I need to preface this post by saying that I grew up listening to Elton John. I remember singing and dancing in my room to hits like “Crocodile Rock” and “Your Song“. I vividly remember the video for “I’m Still Standing” (that video is totally 80’s!). The song “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” is very powerful and makes me emotional.
♫ You’re a butterfly. And butterflies are free to fly. Fly away, high away, bye bye…♫
The man is a rock legend and his music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was told that I was going to get to meet THE Elton John for a round table interview during the Gnomeo and Julietpress junket I nearly fell out of my chair (and I’m NOT exaggerating). If you ask my husband he will tell you that I was a giddy as a school girl and I couldn’t contain my excitement. I literally wanted to shout it from the roof top! Since I live on the top floor condo that wouldn’t be hard for me to do either.
It’s been a week and a half since that press junket. I am STILL on “cloud nine” because of it. I have always l♥ved Elton John – now I l♥ve him even more!
Elton is playing at Madison Square Garden in New York City on March 16th and March 20th. I would do anything for tickets to go and see him. I don’t care if I’m in the “nose bleed section”. Sadly the tickets start at $35.00 so to take my family of four that is $140+ plus tax and parking. I would LOVE to take my family to see him. I know my husband loves his music too and I am positive my kids will love it as well. My husband and kids have never been to a concert before (no kidding). Imagine how spectacular it would be for their first concert to be Elton John (my first concert was Liberace – no kidding).
If anyone knows how I can win lotto ASAP please let me know. Sigh…
While I was sitting in the meeting room waiting to interview with Sir Elton John I was beyond excited. I waited very anxiously for him to come into the room. When I finally laid eyes on him I wanted to squeal with excitement, but I had to remain “professional”. I know I am not the only one in the room who was super excited to meet Elton.
Gnomeo and Juliet is NOT the first Disney film that Elton John has worked on. Elton created the music for the Disney film The Lion King soundtrack. Tim Rice wrote the lyrics. The hit song, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, is still one of my favorites. Elton John and Tim Rice also did the soundtrack for the DreamWorks film The Road to El Dorado.
Elton sat at a table in front of the group of bloggers I was with. Many of us had voice recorders on the table to record the interview. My recorder died out on me (ugh!) but thankfully another blogger was kind enough to share the recording with those of us who wanted it.
The first question asked of Elton was what attracted him to the story of Gnomeo and Juliet. Elton’s response was as follows.
The story is obviously one of the most famous stories in the world, written by William Shakespeare. You can’t really get much higher art than William Shakespeare. He’s obviously the world’s most famous playwright. And probably the best play wrights there has ever been. Garden Gnomes are probably the lowest form of entertainment. And now you have the two of them together, the highest and the lowest. We thought that we could have fun with this. The visual aspect of the gnomes and the great story.
The obvious thing we wanted to do was have a little bit of liberty in changing the ending a little bit. We wanted to have a positive message and a happy ending. I think anything other than a garden gnome, William Shakespeare probably would have not have agreed. But I think because it’s a garden gnome, he would have been ok with this.
We wanted to put a positive message. We wanted to say the message of the film is basically we’ve got these two gardens and these two groups of gnomes who have been horrible to each other for so long. They eventually destroy everything that they’ve created of beauty. And it takes a young gnome who’s red and a young gnome who’s blue to come through the rubble of all this destruction at the end and to bring these people together. It’s a message that 11 years ago we were really feeling strongly about. And coincidentally it’s coming out at a time where not only in America, but the rest of the world, needs to hear this message.
With what’s happened in Arizona recently we have to take some quiet time to think about how we treat people. How we respect each other. We should respect our religions, we should respect our political views and not throw stones at each other. I’ve been coming to America for forty one years. I love this country so much. I have two homes here. My best friends live here. And it saddens me to see the rhetoric that’s going on at the moment.
We can all have different views on everything, but we must have dialogue. And we must have positive role models. As mothers you pass this on to your children and now as a new father, I have to pass it on to my child to respect people’s views, respect people’s opinions. Don’t be hateful towards them. You can agree to disagree, but have respect. Have love. There is so much hate in the world. I always believe that love conquers hate.
This is the message we wanted to get out in the film, that love is much more powerful than hate. Hate takes a lot of energy. Negative energy. And it puts it out into the world. But love, it’s kind of dormant, but it’s a much stronger force. So it may sound a little new agey, but I really believe that that’s the message of this film. It’s funny, it’s great, it’s a tragic story and it ends happily. At the end of the day we have to take stock and think of what we’re doing in our lives. We need to be a little nicer to one another. It’s very important.
