Adam Schlesinger, 39, is best known for penning ultrasticky power pop (think 2003’s ”Stacy’s Mom”). But did you know the Fountains of Wayne bassist also writes music for ads (the Maryland State Lottery), TV (the ‘Crank Yankers’ theme), film (‘Music and Lyrics’), and Broadway (‘Cry-Baby’), in addition to producing? On the occasion of FOW’s hit album ‘Traffic & Weather,’ the Jersey native shares his multitrade secrets.
ON MOVIE MUSIC ”I think the gold standard is Simon & Garfunkel’s music for The Graduate, where it’s so entwined with the plot that it’s inseparable from the movie. For [1996’s] That Thing You Do! they asked for a song that sounded like an American band obviously imitating the Beatles. I submitted mine [the Oscar-nominated title tune] and got lucky.”
ON JINGLES ”I’ve done random things: the Maryland State Lottery, a Gillette ad…. It’s taking a pop song and reducing it to the absolute basics. You’ve got 30 seconds or less to drill something into someone’s head. I want to repeat the parts of the song that are the most memorable but without overdoing it to the point where it’s annoying everyone.”
ON SHOW TUNES ”I’m embarrassingly ignorant of this world — I try to hide that from my collaborators. [Laughs] I am working on Cry-Baby [with Daily Show executive producer David Javerbaum]; the plan is to be on Broadway early next year…. From early on, I learned that the song has to move the story along. You want to avoid stopping the show cold and singing a song.”
ON TV THEMES ”[The Crank Yankers theme] was kind of a faux Sesame Street song that turns into rock music. The greatest thing that came out of that was at some point they had Snoop [Dogg] on the show as a guest, and he actually sang his own interpretation of our theme song. That was one of the highlights of my musical career so far.”
ON PRODUCING ”Whenever you produce another band, you try to figure out their essence and help them focus on that. With America [their ’07 album Here & Now was helmed by Schlesinger and ex-Smashing Pumpkin James Iha], I tried to think about the America songs everybody knows, then make something that wasn’t self-consciously retro but natural-sounding, pared down.”