Grammy Award-Nominated Artist John Ondrasik Of FIVE FOR FIGHTING Opens Up About Composing Music For TV, His Influences and His Favorite Songs
Posted On 09 Jan 2015
Tag: 100 Years, Adele, All Access, All Access Music, All For You, America Town, Artist Interview, Beatles, Billy Joel, Bookmarks, Chances, Concert Review, ELTON JOHN, EMI, Five For Fighting, fun., Grammy, Hawaii Five-O, I Just Love You, James Taylor, John Ondrasik, Joni Mitchell, L.A. Kings, Leah Adams, Leonard Cohen, Message For Albert, Note To An Unknown Soldier, Peter Lenkov, Robert Plant, Shake It Off, Slice, Stevie Wonder, Superman (It's Not Easy), Taylor Swift, The Battle For Everything, The Riddle, The Who, Two Lights, UCLA
• Over 2.5 million records sold
• Six major album releases including platinum albums, America Town (2000) and The Battle For Everything (2004), as well as Message for Albert (his first album, 1997), Two Lights (2006), Slice (2009), and Bookmarks (2013)
• Grammy-nominated single “Superman” Platinum, #1 Adult Top 40, #2 Hot AC, Top 10 at Top 40
• “100 Years” single 2x Platinum, spent 12 weeks at #1 at Hot AC
• “Chances” featured in Oscar winning film The Blind Side, Certified Gold, Top 15 at Hot AC & “The Riddle” #4 at Hot AC
• Two Lights debuted at #8 on Billboard Top 200
• Top 10 Hot AC, Top 5 AC radio airplay artist of the 2000’s
• Scored or licensed dozens of songs for film/television
FIVE FOR FIGHTING’S “Superman (It’s Not Easy)” Official Video:
Want to learn more about this talented singer-songwriter? Here’s an All Access interview with the gentleman:
Can you remember the day that you wanted to be musician? Growing up, were you around music and musicians a lot?
My mother was a piano teacher so I was banging away before I was three years old. My father was an astrophysicist therefore I grew up between two worlds of music and science. Little did I know they would merge into the craft of songwriting. Singing and songwriting has been a passion of mine throughout my life and I am incredibly fortunate to make a living at it.
How did your name come about?
Upon making my first record for EMI in the late 90’s I was informed that “the male singer-songwriter was dead” and was asked to come up with a band name. As a huge hockey fan I had just come from a L.A. Kings game where there was a typical hockey fight penalized by five minutes in the penalty box, thus Five for Fighting. I sarcastically suggested FFF as a band name, and here we are!
More times than not, influences tend to bleed through. What bands are currently inspiring the music that you’re making?
Though I’m almost fifty, I’m still a child of the 60’s-70’s golden age of songwriting. From the Beatles, to Joni Mitchell, Elton, Billy, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, Leonard Cohen, The Who, etc… I remain in awe of great songs that still fill a large part of our culture.
Since this is a radio-based publication, I have to ask, is there anyone new that you are enjoying now? Any radio hits that you can’t get out of your head?
I was happy to see the success of Fun as their songs/sound are a throwback but yet have a originality lacking in pop music. My wife is addicted to Taylor Swift’s “Shake if Off” so I can say that’s one that has invaded my brain…
Let’s talk about the song you wrote for the 100th episode of Hawaii Five-O. How did you get to be asked to do that? Have you been a fan of the show? Where did the inspiration for the song, “All For You” come from?
I was asked by Peter Lenkov, the executive producer to write an original song that would capture the family spirit his characters have created over the last five years. Hawaii Five-O has the most iconic TV theme in history and I was excited to be part of that musical legacy. “All For One” sparked from my initial conversations with Peter as well as my experiences with my family and friends.I have to imagine my musical dallies into sports played a part as well.
Like your song, “Chances” that was featured in the film, The Blind Side, do you hope to continue working for TV and/or film?
Definitely. I enjoy working on great projects with great people and have had wonderful experiences if adding music to imagery. As my career transitions from radio to other musical platforms I look forward to delving more into various Film and TV partnerships.
These are just a few of your many hits: “Superman (It’s Not Easy)” (2001), “100 Years” (2003) and “The Riddle” (2006). How has your music changed and developed over the years? And how have you grown as a musician since you released your debut album, Message For Albert in 1997?
I would hope I have continued to grow as a songwriter. The challenge when you have hits is to continue to creatively evolve without losing what touched people to begin with. That can be tough but I’ve always tried to put my 12 best songs on every album, and remind myself that lyrics are where the longevity is.
Living or dead, who would you love to work with and why?
Leonard Cohen for the words, Adele for the voice, and Robert Plant for the stories.
What are some your favorite songs to perform?
“100 years” is always fresh as the audience and I continue to grow up with the song. “I Just Love You” also has a special place as I wrote it with my daughter. “Two Lights” and “Note To An Unknown Soldier” have special meaning as they were written to honor our troops and their families.
Thus far, what’s a favorite memory or something quirky that’s taken place (in-studio, onstage, or elsewhere)?
Due to a technical issue, when I played the concert for N.Y. my in-ear headphones blasted 100 DB of white noise into my ears upon hitting the first piano note. I played and sang that song without hearing a thing…Talk about pressure cooker.
I’m proud to have written a few songs that have found their way into the culture and seemingly stand the test of time. To make a difference with music in peoples lives is the greatest honor and reward for any singer/songwriter. I hope to continue to do that until I hang it up. Stay tuned…
All Access writer, Leah Adams will be seeing Five For Fighting live next month so stay tuned for that concert review!