Music can make or break a movie in my opinion, it’s what sets the whole scene and for a musical the music has to be spot on and Bret McKenzie did an amazing job in The Muppets Most Wanted and the previous Muppets movie. He even won an Oscar for a song from The Muppets, “Man or Muppet”. We had the opportunity to interview Bret McKenzie while we were in LA for the Muppets Most Wanted premier. I loved listening to him and asked him the question about where he gets inspiration when he can’t think of anything. I loved his response. Check that out and the rest of the questions below!
You won an Oscar for your song “Man or Muppet.” While working on the music for Muppets Most Wanted did you feel pressure to meet that kind of standard again?
BRET MCKENZIE: Yeah there was a lot of pressure because of the Oscar, but really what could I do? I had to get on with the job and just, you know, forget about that. I didn’t work on the last Muppet film to win awards.
What is your general creative process like?
BRET: They send me a script with the idea of a song and it’s usually quite a loose idea. For example, the ballad. It was originally called “Love Ain’t Easy,” and it was a Piggy ballad. And first of all I was nervous because Piggy is a great comedic character, but not a great singer. I was worried about her carrying an emotional ballad because there’s only so much of her voice that the audience wants to hear.
Thirty seconds is great; but a couple of minutes really starts being a bit painful. So I suggested we try and get a singer to help her and we were really excited when Celine Dion agreed. I’m hoping that these two divas will get like a Las Vegas Celine Dion/Piggy Diva Night. That’s my dream. Anyway so then I would write the song and adapt it for the characters.
Sometimes you get someone like Tina Fey who’s got the role of a prison guard and I always wanted to do this doo wop song. I started working with her and I adjusted the song to suit her voice because it was the wrong pitch. We worked together to find her strengths, where her voice sits. And that’s one of the benefits of being the songwriter and producer of the songs as well. If it’s not working, I can just change the song.
If you could be a Muppet, which Muppet would you be?
BRET: I would probably be one of the two old guys, because they get a lot of the best jokes. It’s between them and Animal for me. Yeah. Animal’s great. And Swedish Chef is a guaranteed laugh at home. [IMITATES SWEDISH CHEF] Snoop du beshdabeers. [LAUGHS] Everyone can do a Swedish Chef, And the kids just love that character. He’s pretty fun.
Whose idea was it to re-use an old Muppets song for the last musical number in Muppets Most Wanted?
BRET: “Together Again.” That was James’s idea and it’s a reprise of an original Muppet song [from Muppets Take Manhattan], A lot of the audience won’t know that, but it’s one of the classic Muppet songs “Together Again.” But of course, it’s “Together Again, Again.”
Q: When you have writer’s block what do you refer to for inspiration?
Bret – YouTube. It’s kind of fun writing songs in the studio. We can look through (referencing YouTube) because there’s such a great history of recorded music now. You can look at ’70s and ’80s songs. And power ballads. I’m a real sucker for power ballads. Then for this film I would look back at a few old, Irving Berlin songbooks, old Broadway, and show tunes, that influenced the opening couple of songs.
Here is an Irving Berlin song. This is why I LOVE Brett McKenzie
Q: Do you have a favorite song from this film that you wrote?
Bret – I do like “I’ll Get You What You Want” (Cockatoo and Malibu) which is the bad frog (Constantine) trying to woo Miss Piggy.
It kind of comes out of left field and it’s a genre that I really love, that kind of early ’80s Lionel Richie/Michael McDonald/Doobie Brothers sound. It was kind of fun to make a Russian frog sing like as Michael McDonald.
I have to agree with Brett, my favorite song is also I’ll Get You What You Want” (Cockatoo and Malibu).
… I can give you anything you want
Give you anything you need
I’ll make your dreams come true
Give you anything you want
Fulfill your fantasies
I’ll make your dreams come true
You wanna unicorn, I’ll give it to you
You wanna puppy dog, I’ll give it to you
You want an ice cream cone, I’ll give it you
You want a mortgage loan, I’ll give it to you
You wanna satin pillow, I’ll give it to you
You want an armadillo, I’ll give it to you
You wanna diamond ring, I’ll give it to you
You wanna a thingy thing, I’ll give it to you…
You can hear all the songs on the Muppets Most Wanted Soundtrack.