Continuing to review some of the more memorable pieces from MIMO in 2013…we came across this interview Jeff McQ did with Lucy Scwhartz back in August. She’s had a lot of opportunities as an indie artist to get her music heard, some of which have come from growing up near the entertainment industry; but as you’ll see in the interview, a lot of opportunities have also come her way from simply getting herself out there. Her story reminds us not only of the importance of having and making connections in this industry, but even more importantly, of making the most of the opportunities that come our way. Enjoy. –Ed
For being a young indie artist, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Lucy Schwartz has certainly made the rounds. At age 23, she’s already had dozens of song placements in film and television (most recently her song “Boomerang” on the Season 4 finale of Arrested Development, now available on Netflix). She’s also co-written with the likes of Landon Pigg and Aqualung, toured with Lilith Fair, and even covered a Carpenters song on the television show House of Lies.
This week, Schwartz releases her third full-length studio release Timekeeper, an eclectic and highly creative blend of sound and lyric with plenty of great hooks to boot. Lucy Schwartz was kind enough to spend a few minutes with MIMO talking about the new album, and also affording us some insight into the opportunities that have come her way.
MIMO: Let’s talk about the new album Timekeeper. What stands out to you most about this record, and what do you think sets it apart from your earlier work?
Lucy: I think it’s very different from the earlier work, partly just because as you grow as a person you want to write about different things and you have a different point of view. To me, this is the most visually evoking record. I feel like you can listen to it and be inspired, think of ideas, and think of images. That’s very much like when I was in the studio, I was always thinking of imagery. I would even give the mixer pictures to show like, “This is what the song looks like to me.” This is the first time where I was connecting visuals to music in that way.
MIMO: Is that part of the inspiration for the trailer, as well?
Lucy: Partly. The idea is to really create this landscape of fantasy. I hope to make a video for every single song. With Timekeeper, I thought it would be a great idea to introduce the record in this fantastical way, and I came up with this story and I wrote it. I worked with this really great director who takes photographs and makes a collage so that it feels like you’re in a large 3D space, but actually, it’s this collaged space, which is really cool.
MIMO: Do you have a favorite tune on the new record? If so, why? What makes it your favorite?
Lucy: It’s hard to pick a favorite because they are all like your musical children…I really love “Marie Antoinette.” There’s something very magical about that one. My friend had actually lent me a tenor guitar, which is a 4-string guitar. I was playing around with that melody, and then I watched the movie Marie Antoinette. It wasn’t even my favorite movie, I just felt there was something inspiring about this iconic figure, and then seeing who she is as a real person and her loneliness. That’s where the song came from.
MIMO: There are some pretty creative arrangements on the record. Do you particularly enjoy working in the studio? Would you say that you’re a hands-on person in the studio, or do you tend to leave a lot to the producer to handle?
Lucy: I am very hands-on. I come in with layers and layers of, “This will be here and then this will be there.” This album I actually co-produced; me and my dad [David Schwartz], who goes by D-Fly on the record. [laughter] We really enjoy working together because we can be . . . when it’s family, you can be very honest and there’s no fear. We worked really well together. I do enjoy being in the studio; those are my favorite parts, creating the songs and then bringing it to the studio.
MIMO: It’s interesting that you brought up your father, because I noticed that he is a composer and he did the scoring for Arrested Development, and your song “Boomerang” is on the new season.
Lucy: That’s right.
MIMO: Is there a story behind how all that happened for you?
Lucy: Mitchell Hurwitz, who’s the creator of the show, is a good family friend. He has always loved hearing my music. They were about to wrap Arrested Development and we gave him my CD, because I had just printed some copies of it. It wasn’t at all like, “Put this in the show.” The show was pretty much finished and done, and it was not with that intention at all; we just gave it to him because he’s our friend and we wanted him to hear it. Then, I guess it was the night before they were finishing the edit, he said he was driving home at 3:00 a.m. listening to the record, and he heard “Boomerang,” and suddenly he was like, “The season has to end with ‘Boomerang.’ That’s the way it has to end.” He went back and re-edited it so that the song would fit.
MIMO: What a cool story. Song placement and song licensing actually seems to be a staple for independent musicians these days. “Boomerang” and Arrested Development aside, you’ve had songs placed in a number of different television shows and films. Do you have any advice for DIY musicians who might be looking for those opportunities? What would you recommend that they do to get into that loop?
Lucy: I think there’s almost no way to plan being a musician these days, because there’s 1,000 different routes. It’s like a river, and then you have all these little tiny rivers flowing into it, and you could pick any one. The way that I got into it was very unusual. My neighbor [is] Chris Douridas, who’s a KCRW DJ; my dad was running through town and he happened to run into him, and he was like, “My daughter is a singer. Could I give you this CD?” I think Chris was a little leery, but he was like, “All right.” Then he gave him the CD.
Chris really loved it. He started playing it on the radio. Then he was working on this movie called The Women, and he just asked me casually, “Do you want to try and write something for it?” At the time, I was in high school and I was 18. I said, “Sure.” I got really excited and I wrote a song. They sent it to the director and that ended up being the end credit song. Then they said, “We need a beginning credit song,” so I wrote that, too.
For me, that’s how it started. It’s hard to say how to start, but I would say the most important thing is just to write music you care about, because if it’s music that you care about, then it’s going to find its way to other people. There are places that people can look into, that are licensing places that will help get that going for you. I think to start it’s just to do it for music’s sake.
MIMO: It sounds like you had a specific path to get where you went, but it seems like it happened through relationships, people that you knew. One thing led to another. What role do you think relationships and connections have played in the other parts of your career? Do you feel like it’s been more along the lines of relationships and connections you already had that kind of worked out for you, as opposed to cold calling or trying reach out to somebody that doesn’t know you?
Lucy: I think it’s a mixture of both. Things that happened with management and things like that, were never like I was cold calling and saying, “You have to listen to this.” I wasn’t being pushy. I was very young at 18 and things just happened to happen. That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t working for things. I feel sometimes people think, “It just happens.” Even when a great thing happens, your music . . . a lot of people still don’t know the music yet, and you’re still working towards that.
I did a lot of connecting in other areas, where I would reach out to people. I love [the show] So You Think You Can Dance. There’s this woman Sonya [Tayeh], who’s a choreographer there, and I wrote to her. I didn’t know her, and I asked, “Can we do a music video together?” I did a video called “Graveyard” with her. Then I’m a big fan of Landon Pigg; I didn’t know him either, and I just wrote to him about writing together, [and] we ended up writing a Shrek song together. Matt Hales, he’s one of my favorite artists of all time. I just got this idea like, “I have to do something with Matt, with Aqualung,” and reached out to him. We wrote a Twilight song together. So it’s a combination of both.
MIMO: What’s up next for you after Timekeeper is released? What are your plans for the fall?
Lucy: Like I was saying, I’m hoping to make a music video for every single song [on the record], and I’d like to direct some of them. I actually just directed one that we’re editing now for “Boomerang” that’s going to be hilarious. It’s dogs dressed up as people, where they have people arms and they are wearing clothes. It stars my own dog, Banjo. It’s going to be really cute. So, yeah, just touring, creating videos, and just spreading the music.