Rozelle Hastwell spent months preparing to release her biggest project to date, hoping to change the world through what she does best: music.
The Australian native moved to the United States over 14 years ago with her husband and their five children.
When the family first arrived in the U.S., they originally settled in California near Hastwell’s parents-in-law and became close with another family in their church’s congregation who had a home available for rent in Springville.
Hastwell said she and her husband felt compelled to make the move, and not long after finding themselves in America, they were moving once more to Utah County.
“We had no connection to Springville, and I didn’t know anything about Springville other than the house was there so that’s kind of where we landed,” she said. “We liked it so much we stayed.”
With a new place to call home and neighbors to call friends, Hastwell felt a sense of fulfillment in several aspects of her life.
Hastwell was 10 years old when she began singing in commercials and performing in professional musicals in Australia. A year later, she auditioned for Perth’s Young Entertainers in 1982 in western Australia and became the youngest finalist at 11 years old.
For the next seven years, Hastwell appeared as a regular on the program. Afterward, Hastwell traveled to France as an exchange student at 18 years old.
“My whole trajectory kind of changed from there,” she said. “I’ve always loved music, so I kept it up, but I really wanted to focus on my children and raising them through homeschool. I did still dabble in music because once it’s in your bones, you can never shake it out.”
Hastwell took a 30-year break to focus on her children, performing when she could without launching a career. Over the years, Hastwell sang in church and at weddings performing as a vocalist in a jazz band in 2008 after coming to Utah.
Seemingly out of nowhere, she said, the idea for Mimi’s Playtime struck her.
“It wasn’t something I was looking for, I was just always wondering in my heart, ‘What do I do with this talent?’” Hastwell said. “I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t feel right raising a family and launching a career then.”
A friend had asked Hastwell to do a lesson on Australia for a homeschool co-op. Hastwell said she had collected all kinds of materials to make the lesson noteworthy for the children.
The lesson went off without a hitch. The children ate iconic foods from Australia, sang songs, and saw pictures and books from Hastwell’s childhood home. Hastwell said that day has stuck with her ever since. She wondered if she could teach children about the world in an engaging way on a bigger scale.
Hastwell sheepishly shared the idea with friends in 2017, who supported the idea wholeheartedly and calmed her fears. The group initially began looking into using YouTube as a platform to perform covers of children’s songs.
A week or two after the initial conversation, Hastwell said she began to wake up with whole original songs in her head. She feverishly wrote them down and recorded over five dozen songs.
“I thought maybe I was meant to write songs for children that would teach them about the world around them,” she said. “That’s where this all came from. I always wanted the songs to be a vehicle to educate children in a fun and engaging way.”
After years of work, Hastwell released her first children’s entertainment project called “If a Kangaroo Can Jump” on July 17. The project, an album featuring 10 original songs, is meant to inspire children and parents to learn about the world around them together.
Hastwell said one of her favorite songs was inspired by one of her two grandchildren. On Christmas, Hastwell and her grandson were making cookies with icing and M&M’s when she began to sing “Yummy, Yummy for the Tummy.”
As she was singing with her grandson, Hastwell’s youngest daughter collected a way to record the lyrics for her mother, exclaiming that it was a song. The song is now an upbeat inclusion to the album set to a Latin beat.
Although the songs are geared toward children, Hastwell said she takes pride in the fact that she has not watered down or simplified the lyrics or concepts presented within each song, which she believes sets Mimi’s Playtime apart from other children’s entertainment.
“I truly believe that if we have the kind of mentors in our lives, like our parents, that children are curious enough to ask questions and learn,” Hastwell said. “Sometimes I think we underestimate the capabilities of children.”
Hastwell said she hopes her songs compel children to strike up a conversation and ask questions, even if it’s about vocabulary.
Hastwell is currently working on new projects and said she has enough material for two additional albums but the challenge she faces is having the means and time to sit down, record and perfect the content in a timely manner for her audience.
The Springville singer-songwriter said, more than anything, she hopes her music is more than just facts to the children. For Hastwell, it is important that her music educates the heart in addition to the mind.
“With good and correct information, and when we understand that information, we become more compassionate people,” Hastwell said. “If you really do understand the world around you, it makes for a better, well-rounded, passionate person, and we need more of that in the world.”