What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Toast (good bread) with peanut butter and cherry jam.
Is that a usual choice?
I have that every morning. The jam changes sometimes. People might say that’s boring, but you should remember that Einstein had ten versions of the same suit.
Your career in music is inspiring. You were a bassist for Moxy Fruvous and Great Big Sea, so what draws you to the art of Musical Theatre?
I stumbled into the MT world – my former GBS bandmate, Bob Hallett (who worked as a music consultant on Come From Away) emailed me 18 months ago and said the film that I wrote and directed called The Cocksure Lads Movie (about a fictitious British Invasion band) should be turned into a musical. He connected me with Michael Rubinoff at Sheridan, Michael accepted us into Sheridan’s Canadian Musical Theatre Project, and my life has been musical theatre ever since. I absolutely love it – MT allows me to write bigger, more ambitious and more complex songs than are possible in pop music. I also love book writing, and the challenge of fitting the book/music/lyrics together.
When did your passion for bookwriting begin? Who or what inspires you?
I’ve actually always been more of a words guy than a music guy, even though I’ve made my living in music for the past 25 years. I love writing dialogue – there are 50 pages of a failed novel somewhere on my computer, but writing MT book frees me from writing descriptive prose, which I’m not great at. In terms of inspiration, I just bought the entire West Wing series to study Aaron Sorkin’s writing (after I heard Lin-Manuel Miranda say that binge-watching West Wing was how he learned to write dialogue).
What was the most challenging part of the ETC Musical Theatre Lab?
On the first day we were given a partner and told that we had fifteen minutes to come up with a concept for a short MT piece and then present something to the group – a song, a bit of dialogue, anything. We’d just figured out our idea when we heard, “Ok everyone! Two minutes!”
What was the most rewarding part of the ETC Musical Theatre Lab?
The piece I wrote with Emily Dallas, “Fridge”, came together quite well, in that it actually had a beginning/middle/end. It also had three finished songs, which I think was the most of any of the performed pieces. Emily worked incredibly quickly to write the music, and also had a great sense of story and added some kick-ass lyrics, so we turned out to be a very effective team.
What do you think you bring to the table that others don’t?
I was accepted into the ETC Lad as a book/lyrics writer, but in real life I’m a songwriter – I teach songwriting at Seneca College and I run the Toronto Songwriting School. So I can provide lots of ideas about melody, chords, structure etc to the composer I’m working with (assuming they want them!)
If your life was a musical, what would the title be?
“Anonymous Fame: The Murray Foster Story.”