Her latest CD, Life in Letters, introduces the new 20 year-old face of Lucy Schwartz, but listeners may already know her voice. How could anyone forget it? Rich and dreamy and all lit up in Technicolor, it's graced movie theaters and TV sets across the country. "Darling I Do," is one example: Lucy created the love theme to Shrek Forever After and performed the song with her co-writer Landon Pigg on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter has also written for numerous films including Mother & Child, Post Grad, Adam, and the Meg Ryan comedy The Women, for which she created songs for both the front and end credits while still in high school. She recently penned the international theme song for Parenthood, and her songs have been featured in more than a dozen hit television shows, from Grey's Anatomy to Make it Or Break It; ER to Brothers and Sisters. For Schwartz, who sang the hilariously campy jingles "Mister F" and "For British Eyes Only" on Arrested Development, drama comes naturally. "I did a lot of theater growing up," says the effervescent Lucy, "so I like the idea of escaping into a character and becoming someone else."
Now, Life in Letters establishes Lucy Schwartz as a major talent, big and bright and bursting with energy. She recorded the album with producer Mitchell Froom (Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney). "There was a lot of experimentation," she recalls. "We didn't have a band come in and play together. We did it part by part." Froom's home studio in Los Angeles served as their playground. "The whole place was filled up with keyboards," Schwartz continues, "so for 'Graveyard,' we layered ten different keyboard parts at once. For 'Those Days,' I found these bells and hit them with a yellow toy hammer. Now, some songs are a little zanier than they were when we started, but they're also a lot more interesting."
Lucy commands dramatic torch songs and breezy pop ditties with equal vigor, bringing a spectacular whimsy to everything she does, adding ukulele or a capella harmonies where you'd least expect them, cranking up every emotion into surround sound. There's so much joie de vivre in her music, she's written no less than two songs – "Graveyard" and "Shadow Man" – about what it takes to feel truly alive. "I feel like I'm always asking myself, 'Am I living a fulfilling life? Am I making the most of my time?'" says Schwartz. "When I wrote 'Shadow Man,' I'd just decided to leave college. I needed to do what I needed to do and not just what I was expected to do. And I needed to make music.
One of the most playful songs is called "I Want the Sky" – which should tell you something about Schwartz's ambitions. "I have all these crazy schemes and dreams that most people are too afraid to ask for," she admits. A longtime fan of Landon Pigg, she simply wrote to him and asked him to play Shrek to her Fiona on "Darling I Do", the song from Shrek Forever After. A fan of Matt Hales – aka Aqualung – Lucy contacted the brooding Brit to sing with her on "Seven Hours," included as a bonus track on Life in Letters. The tactic worked again for the "Graveyard" video: after marveling at an episode of So You Think You Can Dance, she wrote the show's Sonya Tayeh and asked her to choreograph the video for "Graveyard." Tayeh accepted: now Schwartz uses her moves in the clip, twirling and jumping through a smoke-machine haze. "I like to have everything just the way I'd imagined it, from the artwork to the visuals to the songs," she admits. "You might call me an artiste," she proclaims in a haughty French accent, before dissolving into laughter.
Funny as it might seem, it's also true. Lucy Schwartz is an emerging artist who's deeply engaged with the world – the good stuff, and the bad. And Life in Letters challenges that world to engage with her the same way. "Lucy Schwartz literally means 'light dark,' and I tend to write that way, too," she says. "Some songs seem bright and happy but the words are more thoughtful and introspective. Others feel darker, but I sound more hopeful. Sometimes you can hear both the light and dark in my voice." True, you already knew that voice. But thanks to Life in Letters, you'll now remember her name.