Playing Your Darker, Failed Self
Dan Zanes is a Grammy-winning family musician. A former member of the band the The Del Fuegos, he has gone on to redefine children's music with an "unsanitized, unpasteurized, [and] organically even" mode of composition. In 2009, he won the Independent Music Award, and has collaborated with Lou Reed, Sheryl Crow, Suzanne Vega and numerous others on his albums. He lives in Brooklyn.
Question: Was it strange being asked to have a role in “A Wonderful World”?
Dan Zanes: Yeah, it was a little weird at first when I… I didn’t… When Josh Goldin the writer and director contacted me he didn’t say a lot about it. He said it had to do with a children’s singer, but then as I was reading the script there was nothing about this guy that I could identify with. He was bitter. He felt like the music industry had totally let him down and he wasn’t very nice to people and you know just everything that I feel like I am to some degree. I’m very optimistic. I believe in the best… all of life’s best possibilities you know so all these things, so as I read it I thought well clearly this has nothing to do with me, but at the end you know the thing that was hip about it for me was at the end of the movie there is some kind of redemption and there is a real, a fundamental shift in the way that the guy sees the world and it ends where he is singing and playing guitar and I think that that’s where a lot of that comes from. You know I really believe that in music making that we begin to have… that our whole perception of ourselves and the world around us can change and especially in music making with other people in a social setting, so I was really into that part of it, but even though the guy was bitter and negative and everything else I love Matthew Broderick and I knew it was going to be good and I was relieved to find out that it really had nothing to do with me as a person.
Question: What was working on the movie like?
Dan Zanes: Working on Wonderful World is very exotic for me because I’ve been making records and touring for so long, so to get to be around any kind of movie making is good. I think most musicians… I think all singers feel like they can be actors and I didn’t really get the chance to do much more than a couple lines in the movie, but to make some instrumental music and to write some songs for it and be on the set and watch it all happen was… It was a great experience and I loved the movie and I loved the script, so it was a real easy one for me and hopefully something that I’ll get to do more of, but it’s… And also when the movie was being made it was very uncertain whether it would ever get picked up or where it was all going to go and to see that it has gotten picked up. It’s being distributed. It’s opening in cities around the country and getting great press. It’s really that part of it is exciting, so it’s just it’s nice to see all the work that goes into something and then it pays off and it sort of makes you believe that these things really are possible.
Dan Zanes, a happy and successful family musician, was solicited and wound up with a role in the recent movie "A Wonderful World," about a grim and failed children’s musician—how does one take such a proposal?
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