Confession: I didn’t know who Lin-Manuel Miranda was until a little more than a month ago.
I guess you could say I was living under a rock–Or just am not a huge Broadway fan. But you know what I am? A Disney fan. So when I read that the talented man who did the music for Moana was also the same guy who did the music for Hamilton I finally decided to give it a try.
I started by watching the PBS documentary. That was all I needed to know that I was all in.
I downloaded the “clean” version on Amazon Prime less because I’m kinda prude but more because I wanted to listen to it in the car with the kids. Then a few days later my kids were all “Hamilton again mom?” “Can we please listen to the radio instead?”
But I will say that Lil’ J was all about throwing in what we learned on our DC trip in with the names she recognized in the songs.
This was the one interview I was just excited to sit back and soak it in. Especially because he was so enthusiastic and everyone else has about 2081 questions for him.
There are a few points of the Lin-Manuel Miranda interview that I absolutely loved so I’ll break it down into parts.
A new job with Disney
Lin-Manuel Miranda will never forget the day he got the Moana offer because it was also the day he found out he was going to be a father.
“I woke up, one Wednesday, and my wife’s a lawyer, she was off to get on a plane, to go to a business meeting somewhere else, and she said, ‘I think you might be a father. I have to go to the airport.’ It was like, six in the morning, and I was like, that’s great — what?”
He called her once her flight landed to make sure he didn’t dream the whole thing. The Moana offer came with an immediate trip to New Zealand.
“I didn’t see my wife, and then I got on a plane to New Zealand, and I’m sitting with this secret that we’re five weeks pregnant,” he told us. “So, it was one of those really, like, insane, life-changing weeks. So that was two years and seven months ago. I can remember it, because my son turned two last week.”
Photo Credit: Louise Bishop / MomStart.com
Working on Moana and Hamilton
Q: What was the timeline as far as working on Hamilton, and Moana?
A: You know, it was a great oasis, during the writing of Hamilton, because any time I was sick of the founders, I’d go sail across the sea, over to Maui and Moana. And then we just built it into my crazy schedule. Like, Tuesdays and Thursdays, I didn’t do any press, I didn’t do any meetings, I just wrote all day, ‘cause I meet,via Skype, with the creative team, at five p.m.
Then I would have my seven o’clock curtain. So I did a lot of writing in the theater. A lot of the early demos are Pippa Soo and Chris Jackson singing, Maui and Moana, ‘cause they were my in-house band. So it was sort of all hands on deck to help me demonstrate these songs.
Fun fact: On the deluxe edition of the Moana soundtrack you’ll hear Marcy Harriell, singing a cut Moana song that was called “More”. Marcy was Miranda’s Vanessa in The Heights for, for many years.
He quickly learned how to do things the Disney way.
Photo Credit: Louise Bishop / MomStart.com
“I turned in my first demo, and I would just sing into my headphones,” he said. “And the next day, a representative from Disney sent me a better microphone. They’re like, ‘this cannot stand.’ It was happening concurrently. Then weirdly my work finished just about the time my run ended. So I was having Tuesday and Thursday meetings all the way up to my last show.”
Disney igniting his musical passion
Lin-Manuel Miranda had no trouble naming his favorite Disney movie. The Little Mermaid inspired him at just 9-years-old.
“You know, this crab starts singing a Caribbean calypso tune and I was never the same again,” he said. “I used to get up on my desk in fourth grade and sing it.”
He called in sick on March 19th. “Because that was the day it came out on VHS, and I didn’t want to wait ‘til school ended. I wanted to go to the drug store that morning.”
So he fakes a stomach ache and watched The Little Mermaid instead.
“I think because of Sebastian the Crab, that song was unlike any other Disney tune I heard,” Miranda said. “I was like, that has a Caribbean rhythm to it. I’m from the Caribbean! And, and it just felt like, oh, you can go anywhere. I think, probably, my, my desire to sort of start writing stuff, I think, began with that movie.”
On Moana’s Song
Q: What was your favorite song to write?
A: I think, there’s a couple of songs. I’m, I’m really proud of “How far I’ll go.” I literally locked myself up in my childhood bedroom at my parents’ house, to write those lyrics. I wanted to get to my angstiest possible place.
So I went Method on that. And really, because it’s a challenging song. It’s not ‘I hate it here, I want to be out there.’ It’s not, ‘there must be more than this provincial life.’ She loves her island, she loves her parents, she loves her people. And there’s still this voice inside. And I think finding that notion of listening to that little voice inside you, and, and that being who you are. Once I wrote that lyric… It then had huge story repercussions. The screenwriters took that ball and ran with it.
He says it was exciting to see the give and take between the songs and the story at large and says writing “How far I’ll go” was really the key to unlocking Moana.
Striking while the iron is hot
When asked what’s next for him besides Mary Poppins Returns Lin-Manuel said there are so many ideas that are still in his head.
“They were around before Hamilton, that was like, hey, we were here before you were cool,” he joked. “Don’t forget to write us! So, you know, I will continue to sort of balance those things. But I also, you know, want to stay open. I think every writer’s had the experience of having a really good idea, waiting to write it, and then once you write it, you’re like, oh, I like, kind of got past the sell by date, on this. I’m not connected to the initial spark that was the idea.”
He said the main thing is to stay open to new ideas.–A sentiment I can relate to.
Turns out he was pretty delighted with us too, he took a photo of us and tweeted it after the interview.
Don’t forget to catch the movie Moana, that sails into theaters Wednesday November 23rd.