Robert Schwartzman has not always been as enthusiastic about Rooney as he is today. "I'll tell you this," he says. "I remember being onstage in Rooney years ago and playing these songs and not feeling inspired... I needed to take time away from this project to realize how much I love it. Sometimes when you take space from something, you're like, Oh, my God, what am I doing? I love this. It's that 'Absence makes the heart grow fonder' thing — I think I have that with Rooney."
Robert Coppola Schwartzman (yes, that Coppola) is referring to Rooney's five-year hiatus, during which he released a solo album, Double Capricorn; scored the 2013 film Palo Alto; and directed the 2016 film Dreamland, among other creative endeavors. Though Schwartzman is doubtlessly proud of these achievements, it's clear Rooney means most to him now — even after more than 15 years.
"Yesterday I rehearsed," he says, "and I played 'Blueside,' and I loved it. I mean, I'm playing 'Blueside' — I've been playing this song for so long, but when I play it, I get really excited about it." His excitement is genuine and childlike, and it's refreshing and encouraging in an era of jaded musicians. What is perhaps most impressive about Rooney is that, after a hiatus and a significant lineup change, it still sounds cohesive without being redundant. The lineup change has provided Schwartzman with the opportunity to collaborate with other musicians, like he does with Soko in the impossibly catchy "Why" off Rooney's latest album, Washed Away.
But for all his zeal for music, Schwartzman harbors his fair share of reservations about the industry. "Music has to be a labor of love today. People have a hard time staying afloat doing music, so most musicians I meet have, like, four other jobs," he laments. He notes that touring is expensive, especially for bands with multiple members who have to split meager profits. Schwartzman elaborates: "You can hear it from me. I've been touring for ten years. Every time, I'm scratching my head going, I hope people come out. I hope the show is well-attended. How many tickets did we sell? What's our break-even?... Always. Always."
Schwartzman would gladly spend hours talking about the state of streaming services, the importance of artists learning about the industry ("If you ask certain artists out there what a performance-rights organization does, they're not going to know"), and the power of listeners. "Spotify only caters to the average listener," Schwartzman says, "so the biggest hurdle is getting people to value what you do to the point where they support you unconditionally."
In the middle of the conversation, Schwartzman stops abruptly when he spots a squirrel on the sidewalk that might have died. He lets out a quiet, "Dammit," and says, mostly to himself, that he hopes the squirrel is OK. It seems he is just as caring and sensitive as his character Michael Moscovitz in The Princess Diaries (but if anyone was wondering, that line in "When Did Your Heart Go Missing?" about a princess has nothing to do with the film).
When Schwartzman's attention drifts back to the conversation, he talks about his affinity for soundtracks such as The Neverending Story and Better Off Dead. He earnestly recommends the song "I've Been Arrested by You" by Rupert Hine off the latter album.
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Schwartzman looks forward to his upcoming trip to Florida and his show at Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale. "There are a lot of people that [Rooney's] music has reached over the years that I think are supporters," he says. "But the question is, will they come out and show their love?"
Well, will you?