FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE: Bright Future in Sales

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

“Some songwriters just take themselves too seriously,” Chris says. “That was definitely the trend in the early ‘90s with grunge, with all the Eddie Vedders of the world. I wouldn’t even really call people like that songwriters. They consider themselves ‘artists.’ My favorite songwriters have never taken themselves too seriously. I’m a big fan of Paul Simon-he uses little jokes here and there. I’m also a fan of Neil Finn [from Crowded House]. And even though he can be a bit of a wet towel, wet blanket, isn’t that the word for it?..he’s good at doing it too.”

As far as the work of writing itself, Chris simply says doesn’t like to pressure himself. Meanwhile, Adam says he has a system where he creates deadlines for himself in order to get to the work. “I have a calendar on the fridge,” he says. “I try to plan ahead a little bit. I probably write more often on guitar, but usually I need some kind of lyrical idea first and then I can figure out a way to make it work musically. Sometimes I’ll just have a sort of stream of consciousness verse thing and I’ll just try to keep writing what it’s about. Other times I’ll have a phrase that feels like a chorus and I’ll work backwards. Most often I think the best stuff is written with no instrument. You just kind of have a melody in your head or you can just sort imagine it all and you go to an instrument and figure out what you were hearing in your head after the fact.”

Without being prompted, Chris offers the same thought. “I defer to Jules Shear, one of my favorite songwriters,” he says. “Jules once said, ‘The best place to write a song is in your head.’ And I thought that was really brilliant.”

“I usually smoke a lot of weed and drive around,” Schlesinger jokes, revealing a touch of what makes the Fountains’ smartass songs so lovable. “Seriously, there’s no real rule about it. Things just pop into your head for no real reason and I’ll write them down or put them into the computer until I decide what I want to do with them. Sometimes I will call my answering machine and sing a couple of lines in case I can’t remember when I sober up the next day.”

Both Adam and Chris concede there are frustrations in creating their art. “There are some songs where you feel like something is there and then six months later it’s still nothing,” Schlesinger explains. “There’s all kinds of stuff that just gets thrown out for that reason. A lot of times I just find it easier to start working on something else than to continue trying to force something that isn’t working.”

“Some songs might take a little longer, but I don’t think of songwriting in terms of ease or difficulty,” says Collingwood. “There will be a thing where I’ll have a song where I know what it’s about and it’s missing a few lines. I just have to be patient until I have those lines, but I don’t think of it as hard. But forcing a song can make it feel terribly wrong.”

For example, Schlesinger suggests that whether songs are fast or slow “can be related to the mood you’re in, but I have also found that sometimes songs that start out as a rocker end up working better as a ballad.” When it’s suggested that there’s never been filler on a Fountains of Wayne album, Adam cracks, “We’re going to start doing that. No one ever told us we could get away with that. We didn’t realize, but now we know.”

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