To raise money for one of his favorite charities, Steve Denyes is asking people to simply listen.
The lifelong Del Mar resident, and one half of the kid-friendly band Hullabaloo, challenged himself in February to write, record and post a song a day for 20 consecutive days based on titles submitted by others and selected randomly each morning.
He didn’t intend to turn the effort into Hullabaloo’s 14th album.
“The original kernel of the idea was to write, record and post a song a day for 20 days and be done with it,” he said. “But it turns out I really enjoyed the songs so I decided to make it an album.”
Denyes said he did something similar a few years ago as “an exercise in fun.”
“This time I kicked it up a notch and added a fundraising aspect for Happy Star Melodies,” he said. “I had friends and fans submit song titles for a small donation. There was a $10 minimum but most people gave more.”
Denyes said about 30 song titles were submitted but he decided to make the cut at 20.
“I think any more than that would break me,” he said. “Truthfully, I feel like I could do it indefinitely if I didn’t have anything else to do in my life. But the real world sort of creeps in.
“There were a couple of good ones that didn’t get written that I still have on my list of songs to write,” he added. “And there are a couple that I’m very glad I didn’t pick.”
Although he read the suggestions as they came in, Denyes said he didn’t start writing until he drew the title from a hat to “keep it fair and honest.”
Each song is about two-and-a-half minutes long and took, on average, five or six hours to write and record.
The easiest one, “Best Day of Fishing,” took about two hours. The longest was “Carrie the 1.” Written on day 16, it took almost nine hours. He said he had the most fun writing “Go Surfing,” which was submitted by the wife of friend.
“His name is Jack and he’s an excellent father and his surfing often suffers because of that,” Denyes said. “It’s sort of a surf intervention.”
Happy Star Melodies was created by Matthew and Sarah Graham to honor their son, Kelptyn, who was born in January 2011 with several medical challenges. Whenever his health would allow, he attended Hullabaloo concerts until he passed away in May 2015.
Happy Star’s mission is to “bring love, laughter, happiness and healing through musical melodies” to children fighting life-threatening illnesses. The Grahams spent more than 400 days in the hospital with their son.
“We focus on putting musical instruments in the hands of young minds to foster creativity, positive energy, and give comfort in often cold, lonely hospital rooms,” the website states. “We hope to dash a bit of our Happy Star’s light on each child as they fight the unimaginable and share a light all their own.”
“Kelptyn loved, loved, loved music,” Denyes said. “He just stole my heart. So I really want to support their amazing and important work. Every penny they raise turns into an instrument for kids.”
To date, 819 instruments have been gifted.
“20 Songs in 20 Days” was released April 27. The album is available for download on iTunes for $9.99. Money from streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora also benefits Happy Star.
“All you have to do is listen and money goes to help these kids,” said Denyes, whose 20-day challenge has so far raised about $800 for Happy Star.