Song To Book
Andy Gutman writes children’s books based on his own songs.
Andy Gutman started writing poetry when he was a student at Southfield-Lathrup High School. Soon, he began turning those verses into songs.
At Michigan State University, Gutman continued his expressiveness while pursuing a degree in accounting. He did not stop as accounting work for commercial real estate firms moved him into positions based in the real estate itself.
Gutman, 48, and president of the Farbman Group, based in Southfield, can count more than 300 finished songs, which can be accessed via his Soundcloud account.
As he advanced in his day-to-day work, Gutman sought professionals to polish off his creative side with musical arrangements that could bring three of his songs to public attention through iTunes.
Then he, in conversation with his wife and daughter, had another idea — turning the songs into children’s picture books. First came Charlie the Caterpillar in 2017, quickly followed by Pop Lullaby.
The books, self-published and introduced through classroom readings, are getting a wider audience April 7 through Paper Trail Books in Royal Oak. Gutman will read them, singer-keyboardist Steve Acho will perform the related music and posters will be given out to children attending the presentation.
Gutman, who produces his projects to retain creative consistency, is looking forward to sharing his outlook.
“The two books and songs that go with them have a personal meaning for me,” he explains. “They’re both written with or about my daughter, Riley, and I love that about them.
“The storyline in Charlie has the message that everyone is unique and special and has something valuable that needs to be known. Conversations about caterpillars with my wife, Lesley, and our daughter led to a song and the book.”
The second book is a bedtime story about a tired father trying to soothe a baby through song — but also about the hopes and aspirations he has for his child. “It’s based on songs I used to make up and sing to my daughter when she was an infant,” he says. “I would be trying to get her to sleep or stop crying. When you’re a new parent, those are tough times because you don’t get much sleep, but they’re also special times because you connect with your child on a pure level.”
Although the text for Pop Lullaby was written long before Charlie the Caterpillar, they were produced in opposite order. While Caterpillar took almost two years to get completed because Gutman had to become familiar with the process, experience expedited the development of Pop Lullaby to two months.
Gutman, after college graduation, became familiar with the real estate business as he worked for the Schostak Brothers. Believing he needed an international focus, Gutman worked for Trizec Properties based in Canada.
“I missed the family work environment and had the good fortune to interview with Burt Farbman, our chairman,” Gutman says. “I was offered a job and took a pay cut to work with them. I started as a financial analyst and have spent 22 years here. My wife is a senior vice president at Farbman.”
The Gutmans, Novi residents who are members of Temple Israel, recently celebrated their daughter’s bat mitzvah. His interest in young people is further demonstrated through a commitment to the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, which he first served as an adviser before joining the local board and now the international board.
“I see some of the values and ideals that you learn about in Jewish life and Hebrew school in the Caterpillar book,” says Gutman, who went on to write with some very specifically Jewish themes. “I wrote some songs for my daughter’s bat mitzvah that one day I plan on turning into books. The songs are done in English and Hebrew.
“It was such a touching time watching my daughter transition from child to adult. There’s creative content in that, but I have to pace myself and not do everything at once.”
Production of Gutman’s songs is done through a label he created — Gutcheck Music — on Soundcloud. His books are published through Dog Ear Self Publishing.
“This has all been a learning process because I want to have control of the songs and books,” says Gutman, who found book illustrators through companies established to provide that service for independent writers.
“It is important to me to maintain how my materials are used. Neither book is about making money; they’re about creative control.”
Although he plans future books with Jewish content, Gutman currently looks to wider connections just as he does in his own activities.
“I’ve been a member of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce for years as a way of bridging the gap between the Jewish and Chaldean communities,” Gutman says. “The communities are very similar in a lot of ways.
“One year, when I was on the planning committee for their annual dinner and set to speak, I hired Steve Acho, who will be at the bookstore, and another musician to perform a song I wrote to open up the event.”
If the books do start making money, Gutman plans on donating a large portion of the proceeds to a nonprofit organization focused on children. He says he believes it is important to give back to the community, and he’s looking for an appropriate organization.
Andy Gutman will head a presentation of his children’s books 1-2 p.m. Saturday, April 7, at Paper Trail Books, Royal Oak. (248) 677-4628. Books are available at gutcheckpublishing.com; songs can be downloaded at soundcloud.com/drewgut.