Fox: Randy Newman should be joining us in just a few minutes! Ask Randy Newman about his body of work for television, as well! He adds "Ally McBeal" to his list of credits tonight! He wrote 12 songs for the season finale, in which he also appears!
Our guest, Randy Newman, has arrived. Welcome to our chat!
Thank you! Hello, happy to be here!
shudddup asks: How do you get your inspiration?
Usually I don't get any inspiration, I have to sit down and work at it. I don't think I've had an idea for a song more than once or twice when I wasn't sitting at a piano, trying to have an idea.
langtreelil asks: Do you ever get writer's block?
I have had in my lifetime a period where I didn't even go in and try, but whenever I've tried, eventually something has come. But there have been times when I haven't even wanted to try.
saddlesoregalactica asks: are you influenced by cultural movements as much as musical ideas?
I don't think so, not as much as musical ideas, which initiate everything for me. It starts with music, I've never written a lyric first. But of course, I'm a product of the times, and I know vaguely what's going on.
saddlesoregalactica asks: do you find thought-provoking lyrics to be as important as a catchy melody?
It is to me. Pop music in general is more about catchy tunes, but I try and make them both interesting. But there are plenty of songs that I've liked that I didn't even know the lyric to, I just sang the song...when you're going 60 mph down the freeway it's hard to hear some lyrics. It'll vary. There aren't necessarily first and second drafts of a song. But I'll change a lyric sometimes, or throw out a bridge and write another one. Often it's mostly just fixing a line or two once I've finished it.
mcb_uk asks: When did you first start to write music?
When I was 16. I started to write very bad songs. But I had studied classically, and a friend suggested I try and write some songs, so I did.
langtreelil asks: what work would you most like to be remembered for?
Hmm. I don't know. If I were to die tomorrow, I think they'd say Newman 56, composer of the hit song, Short People. Jumped off a mountain today. I think that would be sort of regrettable. I would say Faust, the musical I wrote, once I work on it a little.
gentile_genius asks: randy do you feel bad about your song short people
No I don't feel bad about it. It's surprised me that anyone took it seriously, because it was obvious to me the narrator of the song was a lunatic, no one I know of has a conspiracy against short people. And I always liked them - until I wrote the song! It has occurred to me that if you are in junior high school and maybe short of stature at the time, and every day someone is hammering at you, They're playing your song! It may have been a sensative kind of thing, and I've maybe sometimes regretted that aspect of it. But not enough to have not written it.
guitarcat33 asks: How do you maintain your laid-back attitude?
Don't know, it's natural to me. Whether it's from my mother, who is from New Orleans. I noticed, for the first time in my life, in the Memphis airport, I was part of a stream of people moving at the same speed I was. Here in New York, old people, cripples all walk faster than you. In Memphis, I finally found my people, my planet!
niceguy15196970521 asks: how old are you?
langtreelil asks: what have you been listening to lately?
I always listen to classical music, pop stuff lately, someone played me the No Doubt record which was good, and a group called Filter which I liked. And a bunch of stuff I didn't like, but no sense mentioning it.
langtreelil asks: do you think any artists are particularly underrated or overrated?
I'd say, underrated, I think Chrissie Hynde underrated as a writer, amazingly, Rod Stewart ended up underrated as a writer because of all the flashy stuff. Neil Young is rated highly as he should be. Jackson Browne is underrated, at this point in his career. He has written consistently well his whole career. Maybe because he is always doing things for the Crippled Squirrel Foundation, things like that. Also James Taylor is a good writer, Ron Sexsmith is a good writer, Alanis Morrisette, there are others, if I think of them, I'll mention them, Sarah MacLaughlan, Paul Simon, Sting.
langtreelil asks: do you ever think of particular singers that you'd like to perform your work?
