Rick Moranis Strange Brew, Ghostbusters, Spaceballs, Little Shop of Horrors, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids officially left the film industry in 1997 after his wife died of cancer to raise his children
“But it’s been almost 10 years since we’ve seen the comedian onscreen. Where’s he been?
Answer: Writing country songs. Last week, Moranis released his first album, The Agoraphobic Cowboy, through ArtistShare, an online music service. (Related audio: Hear Moranis sing Nine More Gallons and I Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere)
The actor and musician recently spoke to USATODAY.com’s Whitney Matheson about his new project:
Matheson: It’s great to talk to you, though I never would’ve guessed we’d be discussing your new country CD. Is it OK to call it country? Or is it more of a comedy album?
Moranis: Well, (the songs are) all a little bit different, but they all have some sort of comic or witty premise to them. It’s not a conventional comedy album, in the sense that it’s a compilation of sketches or stand-up material. It’s all music.
There’s a long tradition — certainly with country, but in all kinds of genres of music — to have humorous lyrics. Certainly with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention and, if you look at country, Roger Miller and Jim Stafford.
So how long did it take to make?
Well, the album is homegrown. The reason it wound up taking a little bit longer on the production side was because it wasn’t like a record company, with a very large budget, going into a studio for three weeks and getting all the tracks down. I was working with one guy in particular, Tony Scherr, who is a musician and tours and plays with his own band and various bands and juggles a lot of different projects. So it took as long as it took him to make room for me to do this.
The production of the songs took place between last January and May, and then we had to mix and master and manufacture, and then the artwork had to get done. The actual writing of the songs, I think, took place over about six months before that.
You could’ve taken this to a record label, but you decided to distribute it online. How come?
Well, that’s a really good question — there’s a number of answers to that. First of all, I think the music business itself is at a very difficult time, in terms of music being purchased more over the Web than in stores than ever before. Record companies (are) being really challenged by how to select acts and promote acts.
The early fishing around that I did for potential partnership in this — and I mean it was very limited and very superficial — it told me what I had suspected. Their initial response was, “”Well, where is the movie this comes from?”” In other words, “”Why would a guy like you do an album that wasn’t the soundtrack to a movie, and why would we want to spend all that money on it?””
And that, combined with the fact that I wanted to do it low-budget, and I didn’t want to be at the whim of a large company’s promotion ideas, production ideas and certainly their suspicious accounting practices (was why) I decided to do it on my own.
There was no, and is no, and probably will be no movie that this comes from. I just started writing these tunes … primarily because my kids were listening to a lot of traditional and jam bands and bluegrass in the house. It just got into my head.
So now what do your kids think about the album now?
My son who’s 17 really loves it. I’m lucky about that. And my daughter likes it a lot; she’s a little more guarded with her praise. But the main thing is, I didn’t embarrass them. So I consider it a triumph in that regard.
One song in particular (I Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere) seems inspired by Johnny Cash. Are you a big fan?
Actually, I wrote that before I even knew that Johnny Cash had redone that song (I’ve Been Everywhere). I knew it from the Hank Snow version, because Hank Snow, although he was Nashville-based, was Canadian. So early on in my radio career, that song qualified as Canadian content and used to get played on Canadian radio all the time.
Now, it’s all over television, because I think they licensed it for commercial use for … what is it, a motel or something?”