Just listen to “One Less Angel” one time, and I guarantee that you will be humming it for the rest of the day.
In addition to the third season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel upping the stakes in terms of Midge Maisel’s point of view of the rest of the world, we get some incredible music from Thomas Mizer and Curtis Moore. Since we are on the road with Midge and Shy Baldwin all over the country, we are fortunate to hear “One Less Angel” multiple times throughout the season. It’s already stuck in your head, isn’t it?
I will admit that I thought that “One Less Angel” was already a hit from the early 1960’s. It has that incredible hook that reminds you of music your parents or grandparents used to listen to. That hook gets you over and over again and you never tire of it. You’ll be a Rose Wiessman-level fan in no time!
Mizer & Moore also deliver on the soulful ballad, “No One Has to Know.” It’s a tremendously beautiful torch song with a emotionally driven bridge that will resonate with many people in different ways. This is a song that you might find a new meaning with every time you listen to it.
While Mizer & Moore’s music is brand-new, it perfectly fits into Amy and Dan Sherman-Palladino’s world. It’s bubbly and fresh but feels vintage and classic. The greatest songs never go out of style.
Awards Daily: Do a lot of people not know that songs like “One Less Angel” or “No One Has to Know” are original? I will admit that I thought that they were covers of actual hits.
Curtis Moore: We have gotten that. Some people will say that to us and they didn’t know that they were new.
Thomas Mizer: I’ve had to even point them out to relatives.
TM: Yeah! They will ask me, ‘Well, which ones are yours?’ When we were first recording with the ladies for “Bottle of Pop” and one of them told me that she was looking on YouTube trying to find out who originally recorded it. And we had to surprise them and say, ‘You’re recording the original!’
AD: I was fortunate to see some of the episodes early and after I saw the premiere and it was stuck in my head. I even tried to Google the lyrics to see if I could find it. You totally fooled me.
CM: Because Maisel is so known for its music, it is a little bit of a fun needle scratch. The reason that happens is even though she’s fictitious, there are other people in the show that are real. You have a fictional character in Shy Baldwin; it doesn’t make sense for him to sing songs of someone else from that period. You don’t want him to sing Sam Cooke or Johnny Mathis—you need music that would have come from him. That’s why Amy [Sherman-Palladino] came to us and said that we needed something unique to him.
TM: She said in her call with us about it that she wanted it to feel like there’s an album out there from Shy Baldwin. Maybe it’s out there and you missed it somehow. He needed to have his own voice even though he does covers. But she wanted a big hit song. If you just look through your parents’ records, it may be there. The other challenge was to make it not pastiche or trite but make it fresh. We wanted to make a great pop song that you haven’t heard yet. Which is really hard. (Laughs)
CM: Can you write us a hit song from the 1950’s?
AD: Oh, yeah, no problem!
TM: The hardest part is to try and make something that sounds effortless. Like a pop song that has always been there.
AD: “Bottle of Pop” definitely threw me back to that time. It indicates such a particular mood. So even though we don’t hear that song as much as “One Less Angel,” it definitely has that hook that sets the mood of the time period.
TM: Part of that is finding that cheeky tone. That girl group sound that is a little naughty around the edges like Midge herself. What’s the girl group version that can be turned up that Marvelous Mrs. Maisel notch?
CM: Also, everything is so period authentic and so detailed and so curated to the time. Midge always has that perfect comeback line, so how we do turn that knob up to eleven?
TM: They do everything so intricately, so to have them come to us was amazing.
AD: I was going to ask about that. What was it like to have them approach you to do the music?
TM: It is insane because they haven’t done original music on the show, so it was like, ‘Whoa.’ And they’re the A-Team. We came in for one season, and these are people working at the top of their game—from Amy and Dan all the way to the costume people, the makeup people, the actors. We walk into that and really have to step it up.
CM: Tom and I come from a theater world, and sometimes we have to make it work with, you know, a tambourine and a kazoo. Coming into Maisel, we had the best musicians, the best producers, and the best studio techs. We basically got to record in one of the most amazing spaces in New York with these spectacular musicians. It was such a joy to be able to do that. And that’s the quality that makes that come across that clean. I hope it comes across to make it feel of the times.
AD: I was on your website and there’s a header that said, ‘Music. Lyrics. Story.’ You work in theater a lot and you create a story with the music and lyrics. Is there a different pressure to elevate the story when you’re creating standalone songs for something?
CM: We do come at this from the theater side, so when we write songs, they are inherently story-driven. That’s just how we think and we write. “One Less Angel” is a two-minute song but Tom is very specific in how the song starts, how it continues, and how it will end. It has a nice arc to it. Every single pick up to the hook is different in that song. You’re constantly getting a different viewpoint and that helps it move forward. And that was something we kept in mind for “No One Has to Know” as well.