Wow! Elton’s response was beautifully said. He made some very important points about how we all need to respect one another, regardless of the things that make us different.
You can tell just by the way Elton spoke about the message of the movie that this was something he was truly very passionate about.
A more light hearted question asked of Elton was whose idea was it to put his likeness in the flim and how does he feel about it. I am not sure if you have seen the trailer or some of the promotional images from the film but at one point in the movie one of the characters, Paris, is made to resemble Elton John. It’s pretty cute if you ask me.
About me being a gnome? Yeah. I didn’t know I was gonna be a gnome. I’m so thrilled to be a gnome. And so thrilled to be a glamorous gnome as well. And it was great.
I think Elton makes a cute gnome, doesn’t he?
Gnomeo and Juliet is overflowing with Elton John songs, both new and old classics. One of my fellow bloggers asked Elton if it was an easy process to find the songs for the movie. Elton explained to us that some scenes were easier to pick songs for than others. Take for example the lawn mower race scene. Elton’s song Saturday Night’s All Right for Fighting was perfect for that scene. And the song Don’t Go Breaking My Heart was ideal for Gnomeo and Juliet’s first date in the garden. Originally Elton John and Bernie Taulpin, who has been writing songs for Elton pretty much his entire career, had five new songs for the film. In the end only two new songs made the cut, Love Builds a Garden and Hello, Hello.
Elton went on to tell us that the song he did for the Lion King, Can You Feel the Love Tonight, was NOT in the film three weeks before the film was released. Elton was curious to know what happened to the song. Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was the head of animation at that time, told Elton that there was no place to put that song in the film. Elton encouraged Jeffrey to find a place for the song. He said that every Disney movie needs a good love song. Jeffrey eventually found a place for the song and it ended up winning an Oscar for best original song in 1995. Circle of Life and Hakuna Matata were also nominated for best original song that same year. All three songs were by Elton John (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics).
One of the new songs in the film is Love Builds a Garden. Someone asked Elton what was the inspiration behind that song. Elton went on to explain that it’s a very poignant scene. Elton said he did not have much input in the movie but he did voice his opinion on how the scene should be played out the features Love Builds a Garden. During that scene the character Featherstone shows Gnomeo and Juliet old photographs of how the house used to be when it was a beautiful loving house. Elton wanted the photos to be done in a montage to show how the house used to be. He wanted the photos to reflect that love did build that garden and look what happened to it when the love went away. The house just crumbles.
Love Builds a Garden is one of Elton’s favorite songs in the film. He feels that is an analogy of what life’s all about. He said it’s a really beautiful and poignant song. Elton joked that he is very good at writing sad songs and that he’s better at it than writing happy songs.
Many of us were curious to know more about Elton and David becoming first time fathers. David was also in the room with us. He’s a very handsome man and comes across as being just as nice as Elton. It is very clear that Elton and David are passionate about being the best fathers they possibly can be and that their son Zachary is very loved.
An interesting question that was asked of Elton was why is the pairing of animation with your music so successful?
I think the stories like The Lion King and Gnomeo and Juliet are such wonderful stories. The Lion King is Shakespearean in a way. It’s the first ever animation film that Disney made that was a new story. It’s the story of survival and love. It’s humorous and it’s sad. But it has a positive message to give. So being able to write music for both those stories is so helpful. When you have a good story you are inspired to write great music to. I’ve been very fortunate. I did The Road to El Dorado which was another Disney/Dreamworks film. I loved the music for that movie. In fact I did that whole album of music that wasn’t in the film. I was inspired by the theme of the South American thing. The story wasn’t as strong as The Lion King and the film wasn’t as successful. I don’t know what the success of this film will be. But I’m very proud to have written the music to a great story. So we’ll see.
Elton was asked if becoming a father has changed his perspective on his professional life. To which Elton replied…
It’s the icing on the cake. We had the baby on Christmas Day which was, you know, really an enchanting thing to happen. The hospital was also empty which meant that I could go in there without being seen because we wanted to try and keep our surrogate protected. That was really good fortune.
It’s so beautiful. It’s the most beautiful thing that I could ever imagine. I have a huge responsibility. I don’t have to tell you, you’re all moms. As a father and David as my partner, we have a huge responsibility. The hardest thing to do in the world is to bring a child up properly with enough love and enough discipline. And so at this time in my life it’s the right thing for me to happen. I think artistically it will inspire me to write a lot of children’s songs.
