Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mister Rogers, Music & Me

Fred Rogers was, perhaps above all, a musician.

My mother was seeking her MA in theology when she met Mister Rogers. She was sitting on the bay reading Martin Buber. He passed by en route to his daily swim. Conversation, and friendship arose.

My mother is nothing if not proud of her sons, and at some point, I assume, mentioned that her youngest (me) was a singer-songwriter who worked for MTV News.

Music and television (or, Music Television), then, brought us together.

It's little wonder that my acoustic guitar was slung over my shoulder as I headed towards the Crooked House for that first afternoon we spent together in September 2001. Just a few moments after arriving, I sat in front of The Rogers' great bay window in their otherwise cool and shadowed back room and performed "Summer's Gone" from my then-forthcoming CD, "Crash Site."

And so, as Christofer and I approach our final shoots and consider the start of editing, I am beginning to develop a sense of the soundtrack.

The opening (yet-to-be-shot) scene of me rushing through through Times Square will be set my cover of David Byrne's "Glass, Concrete & Stone." The song is a delicate, almost ambient one chronicling (to my ear, anyway) corporate life in our accelerated culture.

    I'm puttin' on aftershave
    Nothin' is out of place
    Gonna be on my way
    Try to pretend, it's not only
    Glass and concrete and stone
    That it's just a house, not a home

My colleague, Rich Sancho, is producing the track. I'll sing it.

There's a lot of driving to voice over in the film, so -- while I don't know which track I'll use where -- I do know some of the tracks I want to use.

Rich is recording a cover of Air's "Mike Mills." This instrumental electronic track is one of my favorites. I sounds like forward motions feels, and is one of the most-played songs in my iTunes collection.

I've asked Amy Hollingsworth's son, Jonathan, if I can use on of his original composition's, "October's Farewell (Matthew's Song)." It's a beautiful instrumental acoustic song that sounds just like it's titled. It's a gorgeous recording from a great kid who's still in high school.

I fully expect, of course, to dip into my songbook. In addition to "Summer's Gone" (which, budget and timing notwithstanding, I hope to re-record), we've already used "Hollywood Arms" and "Dark Blue" on the trailer.

As I've said before, Mister Rogers influenced my songwriting by helping me feel more comfortable with my sincerity, earnestness, and simplicity. I stopped censoring myself, or trying to write "cool" songs. Neither "Stay," "Promise", nor my most recent song, "Breathe In" could have been written without him. So I'm sure they'll be included somehow.

My bassist, Tony Maceli, has offered to help score some tracks. I'm sure I'll tap my pal, singer-songwriter Chris Abad, as well.

And while I haven't broached licensing yet, I hope to tap my mother (herself an accomplished pianist) to re-record some of Mister Rogers (and his longtime musical companion, Johnny Costa's) songs.

I know, of course, just how the final scene unfolds (though I'm not going to tell you), and exactly how I want to leave the audience as they watch the credits and leave the theater: inspired. I've considered a few songs to that end, including covers of Aimee Mann's "It's Not Safe" ("All you wanna do is something good") and Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground." We'll see.

No matter what, we'll leave you singing.

How could a film about Mister Rogers do anything less?

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