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Interview:
Songwriter Had Fun Doing "Words And Music"
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

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Besides leading the bands Fountains of Wayne and Ivy, Adam Schlesinger has become a go-to music guy for Hollywood. He was nominated for Academy and Golden Globe awards for his work on “That Thing You Do!” in 1995, and his other credits include “There’s Something About Mary,” “Josie and the Pussycats” and “Robots.”

His latest film project was writing and producing songs for the new Hugh Grant-Drew Barrymore romantic comedy “Music & Lyrics” — the wrinkle, of course, being that the stars did their own singing. With a new Fountains of Wayne album due out in April, Schlesinger, 39, offers a few words about making the music for “... Lyrics.”

Q: How did you get involved in “Music and Lyrics?”

A: The director, Mark Lawrence, has been a Fountains of Wayne fan for a long time. We went out and had lunch when we fi rst talked about it, and he explained the general idea of the movie and how they needed the songs before they started shooting because the songs are very prominent in the fi lm. And he thought it might be crazy, but he really wanted the actors to do their own singing, and they were into it. That was certainly part of the challenge of making it work.

Q: How much of a challenge?

A: They did a really good job. I actually recorded all their vocals, and Hugh and Drew were very nervous about it. They had agreed to do them, but when it actually came time to do it, they were both saying, “I’m not a singer. I’m not a singer. This is gonna suck. What do we do?” And, of course, they’re both much better than they would ever admit, so it really wasn’t that hard.

Q: And Hugh probably knew all about the ’80s British pop scene that his character came from.

A: Well, actually, no. (laughs) He’s the first one to admit he knows nothing about music; it’s almost a point of pride for him, whereas Drew knows a lot about music and actually listens to music. Hugh kind of vaguely knew very massive things like Wham!, but if I threw out some references like Heaven 17 or ABC, he would have no idea what I was talking about. He knew pretty much only the most massive, obvious hits from that era, and even then not particularly well. But that didn’t stop him from doing his homework.

Q: How did he approach that?

A: He thought about it much more as an actor would in the sense that he wanted to make sure he was doing the right kind of accent and everything. We made him a CD of greatest hits from the mid-’80s, just to check out for review. And we actually brought (ABC frontman) Martin Fry in to sing something, and part of the reason we did that is we wanted Hugh to meet him and listen to him.

That was one of the most surreal days I’ve had in the recording studio, actually — hanging out with Hugh Grant and Martin Fry, and Martin at some point started showing Hugh the kind of dance moves he used to do on stage back in those days. It was truly hilarious.

Q: The big song in the movie is “Way Back Into Love.” How did that come about?

A: That was the trickiest one we did. In the movie it’s ostensibly written by Hugh and Drew’s characters but it’s actually performed by Hugh and this woman, Haley Bennett, who’s supposed to be this Britney Spears-type pop star. So it had to be a duet and it had to be about love, but it couldn’t really be, “Oh, I love you baby,” because it wouldn’t make sense in the story of (Grant) was singing that into this 19-year-old’s eyes. That was really a hard assignment, and it took a while to fi gure it out. I

n the end, the song is more of a general thing about love as a life force and a way of getting past things that have happened to you in the past that have maybe made you cynical or something. But it was tricky

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