"Because he knew I loved Tim Burton, Harvey said, 'Why don't you write a title track, something with the chorus of "big eyes"?'" Del Rey recalled. "Tim was nice enough to listen to it, and he liked it."
"Big Eyes," which Del Rey wrote with Daniel Heath, received a Golden Globe nomination alongside tracks written or performed by John Legend and Common, Coldplay, Lorde, Patti Smith and Sia. It is a strong contender for the Oscars as well, the nominations for which will be announced Jan. 15. Billboard spoke with the singer/songwriter:
The song summarizes the story viewers have just watched. Was there a line you started with, a particular idea you wanted to first convey?
I guess I had a couple of couplets that came and I guess the verse: "I saw you creeping around the garden/ Where are you hiding?" Melodically, it was something that came quickly to me and I liked the idea of trumpets coming in for the chorus making it a little bit weird and jazzy. I always like to mix in something I like -- the garden and the trees even though she wasn't always painting outside. "Big Eyes" was meant to sum up her tale with a bit of my own personal imagery.
You have a song in the end credits as well, "I Can Fly." Which song did you do first?
I think they felt "Big Eyes" was a little bit somber and they were excited about wanting [a song] to share this story about how Margaret [Keane] comes out of this darkness, a redemption theme. I said, "I have a song called 'I Can Fly,' but I'd like to rework the lyrics and talk more about what she was doing [in the film]." Dan [Heath] found it was easy to instrumentally adapt to Danny's sound.
What element of Margaret appealed to you most?
Her talent. I'm a fan of her art and I think her interpretation of the world and how she saw it, the way she painted was really interesting and beautiful. I love the part in the movie where she has convinced her husband to let her have a try at painting with her own name, working on portraits of women with really small eyes. The art dealer says [sarcastically] "Well, that's original." It's always interesting to be reminded of how far we have come in terms of women's rights. I loved the way she saw things.
Can you compare this to your Gatsby experience?
Big Eyes changed only a little bit in the six months I knew about it, edited by seven to 11 minutes. To me, Gatsby was ever changing. [Director] Baz Luhrman was on Skype for a few days on a giant screen over me and my producer and Rick Knowels in our studio. He didn't just want the one rendition -- he wanted a '20s flapper rendition and was conducting via Skype. He liked to be really hands on with all the different interpretations and the instrumental cues. There were so many different renditions that it became a theme song.
Does the Big Eyes song give us any indication of how the new album will sound?
It's very different from the last one and similar to the first two, Born to Die and Paradise. I finished my last one [Ultraviolence] in March and released it in June and I had a follow-up idea. It's growing into something I really like. I'm kind of enjoying sinking into this more noirish feel for this one. It's been good.
You're still writing everything?
I'm doing a cover of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood." After doing a cover of [Jessie Mae Robinson's] "The Other Woman," I like summarizing the record with a jazz song. I'm having fun with my interpretation.
I assume you're relying on the Nina Simone versions?
"Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and "The Other Woman" are my favorites. I'm so so much [a fan].