It seems as though fate wanted musical dynamic duo Renee & Jeremy to make music together. Prior to ever meeting and collaborating, Renee Stahl and Jeremy Toback were linked through family friends, who suggested they get together and write.
“We have these crossings in our lives — we’re totally meant to have come together,” Stahl explains. “We knew we liked each other’s solo music, and had mutual friends in the Los Angeles songwriter world. It just so happens my husband’s family was really close with Jeremy’s family; Jeremy and my husband’s parents would go out to dinner every Friday night. I most likely was at a party at his place, met him, and didn’t even realize. It was my husband who suggested we should make a record together. It was just … meant to be.”
Today, Renee & Jeremy are a musical duo who specialize in mellow, children-friendly renditions of both reimagined cover songs and their own originals, which have been streamed more than 100 million times by fans across the world. Their first album, 2007’s It’s a Big World!, is considered one of the top 50 baby music albums of all time.
“I moved from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara full time seven years ago,” said Stahl, whose previous musical projects, such as 2017’s Simpatico, included such special guests as Maya Rudolph, Lisa Loeb, and Molly Shannon. “Santa Barbara is just an easier, more beautiful place to raise a family.” Toback, meanwhile, laughed that his only connection to Santa Barbara is that they made their new album of cover songs, Whole Lotta Love, together here. The first single is a hushed rendition of the Pixies’ classic “Where Is My Mind?” and they also cover hits by Led Zeppelin, INXS, Guns N’ Roses, MGMT, Sly & the Family Stone, and the B52s.
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Toback, who’s best known for his work with the grunge band Brad, said that he would “just drive up the Pacific Coast Highway” and ask Stahl, “What song are we doing today?” They worked fast, usually completing one or two songs a day. In terms of their cover selections, they agreed that it’s harder to choose the songs than actually record them.
“We’re going for a very specific type of music,” said Toback. “We’re trying to bridge a couple worlds: On one hand, we target children’s music and project a loving and nurturing vibe while, on the other hand, we are establishing an audience who don’t know about our lullabies. So we are trying to expand subject matter to more darkness and emotional nuance because of that.”
During the pandemic, Stahl played a series of Facebook live shows that she called “A Cup of Tea with Renee.” “I probably never would have done that if it weren’t for the pandemic because it forced me to find new songs and perform online, and I miss doing it,” she said. “It was fun for me, and it definitely stretched my repertoire.”
Toback used his free time to focus on his music and was eventually convinced by Stahl to work on a new album together. “I couldn’t have predicted it,” he said. “But it has such a special energy to it.”