Growing up listening to The Beatles, Otis Redding and Creedence Clearwater Revival, Rich Collins’ musical aspirations took their cues from the gritty vocals and powerful guitars of those early influences. Today, Collins lives the dream of every musician — performing in front of adoring fans in sold out venues.
“I’ve wanted to be Steven Tyler from Aerosmith since I was 10.” For a few hours, he is Steven Tyler. In blue coveralls.
If you're a parent, you likely know Rich Collins as Mover Rich from Imagination Movers. Made up of Rich Collins, Scott Durbin, Dave Poche and Scott “Smitty” Smith, the New Orleans-based Movers play tunes for pre-schoolers that have more in common with The Clash than Raffi.
Having completed a three-year run of the self-titled show on the Disney Channel, the Movers are bringing music to cities across North America during the Rock-O-Matic tour. The tour bus pulls into Austin on Saturday, Sept. 29 for a show at the Paramount Theatre.
While it’s easy to look at the Imagination Movers as something a kids' network cooked up and assembled, the Movers began like most other aspiring musical groups: Four friends with day jobs and families that dreamed of making music. The only difference is that the Movers' audience was pre-schoolers, not college students.
Collins recalls the bands beginnings: “I remember one day we were at my friends’ son’s birthday party, and were saying ‘Hey, The Wiggles... isn’t it amazing what they’ve been able to do?’"
“We started talking about all the TV shows that were on and thought, wouldn’t it be cool to do a more rocking version of a kids TV show. Like, how cool would be to do a Red Hot Chili Peppers meets Mr. Rogers kind of show,” says Collins.
The four men turned that conversation into a plan, and after their kids went to bed they began sketching out the idea of Movers. Collins put together a recording studio in the back of his house, and the Movers recorded songs, burned CDs and put those discs in the hands of everyone they knew.
Things grew organically, with bigger gigs and constant refinement of the show and music. By the time Movers played the New Orleans Jazz Fest in 2005, they’d caught the attention of Disney; in 2008, the show turned into a TV series as well as nationally-released CD and concert tour.
“From this indie kids rock band in New Orleans we graduated to this international brand. We’re on in 55 countries. We’ve won an Emmy Award,” Collins says. “It’s pretty amazing, and I feel pretty proud and gratified that I’ve been able to care for my family with the fruits and labors of this for the past five, six or seven years now.”
For moms and dads worried about spending more time looking at phones than action on stage, Collins assures that Rock-O-Matic will deliver. “I guarantee the grown-ups are going to have more fun than they’ll expect at these shows. It’s for them to enjoy together."
The goofy on-stage high jinx and anthemic lyrics are only part of what makes the Movers something that parents and kids can enjoy. Collins says that the secret of Imagination Movers' success comes from the tone of the show, which is rooted in parent/child playtime. The act on stage is an extension of Collins' role as a dad at home.
Just like his parental audience members, he knows the same parental ups and downs that we do. He may be wearing blue coveralls, but there’s no doubt that Rich Collins is living his childhood dream on stage. And even though he's not Steven Tyler, there's still edge and rock influence.
Collins characterizes the energy of Rock-O-Matic as a Clash-meets-kids experience. “[It's] a messy, loud rock concert, where everything is live. Basically, everything we’re doing reminds me of The Flaming Lips.”
The Imagination Movers show will be at the Paramount Theatre on Saturday, Sept. 29.