Sunday, July 27, 2008

The American Mall

Well, it's been a month and I haven't found Adam Wagner. Or Waggoner. Or Waggner. Or his sister Cara. We think he might be in Iowa. We're pretty sure he might have been in Ames, Iowa at some point. And it was suggested that maybe he was in the Navy. (Sigh.) What good is the internet if I can find everyone in the world except my fifth grade crush?

Anyway, moving on from middle school crushes, I'd like to talk a little bit about high school crushes. At least, the kind of high school crushes for which MTV movie musicals get made.

I have these friends in Los Angeles who are songwriters, and in addition to the many theatrical shows and TV scores and Cheetah Girls albums they work on, they happened to write one of the songs for the Disney movie "High School Musical." These friends (who are married to each other) were talking about how they write songs for movies and shows all the time, and this one just HIT, before they knew what was happening. And because work leads to work, the producers of HSM hired my friends to be the music SUPERVISORS (a big promotion) of their next project, which is a film called "The American Mall."

It's so true that an entire career can be built because of "who you know." In the course of putting together the soundtrack for "The American Mall," my friends were working with a songwriter who was a brilliant producer and was getting a great sound out of his tracks, but his songs were perhaps not theatrical enough. (That's ironic for me, since in this town my songs tend to be "too theatrical.") So my friends, the music supervisors, asked me if I would collaborate with him. I talked to the director about what he wanted the moment in the movie to be, and he said he was looking for it to be a modern-day "Whatever Lola Wants." (That's a pretty theatrical reference for an MTV movie director; I was impressed.) So I sat down and I wrote a tango. I wrote a whole new song but I kept the title and the hook from my collaborator's old song. And I showed up at his studio with my piano demo, recorded on Garage Band with me singing and playing at the same time. No bells, no whistles, just verses and choruses and my croaky alto voice.

Collaborations are an amazing thing, really, and to this guy's credit, he kind of smiled and nodded, and he turned my piano tango into the kind of song that belongs in an MTV movie. I know all kinds of people read this blog; some of you theater fans will hate the movie, others will love it. But I'm really fascinated with how all this happened, how my song was virtually unchanged in the writing and TOTALLY changed in the production. You'll see.

Once the movie's been out for a while I'll see if I can't post the "before" and "after" mp3s. It's a way cool process. And... while I'm at it, my music supervisors brought me in to collaborate on one of their songs, too. So I've actually got two songs in the movie. If you do watch it in a few weeks, pay close attention to "At The Mall" (which I wrote with them) and "The New You" (which is the not-really-a-tango that is actually kind of a theatrical AABA song but you can't tell anyone or I might never work in this town again).

The movie premieres on MTV on August 11th. I'm going to the actual movie premiere tomorrow night and I'm told I should expect to walk the red carpet. WHAAAAA? I have to wrap up this blog and see if there's anything in my closet that's not from Banana Republic.

Watch the movie. Let me know what you think. In the meantime, here's the official trailer. Enjoy.