Interview Series: Lucy Schwartz

Los Angeles-based pianist, songstress and overall hip chick Lucy Schwartz has been on the fast track to success for a while now. As a blossoming musician, she composed songs for “Shrek Forever After,” “Twilight: Breaking Dawn” and the now for the newest season of  “Arrested Development,” her song “Boomerang” appeared at the end of the final episode.

Her third and most polished album “Timekeeper” is set to release August 27th, and you can listen to a newly released stream of the LP on the Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog. Her voice is haunting and soulful, carefully paired with experimental piano riffs, horns and strings.  We’re stoked on this interview at such a big time in her career, and she’s got some wit and humor that will make you smile.

 Q&A

LF: Hello Lucy! How are things?

LS: Great! I’m getting ready for the Masquerade Ball Record Release show this week. Just finished a rehearsal with the band in my living room. We managed to fit in a full band plus violin, cello, trombone and a gigantic tuba. Apologies to my neighbors for the loud noise.

LF: Let’s start with your training as a musician. Did you play the keys as a young girl?

LS: Yes. We had a piano in my house growing up and I was always intrigued by it. I liked to sit by the piano and just press the keys to see what sounds would come out of it. I started piano lessons when I was about six. I didn’t like it at first. Reading and theory frustrated me. I liked to play by ear and I liked to make up little melodies on my own. I almost quit in my first year. Luckily, though, my parents found an incredible piano teacher, Kia Colton, who encouraged me to start writing my own music, and that’s when I grew to love the piano.

LF: If you could name one of the most inspiring moments of your career, what would it be?

LS: I did a concert for Yamaha this year where I got to share the stage with some amazing artists; Elton John, Sarah Mclaughlin, Earth, Wind & Fire and more. And I played my songs with an incredible group of musicians and backup singers, including a 60-piece orchestra. Those are the kinds of nights where you think, “What? What’s going on here? Is this real life?”

LF: Have you always imagined yourself as a singer?

LS: Not always. When I was little I wanted to be a veterinarian or an actress or a dancer or a painter or a writer.

LF: You’ve had quite the career track, creating songs for movie soundtracks at a young age. How did you break into that?

LS: Thank you! The first movie soundtrack happened by chance. Chris Douridas, a radio DJ at KCRW who had been playing my music on air, was working on the movie The Women as a music supervisor. He was looking for an end credit song for the movie, and he asked me to try to write a song. At the time, I was 18 years old, a senior in high school, and I had never written a song for a film. I also knew that there were a lot of experienced artists who were submitting songs for the same end credit song. Somehow, though, I never felt intimidated by the offer to write music for the movie.

For me, writing to visuals was immediately inspiring. It felt like a new, thrilling, challenge. Chris gave me a copy of the movie, I watched, very eagerly wrote a song, and turned in my demo. The director picked my song. Then a week later, Chris was looking for an opening credit song for The Women. I sent in another demo and it was chosen as the opening credit song. It was a whirlwind introduction into the world of writing songs for picture.

LF: If you could create a track for ANY movie, what movie?
LS: Hmmm….a movie that doesn’t exist yet….Well, there’s a book called The Night Circus that I love and I hear they are making it into a movie. It’s very dreamy and surreal, and I would love to delve into that kind of magical world.

LF: FYI, below is the song we first heard that made us love Lucy’s soulful style. It’s been on repeat for a while now.

LF: Do you think being a musician in L.A. has influenced you in your career?

LS: I would have been creating music or stories or art, no matter where I was born. I can’t help it! Growing up in Los Angeles though, I was in an environment where I knew a lot of people who worked in the arts or in entertainment. So, I saw by example that it was possible to be a professional artist.
 
LF: Who have you worked with that just rocks your boat?

LS: Matt Hales (also known as Aqualung). He is one of my songwriting heroes and a delightful human being. We wrote a song for the Twilight movie soundtrack called “Cold”.  We also co-wrote the song “Boomerang” on my new album.

LF: That said, if you could work with any musician or band, who?

LS: Can I create a three-headed, British, mythical creature? The three heads on the monster would be Paul McCartney, Chris Martin (from Coldplay) and Guy Garvey (from Elbow).
 
LF: Your lyrics are super strong and soulful. You really have something to say. Can you tell us the top five things that inspire your song writing?

LS: With Timekeeper, more so than records I made previously, I was really inspired by other forms of art: photography, movies and books.  A few things + people that really influenced the feeling of Timekeeper were: The photographer Tim Walker, The book Sum, and the movies Marie Antoinette & Defending Your Life.

LF: You’ve been praised for your song “Boomerang” that premiered on the new Arrested Development series. Were you an Arrested Development fan back in the day? How was this song a good fit for the show?

LS: I have been a big fan from the beginning. I’ve also been involved with the show from the start, as a session singer. I sang on the score, for AD, for all four seasons. Do you know that British voice that sings, “Mr. F” and “For British Eyes Only”? That’s me! But this was the first time that I had one of my own songs featured on the show, so that was exciting. The song wasn’t in the episode until the day before it was sent off to Netflix. Mitch Hurwitz, the creator of AD, happened to hear “Boomerang” on his way home from editing at 5 am. Mitch loved the idea of “Boomerang” playing at the end moment of the final episode, so he decided to re-edit the last episode so that the song would fit.

LF: What’s in the pipeline for 2013?

LS: I really want Timekeeper to be a visual experience, so I’m hoping to create a music video for every song on the album (all 15 of them!). The next video that’s going to be released, is the music video for “Boomerang”, which I directed. The star of the video is my dog Banjo….who I must say…is quite adorable! I’m planning on directing more, and collaborating with other visual artists, going on tour, writing more music, writing more stories, and continuing to dream!

To celebrate Timekeeper’s release, Lucy will perform a masquerade ball-themed concert at No Vacancy in Los Angeles on August 21. Admission to the event is free and masks will be provided at the door. Timekeeper is available for preorder on iTunes.

It’s All Gucci…