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Singer Alastair Moock is teaching kids it’s good to ‘be a pain’

Alastair MoockElena Clamen

When one of Boston singer-songwriter Alastair Moock’s two children was diagnosed with leukemia at age 5, he sat in the hospital with her, and they wrote songs together. Moock wasn’t new to writing songs for children, but this was the first time he had to consider complicated subject matter in that realm. From that experience came the Grammy-nominated album “Singing Our Way Through: Songs for the World’s Bravest Kids.” After his daughter fully recovered, Moock didn’t stop writing music for all ages.

On Friday, Moock will release a new album for families titled “Be a Pain.” His subject: social justice and leadership. “I’ve always had some political stuff mixed in, but frankly, it’s taken me years to figure out how to write political material that was inviting and not off-putting,” Moock said. “One of the things I learned . . . was that you don’t have to always provide answers. The instinct is to say ‘everything’s going to be fine’ when you’re working with kids and be reassuring. And you can’t be overly scary, obviously, but at the same time, be honest.”


Referencing a range of difference-makers, from the heroes of the civil rights movement to the student activists from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Moock hopes to inspire young listeners.

“Songs can be starting places for conversation if you lay down ideas,” he said. “I can’t really go through the whole history of American social justice — that’s indigestible and it’s too much. But you can leave bread crumbs along the way in talking about concepts kids can absolutely grasp, even the youngest of kids.”

Moock had planned to debut the album at The Burren in Somerville on March 22, but with the club closed during the coronavirus outbreak, the show has been postponed to May 3. “It’s not an age-specific album, and the show won’t be either,” Moock said. “And you can get beer there. That’s very important for everyone to know that there’s beer involved: I think there’s not enough children’s shows with beer available.”


Joined by members of the album band and middle-school-age performers from the Boston City Singers, the folk artist will collect proceeds at that show to benefit his “Be a Pain” education fund, which brings music programming to underserved schools. So far, through a crowdfunding campaign, the initiative has surpassed its $12,000 goal, meaning Moock will provide 12 free programs to schools that may otherwise not have access to them. “It’s a way of putting into practice what this album is about,” he said.

Moock will also provide virtual family concerts every Thursday at 10 a.m. starting April 2 and broadcasting on his Facebook page.

Grace Griffin can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GraceMGriffin.