Des Larson is well-known in the community and beyond for his music.
The Comox Valley singer/songwriter has two blues/roots albums to his credit, with another one set to be released on Nov. 26.
Lately, however, he’s steered his talent in a different direction.
Larson, who performs musically as Desmond Day, has created a children’s YouTube show called Mr. Day, which is gaining popularity.
The idea for the show came as a result of COVID.
“I changed my focus when I moved back to the Island from the Lower Mainland. During the lockdown I moved back in with my parents. We’ve had this dream together that we could help inspire young kids to use their imagination to inspire change in the world around them… so it became an initiative to create something. Life is a gift that is meant to be shared.
“We made a children’s (studio) set in our house, and broadcast it to our local community. We’ve been committed to it ever since.”
Debuted at Telethon
Mr. Day made his debut at the 2020 Comox Valley Child Development Association Telethon.
The reaction was instant and positive… sometimes too positive.
“Recently at the Roy’s Towne Pub, in Royston, I played a song and stood up on my stool. Then I jumped off my stool and finished the song and looked over and all the children in the restaurant were standing on their stools. It was effective, but almost too effective.”
Larson said the entire experience has enriched his life.
“I have become richer as a person,” he said. “There’s really no distinction between children’s media and what I do. It has integrated its way into my values, my mission statement, and how I approach music now. It’s different.”
Penner an inspiration
Larson returned to the Telethon this year to perform and to meet one of his idols and the main inspiration for this new path in his life: Fred Penner.
“He may not know this, but we met backstage at the Junos a few years ago, probably 2018, and he had a magnetic energy about him,” said Larson. “I was speaking to a pop artist named Shawn Hook, and we were speaking about the event and how luxurious it was and I just couldn’t take my eyes off Fred. (Shawn) goes ‘Really? That’s the most important person in the room?’ and I said the one who gives their life to empower children is the star of the room. He’s such a class act and he has inspired me to be of a similar light - the light that shines for kids.”
Larson also draws inspiration from American singer-songwriter Michael Franti, who is well-known for his support of peace and social justice issues.
“He is kind of where I see myself - someone who plays music for the world and for causes, and is always on the cutting edge.”
Larson said the appeal of a younger target audience is that children have greater imaginations than adults, which expands the boundaries of his entertainment possibilities.
“It’s true what they say, children are like sponges. It’s much easier to say ‘use your imagination to reshape the world around you’ to a child than it is to an adult. It was my imagination that drew me into music in the first place. I had a huge imagination as a kid and I didn’t have a whole lot of outlet for it, as my family wasn’t that musical. So the music thing came on very early for me. But the driving force has always been imagination. And now that I have found it, I want to share it.”
Mr. Day has a plethora of characters as guests on his show, including Rusty Joe (who lives in a garbage can), Willie the owl, Mr. Troll, Gus the giraffe… and a magic mailbox, which plays voice-recorded letters sent to Mr. Day from children.
A family affair
Ironically, while his discovery of music was somewhat of an insular route, being that his immediate family was not especially musically inclined, the new persona, Mr. Day, is a family affair.
The set is in the family home, and both his parents - Lyle and Kathleen - are heavily involved in the creation and evolution of the Mr. Day Show.
Kathleen is responsible for all the crafts and puppets on the set, while Lyle comes up with a lot of the storylines - as well as playing some of the characters.
“With mom, it’s something that comes naturally to her; she has a huge imagination. And my dad, well, my dad is like a child (imagination-wise). You wouldn’t know that looking at him, but my father will come up with a lot of ideas. So a lot of the creative direction for the show comes from my dad.
“If there is one thing I have gained directly from my parents, it’s the imagination aspect. But more importantly, we all share the same values. We believe a little joy, peace and love would make the world a better place.”
Desmond says the show is somewhat of a dream come true for Kathleen.
“My mother once had a vision when she was younger, that she would be walking down the street with children from other nations, singing the song ‘We Are The World’… so it’s harmonious, really. I often think of this quote I have: ‘sometimes we have to leave the comforts of our own home to pursue a dream.’ I got to do that, make my music, and I pursued a dream in music and made a lot of great contacts. Then I came home. So it’s like a cocoon to butterfly and then back to cocoon. But the cheezy thing is, you are always the butterfly - just in a different state.”
The Mr. Day Show has its own YouTube channel and can be seen at https://bit.ly/3tC3q06
Children who want to send a message to the magic mailbox are encouraged to reach out to Larson’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/des.larson.9 or his Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/desmond_day/