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'I Want To Hear The Voices Of Young People': Jenn Hartmann Luck Celebrates Kids Who Make The World A Better Place

Jenn Hartmann Luck and Kate Gilman Williams
Lynn Gilman Williams
Jenn Hartmann Luck and Kate Gilman Williams

Austin singer-songwriter Jenn Hartmann Luck is still putting the finishing touches on her new album Raise Your Voices (Songs Celebrating the Kids Who are Changing the World) – it’s scheduled to be released in September – but the lead single from the work is out now. ‘Kids Can Save Animals,’ like the rest of the tracks on Raise Your Voices, is inspired by a young person who’s doing what she can to make the world a better place.

“Inside of Covid, I knew that I really wanted to create a new song-based project,” Luck says. “And I was searching for the great inspiration of what this album was going to be.” Having spent much of her career working and creating art with kids (she was the director of education at the Paramount Theatre for almost a decade), doing something that involved young people seemed like a natural fit.

“I dreamed up this idea with my co-producer, Trapper Felides,” Luck says. “If I interview young people who are doing amazing things in the world and they are changing the planet, wouldn’t I be so incredibly inspired to write amazing songs about them?”

Luck says the first young person she thought of for the project was Kate Gilman Williams, who she had worked with during her time at the Paramount and who, at age eight, published the book Let’s Go On Safari!.

“I went on my first safari when I was seven years old, and I met a game driver named Michelle [Campbell], and she taught me everything I know about animals, and she also told me that humans are killing animals, and that made me determined to do something to help them,” Wiliams says. “So I came home wanting to write a book, and I asked Michelle if she would be my co-author and she said yes… and then we got it published.”

Proceeds from Let’s Go On Safari! benefit three conservation efforts – the Jane Goodall Institute, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, and Global Wildlife Conservation. Williams' work on the book inspired Luck to write the song ‘Kids Can Save Animals,’ which features a guest appearance from the young author. “I never thought my animal advocacy would lead to a song, but I’m so glad it did, because the song is so amazing and I’m so grateful to be a part of this album!” she says.

“She’s trying to make a global impact, inspiring young people to realize that they can actually help make a change,” Luck says. “And so sitting and talking with her, it was just really inspirational.”

Luck says her goal was to create something that addressed an important issue while also having a catchy pop hook. “I knew that this needed to be a very up tempo and fun and energizing song, but it’s also about a really heavy topic,” she says. “So, you know, how do you balance this conversation about the extinction of animals and the human impact on the life of animals on this planet and also make it a song that everyone wants to sing along to?”

Working with Williams and other motivated young people for Raise Your Voices turned out to be even more inspiring than Luck had expected. “I would argue that it has almost been revolutionary for me in some ways,” she says. “I hadn’t written a new album worth of material in a really long time. And [with] this project, every kid I speak to… their drive and their passion to make an impact on the world is so inspirational. More and more young people are realizing that they have power… they have agency. They can make a real difference. I want to hear the voices of young people, because this year – well, this year and a half – has been dark and heavy. And you start thinking, ‘My gosh… where are we going?’ And when I look at Kate, I go, ‘Oh, we’re good. She knows where we’re going. We’re going to be just fine.’”

The single 'Kids Can Save Animals'is available online wherever you buy music, and part of the proceeds go to the nonprofit conservation effort Re:wild.
The book 'Let's Go On Safari!'is available wherever you buy books, and proceeds go to the Jane Goodall Institute, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, and Global Wildlife Conservation.

Mike is the production director at KUT, where he’s been working since his days as an English major at the University of Texas. He produces Arts Eclectic, Get Involved, and the Sonic ID project, and also produces videos and cartoons for When pressed to do so, he’ll write short paragraphs about himself in the third person, but usually prefers not to.
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