In the past year, singer/songwriter Lucy Schwartz has released a solo album and placed several songs in major film and television productions, including the opening song for a recent remake of The Women. She's won an international songwriting contest, received airplay on trendsetting Santa Monica radio station KCRW, and performed at some of LA's best-known clubs.
Not bad for a college freshman.
Lucy is the daughter of well-known television composer David Schwartz, the man behind the music on such shows as Northern Exposure and Arrested Development. Lucy has contributed vocals to some of her father's television projects, while he co-produces her music and plays bass in her band. But, she says, their styles and working methods are distinct.
I just want to write great songs, whether it's for CDs or film. I'm very fortunate that I can have that as my career.
"It's really cool to share music with my dad," says Lucy. "But I think we do very separate things. He's got a schedule, and if they need a song for a show, it'll be like bam, done in one night. He's a great composer, and I just sit around the studio sometimes and listen to him write."
In contrast, she says, her process is more exploratory. "I usually don't have something in mind. I just sit at the piano and start fiddling around. If I find a little phrase I like, I'll start humming a melody to it, and then just write down nonsense words. Then the song comes from that. It's sort of like a puzzle, just figuring out what goes where until it forms a picture."
Assembling the pieces of her solo album, 2007's Winter in June, was another satisfying challenge. "I wrote the songs when I was fourteen and fifteen," says Lucy. "I was in high school, and I wanted to record it just for fun. I did it in my dad's studio. It was a long process, between his work and my being at school. But it was fun to be able to share that with my dad, and have musicians play on it. It takes a lot longer than you think. But I enjoy the process, and afterwards you have a finished product."
Once the record was complete, she says, "We put it up on iTunes and MySpace, and things just started happening." A chance encounter between David Schwartz and an influential Los Angeles film and TV music supervisor accelerated things further. "My dad ran into Chris Douridas, who has a radio show on KCRW, and gave him a copy of the CD," Lucy recalls. "And he got a call from Chris later, saying, 'Oh, I really love these songs. Would it be okay if I played them on the radio?'"
As music supervisor for a remake of the classic film The Women--starring Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, and Bette Midler, among others--Douridas asked Lucy if she'd like to write a song for the movie. "I wrote it in a couple of days," she says. "Then they were looking for a song for the opening credits, so me and my dad and Gabriel Mann worked on another song together. That was really fun, because I'd never written anything with my dad before."
On her recordings, Lucy plays the Yamaha Disklavier in her father's studio. "I really like that piano," she says. "It just sounds really beautiful, and I love the feel of a real piano. It's cool, because you can play something and then press a button and have it play back--it's like there's a ghost there, playing for you."
In her dorm room at Occidental College, where space is at a premium, Lucy plays another Yamaha piano: the new NP30 Portable Grand. The NP30 is Yamaha's most compact digital piano--and at only 12 pounds, the most lightweight model.
"That keyboard is great because it's so small," Lucy enthuses. "It just sits right under my bed in my dorm, and I can just take it out and play whenever. I usually just play with headphones. I like the natural piano sound--it sounds great. And it's incredibly light. I can pick it up with my pinkie!"
In addition to her ongoing college studies in music and other disciplines, Lucy plans to continue performing with her band and hopes to record a second CD before long. "I have a whole slew of new songs ready to go, so hopefully I'll get back into the recording studio soon," she says. "I just want to write great songs, whether it's making more CDs or doing music for film. I just think the songs are the most important thing. I don't think I could stop writing songs--it's just the thing that I do, and it's very cool that I have the ability to make that my career."
(Photography Credit: Rob Shanahan)