JAMES: Welcome back to Story Warren, Michael J. Tinker! For those who are just now discovering your work, can you summarize how you’ve engaged with kids and their families over the last ten years?
MICHAEL: Where do I start?! I’ve released six children’s albums and filmed a six episode ‘TV’ series. I have a family podcast, YouTube channel with tons of videos and animations, published books and toured shows throughout the UK and abroad.
JAMES: Speaking of your outer-space-themed Adventures of the Juniper TV Series, and all the zany characters involved: do you have a favorite character? How did they become your favorite… or why can’t you choose?
MICHAEL: Like my children, I love them all! They each have their own quirky personality (I’m talking about my characters not my children now) that I enjoy so much. and they probably each reflect me in some way or other! Mr. Grumpy – he’s with me pretty much all the time and has become very popular with the kids for some reason. He’s basically eternally grumpy, but then I think we all have a bit of Mr. Grumpy in each of us. And he says things that adults probably should say, so the kids love that!
Igor is our chief security officer. Again, very lovable, but we do have to keep him away from the wires in the spaceship (which is quite difficult because a spaceship has lots of wires) because he thinks that they are forbidden spaghetti!
Dr Von Pomplenickel is our chief engineer, but he is much more liable to break things than fix things or turn them into a time travelling machine when we just wanted a toaster.
Captain Archibald is our fearless commander. Fearless because he doesn’t know what’s going on most of the time. A lovable toff (English for a posh man), but totally inadequate for the job, which is probably why he got it.
Septima, the second in command, is the most organised person in the galaxy, so we do rely on her quite a lot, though she is slightly neurotic with her organisation. Her lists are something to behold. Roberta, the ships on board computer, is the most capable one on the ship, though, she does believe that she was made for higher things so can be a little bit sarcastic at times. The great thing is about all these characters is that they reflect aspects of all of us and so we can learn a lot from them about following Jesus with all our flaws and struggles.
JAMES: There are a lot of good things a writer could say when they start putting words together. But I’ve noticed that your songs and other work seem always to return to the amazing love and generosity of God. Was there a moment in time when you decided this was the theme you were going to build everything around?
MICHAEL: It’s interesting that you’ve picked up on that! I’ve never consciously thought about it in that way, except that that is the fundamental message of the gospel. I think we need to it hear time and again or maybe it’s the message that I need to keep hearing. I’m very conscious of my own brokenness and sin. There are times when God has to remind me of it but there are plenty of times when he doesn’t need to remind me of it. However, probably what he does need to keep reminding me of is that I am loved and accepted, that I’m cherished in spite of all of my brokenness and that I’m safe. If I can help children understand that and believe that for themselves, and find their rest and hope in Christ, I feel my job will be done.
JAMES: After ten years of making music for children, what keeps you coming back to writing for this particular audience?
MICHAEL: Although I write for children, I often write for myself as well. The truths that I’m teaching children aren’t any different to the truths that I would be teaching adults. They are truths that we all need to hear. I’m just putting them in simpler forms that are more digestible. But actually I’ve found that a lot of adults have really appreciated my kids’ music because it’s helped them get to the heart of the gospel perhaps quicker than a Latin or Greek-quoting sermon would. I find songs are the best way to remind my own heart of the gospel, so if I can share those songs with children (and the adults listening), and help them be reminded of the gospel too, then I will keep doing it as long as I have breath.
JAMES: You have a new project in the works—an anniversary collection of twenty-three of your most-loved tracks, plus two brand-new songs. How can we see what that’s all about, and where can we get our hands on it?
MICHAEL: Head over to my website, and there’s a little video all about it and a description of what’s going to be going into the album and how you can pre-order. We’re remastering everything and remixing some of the songs to give them all a bright sparkle. I’m really excited about getting all these songs in one place, especially for those who’ve not heard my music before. There are lots of goodies that you can get as well as the digital or CD album. For instance there are opportunities for me to write a song for you, or even to write a song with you! Also check out my website michaeljtinker.com for lots of other resources!