Michael Buckner | Frazer Harrison, Getty Images Now this is a collaboration that…
Seth MacFarlane Goes From 'Family Guy' to Recording With Sinatra's Microphone, Thanks to Woody Allen -- Exclusive Video
- Posted on Sep 30th 2011 2:00PM by Carlos Ramirez
Joseph Llanes for AOL
Just this week, MacFarlane released 'Music Is Better Than Words,' his debut album. Arranged, conducted and produced by accomplished film and television composer Joel McNeely, the album finds MacFarlane singing some lesser-known gems of the '40 and '50s. In addition to show tunes, 'Music Is Better Than Words' will also feature original material and duets with the likes of Norah Jones and Sara Bareilles. Spinner recently visited MacFarlane in Los Angeles where we talked about his album, the Great American Songbook and how a Woody Allen film changed his life.
You announced the news about your solo album during an interview on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno' earlier this year. Were you worried that the public wouldn't take you seriously as a singer?
There's always a little bit of a question mark when you come at a music project from another industry. There's always a bit of skepticism. But Joel McNeely and I have put as much work into this as we would have if everything were on the line and this was our make-or-break -- you know, our career [laughs]. But it's not. What's nice is that there was a free, no-pressure kind of a feel to everything since we both come from other industries, but we both love this kind of music. I'm sure there'll be supporters and detractors. I expected more cynicism about it than I've seen. I think people are waiting to make the judgment based on hearing it, which is good. Now it's up to the damn thing to speak for itself or not.
Since you're only in your 30s, how did you first discover Big Band music and the classic standards you love so much?
I've always been exposed to show music. My parents both sang, so they felt it was important to expose my sister and I to all of the great shows from the '30s, '40s, and '50s. I saw the movie 'Radio Days' when I was in high school. My cousin had gotten me into Woody Allen and that was a movie that took a lot of great songs from that era and put them into a narrative framework that made them, in many ways, accessible and interesting and meaningful to people who had just really never been exposed to that kind of music. It worked for me. I sought out more of it.
I eventually sought out what was going on in popular jazz in the early and late '50s, which is kind of what this album is most evocative of. To me, that was the golden era of popular jazz orchestration. It was very lush, rich and complex, but at the same time it was very accessible. It hadn't reached the point where it was for the jazz elite where it was so esoteric and so dissonant, that you couldn't be Joe Schmo and appreciate it.
Joseph Llanes for AOL
That mic is over 60 years old and you can see it. But it has a really nice, dark sound to it. It really plays a significant part on how this stuff sounds. You don't want it to sound too crisp. We did a lot in the recording of this album to make sure it was not too perfect. We recorded to analog tape as opposed to recording digitally because we wanted a little bit of a hiss.
So it's safe to say there isn't a trace of Auto-Tune on the album.
No, what's in that room is what's on the album [laughs]. It's an advantage and disadvantage, but it's what causes the imperfections. Even on the Sinatra's records you can hear the occasional clams. Not too many, but the occasional wrong note or a break in the voice. That's because that stuff was recorded live in a room.
You worked with a full orchestra. Was there ever a point in the project where you felt overwhelmed with the pressure to deliver?Oh yeah, every second. There was that sense that if one person was off their game, we only have three hours on this day, and three hours on that day, to get it right. So yeah, there was absolutely that sense of having to be on your game. But that's the way it was in the '50s. You couldn't go into the studio and work on a song for three months. You had to go in and get four songs done in three hours and get out and be in the bar having your martini moments afterwards [laughs]. It's amazing when you hear those old songs and how good they sound. You realize what a group of talent these people must have been that they blasted through that stuff and it sounds that good.