Jeremy Schonfeld - Man, Myth...Unshaved Legend!
The Some Like It Scott Interview...
So you're a little bit Broadway, you're a little bit Rock 'N Roll, what is the similarity in writing music for theatre and music for the radio (or the Ipod) in this day and age? And what is the difference?
For me there really isn't that much difference. A good story is a good story. I suppose the idea of songs that are self-contained stories with beginning/middle/end as opposed to songs that serve a specific purpose in telling a much broader story in a musical need to be attacked differently. But, for me, the idea is to write great songs that work in the show and also taken out of context work individually.
The song, "My My" on your new album is a great example of something that sounds as though it came from Act One of some musical but has enough of a driving beat to sound like a song for one of the American Idols. Is there a different head space when you're creating a song for a musical and one for say a more commercial venue or artist?
It's all about the specific story really. Being true to the character, whether that character is you personally or a specifically drawn character for a show. Not unlike an actor, it's my job as a writer to own the people I am writing for. The more specific I can be, the better.
What made you want to write your own music? What inspires you?
Gosh, I've been writing all my life. Mom says I starting noodling on the piano as soon as we got it (I was 4 or 5). I am inspired to write for many reasons. Sometimes there is a therapeutic element, other times it's the challenge of conquering a specific story or style, sometimes it's just business - which brings its own set of challenges (how can you make something seem heartfelt when it's really just a paycheck?). In general though, I don't necessarily wait for inspiration to magically hit me before I sit and create.
What do you want listeners to get from your music?
Honestly, I want them to relate to my music on their terms. my hope is that if something I write touches you, it has little to do with my personal reasons for writing that particular song in the first place. If you feel it for your reasons, I touched something universal. That's pretty magical.
From listening to your music, you're definitely a storyteller. How much of your story is in the music you write?
Albums like DRIFT are very personal to me. 37 NOTEBOOKS is a mix. Obviously, songs like "Greta" aren't so much about me, but "My My" mentioned above, is based on me. The girl I refer to in the tune was more of a fantasy, but the self-deprecation? All me.
So your song, "Rock and Roll Fag" while some may feel the word "fag" is a derogatory term, the song itself seems to be much more wistful and almost honor the glamour rock of the 1970's. Is this a personal story? And just to be sure, you are talking about David Bowie's alter ego Ziggy Stardust and not Ziggy Marley, right?
Yeah, definitely Stardust not Marley! I wrote that song for a show where the character was an aging club kid who let his dream of becoming a glam-rock superstar fade away. I altered a few things when I decided to tackle this one on the album, but I really wanted to capture the character. He refers to himself as a 'rock and roll fag', so I am being true to the character. It's definitely not meant to be derogatory in any way.
If you could choose an artist from any genre or time to sing your music, who would it be and why?
Other than myself?! Hmmm...Jeff Buckley and Janis Joplin could've donesome nice stuff with my tunes. Both shared a raw, emotional passionand intensity for the music that, while different for each, was special and exciting. Ella Fitzgerald was incredible as well. Nowadays, I'd like to get to Allison Krauss, Audra, KD Lang. Got a tune for Whitney in there somewhere, and Paul Rogers from Bad Company.
In looking at your website, www.jeremyschonfelsd.com I thought it was socool that you actually sell sheet music to your music. I remember as a kidgoing into sheet music stores and now they seem to be all but gone. Is itthat the world of music has moved onto PDF files on the Internet? Do youplay by ear or did you study and what was the first sheet music you bought?
Yeah, the sheet music thing is key. I actually have the entire 37 NOTEBOOKS songbook being written as we speak. I am more of an ear guy actually. I mean, I went to school etc., and I can read - mostly chord charts - but I always had a stronger ear than site reading ability First sheet music? Beatles, baby!
You work with young performers like at the upcoming Atlanta Broadway Boot Camp, what do you think is the most important thing new performers should consider when choosing material or that all important audition song?
Think of the character you are portraying. Can you own this song? Rather hear a less-than-perfect singer own the tune than a great singer with no passion, bore me with a bunch of big notes.
Do the "37 Notebooks" exist and if so, what would surprise us most to find inside them?
Good question. Yes, they do exist (although the exact number is made up). Surprises? Lots of scrabble scores and a really bad comedy routine! What was I thinking?
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