If you have finished binging Season 3 of Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, you may be wondering why you've never heard the standards sung by Shy Baldwin over the course of his tour, the one that Midge is opening for. Don't beat yourself up—his songs and those of his backup singers, The Silver Belles, were all written specifically for the show. So no, "One Less Angel" is not a lost Bobby Darin song. It's an original Shy Baldwin song!
Maisel creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino commissioned songwriters Curtis Moore and Thomas Mizer to write brand-new tunes for the show, and the duo delivered big time. Winners of the Fred Ebb Award for "excellence in musical theatre songwriting," their work includes romantic mystery Triangle, which premiered at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley.
The duo recently broke down their original songs from the Season 3 soundtrack to explain the goal, the inspiration, and the execution—and just how saucy they could get with a song intended for background only!
“One Less Angel”
The genius creators of Maisel, Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino, originally came to us with a challenge: write a hit pop song. For 1959. No pressure. But they felt that Shy Baldwin (the singer Mrs. Maisel is touring with in Season 3) should have his own musical identity, as if he had an album of his own material and not just covers.
Whether it was evil genius on their part or unintentional, the situation Amy and Dan created was very similar to the way hits were written in the Brill Building at the time; songwriters were tasked with composing pop tunes for the latest stars in a kind of musical factory. So, we approached it the same way. Write a hit for Shy by tomorrow. Go. We sent them three or four half songs, tailored to their notes about what kind of singer Shy was, and they picked “One Less Angel” for us to flesh out.
One of the best parts: Before we recorded the final audio but after we delivered a scratch demo with Curtis singing, Amy sent us a video of Leroy McClain (the actor who plays Shy) in a dance rehearsal, lip syncing to Curtis’ voice. The video is hysterical and serious blackmail material we have locked up in a secure vault.
“No One Has to Know”
The season reaches an emotional climax at the end of Episode 6 with this song, Shy’s other “hit.” It’s really special to us and truly from our heart. And this is where our musical theater background came in handy. The song needed to thread the needle of being a believable romantic chart topper of the era while also expressing Shy’s innermost feelings (as well as Midge’s). We approached it like the 11 o’clock number of a musical, attempting to create a real story arc in song.
The final version on screen is a huge testament to the talent of the two men who embody Shy. The incredible Darius de Haas is his singing voice and you can hear the literal (he’s just been beaten up) and figurative pain Shy is in, while also being gorgeously sung. And Leroy McClain sat by Darius’ side in the recording sessions so he could learn every breath, as well as work with Darius through every acting beat of Shy’s emotional journey. It was magic to watch their collaboration.
“Bottle of Pop”
For The Silver Belles, Shy’s backup singers, we got to fulfill our girl group fantasies. Basically, anytime we can do the pony in our writing room we’re happy campers. We listened to a lot of very early Supremes, Shirelles, and the like, and were surprised by how those songs sat on the border between the sweet ’50s novelty songs and the ’60s Motown sound to come. Some of them are also much saucier than you’d expect. We felt like we must have gotten pretty close to the mark when one of the singers came into the recording session saying she’d spent all weekend looking online to find the “original” recording of the song but couldn’t find it. We told her, that’s because you are about to make the original recording.
This song was also a rarity for us in that the A section was entirely music first. Most of our work is a building block process of going back and forth between us musically and lyrically. But Curtis had an inspiration and we ran with it!
“The Boy in the Blue Plaid Pants”
And speaking of saucy... This song is another Silver Belles song, tucked into the background of the season finale. There wasn’t as much pressure on this tune, so we wanted it to be fun and sexy and capture some of the humor of the show. But Tom was concerned that some jokes in the lyric were a bit much for the period and wrote Amy to see if he had gone too far. She immediately wrote back, “There’s no such thing as too far.” We are having those words stitched on a pillow.
The song was originally only two minutes long but, after we turned it in, we were told that they needed it to stretch across a four-minute scene. So we ended up adding additional verses and a breakdown section and extensions and more. Frankensong! It’s our own little mega-mix.
“Make Mine a Double”
While on tour in Miami, Midge and Lenny Bruce visit a TV show that is based on a real episode of Playboy’s Penthouse which opens with Cy Coleman singing “Witchcraft.” (Go watch it; the whole episode is online and totally wild.) Amy asked us if we could write our own “Witchcraft,” you know, one of the greatest standards of all time. Sure. No problem. We ignored that next-to-impossible request and just focused on trying to capture the swinging Manhattan, golden era musical theatre, ring-a-ding-ding atmosphere of the setting. We again sent Amy a few half-finished options that were all in some way inspired by classic cocktails. Less than a minute later, Amy texted us, “Are you boys drunk?”
One thing to note: The song was played and sung live on the set. It was a very complicated shot that took many takes to get right. The band and Ari (who played and sang the character of Jem) were superheroes that day, doing it again and again gorgeously.
Bonus Track! This was for the Season 3 trailer and, clearly, we didn’t write it. Kander and Ebb are idols of ours so it was an honor—and plenty daunting—to take this song from Cabaret and make it more Maisel. Like everything on this list, we always tried to take the song or sounds of the era and give it a little extra sparkle and color to Maisel it. With the lyric, Tom wanted to be unobtrusive and simply tilt the song toward Midge’s story without tripping up your ear; hopefully you don’t even notice the rewrites.
Curtis, however, got to go big. The arrangement he wrote, along with the incredible orchestration by David Chase, are purposefully huge and colorful. He also got to conduct a more than 40-piece orchestra of some of the best musicians in New York, plus the extraordinary Sutton Foster—that was a day we will never forget. Marvelous, indeed.