Who says Adam Schlesinger isn’t a prolific composer of songs? No one. Because that would be a patently untrue thing to say. In addition to his writing duties with New Jersey pop-rockers Fountains of Wayne, the bassist has, over the past few years, penned tunes for the Broadway musical Cry-Baby, the Hugh Grant big-screen comedy Music and Lyrics, and last year’s Stephen Colbert Christmas TV special. At some point (possibly over breakfast one day) he also found the time to come up with songs for his new band Tinted Windows, whose eponymous debut is out April 21.
The seemingly unlikely line-up of this super-ish group comprises Schlesinger, Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos and (but, of course!) Hanson’s Taylor Hanson. EW spoke to the dryly droll Schlesinger about how the Windows came together, the future of the Fountains of Wayne, and why writing a song for the Jonas Brothers will not necessarily buy you a new swimming pool.
Music Mix First things first. Is it true you once wrote a song for popular teen pop combo the Jonas Brothers?
Adam Schlesinger I’m friends with a guy called Steve Greenberg who was president of Columbia Records at the time of the project, and he asked me if I had something for them. He said that the band liked Fountains of Wayne so I wrote a song for them. Unfortunately, it ended up on the great, lost Jonas Brothers record [2006's It's About Time], which was their Columbia release. They were subsequently dropped by Columbia and then they signed to Disney and became megastars.
Music Mix So the song didn’t buy you a new swimming pool?
Schlesinger No, unfortunately not. That record is now deleted and, from what I understand, Disney made sure that it would never really see another release.
Music Mix Is it easier to write for the Jonas Brothers or Steven Colbert?
Schlesinger Well, in the case of the Jonas Brothers, I just sent them the song and they cut it. So, it was very easy. The Stephen Colbert project was much more collaborative. That was months of work and going back and forth with the writers.
Music Mix He’s actually got a pretty good voice, hasn’t he?
Schlesinger Oh, he’s a fantastic singer. If this whole TV thing doesn’t work out for him he can just go straight to Broadway.
Music Mix When I first learned about Tinted Windows I thought, “What the hell is that going to sound like?” Then I heard the album and I thought, “Actually, that’s just what I would expect those four guys to sound like.”
Schlesinger That’s kind of how I feel. It’s the sum of the four parts. You can hear everybody’s distinct thing within it. But it doesn’t sound particularly like any of our other groups. The band is not as random as it seems — I’ve known Taylor since about 1997. Funnily enough, we were introduced by that same guy, Steve Greenberg, who at the time was Hanson’s record guy. He said, “I’ve got this new group and maybe you guys would want to write together.” Though we didn’t back then.
Music Mix Lucky for Hanson! If you had written with them then maybe that album would have become “the lost Hanson record” instead of selling a gazillion copies.
Schlesinger Exactly! I saved myself the heartbreak on that one. So Taylor and I were always talking about doing something together. Meanwhile James and I are good friends, and we started saying it would be cool to hear Taylor’s voice against some loud guitars — he’s such a great singer, and I started writing with that in mind. And we wanted someone who could play the drums like Bun E. Carlos. It was just the style of drumming that we heard in our heads. We were going through a list of people that kind of sounded like that and then someone said, “Well maybe we should see if Bun E. Carlos himself wants to do it.”
Music Mix Who out of the four of you has the best rock’n’roll stories?
Schlesinger Oh my god, Bun E. hands down. He’s a walking encyclopedia of rock history. Cheap Trick has played with every band on the planet. Anybody you mention, he has a story about them.
Music Mix Are there plans for another Fountains of Wayne record?
Schlesinger Yeah, we’re actually in the middle of it. We’ve got about eight songs that we’ve recorded already. I would very much like it to come out this year.
Music Mix What are you listening to at the moment?
Schlesinger I just got the new Robyn Hitchcock record, which I like quite a bit. The Ting Tings have been a huge hit in my family. I have two young daughters and both of them love that record, so I pretty much have to listen to that ten times a day. My one-year-old daughter says, “Name! Name!” That means she wants to hear “That’s Not My Name”. She just demands it constantly. It’s the Ting Tings and the Wiggles for her.
Music Mix What about the Fountains of Wayne?
Schlesinger They just call it “Da-da” if they want to hear that. They don’t know the band name [laughs].