Curtis Moore and Thomas Mizer

Xanthe Elbrick
July 10, 2020
Online Originals

Marvelous Music

Songwriting team Thomas Mizer & Curtis Moore created “original songs” for 1959.

The swoony 'One Less Angel' is one more period-perfect addition to Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Everything on the show is intensely researched and true to the era so it's no surprise that show creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino wanted character, Shy Baldwin, (LeRoy McClain) to have original pieces since he's such an original character.

The Television Academy caught up with songwriting duo Thomas Mizer and Curtis Moore during week one of the pandemic quarantine.

Mizer lives in Los Angeles and Moore is an hour outside of New York City. "Tom and I are so used to working remotely anyways so the work side of things is pretty much the same. We just get on FaceTime and work. But now of course we have a lot more time."

Mizer and Moore met in college at Northwestern University. Moore was majoring in both Composition and Electrical Engineering while Mizer studied English and Theater.

"We started writing songs and shows together. Tom and I both love theater and music and storytelling. We have different views but share the same core belief in how music can tell a story.

"We also had a mentor who looked at us, and looked at our majors and said, 'Maybe you should be doing songwriting instead.' And we listened. We've had our own individual career breaks, but we always circled back to each other work-wise.

On his own, Moore is a composer, songwriter, performer, conductor and producer of film and theater music.

Mizer is an award-winning copywriter for national media brands including Comedy Central & Food Network. He has performed Off-Broadway and on television in addition to playing "Steve" in the original production of Blue's Clues, Live!

"We knew Amy from a musical project that we were working on together and she needed to take a little break from it. She told us, 'I got this Amazon show, it will only last for six months, no one will see it and then we will get back to the musical again.'"

The show that nobody would see was The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel which cinched a decidedly longer run and several Emmy awards straight out of the gate.

The Assignment

For the show's third season, Sherman-Palladino needed a believable hit song for 1959 to immediately cement the character Shy Baldwin as a singing superstar. She called on Mizer and Moore.

"Amy sent us an email that read: I need you boys to write me some songs. Let's start with two. One should be Johnny-Mathis-meets-Sam-Cook for Shy Baldwin, definitely a Top 40 type crossover hit. The other needs to be up-tempo for a three-girl group.

"It had such a Brill Building quality-- the building in New York in the 1960s where Carole King is working in one room and someone would come up to her to say, 'Hey we need a song for the Shirelles.'

"It was like Amy and Dan burst into our little room and said 'Hey! We need a song NOW for Shy Baldwin and the Silver Belles!' "

The Process

Tom immediately got to work and wrote a page of hooks-which are basically song titles. "My parents got married in 1960 and I grew up listening to this era. My dad jokes that he used Johnny Mathis to get a kiss from my mom. This is the music that I have always wanted to dive into."

"We wrote a quick verse and chorus for the standouts, pitched five of them to Amy, she chose two of those, and away we went. We had weeks to create what normally takes months. We come from the world of musical theater where we focus on the character and the story.

"We knew we would be writing a song that would introduce Shy's character as his star-making moment on the show. You have to believe that Shy is a pop star and that this song was a mega hit. We had to step up our game. It takes a lot of effort to make something look effortless, even a two-minute song."

The Songs

While 'One Less Angel' is the standout, there are four more songs the duo wrote for the season. 'Bottle of Pop' is the first original song in the show, performed on the USO stage by The Silver Belles. 'No One Has to Know' is the heart-strung ballad sung by Shy's character on stage at the end of episode 6.

"We also wrote 'Make Mine a Double' which is in the Miami after Dark sequence. That was done live, take after take. Amy wanted it to be REAL.

"And then we wrote a final song for (The Silver Belles) but it's not on screen. In the final episode at the Apollo that song is playing in the background. It was called 'The Boy in the Blue Plaid Pants.'

We knew it wouldn't be featured so we wanted to have fun with it, make it PG-13. We were nervous about it so we sent the lyrics to Amy and asked 'Is this too much?' to which she replied 'There is no such thing as too much.'"

The Recording

"In theater we are so used to doing everything ourselves, but in television everything moves so fast. From the day we started writing the songs to the time we were taping on set was five weeks for two songs, "Bottle of Pop" and "One Less Angel."

"Up until then the show's singers had only performed covers. One of the best compliments we got was the day we went into record with Shy's backup singers (Markita Prescott, Alysha Deslorieux and Brennyn Lark.)

They told us they had spent all weekend trying to find this song on YouTube so they could learn it and of course they couldn't because they were the first artists to actually sing it! They thought the Supremes had recorded it."

Darius de Haas is the actual singing voice of Shy Baldwin's character. "Leroy would come into the studio while Darius was recording and he would watch and film Darius singing so he could learn every movement and be able to lip sync it perfectly.

"Equally Darius would watch LeRoy act on set. They have an incredible professional relationship.

"Additionally, the actors who are playing the instruments are actually musicians, most of whom were the original recording, playing exactly what we wrote.

"Maisel music producer Stewart Lerman and the musical team wanted to keep the whole thing musically authentic. The instruments and arrangements were very specific to what you heard in Motown."

The Scene

The culmination of the hard work can be seen first-hand in season three's opening scenes. This day of shooting was also Mizer & Moore's first day on set.

"It was like walking in a time machine to a real USO show. We were in a hanger with these huge military planes, a stage and five hundred extras running the scene again and again.

"Energy started to dip mid-afternoon so the (assistant director) grabbed a mic, got on stage, and started a sing along with "One Less Angel."

"All of the "soldiers" had learned it from being there the whole day and they spontaneously started singing it with her. The crew started filming it. It was thrilling. It really made you feel like the song was a hit and Shy was a star."

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