Counting Crows lead singer Adam Duritz is known for writing intensely personal and introspective songs. That type of songwriting, he says, comes easily to him.
But writing an original song for animated film “Shrek 2” did not come as easily.
“I was really struggling with it. I generally don’t write songs on demand, and I almost got to the point where I thought I wasn’t going to do it,” Duritz tells Billboard.
The song, Counting Crows’ “Accidentally in Love,” is the first single from the “Shrek 2” soundtrack, which Geffen Records releases May 11. The DreamWorks Pictures movie opens May 21 in U.S. theaters.
The song was written for the film’s opening montage featuring the honeymoon of the characters Shrek and Princess Fiona.
Duritz says that to prepare for the song, he went to the DreamWorks animation camp and saw about half of the movie, including the opening sequence for which “Accidentally in Love” was supposed to be written.
The 2001 “Shrek” movie and soundtrack are both hard acts to follow: The DreamWorks Pictures film grossed more than $266 million at the U.S. box office, according to Nielsen EDI, and “Shrek” became the first movie to win the Academy Award for best animated feature film.
The “Shrek” soundtrack has sold 2.1 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Uplifting and personalStill, Duritz says he did not receive excessive pressure from the film studio to write a hit, and the studio gave him more creative freedom than he had expected.
“They just told me that the song had to be uplifting. They actually said, ‘Don’t write a song about Shrek. Write a song that’s about you.’ The funny thing is, the song ended up reflecting a lot of what was going on in my life at the time: falling in love with someone you’re not supposed to fall in love with because it’s inconvenient,” Duritz says.
Cover versions abound on the “Shrek 2” soundtrack: Butterfly Boucher Featuring David Bowie cover Bowie’s “Changes.” Pete Yorn offers a harder-driving version of Fine Young Cannibals’ “Ever Fallen in Love.”
Meanwhile, Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas, who are the voices behind “Shrek 2” characters Donkey and Puss-in-Boots, respectively, do their version of Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ la Vida Loca.”
Jennifer Saunders (the voice of the film’s Fairy Godmother) and Frou Frou perform separate versions of Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero.” (Saunders’ version is the CD’s bonus track.)
Other tracks on the album include Saunders’ “Fairy Godmother Song,” Tom Waits’ “Little Drop of Poison,” Dashboard Confessional’s “As Lovers Go (Ron Fair Remix)” and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ “People Ain’t No Good.”
Although Duritz is pleased with the outcome of “Accidentally in Love,” he says that musicians and songwriters who work in the movie industry have to prepare for “a somewhat unpleasant process.”
Duritz elaborates, “When I work on my own records, the record company generally doesn’t try to f--- with me. But when you’re doing a movie, the people who do the music are considered the bottom crawlers. So much money is involved in these movies that someone somewhere is going to try to screw you.”
That hasn’t stopped Duritz from wanting to work in films. He says he would like to work with director Mike Nichols. Duritz consider Nichols, Martin Scorsese and Wes Anderson directors who possess the ability to let music tell stories in film.
Duritz says that “Accidentally in Love” means a lot to him because he believes original songs for animated films tend to have a timeless quality. They also appeal to many age groups.
“My songs for Counting Crows are mature and generally don’t get a chance to reach kids. To be part of something like that is pretty cool.”