mic, so we encouraged each other and planned to do so by the end of the school year. Of course, practicing with students in Mr. Green’s Green House gave me needed practice and stronger nerves! At the end of the school year, I finally went out to an open mic, and on my first night performing out at an open mic, I was hired for a future gig at the venue — and I never looked back. I feel truly blessed to have created a career and business out of performing music.
One of the reasons I believe I am successful as a performing musician is because of my knowledge of communicating– you must ALWAYS know your audience! That means that my set list changes at each venue, and I allow patrons to request songs vs. simply playing what I may have thought would make a good set list. I believe this sets me apart as a performer, as I truly enjoy engaging with the audience and allowing them to guide the mood of the music atmosphere. I am very proud to create an engaging evening of music for people to escape the chaos of the world.
I’m also terribly proud of my first album, MOTHER’S SELF-RISING which is available on all music platforms and my website! After writing and performing for ten years, I finally found the right engineer to produce my work. Larry Mitchell has an extraordinary gift to hear an artist’s vision and enhance the music while staying true to the artist’s style. I couldn’t be happier with that production and release of that album.
I am also so extraordinarily proud of publishing my first book, HTRP – THE ADVENTURES OF HUGO THE ROUND PUG! This project has helped me come full circle, back to the writing and sketching I did as a child while combining my love and skill for creating music. I’ve also written music and songs for the story and those are the next songs I plan to record in the studio! Currently, there are two songs for Book One and I have many more songs in draft stage to put on a full album of songs to accompany the book. When my kids were little, it was always amazing to have books with accompanying music so we could take those stories into the car or just dance to them around the house, or simply celebrate story through song. I am enormously proud to have written and illustrated a story that I do feel can do good in the world– inspiring kids to read and laugh, teaching folks about pet health and other important issues, and sharing my love for animals.
You can find Book One of HTRP- THE ADVENTURES OF HUGO THE ROUND PUG now on Amazon! Later this year, by Thanksgiving (fingers crossed), I plan to offer a nursery reader version of Book One as well as a coloring book. I also hope to publish Book Two of the series, and if all things go as planned, hopefully, I can also release an EP of songs to accompany Book One and Book Two as a set. The writing and illustrating work is already done, so I just need to find the time to get to publishing!
Ultimately, I hope that with my writing, illustrating, and songwriting, I encourage people to be happy and enjoy the arts!
Is there a particular goal or mission driving your creative journey?
I’d really like to focus on my goal for my children’s book series, HTRP – THE ADVENTURES OF HUGO THE ROUND PUG. The drive for this project began and continues to be sharing pet safety issues with families. I believe that in teaching younger children about pet safety and dietary concerns, many pets and families can be spared horrible accidents with their pets. As you know, dogs will usually eat anything. It’s so very important to keep those wonderful creatures safe!
As I composed the story, I also realized I could teach many other pet safety issues — car safety, keeping dogs secure, etc. – as well as hopefully help inspire pet adoption- several of the other characters in the story come from the dreaded pound, so I do hope to encourage pet adoption too.
Finally, as a teacher, I know that many kids loathe reading – I wanted to create a text that made reading fun, that made kids laugh, and that dispelled the fear of poetry many students have– poetry can be so very much like song lyrics and kids tend to love music and rhymes, so hopefully, my work can encourage students to go into more complex works of poetry with a fondness for the genre.
How about pivoting – can you share the story of a time you’ve had to pivot?
Leaving the high school classroom was a great pivot in my career and life overall. While I absolutely loved working with younger students, the politics and schedule demands of the public school environment were not working with my life as an artist or as a single parent and definitely, the environment did not suit my goals and/or belief systems.
I believe our schools are in a state of ruin, and sadly, the problem seems to get worse every year. In taking a stand against injustices I saw for both teachers and students, I ruined relationships with administrators and felt that it was best for me to leave since making change in that arena seemed utterly impossible.
While I did leave the position of high school English teacher, I can’t say that I quit my goals of inspiring students. I simply knew that the environment was not a place I could be successful with those goals. It was a very difficult time in my life and it was a terribly difficult decision to make to stand up for my principles. Luckily, since leaving, I have taught at the university level where I have had much more leeway to be creative with teaching students, more time for my own family, and also more time for my own creative endeavors. It was a huge cut in salary, but time is so much more important than money.
The other big push for me to leave the public school environment was my desire to be more available for my own young children. The amount of hours teachers put in to plan, grade, and just be present in the school environment were more than I had to give as I needed those hours for my own two kids.
Change is never easy, but sometimes, it’s just time to go. Nothing ever stays the same anyway!
- Website: www.jeanniecaryn.com
- Instagram: @jeanniecaryn, @hugotheroundpug, @hippo.n.goose
- Facebook: @jeanniecarynmusic, @HTRP-Theadventuresofhugotheroundpug
- Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/jcaryn
- Twitter: @jeanniecaryn
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxsYuryvDBVydNV9YpG81RA
- Other: Linktree: Linktr.ee/jeanniecaryn Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22451075.Jeannie_Caryn Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jeannie-Caryn/e/B0B1Z4QSV6
Kirk Thalmueller, Laura Machesney Evertsen