Danceable goofballery. That’s how Portland kindie musician Mo Phillips describes his irresistible, kid-approved rock music. “At my shows, I am really focused on just having fun,” he says. “As much dancing and laughing as I can inspire, really.”
Phillips is bringing his high-energy, boogie-inducing kids’ music — also enjoyable for parents — to PDX Parent’s Family Festival on Saturday, June 18, from 10 am to 2 pm at Oaks Amusement Park. In fact, it marks his first 2022 performance! Families can also enjoy Phillips’ songs, like the fan favorite, “The Princess and The Cowboy,” at local libraries and upcoming family music festivals across the Portland area. And in June, Phillips is building off the success of his 2019 musical, the Spectacular Daydream The Musical, by morphing the interactive performance into a solo-show at local schools.
Like many musicians, Phillips cut his rockstar teeth playing with friends in high school. His dream of creating and making music went beyond those garage band days and Phillips’ talent took him on tour across four continents as a singer/songwriter.
It wasn’t until Phillips, also a former preschool teacher, became the father of two boys that he pivoted to becoming the kindie musician Portland knows and loves. “I was writing all kinds of songs with my preschoolers and my own kids, some of which were cracking me up, and so I was dropping a couple of them into my regular (adult) shows,” he says. “Well, of course those became people’s favorites, and so the transition was pretty natural. Plus, there is an element of freedom in writing songs for families. There is less pressure to be clever or insightful in some meaningful way, and that lack of pressure ends up facilitating even more creative work.”
Phillips makes his trademark lo-fi music, or “Mo-fi,” as he’s dubbed it, by incorporating essential kids’ topics like the zoo, eating ice cream, skating and big feelings. At live shows, he’s most likely jamming on his guitar or strumming his ukulele, but Phillips says that when he makes music at home, “I’ll play anything I can get my hands on.” Families with littles at home can also find Phillips’ music and videos on his Facebook and Youtube pages.
He also spreads his love of music by inspiring others to tap into their inner rockstar, both at his shows and in local classrooms; he’s known for creating impromptu songs with the help of his young audiences. Phillips is an educator in Portland Public School and private music schools. His approachable teaching style engages students by matching their energy, incorporating their suggestions and breaking down the elements of songwriting and music making. “Even though teaching artistry isn’t really considered the ‘music business,’ it has been a critical source of keeping music at the center of my work,” he says.
Phillips says it’s easy to support his work. In fact, you don’t even have to leave the house! Families can find Phillips on Patreon, the online member platform for creatives. “If you subscribe for as little as $3 a month, you get access to all kinds of unreleased stuff,” he says. “Plus, like subscribing to local public radio, it really is sustaining for the art I am making.”
Want to find more family-oriented performances in Portland? Check out our helpful Kids Calendar, where music events, and much more, are regularly updated.