John Ondrasik, aka Five For Fighting, has had his experience with having a universal hit thanks to songs such as “Superman (It’s Not Easy),” which was one of the country’s post-9/11 anthems of healing, and “100 Years.” But those are rare anymore — a topic he tackles on “Slice,” the title track and current single from his fifth studio album.
“ ‘Slice’ is for those of us who remember the day we all used to sing the same song,” explains Ondrasik, 45, who uses Don McLean’s 1971 smash “American Pie” in his song as an example of that kind of audience unity. “These days you see how radio and music have become more segmented, less universal. One song doesn’t just take over the world and matter like it did when we were kids or young adults.
“I think people, especially if they’re a little older, really relate to that idea. I don’t know if a 15-year-old gets it, but it’s feeling like a lot of people do.”
The song is also special for Ondrasik because it was one of two songs he co-wrote with Stephen Schwartz, composer of musicals such as “Godspell” and “Wicked.” Ondrasik’s 8-year old daughter Olivia has seen “Wicked” nearly a dozen times, he says, though it took him a minute to connect Schwartz to the production.
“As a kid I played ‘Godspell’ songs a thousand times, and after seeing (‘Wicked’) a couple of times, I started to appreciate the craftsmanship of his songs,” says Ondrasik, who is about to issue his fourth “For the Troops” compilation of music for U.S. military personnel. “I sent an e-mail to him, ‘Hey, you don’t know me, but thanks for all these great songs ... and he e-mailed me back and ... we’ve become friends ever since.
“It’s wild. He wrote ‘Godspell’ in his early 20s and ‘Wicked’ in his 60s; to have two big successes 40 years apart is kind of a tribute to not only his talent but his work ethic. And Stephen still has that side of him that loves having a hit on the radio. That was intriguing to him. It’s been a very exciting relationship.”
Five For Fighting and Matt Hires perform Wednesday, Nov. 10, at The Crofoot Ballrom, 1 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 day of show. Call 248-858-9333 or visit www.thecrofoot.com.
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