I’m the most blessed man in the world. I have a wonderful partner, wonderful friends and a wonderful family and now a child. I also have a career that seems to evolve because I am so enthusiastic about listening to new things and wanting to do new things. My work ethic definitely comes from my mother. My musical talent comes from my father. Between the two of them they created a force that just wants to work hard and do new things.
Having a child on top of this, it does change your life. Every evening it’s bath time, story time, feeding time and changing time. And that is sacrosanct to me now. We went out to dinner last night and we had to be late because I’m not missing that. It’s very important to me. I want to spend as much time with him as I possibly can.
Elton was also asked about what movies he was most anxious to share with his son.
The first story I read to him was Cinderella. The first animation movies I saw were Snow White, Cinderella and Lady and the Tramp. Those are movies that never age. They’re magical. Just reading stories to him gives me a new appreciation. I’ve never knew about children’s books before. The other night I read him Dogs Don’t Wear Sneakers which was so fabulous. In England we grew up with different. We didn’t grow up with Dr. Seuss; we grew up with Allison Artley and Beatrix Potter.
Elton looked over at David and asked “David, what was the lovely story that we read to him the other night which was so beautiful?” David replied Runaway Bunny.
Elton continued… Runaway Bunny. I love Runaway Bunny. It could be my next musical. Runaway Bunny is my favorite. It’s such a great story. It’s so loving and sweet. Oh, and I Love You This Much. I love that one. Who knows, I might write a children’s album. That would be great. Things that have beautiful music and are gentle. I would maybe even write a specific children’s album because having a child is very inspiring. You have to remember I am the worst lyricist in the world. And I would obviously need help. So if any of you have got any lyrics flying around, just send ‘em to me, ok? I’m sure you’ve been just as inspired than even I have.
It’s something that changes the way you look at things. That’s the whole point of having a child. I’ve had an incredible life. I’ve experienced great joys and great sadness. Great highs and great lows. I’ve pulled myself together. I got sober. I got my self respect back. I tried to make up for lost time by doing good things for other people. The only thing missing from my life that I hadn’t experienced was having a child. David and I thought about this very much about having a child. And so I think as much as I can teach my child many great things, he’s gonna teach me a thousand times more, about myself and what I need to do. How you need to look at things. I’ve never lived that life before. You as moms know all about it. I’m a freshman in this game. I’m sure he will inspire me to do other things. I only have to look at him and he inspires me.
On a side note, little Zachary does have his own iPod which contains lullabies and music from Chopin, Mozart, Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor to name a few.
Just listening to Elton talking about his son you can tell how very much loves him. He literally lit up when talking about his beloved son. Zachary is very fortunate to have parents who adore him and only want what is best for him. After all, that is what being a parent is all about.
Getting back to his music and the movie Gnomeo and Juliet.
An interesting question asked of Elton was are there any artists you haven’t worked with that you want to work with? Elton answered…
I’ve been lucky enough to work with so many great artists. I’ve worked with Lady Gaga on this film and she did Hello, Hello with me, which was very kind of her. I collaborated with Nellie Furtado who was the first person who ever played our Oscar party. I’d love to do something with Bob Dylan but I don’t think that’s ever gonna happen. New artists, old artists, there’s always someone that I would like to work with. I’m quite versatile, I mean, I’m on Alice In Chains.
I just did Matthew Morrison from Glee. His album’s coming out in spring. And I did a duet with him which was great. He is so talented. And I love that program. So it was just a thrill to be asked to work with him.
The funny thing is when you get established and you’re older, people get afraid to ask you to do things. They say “Oh well, he won’t do that”. It’s like when Tim Rice phoned me to do The Lion King in 1993, which changed the course of my creative life. He said, “Disney said you’ll never do this. You’re a friend of mine and I said you will”. And I said, Tim, I’ve worked with you before and I love you, of course I’ll do it, I’ve never done anything like this before”. If he hadn’t have phoned me and asked me to do it, then I would never have written four stage musicals, three animated movies and scores for movies. He changed my life with that phone call. I owe Tim Rice big time.
I love collaborating with people. I like collaborating with young artists. I sang on the new Kanye West record, SIR. That was a different experience, but musically it was a tremendous experience. I think if you collaborate with musicians and fellow artists, it’s always great. We don’t often collaborate enough with each other. We’re often too busy running around with our like chickens with their heads cut off. I think its always a privilege to, uh, to work with people.
