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Adam Schlesinger Remembered by His Longtime A&R Exec: ‘His Talent Speaks for Itself’

Steve Yegelwel signed and A&R'd the late bassist's band Fountains of Wayne for Atlantic Records, among other times their careers crossed paths.

For more than 20 years, veteran A&R exec Steve Yegelwel worked with Adam Schlesinger, who died Wednesday (April 1) from complications of the coronavirus. He served as the A&R rep for Ivy, Schlesinger’s band on Atlantic Records’ imprint Seed, in the mid-‘90s, then signed and A&R’d Fountains of Wayne for Atlantic Records and later S-Curve Records. He worked with Fountains of Wayne on 2003’s Welcome Interstate Managers, which included the Grammy-nominated power pop classic “Stacy’s Mom.” He also signed and A&R’d Tinted Windows, a supergroup featuring Schlesinger, Taylor Hanson of Hanson, James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins and Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick. Yegelwel spoke to Billboard shortly after news broke of Schlesinger’s death.

I met Adam at a party. I didn’t sign Ivy to Seed but did become their A&R person. I was working with Adam with Ivy and he sent me four songs on cassette that he’d written over winter break with his friend Chris Collingwood, who he’d gone to college with. Those songs ended up being the first four songs on the first Fountains of Wayne album. They were so fully realized and so great, there was no doubt we had to sign them. They had never even performed live. They didn’t do that until the album came out.

The things that made Adam so special as a songwriter were his ability with a hook and an incredibly strong melody. Lyrically, he told stories that were sometimes humorous and emotionally touching as well. He could really touch your heart and make you laugh. “Stacy’s Mom” is such a funny song and touching song and very sweet. He takes the viewpoint of the kid who’s a little clueless. That’s the charm of it all. He was so good at that. “Hackensack” was also on the same album, which is also really touching. Katy Perry used to do it live because she found it so relatable.

Because of his melody and lyrics, everyone wanted to meet him because they felt they could relate to him. When you met him, he was everything you hoped he would be.

His talent speaks for itself. He was an EGOT nominee (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) and had won two of them. [Schlesinger won a Grammy  and three Emmys] There’s not that many people who come from the band world who do that. He was such a unique, extraordinary talent and he was a one-man music operation. He even wrote his own bios and press releases. It’s absolutely true. He came up with concepts for videos, he laid out artwork. He was involved in all aspects and did everything. A lot of people know his music and his songs and his talent for that, but I don’t think a lot of people understood the behind-the-scenes aspect.

I last was in touch with him two months ago. For some reason, Out-of- State Plates, a collection of Fountains of Wayne B-sides, wasn’t available on streaming services anymore and he asked if there was any way I could help. Before that, I had seen him socially six months ago at Sid Gold’s Request Room, a bar he co-owned in Chelsea. He had just finished Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. He was happy and having so much success and doing so well. This is unbelievable.