It’s good to be Lin-Manuel Miranda. He has three songs on the Disney soundtrack to Encanto, which currently sits at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Album Charts. He’s up for a Best Original Song Oscar for “Dos Oruguitas,” which reflects his immersion in Colombian culture to capture the vibe. The Academy Award nomination is his second song bid, following his work for the Disney film. “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana.
Tonight, he was part of the Songwriters Hall of Fame virtual discussion on his craft. He was joined by Dixson, co-writer of “Be Alive” from King Richard; Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell, co-writers of “No Time to Die” from No Time To Die; Lin-Manuel Miranda, writer of “Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto (Walt Disney); SHOF inductee and Johnny Mercer Award winner Van Morrison, writer of “Down To Joy” from Belfast; and SHOF inductee Diane Warren, writer of “Somehow You Do” from Four Good Days
Miranda drew on his previous experience with the soundtrack to the film Moana for his latest.
“When they make a movie, it becomes a lot of people’s first glimpse at that culture, for better or worse. And so they take it really seriously. And so I, you know, I had a good experience on (Moana) and I said, ‘If you’re making a Latin-themed, Disney musical, like, I’ve been waiting all my life for the call. And so we chose Colombia because of the incredible diversity, because it’s the home of magical realism. And we went down there in 2018 and just went to major cities and really small towns and just soaked up music everywhere we went. It was kind of the most fun field trip ever.”
Miranda also created original tracks “The Family Madrigal,” “What Else Can I Do,” and “Waiting On A Miracle.” for Encanto.
Discussion moderator Nile Rodgers pointed out that the Encanto Oscar track is one of the first times Miranda has written a song in Spanish.
“I think every artist on here will agree with me. I think a lot of the road to write the right song is like figuring out what is not the right song first. And this moment in the film is kind of the foundational story of this family. It’s a deeply traumatic story. And it kind of needed to be in Spanish. It’s a weird song for me, not just because of the Spanish. I’ve written in Spanish before, never a full-length song like this. But because it’s not a character singing most of what I do in musicals, it’s characters singing to each other. But for this moment, the tragedy being depicted was so profound. We actually needed the music to be a distance removed from it.
He continued, “And so, the job kind of became to write a folk song that feels like it’s always existed, that can hold what’s happening on the screen. And so again, how do you write a song that feels like it’s always existed without outright copying a song? And the answer for me was, like, find a, like a really perfect nature metaphor for it. So it’s about these two caterpillars who are in love and don’t wanna let each other go, but they have to, because that’s the only way you get to the next part of your life. So finding that metaphor was kind of the key to the whole thing. And then again, I, everyone on this call relate, there’s that moment where you don’t feel like you’re writing the song, you feel like you’re catching the song and you’re, you’re pinning it down. And that’s a really lovely moment. I started dreaming in Spanish again, which I have not done since I was a little kid, you know, with my grandparents in Puerto Rico. And so it was kind of like your whole brain is in sort of, catching this thing and, pinning it, pinning it, in my case, to the piano.”
The virtual event will also be available to watch for a limited time on the Songwriters Hall of Fame website songhall.org after the Eventbrite event.