For the first two seasons of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino used jukebox songs from the ‘50s and ‘60s. But when it was time to introduce a completely new and fictional singer, Shy Baldwin (LeRoy McClain), in the third season, they knew they needed original songs, so they commissioned musical theater songwriting duo Tom Mizer and Curtis Moore.
“When she called us about doing this, it kind of was a no-brainer to say yes,” Moore recalled during Gold Derby’s Meet the BTL Experts: Composers panel (watch above). “She said, ‘Can you write a couple of hit songs for us?’ That’s such a monumental task — to write a hit song — and that sort of started the process for us. Tom and I come from the musical theater world … so we really wanted to approach it the same way we approach songwriting in that world, which is really, really develop character and story. So we started from a point of really putting together as many hooks as we could come up with to give to Amy and Dan to take their pick from that. We knew we’d be writing a few songs for the season, so we also wanted to create a nice arc with those songs, kind of put them together in a way that would tell Shy Baldwin’s story.”
Mizer and Moore, who won the Fred Ebb Award for excellence in musical theater songwriting in 2016, ended up writing five songs for the third season, the biggest of which is Shy’s signature hit “One Less Angel,” which they’re submitting at the Emmys. The song not only needed to sound like a tune from that era, but also pass as a career-making, chart-topping smash for a major pop star. Mizer, the lyricist of the duo, and Moore, the composer, came up with a bubbly pastiche that feels both classic and modern with an inescapable hook. The pair repeatedly fine-tuned (no pun intended) the hook until they landed on the perfect one. “As Tom likes to say, it takes a lot of effort to look effortless,” Moore said.
The hook is “stuck in our heads too, which is great. For us, we just really try to keep it as simple as possible and as straightforward as possible. You just want something that’s gonna be there and sit in people’s ears. You want that great earworm without being annoying. Those songs of that era were particularly shorter than what we’re used to,” Moore explained. “One of the things we knew we had to do was get to the chorus as quickly as possible. And we also knew we’d try to sing the hook as many times as we could so we’d potentially repeat the hook. One of the things I loved that Tom does is he changes the lead-up to the hook each time, so it’s very deliberately different — ‘could there be one less angel?’ ‘Must be one less angel.’ I like that there’s a development in that.”
And perhaps the best compliment the two received was when they arrived at the studio the first day. “The three women who played the Silver Belles were there to record their song [‘Bottle of Pop’] we’d written and one of them said, ‘We spent all weekend on YouTube trying to find this song so we can learn it and we can’t find it,’” Moore shared. “And I said, ‘Well, it’s because you’re going to sing it for the first time!’”
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