AD: Yes, I want to talk about that song. I love that song so much.
TM: We knew that song, in particular, was the climax to his story in a certain way and other stories. It was all going to hit. We had to sort of thread the needle to make it feel like a romantic song that you’d absolutely hear on the radio, but it also had to express his inner thoughts. It has to express what Midge was feeling. Like a musical, it needed to be an eleven o’clock number. That was incredibly challenging but very rewarding to see that all come together.
AD: Every time I hear that song I feel something different. I remember the first time I heard the song and I felt so deeply for those two characters, but that’s what good music does—it can feel so specific to what you are feeling at that moment.
CM: I think we were writing the song before we knew what was happening.
AD: Oh, really?
CM: We knew it was going to be a song for Shy but we didn’t know what was happening. We hadn’t seen a script. Tom suggested that we go in the direction of a relationship knowing that it will change. We really worked on making a balance of making it specific to what we thought it was going to be in that moment but making it personal enough to step out of that moment and feel the emotional journey of it.
TM: It’s a testament to the collaboration that Amy allowed to let us sort of go our own way a little bit. Then she would give us notes and work back and forth. She gave us so much freedom and input in creating that character. Not to go back to “Angel,” but the first thing you get of Shy in the season is the performance of that song. You see him confidently and romantically—but mysteriously—singing about this otherworldly love. That’s an arc for him about what’s the façade and what we are going to learn about him later. It’s all those details that Amy allowed us to collaborate on and really help create who Shy Baldwin is.
AD: I guess I never thought of how much Shy would’ve put that much of himself into his songs.
TM: It is definitely showing him at his most polished. He’s very put together, and we peeled that away in later songs. It’s reflected in both the emotion of the lyrics. “Angel” is very dance floor and romantic and mysterious. Any time we write a song, we try to write it from a place of truth. It’s funny because there are so many different interpretations of the songs, because the first time that Leroy [McClain] heard “No One Has to Know,” he said, ‘You wrote a song for me! It’s so romantic!’
TM: We said, ‘That’s the saddest song ever!’ He heard that ‘Secret love…we don’t need anyone else in the world’ the first time.’ When I was writing it, I kept thinking of the detail of ‘I can’t tell anyone.’ That’s the thing…in the bridge of the song, he still hasn’t told the person. That’s all in there, so that was really funny.
AD: What do you guys like about the music from the 1960’s? What were you thrilled to dive into?
CM: I love the harmonies. I love the unabashed, in-your-face fun. I love that it was a time when music was really changing. People were feeling more rhythms in their bodies. It’s a super, super fun time to be making music.
TM: It means a lot to me since that’s what I grew up with. My parents are from Detroit, and Motown means a lot to them. It was a sound that was playing a lot in my house. The seeds of being a songwriter came from that because they are so hooky. They get into your heart and there’s nothing like them. We can all sing those songs from the Motown era, and they just make you happy. They lodge in your brain because they’re craftily done. They look so simple, but they are so fully of craft.
AD: I admit that I sort of grew up on that music because my parents are a lot older than the parents of the kids I hung out with. We would listen to the oldies stations and those songs would make me hum them all day. Much to the consternation of everyone around me.
CM: It’s so true! We’re not often asked to write songs like this. It’s not what we usually do. It was fun to go back into our deep subconscious to the music that our parents listened to. It’s just a fabric of American music. It was such a joy to open that door. Let’s live in this groove for a while!
AD: Can we expect more music for Season 4?
CM: There’s going to be a lot of music. There always is. We don’t know though.
TM: I just texted Amy from seclusion (laughs). We felt so welcomed into the family. With “One Less Angel”…from writing the hook to being on set a month later with the 500 extras and hearing our song…was magic to be a part of.
AD: It’s a testament to how addicting that song is. When I heard that story of the extras singing the song on set…that has to be the most gratifying thing in the whole world, right?
CM: Oh, yeah. That was a spectacular moment, and it was a surprise to us. It was planned out how the shot was going to go, and on a shoot like that, you run the songs over and over and over again. By the time that we were done, we had done it about 25 times. Enough no one had ever heard that song before that day, everyone knew it by the end of the day. Everyone was having a great time. Amy and Dan told them to turn the cameras on and let them sing it. I don’t think it was planned, and it was such a heartfelt moment. It felt like it was a real hit song.
TM: As songwriters, there was nothing there a month before. They grabbed our hands and pulled us up and said, ‘Watch this! Watch this!’ To suddenly see 500 people singing a song that we put our heart into is what you wait for as a writer. That was a special gift they gave us.