Randy Newman is busy writing and recording new material for a planned album next year, he told Billboard after his keynote Q&A with his son, William Morris Endeavor head of visual media Amos Newman.
“I haven’t made enough records for the amount of time I’ve been doing it,” Newman said, referring to his 13 studio albums recorded during the last 45 years. “I’m not exactly satisfied with the amount of output I have had, but what are you going to do?”
Newman spoke at length at the conference about composing for animated pictures like the three “Toy Story” films and the recent “Monsters University,” and delved deeper into songwriting in a conversation with Billboard.
How has writing songs for film affected the way you write for yourself?
It’s way, way easier to write songs on assignment. When they indicate they want a song about the real friendship between a boy and a doll, their bond, it immediately suggests “You’ve Got a Friend.” They’re fairly simple concepts. One of the things I have confidence about is if the assignment is about an Albania goatherd lost in Bulgaria, I could write it — and use the Albanian scale. Pulling them out of the air is more difficult. I’ve been giving myself assignments and sometimes that helps. I’ve got to change things up to make things work.
Stylistically, how do you vary your own work versus films?
I like these talking blues things now. I’ve done three of them and I can say a lot — I’ve got to watch it. It’s simple harmonically and a standard New Orleans shuffle thing, but I’ve got to push a bit.
How often does the song inform the score, or is the inverse more common?
“You’ve Got a Friend in Me” certainly informed the score for “Toy Story,” and “I Will Go Sailing No More” is used a lot in Buzz [Lightyear]’s space stuff [in “Toy Story”] now that I think of it. Occasionally [songs] are written a little later in the process, so they’re separate.
On your excellent albums in the 1970s, “Good Old Boys” in particular, the orchestrations are absolutely astounding. It seems like no one else was making pop records like that at the time. What made you take your music in that direction?
Of course it was a privilege that we could do whatever we wanted. I never felt budget constraints. [Warner Bros. Records chiefs] Lenny Waronker and Mo Ostin — those of us who were making records like that were protected and allowed to do so. “Good Old Boys” and “Sail Away” sold, so they made out all right. They didn’t make out like they did with Van Halen, but they attracted people to the label like Van Halen and Rickie Lee Jones because people like Ry Cooder or Van Dyke Parks or myself possibly were there.