Most actors wouldn't write and record an EP of Motown-inspired songs even as they're shooting a gargantuan Disney tentpole, but then again, most actors aren't James Franco. So how did Daddy, a band Franco formed with schoolmate Timothy O'Keefe, come about? The group's artist statement explains their motivation thusly: "to push beyond the sonic space of music into the surrounding ecology. Daddy investigates the territories of film/video, installation, and performance while simultaneously exploring the connections that form between them."
"Can't Say Goodbye" is the third video released from the EP, and it certainly packs an emotional punch, especially when you understand the traumatic event that inspired it. Franco granted MTV.com the exclusive video for the song, plus a chat about its very personal origins and whether we'll ever see the Oscar nominee (and onetime host) sing on the big screen.
MTV: How did the idea of putting together an EP come about?
James Franco: It had a lot of different seeds but I'd been at RISD [Rhode Island School of Design] for a year and I started collaborating with one of my classmates [Timothy O'Keefe] on art videos. And then, like so many people that have gone to art school before us, we started a band for fun. It wasn't ever like we're trying to rise to the top of the charts or anything like that. The songs were written and recorded while I was in Detroit [shooting "Oz"]. I'd been listening to a lot of Motown at the time. For me it was a more interesting way to create a persona or a character in the world of music. Maybe you'd expect an actor trying to dabble in music, that they would do rock or play guitar. This was a more unique kind of approach.
MTV: The song and video for "Can't Say Goodbye" seem close to your heart. The video is wall-to-wall childhood home movies of you.
Franco: The song is really sad for me, actually. When I was in Detroit, my father died, so I wrote a song kind of about it. I feel like the lyrics aren't super-explicit so it can be kind of a goodbye to anyone. That was the inspiration, and then my mother had recently dug up all the home movies that she had, so we thought it would be a good connection if we used those images for this song.
MTV: I can only imagine what it must have been like to get that news while you're making a film.
Franco: It's such a weird thing to lose a parent. And to have it happen when I was in the middle of a movie — they certainly let me go back home and deal with the situation and the funeral. They were very gracious about that. But I also did feel pressure that I put on myself. I felt responsible to finish this movie, this huge movie. There were hundreds of people just waiting for me to come back. It just made this strange situation even more difficult to deal with in some ways. I kind of tucked it away to deal with it later emotionally. But one of the great things I found was in this song, and then some other projects that I was doing, I could kind of deal with it that way. I could deal with it with creative pursuits. It seemed like the best and easiest way to grieve.
MTV: Have you ever sung in a film before?
Franco: [Laughs] Well, David Gordon Green had me sing for his masterpiece "Your Highness." My character had two songs. And David had me sing badly. I mean, I'm not saying I'm the greatest singer, but I use what I have. David had me purposely sing badly and everyone gives a sh-- because they think that's me trying to do my best and just falling flat. I think it's on the DVD.
MTV: So you've never gone up for a big Hollywood musical?
Franco: No, although I guess they're doing the film version of "Jersey Boys" and they wanted me for that, but it didn't seem like the right thing.
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