Paul Williams and Gustavo Santaolalla Find 'Magic Moments' in Songwriting, Talk 'Emotional' Collab at ASCAP I Create

Paul Williams onstage at the 31st annual ASCAP Pop Music Awards at the Loews Hollywood Hotel on April 23, 2014 in Hollywood, California.

Photo by Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup

Gustavo Santaolalla and Paul Williams were not able to share music from or details about their two projects together, but they jovially spoke about collaborations, the multiple paths of their careers  and the importance of “work” at the ASCAP I Create Music Expo April 24.

“I believe in putting in the work. I work and eventually connect with that thing we don’t understand,” Santaolalla said about the songwriting process, which both men said continues to mystify them. “I don’t want to understand. They are magic moments.”

Santaolalla is scoring and writing songs with Williams for the animated film “Book of Life” that Fox will release in October.  They are scheduled to record the music in early July in London; the film will also include covers such as Radiohead’s “Creep.” The two are also two or three songs into a stage version of “Pan's Labyrinth” with Guillermo del Toro that’s in its earliest stages.

“I’ve never had a collaboration as emotional as working with Santaolalla,” Williams said as the two alternated compliments in front omoderator Mike Todd, ASCAP’s senior director of Film and TV. “(It was) an amazing awakening for me.”

Williams also detailed the circumstances that brought him in contact with Daft Punk and led him to participate on their Grammy-winning album “Random Access Memories” -- they were fans of his 1974 film “Phantom of the Paradise.” And he turned back the clock to his first publishing deal in 1967, connecting the two or three degrees of separation between being fired from his first writing job to presenting Richard and Karen Carpenter with “Close to You.”  

Santaolalla, a teenage rock star in his native Argentina, came to the U.S. and found more work as a producer than musician. Eventually he recorded a solo album called “Ronroco” that attracted the attention of Michael Mann. That led to him working with multiple directors and ultimately garnering two Academy Awards for the music of “Brokeback Mountain” and “Babel.”

“When I came here I had to start from zero,” Santaolalla said before the closing the session with performances of two songs. “At one point, my surroundings could have killed my innocence and I wasn’t going to let that happen. I was able to protect that part.  In my playing and writing, there is always something connecting me to my roots -- always feel the concept of identity really strong.”