The One And Only Randy Newman

Randy Newman spins yarns about as well as the acclaimed songsmith pens tunes.
Two tours ago, the four-time Grammy award winner reminisced with the crowd about a friend who asked him what he was up to lately.
“I’ve been working on a soundtrack,” Newman explained. “Then the guy acted surprised and I said, ‘how can you be surprised, that’s what I do.”
Ever since the ‘80s, Newman, 67, has primarily worked on scores for a myriad of films His disparate collection of soundtrack credits includes ‘Ragtime,’ ‘Meet the Fockers’ and six Disney-Pixar films, including the ‘Toy Story’ troika.
“One soundtrack just led to another,” Newman said while calling from his Los Angeles home. “It was just something different for me to do.”
What is different for the vocalist-pianist lately is his solo career. The creatively restless icon gravitated back toward the solo track in 2008 with the exceptional ‘Harps and Angels.’ His first such release since 1999’s ‘Bad Love’ and just his third solo effort since 1988’s underheralded ‘Land of Dreams,’ features plenty of Newman’s familiar misanthropic, curmudgeonly wit.
The Big Easy native indulged in plenty of New Orleans shuffles. “I really enjoyed making that album,” Newman said. “I’m as proud of that album as anything I’ve ever done.”
Newman, who will perform Sunday at the Scottish Rite Auditorium, is still so jazzed by the effort that he is planning on working on a new album before his next soundtrack, as long as he can figure out where to go sonically.
“I want to make another solo album badly,” Newman said. “But I want to move in another direction. I don’t want to make another record of shuffles. The problem is that I can think of a lot of things that I don’t want to do. I just don’t know what I want to do. I just want to do something different.”
It’s been a long time since Newman offered up material comparable with his peers. Newman’s work has been comprised of diverse, challenging music as a solo artist or as a soundtrack ace ever since the dawn of the ‘70s.
“During the ‘60s I wrote songs most people wrote,” Newman said. “I wrote the ‘I love you/ why don’t’ you love me’ songs but I got bored with that a long time ago.”
Newman has taken musical chances and still hit the charts with such clever and amusing songs as ‘Short People’ and ‘I Love L.A.’ Newman has also won three Emmys and an Academy Award.
Despite all of the success, hardware and acclaim, Newman is unsatisfied. “I want to make better work,” Newman said. “I want to make music that matters. I want to top my last album and that won’t be easy because I think ‘Harps and Angels’ is the best album I’ve ever made. But I’m compelled to make better music.”
Newman’s standards are incredibly high. He aspires to make albums on the level of Bob Dylan in his prime.
“That’s asking a lot of myself since I think Dylan in that period is superior to every recording artist,” Newman said. “But I think I should aim high even though I’m older now and the best music most artists create is made before they turn 30. That’s not difficult to see. But I feel as though I still have plenty to give and I want to give maximum effort. I care about the music”
The honors Newman has received, such as being inducted as a Disney Legend, are nice but they are either glossed over or joked about.
“It’s wonderful that I’ve been inducted as a Disney Legend,” Newman said. “But I’m in there with Donald Duck. Talk about an angry man.”
The only thing that Newman fans can count on when he makes his next album is that he will not craft angry political songs in the vein of ‘A Few Words in Defense of Our Country’ and ‘A Piece of The Pie,’ which grace ‘Harps and Angels.’
“Writing those songs was very cathartic,” Newman said. “(George W.) Bush abandoned New Orleans. That was the worst we’ve ever done as a country. It was an embarrassment. Those songs had to be written but those songs only have a currency of 18 months. I don’t foresee me going in that direction. All I do know is that I’m going to challenge myself and make another solo album. I enjoy doing soundtracks very much but I love the solo work. I was reminded of that with the last album and I would like to keep that up.”

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