Recording an album’s worth of songs from one publishing catalog was “unique” for Del Fuegos rocker turned family music superstar Dan Zanes. That it happened to be Paul McCartney‘s MPL Music Publishing made Zanes’ new “76 Trombones” Broadway songs collection “pretty special.”
“It was kind of unusual to get a call from Paul McCartney’s publishing company — right away that caught my attention,” Zanes tells Billboard.com. “They said, ‘We would love it if you could use a good amount from Sir Paul’s catalog,’ but they said ‘it’s really very, very open-ended,’ and they were incredibly cool about it from beginning to end. And, really, he’s got so much great music it was very easy to just stay within the MPL tunes.”
Zanes chose material such as “Hello Dolly” (performed with Carol Channing) and songs from “Annie,” “A Chorus Line,” “The Most Happy Fella” and other Great White Way classics. But he didn’t have a great affinity for Broadway music prior to recording “76 Trombones,” which comes out Tuesday, with his Friends band and other guests such as Matthew Broderick and Brian Stokes Mitchell.
“I didn’t really grow up with Broadway the same way a lot of people did,” explains Zanes, who learned the songs from sheet music rather than listening to recordings. “I needed a little time to think about it. And (the MPL executives) kept saying, ‘It doesn’t have to sound like Broadway.’ I warned them that it was probably going to sound like weird folk music, and they were like, ‘Fine, that’s what we want.’ And I was really happy to find an emotional core to the songs that we could really wrap our own arrangements around.”
Zanes says the idea of having McCartney guest on the album “was more than a joke. I was saying it all the time. But it wasn’t meant to be.” But he did get a chance to meet McCartney after recording the album, at a recent tribute to Broadway composer Frank Loesser, whose catalog is also part of the MPL roster. “(McCartney) had listened to the CD and told me that he loved it and he loved that we put a twist on the songs, and that felt great to hear,” Zanes says. “He was very gracious and encouraging and excited about the CD. I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Zanes is planning to turn “76 Trombones” into a musical stage piece in the new year. He’s also starting work on a project applying music as a therapy for autism. “I have about five other things hovering in the air around my head,” he adds. “We’ll see what lands on my shoulder and gets some attention. There’s always way more than we’re able to do.