Austin Living: Song of the rutabaga

Published 7:30 pm Tuesday, October 3, 2023

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Will Bjorndal turning musical eye toward younger audiences


There’s a playfulness to Will Bjorndal that should be obvious to all that have seem him perform with his alt-rock act Prairie Clamor or at the Jay C. Nature Center for one of its many programs.

So it really should come as no surprise that his latest musical endeavor will make perfect use of that playfulness as a children’s entertainer.

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While it’s not necessarily a new move for Bjorndal, who is now calling the Twin Cities home, it has swiftly become more of a focus.

“I’ve kind of been doing it for awhile, but I think I’ve really, in earnest, have been pushing it harder these days. It’s becoming more of a job.”

Bjorndal has delved deeply into music one way or another going all the way back to his time at Austin High School. Once graduation, he followed many of branching avenues into the world of music, including the aforementioned Prairie Clamor, which is still a major part of his life.

Creating under the moniker of Will Sings Songs, Bjorndal pursues songs that are fun and meet the excitement requirements of his youthful audience. That includes putting out an album titled “What’s a Rutabaga?” and his latest, “Squirrels Run the World.”

Find this story and more in the September-October edition of Austin Living, out now. And keep an eye out for our November-December edition, coming out later this month.

In fact, many of his songs convey that child-like sense of wonder and fun including the title track “What’s a Rutabaga?” “The Salamander Song” and “I Stayed Up Late (Last Night).”

Ironically, the connection between Bjorndal himself and the kids he’s singing too have a connective thread.

“It’s really just the songs that I write are songs about things I get excited about,” he said. “Things I think are funny. Things I think kids will get excited about.”

In that regard, they aren’t that much different from songs he writes for Prairie Clamor, and in a lot ways represent a simpler side to making music.

“Yeah, it’s definitely different and the kids songs almost come easier,” Bjorndal said. “They almost write themselves. It’s a very jovial state. The songs just kind of happen.”

Bjorndal said he’s usually performing for kids pre-K through elementary and further explains that its an audience that wants to be excited, have fun and explore.

In that regard, his younger audiences tick off a lot of the boxes Bjorndal himself finds interesting and being able to open the door to things Bjorndal finds exciting adds to the entertainment he’s trying to bring.

“There are some things in there that will be a whole new concept for them,” he said. “Some might be about things they know. Some of them are things I just learned and I’m excited to share it.”

“Kids have no inhibitions,” he continued. “They will dance to anything. They are excited to hear songs they’ve never heard before. They are a great audience.”

At the same time, Bjorndal tries to write to their level knowing that his audience can be sponges with what they are hearing.

“Kids are smart. I like to treat kids like the smart people they are,” he said. “I like to throw in a couple things that are a little bit on the edge for them that they can grasp on to and learn something new.”

That same enjoyment the kids are getting is often reflected back on Bjorndal, who is having fun right along side his audience.

“They are really fun kids and they buy in so hard to the songs,” he said. “It’s fun for me to act goofy. I think anybody who likes to be funny gets a kick out of making people laugh.”

Bjorndal is currently playing libraries in southeastern Minnesota and the Nature Center, but he’s hoping to expand to more places within the state.

At the same time he’s still keeping the running experiment that is Prairie Clamor going. Now with a stage band, Bjorndal said he is currently writing new songs and concepts for the next album with an eye toward pushing the act even further.

“It’s going to be bigger in every way,” he said. “Building on the same thing, but taking it up a notch.”

For now though, Bjorndal is turning a majority of time toward his young audiences and the energy they bring. Though he admits it wasn’t a career he ever really thought about.

“I think the kids music, it sort of led to just sort of happening,” Bjorndal said. “If you would have said in high school that maybe one day you will be writing kids songs, maybe I wouldn’t have believe you.”

“It just sort of happened naturally,” he added.