No, but I've been thinking more lately of doing that kind of thing. Trying to write for an artist like Sarah MacLaughlan, or something for NSYNC, just for the exercise of it, and it would be good for me as a writer to try. I admire a band like NYSNC, I was on the Academy with them, and it's scary to do what they do, sing live 4 or 5 part harmony. You hear Crosby Stills and Nash do it, and that's scary too. When people start knocking those bands, those bands that sing all that harmony, it's hard, I can't do it. Course, there's only one of me.
mcb_uk asks: Favourite Composer? (Classical that is!)
Beethoven. I think there's never been anyone as good as Beethoven.
isha_333 asks: What about life inspires you the most?
What I hear, people talking about, what I've been told in my lifetime about people's family lives, what I've seen, more what I've heard than what I've seen.
saddlesoregalactica asks: do you miss the carefree seventies?
No. If we'd had another carefree 70's, I'd have been dead. It was a little too carefree, you know? I don't know how carefree they were for me, I think I was worried then, I can't remember what about.
sabru90025 asks: dont you miss the i love L.A. days?
There's still people living like that, you know. I had a family when I was 23. I'd have had to go to Seaworld where absolutely no one knows me, if I'd wanted to ride around like that with a redhead. The one place I've been where absolutely no one recognized me (since I've become somewhat well known) is Sea World. I almost broke into short people. Pittsburgh's another place.
isha_333 asks: Where did you grow up?
Los Angeles. Briefly, a few years in New Orleans.
blhootz asks: Going back to the "Short People" thing, a lot of your songs are "biting," to put it mildly. Have you ever felt any difficulty in performing them live in front of a (potentially family-oriented) audience?
If I see it as sort of a family audience, I won't do some of the rougher ones. Like Christmas In Capetown, or Redneck. It doesn't bother me to adjust. It doesn't bother me to sell out completely, really.
blhootz asks: How political is the movie musical process?
It's not political, people have subjective opinions, so it's collaborative, rather than political.
kevin0700 asks: How has winning an academy award change you life
It hasn't changed it a bit, I'm the same sweet guy I always was. No, I've been nominated 13 times and have never won. I just hope it's not really a popularity contest.
bobbiosmit asks: Are there any directors you would like to work with someday?
I'd like to work with Gary Ross again. John Lassiter. Peter Weir maybe. And I just met Lawrence Kasdan whom I liked very much, and I haven't liked many directors. Very nice working with Gary Ross, he's very bright.ˇK And he knew enough when to leave me alone, and he knew enough to tell me when he didn't like something.
langtreelil asks: what attracted you to the story of Dr. Faustus?
I always like things about depictions of heaven, no matter how bad the vehicle, even that Jack Benny movie, The Horn Blows at Midnight. Which everyone always said was very bad. And I like the idea of taking a true classic written by a true genius and destroying it essentially! I like the idea of bringing it down to earth a bit -- and even a bit lower than that.
bobbiosmit asks: Do you think the Academy Awards have a hatred towards you?You should have won by now!!
LOL! You know, someday I'll do the music for a movie that does best picture and I'll win. Or I'll have a stroke and they'll feel sorry for me and I'll win. It's a strange selection process. I get to vote for makeup, cinematography, and I know nothing about it. And people who don't know anything about music get to vote on that. I don't think I'll be overly overjoyed if I do win, it's not where I live.
heyariel asks: When you compose scores for film do you just use a piano or do you have a whole set-up with samplers, etc. to write with?
A little of both. I've got a setup and I use it extensively. Actually when I need to figure something musical out, though, I use the piano.
blhootz asks: It's sad for us watching the Oscars, listening to your beautiful songs (thank you for "That'll Do"), while someone else walks away with the prize. Is it really just "a pleasure to be nominated?"
Yes, it is, because it's by musicians. And even we don't know, it's entirely a subjective thing. But I've always liked being nominated, and I've never been disappointed with losing, never. I'm glad I don't have to go up there sometimes.
WHOSTHATGRRL asks: What is spirituality to you?
I think there are inexplicable feelings that music can give you, or being with people you love ... a sense that you can't quite figure out why you feel as good as you do. That's about the best I can do. I don't believe in any kind of Supreme Being.
blhootz asks: You do a lot of commissioned work, Randy. How closely did you collaborate with David E. Kelley on the songs for tonight?
