How songs get in movies and my new record
Somewhere around November 2013 I got a call from Richard Lewis, a Hollywood producer/screenwriter I had met in 2006 while shooting a scene for his movie August Rush. I had been lucky enough to be included by a music supervisor friend into a lottery of songwriters asked to write a key song for the movie and my song eventually landed. Although I didn't sing the song in the film ( the actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers did) the song seemed to work quite well, and Richard was nice enough to let me tag along with him to the Grammys when the soundtrack was nominated in 2009.
Not only is Richard a nice guy he is also a mogul type so when he calls it might not necessarily be him calling but rather his assistant letting you know he WILL be calling, and to prepare yourself, so as not to waste time for anyone involved.
To put him in context, I've been in the music business for many years now and still feel I know little about it, I know less about film, but I did notice heavy hitter actors showing him mucho respect as if he was the man with the plan.
Needless to say, when I get a call from him I get a little excited. He said "Chris, I'm working on a little movie called "Some Kind of Beautiful" and I need some songs that reflect the feelings of the male lead" "Sounds good" I replied, "anyone in the cast I would know?" He said the lead was Pierce Brosnan and the co-stars were Salma Hayek and Jessica Alba. I guess little is a relative term, I thought.
He sent me the script and I immediately wrote and demo'd two solo/ acoustic songs, turned them in, got an amazingly positive e-mail response and then nothing. Crickets.Silence is not totally unusual in the movie business, although it's not usually a great sign. I suppose all one needs to do is watch the credits at the end of any movie to realize that music is one small facet of a much larger operation.
Soon after, I realized this would be an ongoing process as Richard would call and describe a section of the script, then send me the scene already shot with no music. I must admit it was slightly surreal writing music to scenes with these particular actors, because each is iconic in their own way and I still see myself as a pimply faced teenager playing guitar in his bedroom for his cat ....
At one point Richard needed to speak to me over the phone to let me know a music supervisor had been hired who was taking the soundtrack in a more eclectic direction and my songs were out. I was bummed. After the first industry screening he called me excitedly to let me know they were stripping all the music and I had another shot. He would push me to try new ideas, which I liked, and always with a great respect for the art of songwriting too.
The few times I've written for characters, I always try to find ways I might relate to their story. If they are romantically obsessed with someone, I think of someone I've been nearly obsessed with in my lifetime and then hopefully this lends the song credibility. Also, I write knowing there is always that Hail Mary chance I will have to sing the song every night for the rest of my life so I make sure I believe in it. In other words, I try and stay away from "Mmm Bop" and "Who let the dogs out" territory.
At the end of the process I landed two songs in a total of three places in the movie. "Into the Bright Lights" is used in a beautiful montage scene and over the end credits, and "If you're still there" plays while Pierce Brosnan pines away for Salma Hayek as he watches her undress through a window.
I kept the movie a secret for the past year because I learned what I now call the "Drew Barrymore" lesson. I had a song in her movie "Never been kissed" which I had re-mixed many times to fit a particular climactic scene. The music supervisor liked it, the director liked it, the producer, the studio-all liked it, until it got removed after the final screening by none other than Drew Barrymore. I was sorry I had told everyone about it. I never watched another Drew Barrymore movie again. I'm sure she's hurting. :)
Now I'm no marketing guru but I do know that a movie has a wider distribution radius than I am able to reach in my Prius, so I wanted to be sure I had a new album ready to go so I could include the new songs for any new audience that might be discovering me for the first time.
The recording process
I have to mention Jason Meeker, the producer of Symphonies of Dirt & Dust. He is my old friend, who not only worked the clubs in rock bands but also worked for Geffen records in their heyday, so he has a good sense of the music business as a whole.
I view a producer's role like this: a song is like a hitchhiker and the producer is the car that comes and picks it up. It is both a crucial and mysterious art form. The singer may get the credit but it is definitely a collaborative process.
What I love about Jason is that he is absolutely OBSESSED with his craft and getting songs right. I know this even though I wasn't with him at all times. I would get new mixes filling my inbox in the wee hours of the morning, which tells you that story.
I also like that he was totally undaunted by any idea I might throw at him. I'd say "Let's try making this song sound like something you might hear in a French Cafe circa 1960", "let's make this a 90's rock anthem," "how about a song that sounds like a traditional Folk Sea Shanty? no matter what, his response was "let's try it". He would also bring ideas to the table I didn't even consider. To me, he just had the magic touch producers can tap into.
I would go into his studio whenever I had a few days off from tour which made this different from any record I've ever done. Usually I've spent two or three weeks in the studio straight, finishing a record from start to finish. This took over a year, with many breaks in-between, which didn't afford us the opportunity to get complacent or uninspired. I think also knowing the movie songs might be happening lent a little excitement as well.
So here it is, my new album. 12 tracks of music for your listening enjoyment. Hopefully :)
As always, thank you for the support!