A Woodstock Musician Talks Bob’s Burgers and Celebrity Songwriting
The man who composes songs for the animated comedy show balances writing for work with crafting tunes of his own.
Photos by PUNKLE
Bob’s Burgers is a hit. Since 2011, the animated sitcom has followed the Belcher family through eight seasons of hamburgers, rivalries, and family antics. In 2020, the series will even find its way to the big screen. Yet while the show’s characters delight on their own, the half hour episodes wouldn’t be the same without the catchy, quirky tunes that accompany each segment. The songs (think: “Taffy Butt” with Cyndi Lauper, “Electric Love,” and “Sneaky Pete,” to name a few) color the episodes in a way that adds to the already snarky humor and laughable one-liners that define the series.
To thank for many of the foot-tapping tunes is Chris Maxwell. The Woodstock-based musician is something of a low-key dynamo. Yes, he writes tunes for television (Inside Amy Schumer) and celebrities (They Might Be Giants, Iggy Pop, Yoko Ono, and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion). Yet he also lives a very separate musical life, crafting folksy, Americana songs for himself as an independent musician. We caught up with the talented singer-songwriter to learn how he got into the entertainment industry the first place and what it’s like to balance personal and professional work.
When did you first get into music?
Maxwell: I’ve been playing professionally since I was 17.
How did you find your way into the world of entertainment music?
Maxwell: I became obsessed with playing guitar when I was in middle school and formed bands with friends. That led to playing local clubs in my hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas. There weren’t a lot of people playing original music in clubs when I first started out doing it in ’82 in Little Rock. I stuck with it and, with the help of a lot of people, Little Rock transformed into a great live music town. My band, the Gunbunnies, got signed to Virgin Records around 1989 and I’ve been doing it professionally ever since.
So which songs did you write for Bob’s Burgers?
Maxwell: My writing partner, Phil Hernandez, and I (a.k.a. the Elegant Too) have written on the show since the second season. We’ve written a ton of stuff, but some highlights are “Bad Girls,” which we recorded with St. Vincent, “The Harry Truman Song,” “Two People,” “BM in the PM,” and “If You Lose Something,” to name a few.
Do you have a favorite song you’ve written?
Maxwell: Naw, that’s impossible. Well, always the last one.
I saw you play at The Forsyth in Kingston this summer. You were great, by the way. How do you balance your work as an independent artist with your work as an entertainment musician?
Maxwell: Not easily. Ever see a guy spinning 10 plates at the same time? Like that.
Can you describe your songwriting process? How long does it take to compose something?
Maxwell: Songs sometimes come quick, but that’s rarer and rarer. I can literally spend years writing a song. I’m not proud of that, but I want them to be right.
You’re based in Woodstock, right? How long have you been living in the Valley?
Maxwell: I’ve lived up here since 2000. Friends in the music business got me up here. My studio, Goat House Studio, is where I do all my work.
Last question: Do you have any local shows coming up?
Maxwell: Nothing yet, but stay tuned.