Cameron Crowe on music, marriage, film and “Elizabethtown”
By Tamara Conniff
NEW YORK (Billboard) – Cameron Crowe was on tour with his
wife, musician Nancy Wilson. He gazed out the bus window at the
Kentucky landscape and thought of his father; he had not been
back to Kentucky since his dad’s funeral many years earlier.
For Crowe, returning to Kentucky was a celebration, an
adventure into all the things he loved, all the things he could
not see when he was mourning his father. “Elizabethtown” — the
film and the soundtrack — was born.
Music and movies have no separation for Crowe, who began
his writing career at age 15 with a byline in Rolling Stone.
Crowe likens the music from “Elizabethtown” to a “great
American radio station” — a perfect road-trip mix tape.
Music has been an important presence in all of Crowe’s
films. In “Say Anything,” the lovelorn hero blasts Peter
Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” from a boombox as a wooing technique.
“Singles” features the members of Pearl Jam, a band that was
little known when the film was shot; and in “Almost Famous,”
loosely based on Crowe’s days as a writer for Rolling Stone,
Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” turns a bus sing-along into a
Crowe says he wanted to champion singer/songwriters on the
soundtrack to “Elizabethtown,” which stars Orlando Bloom and
Kirsten Dunst. This eclectic mix, out on RCA Records, features
previously unreleased songs by Tom Petty, Lindsey Buckingham
and My Morning Jacket, as well as tracks from Elton John, Ryan
Adams and Patty Griffin.
Crowe recently spoke with Billboard about music, marriage,
film and his personal journey with “Elizabethtown.”
Q: “Elizabethtown” marks another musical collaboration
between you and your wife, Nancy Wilson, who wrote the score.
How do you work together?
A: It’s the most natural collaboration. Because even if
there wasn’t a movie, we’d still be playing each other music
and having that kind of dialogue. From the years she toured
with her sister (Ann Wilson) in Heart, they would always go
back to their room, put on robes and watch movies. She’s
actually seen more movies than I’ve seen. That was the great
surprise when we first got together. I thought, “That’s crazy.
You’re not supposed to know that much about movies and be able
to play the guitar like that!”
Q: Did you write any music into the script?
A: The Hollies’ “Jesus Was a Crossmaker” was the only music
cue that I wrote into the script, to begin the movie. The song
is like the black-sheep stepbrother of “Bridge Over Troubled
Water.” I thought it would be great to begin the film with this
feeling of an ending, because the movie ends with a beginning.
Q: How much music did you listen to in the process of
making the film?
A: Tons. For years. I kept packing my iTunes with stuff
that I thought might be right for the movie. I kept a notebook
of thoughts for every scene. Then it was about whittling it
down. There is so much great music. Maybe not albums, as much
as there might have been when albums were crafted in a certain
Q: What makes a really good album?
A: Albums have been abused. There were some artists who
would put out 27-minute albums. A good 40 minutes with two
sides, that’s sweet. You don’t want to abuse the length on a
CD. It’s good when you approach it like a mix, like a letter to
a friend. That’s how the music in the movie was always supposed
to be. It’s really personal — it’s (Orlando Bloom’s
In the past couple of years, many people hanging out around
movies said, ‘Ah, there’s no good music.’ Well, they weren’t
listening. There’s tons of great music, particularly
singer/songwriters. So I was thinking early on, maybe we could
celebrate some of the singer/songwriters like Ryan Adams.
Q: Do you think this is more of a music film than “Almost
A: Yes. It’s got more music. It’s more of a character in a
way, whereas “Almost Famous” was about the characters who love
music. In this, the music is the voice of the father who passes
Q: Let’s go back to your days as a writer for Rolling
Stone. Who was your worst interview?
A: The disastrous one was Steve Miller, who was a friend of
(Rolling Stone founder) Jann Wenner. I really wanted to do well
for Jann. But when I showed up, Steve Miller had a big problem
with me being 17 years old. He was like, “Tell me how you know
my music.” And I said, “Everybody knows your music.” He said,
“But you’re only 17.” I said, “Your fans are 17!”
It got ugly and weird from there. I forget how it ended,
but I think I was dismissed. It was the only time that ever
happened. Everyone else I interviewed thought, “Wow, you
actually buy my records.”