He picked the songs. They were already written. And he wrote the script and interwove them within the script. He did that himself. They were all stuff I'd already recorded, and as a matter of fact, there was nothing from my last album on it, I don't think. He probably stopped being a fan in 98. There was one song I wrote for the show, being a fan of the show I knew a bit about it, so I wrote it, Vonda is doing it, it's called ˇ§Forever.ˇ¨
(my hand is asleep...)
ceberus5000 asks: what was it like working on Ally McBeal
I'm in a scene, it was great, everyone was very nice to me, and it's a lot better than my usual job sitting in a room writing.... There were pretty girls there, people dancing, that's their work, again, it's not my main occupation. For me, it was just fun.
hemesath asks: Randy; any comments on working with the cast of Ally McBeal?
I've admired them from afar for years, and the singing I've heard, Lisa Nicole Carson and Alicia Witt, was really professional, that's all I've heard so far, so I'm looking forward to seeing it.
jeremiahdixon asks: How is writing for TV different from writing for movies?
Working in TV in general is, what I noticed years ago doing little things for Peyton Place or Lost in Space, some show for the something Chronicles, but when you do something it gets done really quick. It's the fastest moving medium there is. I really liked it. Movies take a long time, records get pushed back, released six months later...TV they say they're going to do it, they do it. And I've watched too much of it over the years. It's my best friend unfortunately.
mcb_uk asks: Are there any TV shows you would particularly like to write music for?
Both those HBO shows Sopranos and The Corner, Ally McBeal would be fun to score. Fraser would be nice to do one maybe. NYPD Blue.
Matt_goblue asks: Do you remember doing the Johnathan Brandmeir show?
Yes, very well, it was a good interview.
bobbiosmit asks: Did you think "Cop Rock" was just too way ahead of its time?
No, I think it's an impossibility. It just wasn't fated to have an audience. Out of the four or five things I did, 2 or 3 of them worked. I did the first show. You can't take an action thing, and have people singing. The audience wants action. If it had been a more touchy, feely show. I don't think the audience had tolerance for it. When it worked, like in the courtroom number, Guilty, it was really good but you can't do that all the time.
jeremiahdixon asks: Will the Ally versions of your songs be true to the spirits of the originals?
I have no idea. They are smart people. And I assume they'll do a responsible job.
ceberus5000 asks: Favourite member of the Ally McBeal cast?
I met Alicia Witt, she was a concert pianist, and I talked to her for awhile, and I liked her. And my wife is getting all worn out, so I'm looking around....she probably plays better than I do, too.
blhootz asks: It must be great to have your songs covered by others. But how possessive are you about the way they're done? How strange was it to modify "I'm Different" for that J&J commercial?
I was doing it so that wasn't too strange. But I've heard strange versions of my songs, good and bad. I started recording because I was always complaining about the records that I was getting of my songs. At least if I did them and messed them up, I wouldn't have anyone else to blame.
mcb_uk asks: What instruments do you play? (I'm presuming Piano!)
Keyboards, just piano.
gentile_genius asks: is composing differant than writing songs
Yes, composing for an orchestra is for me almost a completely different process. You think about different things. Sometimes, a song, with me, it's often written on the fly, often I won't even write anything down...writing for an orchestra it's written down from the moment I start...
jean_r6 asks: On the album "Sail Away", you were at your politically incorrect best. What is favorite pick from that album.
I guess Sail Away, can't remember what's on there to be honest. Lonely At the Top I like.
Matt_goblue asks: how do you come up with a song like Political Science? I think that is a really great song.
I don't remember....it just fell on my lap, there are things that just worked Boom goes London, Boom Paris, more ROOM for you,....the thing about writing is that if you stay there long enough, good things will usually happen. You'll have some happy accidents if you put in the time. That's what that song was.
blhootz asks: How long does it take you to arrange the orchestral parts for one of your movie scores?
