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Madison Skye with her dad, Jeremy Pholwattana. COURTESY JEREMY PHOLWATTANA

By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news

COVID-19 has drawn some families closer together.

As parents worked from home, they often got to know their children better.

The inspiration for “You Me We” by the duo J.R.M.S., aka Jeremy Ryan and Madison Skye, started that way. 

Ryan is the stage name for Jeremy Pholwattana. J.R.M.S. grew out of dad’s having more time at home with his 9-year-old daughter, Madison, and the quality of that time being deeper.

It was released on Aug. 28, just in time to be submitted to this year’s Grammy Awards in the category of Best Children’s Album. The father-daughter team will know if the CD has advanced by the end of September. It is available on Spotify and all streaming platforms.

Pholwattana, a music producer and a Grammy voter, was inspired by his friend John Samson, who won a Grammy Award for Best Children’s Album in 2019.

The two got to talking at the Grammy Awards that night, and Pholwattana decided he’d like to do that. And when COVID-19 made him work from home he finally had the opportunity to work with his daughter. 

Madison, a fourth-grader in the Montclair school district, had approval power over the songs. 

Dad wrote them, but the topics often came from her: “Off to School,” about going to school, for example, expresses nervous self-soothing.

First Dad raps,  

…Ready for anything, everything, take on the day
Drink my OJ, OK, clean up my plate
Grab my book and my phone, took a look at the clock
I don’t want to be late so I headed to the bus stop
See my friends, take a seat in the back
Take a look in my lunchbox, I’m trading my snacks
Roll up to the school, wave hi to my friends
Head straight for my locker it’s about to begin
It’s the first day of school and I’m ready to go
Give an apple to my teacher, and I get in my zone

Then Madison sings:

I’m off to school today
I know that everything
Will all be OK, It will be OK
I’m off to school today,
I hear my friends say
We will be OK
We’ll have a great day

“What I do is tell the story, and then she gives the overall, and that’s what the chorus is, the hook, so people can sing along to it. The more memorable part of the song,” Pholwattana explains.

The cover of “You Me We” by Jeremy Ryan and Madison Skye, J.R.M.S.

Madison, who has sung at Center Stage, as well as at school, has a strong, clear voice, with some nice turns of expression. One thing she loves about performing is singing loud, she said. Her favorite singers right now are Taylor Swift, Idina Menzel and Zendaya.

“You Me We” is the name of the album by the duo J.R.M.S., the first album for the father-daughter, and the first album that Pholwattana has performed on, since he usually takes a backstage role. He does sing with a local Montclair dad band, but apart from that and performing on a few singles, he most often has been a producer or a writer, he said.

And while this is a first album, Pholwattana has always written music with his three daughters, who are 5, 9 and 18. 

Madison said, “When I would have trouble I would write a song about it. Like trying to make some friends, I would tell him about it.”

Dad said, “And that’s one of the titles of the songs that we have [“Friendship”]. So I explain everything about friendship, how you can be in situations in a friendship, reasons to like having friendship, and reasons of being and finding friends. And that you can find somebody that you can trust, and find all that warmth.”

Sometimes Madison speaks, too. “Bully” begins with her saying:

Hey Siri, what’s a bully?

A driving beat underscores Pholwattana’s rap, and Madison’s chanting of the words:

We gotta make a change and believe it (believe it)
It’s something we all can achieve it (achieve it)
Enough with the pain and the grieving (grieving)

Although “You Me We” is a children’s album, it is for everyone, Pholwattana said: “It’s about people going through everyday issues. We talk about keeping your composure.

“You know kids, their anxiety and fears, everything that they’re going through, maybe she’s restless or maybe a child has a problem at school, the kids are not alone. I’m still a child inside.”

MONTCLAIR KIDS IN THE ARTS

Madison Skye Pholwattana is one among many talented Montclair children. Here are just a few we have written about recently. (There are many more. Know a Montclair kid who we should write about? Contact us at culture@montclairlocal.news.)

Arabella Egan

She played her song “Take It One Step at a Time” for her graduation from Renaissance Middle School, and then on “The Today Show.”  

Juniper Shelley

The Montclair High School sophomore released her album “Juniper” on June 1. Marshall Crenshaw is one of her backup players.  

Ife Joseph

The 10-year-old fifth-grader at Hillside Elementary School created an app relating to mental health and social justice. Recently, she was selected for the top 50 out of thousands nominated for Time magazine and Nickelodeon’s first “ Kid of the Year” award.

Valentina Roever

The then-sixth-grader (now seventh-grader) at Glenfield Middle School won the Grand Prize in the “Rightfully Hers Youth Art Competition” sponsored by the National Archives with her painting “Reflecting on Women’s Right to Vote.” The contest, and her painting, commemorated 100 years of women’s suffrage.  

Maggie Borgen

The Montclair High School junior not only founded In Harmony Montclair, which yearly presents a variety show produced by and starring kids, for charity, she also leads the New Jersey chapter of the teen scoliosis support group Curvy Girls, coordinated the MHS Democrats’ Youth & Politics video series about Montclair’s municipal election, and is a student intern who works with Luna Stage. 

Max Munoz

A 2020 MHS graduate, Munoz toured with the School of Rock AllStars in summer 2019, playing piano and singing in an ensemble of 175, chosen by audition from out of 130,000.