What do you do when you’ve sold more than 2.5 million records? When you’ve topped the Billboard charts a couple of times and written a few platinum albums? When you’ve been nominated for Grammys and written or licensed dozens of songs for film and television including the end titles song for an Oscar winning film? What do you do after you call on world class artists and comedians to create a 5-volume set of CDs that have been distributed to over a million of our troops world wide just to say “Thank you?”
What do you do with that level of talent, success and sincerity? Hopefully, you keep making music. Great music.
That’s exactly what Five For Fighting’s John Ondrasik has done with his brand new album Bookmarks, which drops today. Ondrasik returned to his roots with the album to collaborate with friend and producer Greg Wattenberg–a combination of talents that brought the hits Superman and 100 Years to life.
Bookmarks once again showcases Ondrasik’s unique vocal style with haunting melodies and supported by lyrics that reflect timely cultural introspection and personal insights … but with a more modern production than we’ve heard on his past records.
It’s available now on iTunes.
Breitbart News had a chance to speak with Ondrasik about the new album, politics and Andrew.
BN: Hey John, tell us about Bookmarks, it’s your sixth major release right?
ONDRASIK: Yeah, I look on it as a bit of a miracle. My goal with every record (I still call them that) is to make another one, and I’m blessed to still be cranking them out. Bookmarks is a more modern production than the last few Five For Fighting records, but as always starts with a guy and a piano. It leans a bit rock which allowed me to stretch out the voice. It probably has the widest range of songwriting colors which made it a blast to record.
BN: You’ve written standards like Superman and 100 Years, are your goals the same as they were when you were starting out? What’s the process like?
ONDRASIK: I always write 50-60 songs to get the 11 you hear on each album. I am a true believer in the sanctity of “The Song.” The challenge, if you have the luxury to have a career, is to evolve as a songwriter and not become a parody of yourself. It may sound boring but I simply try to write the best songs I can and present them in a compelling way. Of course as my life is in a much different place (married with children) than it was when I started out (single and stupid), my perspective on “winning” has changed a bit. That said, everyone wants to be relevant and there are few things better than having a hit record with audiences singing your songs back to you.
BN: You were very close to Andrew Breitbart, and one of his main battles was to even the playing field such that artists could speak up without fear of repercussions regardless of their political affiliation, how do you balance your political views within the reality of a very liberal music business and a split country? I mean you campaigned for Romney. Some might suggest that to be, I don’t know … crazy.
ONDRASIK: I try and walk the tightrope. I understand many music fans don’t want to hear me preach on a soapbox. That said, like any citizen, I have the right to share my views, and being a songwriter/entertainer puts me somewhere in the culture war. In terms of campaigning for Mitt Romney, I doubt I would have done it, if not infused with the spirit of Andrew. Career suicide warnings kept being drowned out by Andrew’s “So.” Mitt and his family were good people and I think he would have made a great President. It was an honor to campaign for him. I gained a new respect for all national politicians including President Obama. The grind of a campaign is insane. After three weeks I was ready to check myself into a hospital and these guys go at it 24/7 for over a year … I believe the campaign thought the were going to win up to the last moment … Sadly, Scoreboard.
BN: With so much talk of the GOP moving left, right, here, there … where do you land on the political curve?
ONDRASIK: Politically my worldview tends to be centrist/libertarian. But what has driven me to become more outspoken is what fueled Andrew, the hypocrisy of our media and double standard in holding politicians accountable. Politicians regardless of party, in many cases, will put self interest in front of national interest. I believe an adversarial press is crucial to our Republic. That’s my main peeve …
BN: Is there any political connotation in your new single What If?
ONDRASIK: What If asks the question “What if you were me, What if I were you?” I do believe that if we could share each others experience, we may not always agree, but we might understand each other better. We live in an emotionally divided country in a culture that likes to subset everyone. I am a fan of the individual. I may be naive but I believe most Americans want to reward excellence and hard work, provide opportunity for the next generation and help those who truly need it. The difference in parties is the strategies in how to get there. Unfortunately, politics of division have taken precedence over serious problem solving. If we would stop calling those we disagree with evil or idiots, take a look through each others eyes, perhaps we could rise above today’s gridlock. What If?
BN: You were very close to Andrew Breitbart. In fact, you wrote a song that we posted called I Can’t Stand to Say Goodbye for Andrew on the one year anniversary of the death … Is he anywhere in this album?
ONDRASIK: I can hear Andrew in this record … The closing song The Day I Died is a first-person farewell from someone who lived every day to the fullest, including his last … “I was alive the day I died.” Andrew can certainly claim that legacy, to the max! I miss him terribly.
BN: Thanks so much, John.
ONDRASIK: Thank you, guys.