TORONTO — Fred Penner won his legendary status entertaining kids with "The Cat Came Back" and other favourites, but the singer says he's considering an album for grown-ups.
"I've written songs along the way," the 70-year-old performer said in a recent interview. "Not necessarily connecting with the world of a child.
"There is a little part of me that — at some point — I will release something else that has a deeper connection," he said before letting out a hearty laugh.
Given his earliest fans are already well into their thirties, Penner said it makes sense to give them a collection of songs that speak to their current experiences with themes of "love and loss."
With his recently released 13th album, "Hear the Music," Penner is still playing within the boundaries of his usual work, but has partnered with a diverse group of fellow Canadian artists who rarely dabble in children's music.
Ron Sexsmith, Basia Bulat, Alex Cuba and Afie Jurvanen — better known as the act Bahamas — are among the collaborators. He's also brought in his son Damien Penner and daughter Hayley Gene to contribute on songs.
"I probably got through maybe half the list of the people who I'd like to bring on board," he said.
"At some point I didn't have enough material to do justice to other players."
Penner said the rest of them — including singer Serena Ryder — could turn up on a future album.
The singer-songwriter formed bonds within Canada's indie rock world when he hosted the Polaris Music Prize gala in 2015. He ingratiated himself with his fellow musicians and fans when he delivered an unexpected medley of tunes from previous Polaris winners.
"That was a bit mindblowing for the audience and myself," he said.
He did it again during a Juno Awards industry party this year when he tackled "Spinning Wheel," a song written by David Clayton-Thomas.
"It's something that may not be expected from me," Penner said.
"In a way I want the audience to know I'm more than a pretty face here."
Penner's early career was weighted with moments of sadness. He's credited his younger sister Susan, who had Down syndrome and couldn't articulate words, as an inspiration for exploring his love for music.
In those days, Penner divided his performance time between coffee shops and centres for children with special needs. But his career as a children's entertainer came into focus after Susan died at age 12. His father died a year later.
His songs have typically focused on the brighter side of life, with an emphasis on "universal concepts" like friendship, teamwork and celebration.
Penner said he's been asked for years whether he'd consider leaving children's music behind to revisit his early roots playing folk music.
He assures fans he's not going to make a sudden change of priorities late in his career. But if that album for adults does materialize, don't expect anything too risque, Penner added.
"Certainly no language or advisory warnings," he said with a smile.
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David Friend, The Canadian Press