Tuesday, June 14, 2011

'Cars 2' soundtrack steers Paisley out of comfort zone

A car collision is hardly ever a good thing ? except when it's a Cars 2 collision.

  • Brad Paisley collaborated with British star Robbie Williams on the song for the end credits of 'Cars 2.'

    By Wade Payne, AP

    Brad Paisley collaborated with British star Robbie Williams on the song for the end credits of 'Cars 2.'

By Wade Payne, AP

Brad Paisley collaborated with British star Robbie Williams on the song for the end credits of 'Cars 2.'

The animated vehicular gang is back in the second installment of the Disney/Pixar franchise, and cultures crash, clash and come together as the group heads out on an adventure of international espionage.

To tune up the film's soundtrack, out Tuesday, director John Lasseter enlisted artists from all musical corners of the globe, including American country artist Brad Paisley and alt-rockers Weezer, British phenomenon Robbie Williams, French star B�nabar and Japanese girl group Perfume.

"The writing process (for a soundtrack) is really creative ? it's the perfect canvas for a songwriter," says Paisley, who also contributed two songs to the first movie's compilation.

Much like the sequel's world-traveling characters, Paisley found himself reaching outside of Nashville to write and perform the rock-influenced end-credit song, Collision of Worlds, with Williams.

Lasseter urged Paisley to leave his comfort zone of "nice, safe country music where everybody gets along and is supportive and 'Bless your heart' all the time," says Paisley, 38, the Country Music Association's 2010 entertainer of the year. "(He wanted me) to see the world musically.

"I knew that (the song) was going to happen after the last line of the movie. It's that Casablanca moment of 'I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,' boom, song."

Williams and Paisley bonded through the writing process, sharing a similar "self-effacing" sense of humor. But their differences proved to be an asset. "When we sat down to write, he started throwing things at me that were British colloquialisms," Paisley says. "We had a lot of fun with that."

The two singers take on back-and-forth lyrics on the verses, highlighting word-choice dichotomy like "good old boy" and "decent bloke," and "bangers and mash" and "meat and potatoes." The chorus is where they come to a realization that they're both the same, even if they would likely fail a vocabulary quiz in the other's country.

The challenge of writing music about a predetermined topic and emotion is something that Paisley finds "refreshing" as his career continues. "The hardest part about writing any song is, what do you write? And how do I rewrite things? You start to run out of ideas that feel fresh."

Soundtracks also afford Paisley and other artists a way to control the way their songs are heard ? something that's increasingly difficult in the age of distracting smartphones and low-fi laptops.

"The music is witnessed through great speakers in a dark room where everyone's attention is focused," he says. "My latest record (This Is Country Music), heaven forbid, I have a feeling that 50% of the people hearing it are listening on laptops. Might as well not hire a bass player if you're not going to hear them," he says with a laugh.

But in the sound sanctuary of a movie theater, there are "guitar parts happening behind you" and "subwoofers rattling the seats."

Paisley's other track for Cars 2 is Nobody's Fool, written to accompany the "one really heartbreaking moment" in the movie, when Mater the tow truck has a sad realization. "That moment really spoke to me," says Paisley, who adds that feeling like a fool is an easy emotion to harness in a song.

"I'm a country musician. I know how to play jazz, and I can play rock. But I've had to fight my entire career to get a little respect from people who don't understand where I come from."

Married to actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, the country singer says he hopes that his sons ? Huck, 4, and Jasper, 2 ? will one day be proud of him for his work on Cars. But for now, it's nothing out of the ordinary for the boys.

"At that age, they don't really think that way," Paisley says, laughing. "They're not proud, they're just, 'Well, of course. Doesn't everyone work on Cars?'"

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