In April 2010, Chad Smith teamed up with singer, Leslie Bixler and Dick Van Dyke to record ‘Rhythm ‘Train’ a children’s album which was inspired by Chad’s son, Cole. Leslie Bixter was a music teacher at Smith’s son Cole’s school who had already recorded music professionally; she noticed that Chad interacted with the children at the school well and the project was born from that. Bixter knew Van Dyke and was able to get him on board:
How did you get involved in making a kids’ album?
Leslie Bixler is a music teacher at my son Cole’s old preschool in Malibu, and she’s just great. She’s put out albums of her own. Anyway, it just stemmed from the way she saw me interacting with the kids at the school. Having kids, you know, you need to parent them, but it brings out the childlike side of you, the need to play. I certainly have that!
Anyway, we just hit it off and she said, “You have a great personality for a kids’ album, you should help me out with this,” and it just went from there. She and her husband Bill, who’s also a recording musician, they have a studio at their house, so it was the three of us hanging out there, and the whole thing was Leslie’s vision—that there’s this rhythm train and that it can go anywhere—around the world, outer space, underwater. We would try stuff and it would work really quickly.
This album is full of the stuff kids love.
The themes on the album are sort of universal kid things—pirates, dinosaurs, trains…Leslie’s worked with kids a long time and she just knows what kids like. She also has a son, Robin, who’s a little bit older (he’s about 13 or 14 now) and he helped to write some of the songs. The story has to work in a way that holds kids’ interest, so you have to keep it moving. The concepts were more hers; I helped with the music.
How did your kids inspire the content of the album?
My son Cole was so into trains as a little kid, so the song “Cole’s Trains” is for him.
How did you get Dick van Dyke involved?
He and Leslie have been friends for years, and he was up for anything…he was up to try to rap! He wasn’t the greatest rapper, but he was game to try it! He’s 84 years old and still so sharp and funny. Source
Chad plays a variety of instruments on the album including drums and guitar; he also plays the part of several characters in the accompanying videos.
The project has performed on a couple of occasions e.g. for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation’s A Time For Heroes celebrity family picnic in June 2010.
A portion of all proceeds from Rhythm Train go to Children’s Hospitals in The United States.