December 23 2013

With ‘Saving Mr. Banks,’ songwriter Richard Sherman relives the pain of ‘Mary Poppins’

Saving Mr. Banks - Sherman Brothers (1)

85-year-old Richard Sherman is a character in the Disney holiday release “Saving Mr. Banks” opposite Emma Thompson as Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney.   Jason Schwartzman plays Sherman and B.J. Novak plays Sherman’s brother and songwriting partner, Robert B. Sherman.

Schwartzman, who at 33 is two years older than Sherman was in 1961, sings “Feed the Birds” beautifully in “Saving Mr. Banks,” and that’s really him playing the piano, too.Sherman Brothers Saving Mr. Banks w Richard

“Jason and I did a lot of talking,” Sherman says. “He listened and watched me play. He’s a musician himself, a drummer, but he plays the piano a little – more in a jazz style. I play Tin Pan Alley. You play the accompaniment and sing the melody. He learned.”

Schwartzman knew Sherman would be on set every day, so he listened to all the tapes that Travers had recorded of her Disney meetings, which include a lot of the Sherman brothers playing and singing the “Poppins” songs. Then Schwartzman gave the tapes to his piano teacher, who transcribed them and taught him how to play exactly like Sherman was playing in 1961, when songs such as “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” were still evolving.

“No one would ever notice that in the movie,” Schwartzman says, “but I knew it would be meaningful to Richard if I played as correctly as possible. I wanted him to feel like we were doing it right.”

If Schwartzman was nervous playing someone who was sitting mere feet from him during filming, he had to get over it. “As weird as it was for me, it had to be 10 times weirder for him. I could see him having visceral reactions to the scenes with Travers laying into him and his brother.”


Thank you to SF GATE for the article!  Read more >>

May 11 2013

The Hitless Songwriter


The Roches, 1985

Michael Tannen, The Roches’ manager, was yelling into the phone at me. Why don’t you just listen to the radio and figure out how to write a commercial song? Then the phone went dead.

We were at that point every music career gets to where the honeymoon was over. The Roches had burst onto the music scene in 1979 with a shower of press infatuation rarely accorded a folk group. The unlikely pairing of King Crimson’s Robert Fripp, with his hard-driving English art rock, and the three singing sisters from New Jersey had caught the attention of music writers even before the album was released. Liz Rosenberg, our publicist at Warner Brothers, told us the press was calling her for interviews. She told us this was extremely unusual.

When the actual record came out, the momentum accelerated. The sound of three fairly soft voices and three acoustic guitars, with songs about waitress jobs, commuter trains and longing to be accepted by your parents, issued forth into the 1970s climate of disco fever like a drop of powerful medicine into a compromised bloodstream. Fripp, in an interview, put forth that people don’t realize gentle music can be revolutionary. Some of his fans were upset that he’d traded in bombastic male music for lily-white warbling so delicate you had to turn up the dial to hear it. “The Roches” was No. 1 on The New York Times’s list of the year’s best albums. We were on our way.

Read more of the story by Terre Roche >>

March 6 2013

And Then I Found an Air Sick Bag… (Shantell Ogden)

In 2002, I was on a flight from Georgia to Utah when suddenly at 30,000 feet I had a song idea. I knew I had to ‘get it out’ so I rifled through my purse, but I didn’t have paper or a pen. Frantic, I checked the pocket in the seat in front of me and found an air sick bag. I asked the flight attendant for a pen. I started scribbling away at the lyrics and sang the melody in my head.

I finished the song, “Without You,” that evening and it ended up on my second indie album. Just ask and I’ll send you an mp3 of it (only if you promise not to giggle).

Things are a little different now, hopefully the songs are much better and at least I carry around a pen and paper. But, I’ve kept the air sick bag as a reminder to pay attention- ’cause you just never when a song will show up…