Swift performs at Time 100 event
LOS ANGELES, April 24, (RTRS): Malevolent toddler voice? Check. Teddy bear voice? Got it. Silky-smooth singing baritone. Seth MacFarlane can do that, too.
When he’s not minding his expanding multimedia empire, MacFarlane’s personal passion project is singing and recording classic tunes from the Great American Songbook in exacting period detail. He has won Grammys and packed symphony halls across the country. Leaning heavily into Frank Sinatra territory circa the 1950s and drawing inspiration from such arrangers as Nelson Riddle, Billy May and Gordon Jenkins, MacFarlane has released five studio albums. Recorded in hallowed musical temples including Hollywood’s Capitol Records studio and London’s legendary Abbey Road, they feature upbeat swing, mid-century holiday fare, and torch songs. His latest, “Once in a While”, follows the latter path.
“It’s a contagious passion of Seth’s, this music,” says Joel McNeely, the regular composer for MacFarlane’s “American Dad!” and “The Orville”, who produced all of MacFarlane’s albums and arranged the first four (“Once in a While” features arrangements by Scottish composer and music scholar Andrew Cottee). McNeely’s seen how infectious his colleague’s enthusiasm can be, especially at live performances.
“He’s very careful to explain to the audience why he loves the music, and he invites them to come and join him in appreciating this music. And by the end you really feel that he’s converted a lot of people to the genre.”
MacFarlane has been drawn to recordings such as Sinatra’s ballads because they are “very sprawling symphonic pieces that really make use of the entire ensemble in the best way.” For his own music, he revels in sharing the studio with a full orchestra as well, to “feed off” the musicians and capture the most vibrant sound. He also relies on traditional techniques of tape recordings in order to capture “a warmth” and natural imperfection.
“The first time we recorded at Capitol, we hauled one of the big reel-to-reels out of the basement and set it up, and that’s how we recorded,” he says. “It really makes a big difference.”
“Once in a While” is fashioned in the moody style of Sinatra’s signature albums. “I love the ballad album, the rich, melancholy songs,” MacFarlane says. “You’re taking a theme or a mood or a tone or an emotion and assembling a set list where everything lives in that space, so when you put it on, you’re spending the 60 minutes or however long the album is immersed in that one emotion.”
LOS ANGELES: Just two nights out from Taylor Swift D-day spring 2019 – i.e., Thursday’s release of a new single – Swift made an appearance Tuesday at the Time 100 event in New York, where she did not let loose with any spoiler performances of new music but did sing a few fan favorites, including “Style”, “Delicate” and “Love Story”.
Playing a five-song set for an intimate and exclusive dinner feting the hundred honorees including Dwayne Johnson and Gayle King, plus Nancy Pelosi and Jared Kushner, Swift had the room captivated during her entire performance, which also included “New Years Day” and “Shake It Off”.
When she sat at the piano for “Shake It Off”, Swift removed her high heels, later quipping, “You know when you don’t think a plan through? I have to get back up and play my guitar now.”
Reminiscing on when she wrote “Love Story” at just 17 years old – which was the first song she performed 10 years prior at her first TIME 100 gala – Swift explained she would sit alone in her room and “would think about what love would be like and obviously over-dramatize and romanticize it when I would write about it.”
She also noted that she watched hours upon hours of “Grey’s Anatomy” as a teen, and geeked out over a certain honoree in the room.
LOS ANGELES: On Tayla Parx’s debut album, “We Need to Talk”, fans finally got a glimpse of the preternaturally seasoned songwriter that they’d never seen – or, rather, heard – before. “It’s my perspective without any filter,” says Parx of her solo songs. “I’m an artist that pushes the boundaries of both genre and gender.”
But it’s those so-called filters that have solidified her status as Variety’s hitmaker of the month. As a songwriter, Parx’s recent credits include Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” and “High Hopes” by Panic! at the Disco, both songs with tremendous staying power, on the charts, in streaming metrics and on the radio. Says Parx: “When you get me writing for someone else, it’s about their ideas, their way of saying, ‘I love you’ or ‘I hate you.’”
The secret to her craft? “I like to keep the same process because it works – it goes back to learning people,” says the Dallas native. “When I step foot into the studio with an artist, My first question is: ‘How was your day? What have you been going through?’ The cool thing is that it’s like a therapy session.”
Grande’s undeniable “7 Rings”, which racked up nearly 60 million audio streams this month alone, is a prime example of inspiration that came from emotional tumult. “I had to get to know Ariana and really, truly listen to her,” says the 25-year-old Parx. “That song began with the craziest weekend in New York,” she recalls, referring to the pop star’s very public break-up with “SNL” cast member Pete Davidson (who would quickly rebound with actress Kate Beckinsale). “I was watching Ariana’s life unravel and re-stitch itself back up again within the span of a week, and towards the middle of that week, she walks into the studio with a big bag from Tiffany’s. She’s like: ‘I just want to thank you guys for being here for me – for your friendship.’ It was a really nice gesture to show her way of caring.