Meet the man responsible for putting monkey songs in your head
Ever find there’s a tune in your head that you just can’t shake?
Children’s singer-songwriter Kyle Riley, who packs out venues in Stoke Newington, could well be responsible.
The 36-year-old has been introducing his own songs to the local scene with his business partner Holly Aisbitt at Tiny Tempo for the past few years. His classes typically attract between 30 and 50 babies and toddlers and he’s become something of a local celebrity.
StokeyParents met with him recently to get the lowdown on the man behind the guitar.
His most popular songs include ‘I’m a Little Monkey’ and ‘We’re Gonna have some Fun’ and he has just produced a series of videos for Nursery Rhymes TV and provided voiceovers for Things That Go TV.
Raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Kyle started doing bits of theatrical work in Ireland in 1998. Recent performances include Norman Petty in the 2011 UK #1 tour of The Buddy Holly Story and he starred as Stan Turner in Channel 5’s Heroes of the Skies . He was also the lead singer in a band called The Tipping Point.
Kyle went on tour the day after his baby son Eoin (pronounced Owen) was born and after six months on the road he ditched acting in favour of full-time parenthood when his wife Brigid returned to work.
He said: “I used to go along to Holly’s Tiny Tempo classes with Eoin and offered her ‘I’m a Little Monkey’, which I’d written as a legacy song for Eoin, and a couple of other songs. I offered to cover a class and pretty soon I’d joined her and we were working together to expand Tiny Tempo.
“I love performing. It does feel a bit like the Kyle Riley show but I also love to see the kids learning and growing and joining in. When I sing Jack in the Box at Clissold, I've a queue of toddlers wanting to be thrown in the air.
“People do recognise me when I’m out and about and I really like that – I feel like part of the community. My dad ran a family business for nearly 40 years and was a massive part of our community back home and that was a great thing for me growing up.
“Eoin definitely takes after me – he’s very musical and even makes up his own songs. I know if a song is going to be a hit by how animated Eoin is when I play it to him for the first time.”
Kyle has achieved an enviable work-life balance - making a living with just a couple of hours work a day.
He said: “Living in London isn’t cheap and my wife is the main breadwinner but Tiny Tempo gives me the freedom with a minimum amount of work time to be a stay at home dad and that is the most wonderful thing. Being around to make Eoin and Aisling’s childhoods as fun as possible is so important.”
Kyle and Holly both have a remarkable talent for remembering the names of every child in the room. Asked what his secret is, he replied: “It’s a few things: 1) Repetition, I try to say each name at least three times during class. 2) Context: I associate the child with the venue and who brings them and the more the child joins in the easier it is. 3) In the end it's just trying to memorise the names like lines from a script. It's the same muscle you use when memorising for theatre.”
Kyle’s songs have been released on the You Tube Channel Nursery Rhymes TV over recent weeks and some are proving hugely popular; with up to 12,000 hits. He’s also written some songs for a more grownup listenership but admits his heart is in kids’ songs.
Asked of his future plans, he says he doesn’t have great ambitions to chase fame but won’t turn down opportunities if they arise. And, coming straight back down to earth, he highlights two forthcoming Tiny Tempo special concerts on May 17th at The Russet, which will include projections of the animations for his songs. *
But Kyle’s young fans will be disappointed... he plans to move back to Ireland in 2015.
Listen to Kyle’s songs at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stJ7l8-T9h0&feature=share&list=PLcype0jdYfrMHS97X2OlHQMjWTy5nO4hF&index=4
*Tickets for Kyle's show on May 17th go on sale at The Russet cafe on Tuesday February 18th.