It’s impossible to love music of all genres and not know who David Foster is—so director and producer Barry Avrich says. Still, it may take a certain kind of deep fanatic and Behind the Music addict to know Foster and his story before Avrich’s new documentary David Foster: Off the Record hit Netflix July 1.
Foster is the 16-time Grammy Award-winning musician and producer behind Barbra Streisand, Lionel Richie, Quincy Jones and Michael Bublé. He’s worked with Christina Aguilera, Mary J. Blige, Andrea Bocelli, Toni Braxton, Chicago, Natalie Cole, Alice Cooper, Celine Dion, Kenny G, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan, Kenny Loggins, Jennifer Lopez, Madonna, Olivia Newton-John, Brandy Norwood, Kenny Rogers, Seal, Blake Shelton, Rod Stewart, and Donna Summer—to name a few.
And the cast of Avrich’s documentary includes interviews with many of them, including Streisand and Jones. “I found it staggering that there had not been a previous documentary made on Foster,” says Avrich, “and my inspiration was two-fold: 1) There could not be a Quincy Jones doc out there without having a Foster doc and 2) Here was an opportunity to go behind the scenes and understand both the complexity and artistry of the man behind countless hits and extraordinary discoveries of talent.”
But Avrich’s fascination with Foster goes beyond his musicianship. “He has the entire equation of show business in his head. His work is the alchemy of commercial, cinematic, and epic,” Avrich says of the Grammy winner.
Foster’s prowess is not just on the mainstream charts; he also supplied additional music for shows like The Boy From Oz, Hot Feet, and The Bodyguard. “I have spent 30 years marketing Broadway and Broadway tours from The Phantom of the Opera to Showboat and Kiss of the Spider Woman to Ragtime, so I was instantly intrigued by David's third act in composing for Broadway,” says Avrich, who worked at Echo Advertising and eventually became CEO while producing films. “My first love will always be Broadway ... so I knew immediately that this part of David’s life must be in the film.”
For a little sampling of what audiences will find in Off the Record, Foster shares behind-the-scenes stories from working with Streisand, Dion, and Groban.
Listening With Barbra Streisand
“My favorite time with Barbra was when we recorded the song ‘Somewhere.’ She said to me that she wanted the record to sound like it was not recorded on this planet and that she wanted me to use all synthesizers—in 1985 that was a pretty hard mission as they were quite primitive. So we spent a month making the track—the vocal sessions went flawlessly. Some time later, she asked to hear the final mix; I drove out to her house in Malibu—she was having a party—I knocked on the door and Elizabeth Taylor opened the door. My mouth opened as wide as that door. Barbra and I went to her listening room—I knew I had killed it but I was still nervous. She listened intently and then at the end simply said, ‘I love it, its perfection.’ Mission accomplished!”
Leaving Celine Dion All By Herself
“I love to tell stories that are not always the musical side of things. We were working in my studio on a song. I had just put in a new tennis court, which took three months to build; the builders came in the studio and said, ‘Today you can play on the court.’-My partner Humberto Gatica and I were tennis fanatics. We said to Celine, ‘Just give us five minutes, we're going to hit a couple of balls on the new court.’ She stayed at the mic. There was a window where she could watch us. We ended up playing a whole set that took 45 minutes and to her great credit, she stood at that mic the entire time and when we came back in, she just started singing like we hadn't done anything wrong. We were jerks but she gave us a free pass.”
Elevating Josh Groban
“Every once in a while you get a gift given to you. My friend Roma Downey turned me on to a song called ‘You Raise Me Up.’ That same day, my publisher also played me the song. I loved it so much, I told them, ‘I'm going to record this song with Josh.’ They asked when and I said, ‘Today.’ I called Josh, had him run out to the studio (I think his parents had to drive him) and we did in fact record the song that day. Funny, months later playing the song for the radio people at the record company, they asked me to really downplay the choir. They said it wouldn't work for radio. Of course the choir became a pivotal part of the record and it went on to become Josh's signature song!”