Music is a main character in Rudderless, actor William H. Macy’s directorial debut. The film, released Oct. 17 by Samuel Goldwyn Films, follows a father (Billy Crudup) forming a band in the wake of his son’s death, and features songs penned by Simon Steadman and Charlton Pettus and a score by alt-country band Clem Snide‘s Eef Barzelay. Cast alongside Crudup and Anton Yelchin are musicians Ben Kweller and Selena Gomez, lending an air of authenticity to the film’s many performance scenes. Macy, 64, who currently stars on Showtime’s Shameless, shares the inspirations behind the film’s sound. Spoiler: One Direction is definitely not one of them.
Selena Gomez in ‘Rudderless.’
How involved were you in the process of creating the film’s music?
I was all over it. Before we started I sent out a letter that said, “I want pop songs. I want the audience to be able to hum the hook after one hearing. But I don’t want any songs about the plot of the movie.” I was pretty involved too when we recorded them. I was vocal about the arrangements — much to Charlton’s chagrin.
Are you qualified to give notes on song arrangements?
No. I mean, maybe a little bit. As long as there’s somebody smarter than me in charge, I’m qualified to chip in.
Billy Crudup in ‘Rudderless.’
Do you play an instrument?
My brother taught me to play guitar, and I played a very inappropriate song about infidelity at the high school talent show. I’ve been in show business ever since. I picked up the ukulele about 10 or 12 years ago, and that’s my passion.
Did you give everyone a ukulele as a wrap present?
I did. There was a lot of ukulele playing on-set. I had the ukulele with me and between takes I’d just play. [My wife] Felicity [Huffman] said, “You do that to self-soothe, don’t you?”
What sort of music do you listen to?
My daughters are 12 and 14 so I listen to [SiriusXM’s] Hits 1 a lot. There was a while there where I thought the pop scene was just dead. They would take a stupid phrase that was not clever and repeat the same f–ing phrase until you were ready to leap out of the car. But they’re writing some good stuff these days. My oldest is really into Taylor Swift, so we went to her concert and she was great. Then we went to One Direction, who are a bunch of wankers. I just wanted to spank them — they should be ashamed of themselves.
This article first appeared in the Nov. 1 issue of Billboard.