Asking an actor what his favorite film is or a musician to name their favorite song seems to be a common question asked of celebrities. Elton John was asked what is favorite song is. Personally I couldn’t name just one. I could probably come up with my Top 10 Favorite Elton John songs if I had to. Your Song would be at the top of my list. I love that song.
Elton replied to the question…
From my catalog? It changes periodically. Your Song is pretty much an ever present because I never get fed up with singing that song. My partner Bernie Taupin wrote that song when he was 17 years of age. It’s got the most beautiful words in it. I never get tired of singing it. It’s the most beautiful love song. I love Tiny Dancer. I never used to sing Tiny Dancer so much. My friend Cameron Crowe put it in Almost Famous and it gave it a new lease of life. So I thought I’ll play this again then.
If I’m being truthful, I think the song that I’ve sung most of all would be Your Song. Candle in the Wind I did sing for a while after Diana’s death, but it was too painful. I don’t often sing it and I sometimes leave that one out. But if I’m honest, Your Song. That is my first hit, so you probably think, well he’s never written anything since.
I have a strong feeling that once Gnomeo and Juliet is released there will be many new, younger Elton John fans. I wouldn’t be surprised if children asked parents to download Elton John tunes on their iPods. Elton’s songs stand the test of time and they can be enjoyed by both young and old alike.
One of the bloggers who was in the room with me must have thought about the same thing. She asked Elton if he would be surprised by the popularity of his songs with children.
Well that would be great. I mean, that’s something that The Lion King helped me with because every five years a new bunch of kids come up and parents show them The Lion King or take them to see the show. So they know me from that, but they might not know my old catalog as Elton John rock star.
At my shows I tend to get grandfathers, fathers and granddaughters. And then even great-granddaughters. I get a fairly great representation at my shows. As a song writer you want your songs to be accepted by anyone. The greatest thing in the world is having something successful like The Lion King where you can bring joy to people through your music for years and years to come.
If kids start downloading Tiny Dancer, Saturday Night and Benny and the Jets then I’ll be very happy.
To end our round table interview one blogger shocked us all by asking Elton a question no one thought she would – Does Elton prefer boxers or briefs? To our amazement Elton DID answer the question. He prefers Calvin Klein black briefs. LOL! Oh my, I can’t believe a mega super star like Elton John would answer such a silly question. That just goes to show just how down to earth he really is. Sure, Elton is a rock legend but he’s also a person like the rest of us.
We were only supposed to have 20 minutes to interview Elton. When the time was up one of his handlers (for lack of a better word) informed us that time was up and thanked us for our time. Elton spoke up and told him that is was OK. He enjoyed talking with us and wanted to stick around a bit longer to chat some more. WOW! A mega star like Elton John, who was spending his day being interviewed by major media outlets and publications, wanted to spend more time with us, the Mommy Bloggers.
Elton was happy to pose for a group picture with us. I wish we had more time. I would have loved to have had a photo with just me and Elton. But I know he was committed to speak with others too. Elton John DID give me kiss on my right cheek and a hug! OMG!!!! THE ELTON JOHN kissed me and hugged me. It doesn’t get much better then that.
An interesting side note. One of the bloggers in the group asked Elton if baby Zachary wore cloth diapers or regular diapers. Elton responded that Zachary wears cloth diapers (or nappies as they call them in the United Kingdom). Elton also said that Zachary drinks breast milk. WOW! I didn’t know that breast milk was available for purchase. You learn something new every day.
The next day at the Gnomeo and Juliet after party Elton was just as kind as he was at the interview. He would take pictures with anyone who asked him, even though he was trying to grab a bite to eat and chat with others at the party. The man truly has a heart as big as his 40+ year music career.
Since that day I wil never listen to another Elton John song the same away again. The interview gave me a new found appreciation for this talented artist.
Be sure to catch the music of Elton John in Gnomeo and Juliet which will be in theaters on February 8, 2011. Also being released that day is the movie’s soundtrack which features several Elton John songs. Check back on February 8th for my review of the movie soundtrack.
*I was a guest of Disney and my airfare and accommodations were paid for. I was not compensated for this post. Any opinion expressed is my own.
**PHOTO CREDITS – Katie Stratton Getty Images, Eric from LeStudioPhotography.com. ** If I am forgetting anyone’s photo here please let me know and I’ll make sure to credit it you. Thanks!