If every album provides snapshots of where an artist’s mind at heart is at the moment, Slice, the latest offering from John Ondrasik (aka Five for Fighting), is a collection of digital jpegs and faded Polaroid’s. The album takes stories of friends, family and even American servicemen, and sets them to music shot through with the spirit of the great songs of his youth. It’s a diary, or a blog, in which Ondrasik speaks his mind about current issues, experiences and sentiments, while setting those thoughts to piano, bass and drums.
The title track, featuring Ondrasik’s soaring falsetto, comes from a daydream that we’ve all had at some point in our lives-that moment when we long for a simpler time when life seemed better and the songs were bigger. It’s a sly play on one of those grand songs, Don McClean’s “American Pie”: “There was a time a long, long time ago/Chevies and levies played on the radio/No cell phones just 20,000 lights, swaying on a Saturday night.”
Academy Award-winning composer Steven Schwartz (who penned the songs for acclaimed musicals such as Wicked, Godspell and Pippin), helped Ondrasik bring the idea to fruition, co-writing “Slice” (as well as the song “Above the Timberline”). “We sat down at a coffee shop to talk about writing together,” says Ondrasik, ” I told him about my idea for ‘Slice,” and ‘American Pie’ actually came on the radio. It was surreal. Stephen immediately wrote the first two lines on a napkin, and we were off and running.
“I’ve been a fan of Five for Fighting since I first heard ‘Superman’,” says Schwartz, “and then was blown away by ‘100 Years.’ I got the full CDs and was really impressed by John Ondrasik’s writing-great tunes and smart and surprising lyrics. So naturally I didn’t hesitate a moment when John asked me to co-write a couple of songs with him. It was, as I expected, great collaborating with him-experiencing first-hand his musicality and gift for melody, his incisive way with words, and the passion and care he puts into each of his songs.”