Adam Schlesinger’s name may not instantly ring a bell, but you’ve no doubt come across his work on the radio or on the silver and small screens. Schlesinger is neither a forgotten one-hit wonder nor a pop superstar. He is, however, one of the lucky few who’ve made a successful living at music. Still, he probably couldn’t talk his way into his own concert.
"Most people have never heard of Fountains of Wayne or Ivy," Schlesinger says of his two bands. "I’m happy if I can make some kind of living from music. There are certainly easier ways to make a lot of money, if that’s your goal."
While Schlesinger may be recognized more for his role as a songwriter and guitarist for Fountains of Wayne (they had a Top 40 hit with 2004’s cheeky ditty "Stacy’s Mom") or even for his producing credits, it’s when he switches from his hit-making formulas to work with the sophisticated trio Ivy that he stretches himself musically. And even though he’s been dedicated to both bands for more than a decade, Schlesinger believes the breezy and refined style of Ivy has much more longevity.
With fellow producer Andy Chase, and Chase’s French-born wife Dominique Durand on vocals, Ivy has quietly released five albums since 1995, including an impressive all-covers record, and, most recently, the gently sashaying In the Clear. Schlesinger says the carefree sound of the album was achieved by coming to the studio with unfinished songs.
"It was a lot of fun, and very liberating for me and Andy in particular," he says about writing in the studio. "I think we both have certain patterns that we fall into when we write alone, and this process of writing together helped us each to break some old habits. I think there’s a certain spontaneity that was maintained."
With two producers in the band, there’s no question that the album was meticulously put together. But Schlesinger confessed — having two know-it-alls has its ups and downs.
"We both know what we’re doing with all the gear. The downside is that we’re both convinced we’re right all the time."
While the band has scored some high-profile session work for movies (including the score to the Farrelly Brothers’ Shallow Hal), Ivy has never fit into the New York music scene, nor have they shared in the hype that many of their hipster Brooklyn counterparts often enjoy. Although they’d be more at home rubbing elbows with such refined European groups as Saint Etienne or Stereolab, being the lone needle in the haystack has done nothing but fuel Ivy’s inspiration.
"We never really fit in with a scene in New York," Schlesinger says. "We just write songs based on stuff we all like, and mostly operate in our own little world."
Keeping his Fountains and Ivy songwriting pads far away from each other, Schlesinger admits there’s one criterion to making an Ivy song really work. "The only real rule is that Dominique has to like it. She has veto power since she’s the singer," Schlesinger says. "It has to be something that Dominique feels good about.
"With Ivy, it’s much more about a mood and a sense of atmosphere. And obviously, what she feels comfortable singing is not going to be the same as what Chris [Collingwood] from Fountains feels comfortable singing."
Does that mean the ethereal Durand wouldn’t want to belt out something like: "Stacy do you remember when I mowed your lawn? Your mom came out with just a towel on"?
Ivy performs Friday, June 10, at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700. Robbers on High Street and Astaire to open. Doors at 8 p.m.Shannon McCarthy is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]