Jesse Thom and his puppets send love 

New music video spreading positive message for kids during pandemic goes viral

click to enlarge Jesse Thom and his bunnies are featured in the new video “Sending Love.” - Photo submitted
  • Jesse Thom and his bunnies are featured in the new video “Sending Love.” Photo submitted

Be warned: if you're feeling vulnerable, Jesse Thom's new music video "Sending Love" might bring you to tears.

But, argues the children's performer, musician, author and puppeteer, there's nothing wrong with that.

"To me, crying is one of the greatest gifts," Thom says from his home on Salt Spring Island. "It's how I move feeling in my body ... That's kind of what the song is orbiting around."

You might remember Thom—who has lived and worked in Whistler and is the brother of local musician and photographer Rachel Lewis—from his children's book Some Bunny Loves You. He was prepared to embark on a puppet show tour that included stops in the Sea to Sky corridor when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

"One morning, I turned to my wife and said, 'The puppets have something to say to the world,'" Thom says. "I didn't know what the song would be like, but the melody came to me during my morning meditation practice. I sat at the piano and worked out this song. The ideas started to accumulate and feed each other. I heard different parts and voices of the characters. My wife helped me shoot the video and put it all together."

The video starts with Thom sitting at his desk with his feather pen in his hand, trying to work out how to "give his love to the world" with all his shows cancelled. Enter Chester, a bunny puppet with a moustache and monocle who strolls in playing "Hot Cross Buns" on his recorder. He has a request: he wants to go to the store to buy some actual hot cross buns.

Thom gently reminds him that's not currently allowed.

Chester is the one who comes up with the idea for a song before launching into the plaintive, piano-driven track.

If you don't tear up at the opening lines, "Sending love in this time of isolation / sending love to your distant, safe location," chances are you're having a good day.

From there, the verses jump from puppet to puppet, including a man in a top hat on a woodpile and a wild-eared bunny in the bathtub.

It's at once whimsical, heartening, funny, and poignant—and it's garnered more than 75,000 views in just two weeks. One of its fans has even been the legendary Canadian children's performer Raffi.

"I slept on it for a few days—I didn't check on the post—and when I popped back on, I got a friend request from Raffi," Thom says. "I was like, 'What's that about?' He said, 'Hey Jesse, I'd like to share this.' Raffi was asking me permission to share it! That's when I clued in and checked the stats."

It seemed the video had made a mark.

"Most of the comments I'm getting are, 'This is exactly what I needed to hear right now,'" he says. "It's spinning out now beyond my control. I'm getting messages from parents and students and teachers. It's hard because I like to reply to everyone. It's been tough to keep up with all the notes."

One other unexpected response came from a U.K.-based company called Brave Bison, which works with brands and content creators to help them produce and distribute their videos.

While they're still in talks, Thom says he's looking at a two-year contract for the video. That will mean the company can shop it around for licensing opportunities.

"It's funny because I just finished a six-month sync music program where I was learning how to write and submit music for television and film licensing and I felt so overwhelmed after that course that I put it away," he says. "I was like, 'You know what? I'm just going to make a song with my puppets about COVID-19' and now it turns out that this song and video are hitting that licensing world. It's kind of weird how that worked out because I didn't apply any of what I learned in the course to this particular piece of music. It's been the one that's carried forward in that way."

In the end, Thom says, he's just happy to see the project touch so many people.

"To make something and say, 'This is really important,' it feels weird and self-indulgent," he says. "I've had to get over that because I am getting that message from people. I need to own that and shepherd this piece of media into the world as far as I can because it's helping people."

To see the video visit youtu.be/QxR9_RRI9a0. To contribute to Thom's Patreon go to patreon.com/jessethom.

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