I would say from 8 to 10 weeks, I like to get 10 every time, but I've done it in six, but now I won't do it under 8. And that's working whenever I'm awake.
gentile_genius asks: randy im a writer and it seems i can only do my best work when im depressed and i wanted to know if you experience that
I don't know whether I've done my best work depressed, I think I'm more often depressed than elated when I start writing. Beginnings are very difficult. Someone said, writing is terrible, but having written something is great, and I believe that. You know, it's not that terrible, it's still show business...
My uncle, who was an agent, used to say, and my other uncles were composers and they were complaining, and he said, Look, it's better than threading pipe. And it is.
juggs_dre asks: do u find that your songs aren't fully appreciated in a market that values bubble gum over quality
I don't know!
ziffels asks: When you perform the song "Rednecks," do you ever catch any flak about the n-word? Ever perform it in the south?
Yeah, all over the South. A couple of times I've gotten flak, it makes me nervous to play it. If you don't know my music or where I'm coming from, and I can't expect everyone who goes to me to know those things, it's kind of shocking. But I do it anyway.
WHOSTHATGRRL asks: What do you wish to project to youth?....what would be your number 1 statement of advice to todays youth?
I would say read. And stay away from drugs. They're not worth it. I've tried, but there's none of them that's worth it. And learn about the world, the way it works, any kind of science and anthropology, it's really an interesting place we live in. Evolution is a really fantastic idea, even more than the idea of God I think. It's fantastic the way the world works, and if you get into it it even makes it a little better.
WHOSTHATGRRL asks: How do you feel about the music industry...where it has been lead too. Meaning, the image oriented music industry today?
The worst part of the music industry is intrusion in the creative process by non-creative people. Not leaving an artist alone to do what he's going to do. Executives who may have come from Kellog's Cornflakes telling a band they need a new mix. Things like that happen more and more. The executives ought to stay out of it.
ziffels asks: Wasn't your father in the music business? How did that influence you?
My uncles were in the music business. They were film composers.
darksideofthemoon_420 asks: what would you suggest for a beginning musician/artist how did you begin
Well if I were beginning today I don't know if I could succeed in pop music. I would say if you want to write songs, make it a discipline. Show up every day at the same time and hang out there for 3 or 4 hours. And listen to the radio and see what they're playing. You can hate things, but don't start out that way, have an open mind. And if you love it enough, keep trying. Sounds like an after school special!
subo_nl asks: Dear Randy, what would you write about if you were asked to write a song about the Netherlands? Love, Suzanne Amsterdam
The second most urbanized country in the world....no that doesn't just trip off your tongue... They even go insane over there in kind of a sane way...I think I'd write about the 99 year plan for the dikes, things like that... The way I write and think, I think I'd write about the mountains of Holland. They have an area that's like 600 feet high near Nijmegan....I've never had an idea talking on the phone like this! I might talk about the kind of power they had in the sixteenth century.
scott_orme_99 asks: randy... looking forward to hearing you with the Utah symphony (wink wink)... what are you most proud of having written (delegate from utah [lc])
The best record I ever made was Miami, my best score was possibly Bugs Life, or Awakenings. That's about it. What I'm proud of, is I think there's been a consistency over the past 30 years or so. I don't think I've written too much really bad stuff.
subo_nl asks: Randy, what do you think of your online fans?
They're smarter than I am, I'm having trouble with these questions, I am just glad you can't have followups!
Fox: Do you know about the contest on fox right now? Fans are submitting their theme songs...
No one told me about a theme song....was I supposed to have written one? My uncle thought the FOX Picture fanfare. Da, da, da, da....!!!!
Fox: What would your theme song be? Your personal theme song?
My life is good, I wrote a song called that, I'll take it.
ziffels asks: Which songs are they using in the show?
I read the script, so they are using Falling In Love, Davy The Fat Boy, Take Me Back, Emotional Girl, Party At My House, Falling In Love, that's all I can remember, there's a few more...
Fox: Thank you so much for being here and answering our questions!
Thank you very much!