THE BLOG
09/26/2012 01:43 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Challenge of Moving Away From the Standard Studio Album

Tasked with the opportunity to work on a record inspired by a screenplay, I got to thinking how different the writing process would be from recording a studio album.

Previously the records I have written have generally been based on experiences closer to home, so this opportunity meant I had to put my own ideas aside and get in the mind of different characters.

Instead of just having the skill to collect a number of songs that create a great soundtrack, a step beyond that is actually writing material based on the book or screenplay story itself.

Talented artists and composers have for a long time made the leap from making records to doing movie soundtracks. A few years back Clint Mansell supplied the amazing score for Duncan Jones Moon. But there is a unique brand of soundtrack that has fascinated me since I saw About A Boy based on Nick Hornby's novel. The movie is great with memorable performances from Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Grant and Toni Collete. But the most affecting thing for me was Badly Drawn Boys brilliant songs. I remember thinking I'd love to do that. He managed to write something that fit the film but also works as a stand alone album.

Another great example is Eddie Vedder's songs for Into The Wild. Watching the movie it felt like Eddie had inhabited the character as much as the actor and was speaking as him through the songs. Some years later I was asked to do the same by my good friend the novelist Kevin Sampson for his movie Powder and I set about writing songs for fictional band The Grams.

This was followed quickly by a new challenge. Bringing Chuck Palahniuk's Lullaby to life through song for a forthcoming movie. There is a great satisfaction when you manage to write a song that fits. One aspect is to supply music that fits the mood of the scene but you also have to get the tone of the lyrics right too. Not too obvious but not too oblique either. Another great hero if mine is Randy Newman who has written numerous celebrated songs for Toy Story and other Pixar classics. My friend Christina Perri wrote 'A Thousand Years' for Twilight, which was perfect for the film and exposed her music to millions of twilight fans.

There is a sense of satisfaction you get in getting it right and getting the pat on the back from the director watching it back with the team. That is your primary objective when asked to do something like that and the success of the soundtrack is a bonus. That's why I can see more and more artists collaborating in such a creatively freeing area.