BROOKSVILLE - After 30 years in the music business, Tim and Laura Battersby figure they've written about 250 songs together.
They are surely the only Grammy Award winners who have more than 10 songs devoted to the topic of "elephants toenails" - an exclamation-turned-catch phrase that began when Tim Battersby forgot his words on stage.
The British-American couple who perform as "The Battersby Duo" released their ninth album, "Hide and Seek," earlier this year. And, for the first time in their career, they've cleared their summer schedule of touring and are spending it at their Brooksville home.
"The important thing is to never let anyone know how beautiful this part of the world is," joked Tim Battersby. "Shh, don't tell anyone up north to come to Brooksville. Go to Boca."
The Battersbys started their career in the D.C. area, eventually moving to Tampa and then Pasco County before settling in Brooksville. The Battersbys enjoy the privacy of Brooksville's hills and easy access to Tampa International Airport, an important amenity, since they travel more than half of the year.
The Battersbys say a common misconception about writing, recording and performing children's music is that it's all the same.
There are several age groups within the umbrella of children's music, and different approaches work with different ages. Falling asleep on stage, for example, only works until about age 6.
Laura Battersby said their latest album includes lyrics diverse enough for the whole family.
One song, "The Builder" was written with the immediate community in mind.
"We see so many people in Hernando County affected by the construction industry, and kids are very sensitive to how people talk about their parents," Laura Battersby said.
"It's important to thank all the people who are rebuilding after storms, and after 9/11 ... we wanted children to feel proud of their construction worker parent."
With children as their audience, the Battersbys spend a lot of time on stage acting goofy or seemingly misbehaving.
Laura Battersby said her character tends to fall asleep on stage, and that with more intimate audiences, such as in a library or school, children politely try to wake her up.
"We get to see kids at their best," Laura Battersby said, adding audience members will "gently" remind her to pay attention.
"They don't want to say anything mean," Laura Battersby said.
However, their shows - performed for handfuls of children in libraries or auditoriums, or for thousands at the White House or Kennedy Center - can address serious topics, such as children with special needs.
"Kids are the source, the inspiration ... their innocence and desire to learn," Laura Battersby said.
"They're never cynical," added Tim Battersby. "If you give them your heart, they'll give you their soul."
A lot has changed from the early days of The Battersby Duo.
Both Tim and Laura Battersby worked as teachers before they expanded their classrooms to the stage. Summers were spent on the road with their daughter, playing day and sleepaway camps up north during the summer months.
Laura Battersby remembered stuffing envelopes while relaxing by a New Hampshire lake, letting the Florida schools know about their show and availability.
"We lived at Kinko's during those days," Laura Battersby said.
Social networking and technology has changed the industry, but the essential tenets of "being sincere" and keeping a solid contact list has stayed the same.
And technology has helped.
Tim Battersby, who arranges their music in ProTools, explained he wrote a cello part on one of the new album's songs called "Curiosity" and was able to enlist the help of a cellist colleague who lives and works in Scotland.
Using technology in live shows helps draw in kids not otherwise interested by music, explained Laura Battersby.
"It's interesting watching kids watch us transition," Laura Battersby said, adding not too long ago she had a child in a show ask his teacher to "turn them back on."
"Hide and Seek" has been submitted for the 2014 Grammys, and nominees are expected to be announced on Dec. 1.
More information on The Battersby Duo is available at www.battersbyduo .com.