What began as a good-hearted gesture to cheer up children in the hospital has blossomed into a children’s rock concert that has embarked on a national tour.
This Sunday, the dynamic duo Princess Katie & Racer Steve will make a stop at the Providence Performing Arts Center.
The two have achieved a nod of approbation from parents, being selected as Parenting Magazine’s picks for Best Music CDs for their albums “Songs for the Coolest Kids” and “Fast & Feisty.”
Children related to her best as a princess, said Katie O’Sullivan, who adopts the persona when performing on stage.
The two began visiting hospitals in 2006, with O’Sullivan decked out as Princess Fiona from the movie “Shrek.”
“They would sit up a little bit taller when a princess came in — the boys as well as girls,” O’Sullivan said. She recruited guitarist Steve Borne to accompany her. When he found his Shrek costume hindered his guitar playing, the two decided to create their own characters to entertain the children.
Soon, they were playing other gigs, and also recording in Borne’s studio. In addition to entertaining children as Racer Steve, Borne produces sound for both TV and film.
When the two get onstage, they are accompanied by a bass and drums to provide a full band sound. They play a variety of genres — from rock, funk, swing, surf, country and Bossa nova.
“It’s fun for people to hear a different style of music and it’s fun for the kids,” Borne said. He said the variety also keeps the musicians energized.
The New-York based duo has built quite a following in the city and surrounding areas. Fans know to come dressed up the way they would to a rock concert, something O’Sullivan hopes will also happen in Providence.
The band’s lyrics are family friendly, O’Sullivan said, and while the messages are empowering and encourage positive behavior, they shy away from being didactic in their approach.
“They don’t talk down to children,” O’Sullivan said. “They are written from my perspective and they learn from modeling. For example, I talk about how I had the opportunity to tell the truth or lie, and how I opted to tell the truth. A lot of songs deal with emotions and how to express yourself using positive methods.”
While they still volunteer to visit hospitals, the two musicians are also enjoying the benefits the concerts have on the general public.
“Every show is different,” O’Sullivan said. “When the kids see their parents laughing and having fun, it’s so much more fun for them.”
And no matter how much their parents rock out, Borne said the children also realize they’ve been treated to something created just for them.
“They walk away feeling ‘wow, this is something they did just for us,’ ” Borne said.