Glen Ballard, Dave Stewart spirit 'Ghost' to NYC
In this March 15, 2012 photo, composers Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard pose for a photo backstage after the initial performance of the Broadway musical "Ghost", in New York. Ballard, a five-time Grammy Award-winning songwriter-producer who created "Jagged Little Pill" with Alanis Morissette and wrote "Man In the Mirror" for Michael Jackson, has teamed up with Dave Stewart, songwriter-producer of Eurythmics fame who has also written for Celine Dion and Shakira, to score the Broadway musical "Ghost." (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)
NEW YORK (AP) — Luscious, harmonious music is swelling from an orchestra in a Chelsea recording studio. The two guys who wrote it listen — in their own way. They could not seem more different.
On one side of the room is Glen Ballard, rail thin with a mop of unruly, curly hair, wearing a long-sleeved T-shirt and a pair of dark jeans that plunge into boots. He cannot stay still, swaying and stomping and singing to his music.
On the other side is Dave Stewart, seated at a table and intently fiddling with a laptop. He is bearded, his hair is close-cropped and he wears sunglasses, black nail polish, a fedora and a dark jacket. He almost never looks up, lost in the bits and bytes.
It's an early rehearsal for the Broadway edition of the musical "Ghost The Musical," and it represents the final stretch of their latest Anglo-American collaboration after six years of work. They may seem like strange allies at first glance, but the laid-back Yank and the cool Brit have formed an easy partnership.
"I was naive enough to think that we could actually pull this off. And here we are looking at it like we might," says Ballard, a five-time Grammy-winning songwriter-producer who created "Jagged Little Pill" with Alanis Morissette and wrote "Man in the Mirror" for Michael Jackson.
"I walked in with my eyes wide open," says Stewart, the songwriter-producer of Eurythmics fame who has written for Celine Dion and Shakira, among others. "I've been involved in some other things that have been collaborative, but this gets collaborative right down to the color of your buttons on your shirt. I knew it was going to be a long haul."
The musical is based on the 1990 movie in which Patrick Swayze played a ghost trying to communicate with his girlfriend — played by Demi Moore — through a fake psychic — played by Whoopi Goldberg — in hopes of saving her from his murderer.
The musical has been turned into a stage show with Ballard and Stewart's original lyrics and songs — except for the classic tune "Unchained Melody" — and a book by Bruce Joel Rubin, the original screenwriter. The show debuted at the Manchester Opera House last spring and then transferred to London's West End, under the direction of Matthew Warchus.
Ballard and Stewart estimate they have churned out about 40 songs over the six-year process — with only a little more than a dozen making the final cut — and for the Broadway run they've added a new one, along with more strings and a French horn. The show is how they like it now.
"I don't think anything's floating through there now that doesn't have a real purpose," says Ballard, whose compares writing a musical to a Rubik's Cube because one change leads to many others. "It's a really serious piece disguised as pop entertainment."
Both say writing together has been fruitfully messy. "What's amazing about this collaboration is if you were to go through the whole score and every song and say, 'Who wrote that bit?' every single one is a mixture of what we've both put in," says Stewart. Or, as Ballard says: "We just get in a room and we start making noise. It's unpremeditated."
Ballard and Stewart, both in their late 50s, knew about the others' work for years — and had collaborated with a number of the same artists separately, including Katy Perry and Gwen Stefani — before they met when Stewart moved to Los Angeles in 2006.