Film Composer Mike Meehan

Mike Meehan

Los Angeles-based Film and TV composer

Could you tell me about how you got into film composing and music in general?

Music was very much a part of my household growing up. My dad, a great guitar player, has always been playing in different bands, and we had a room in our house solely dedicated to music and the weekly band practice. So I was very lucky to be surrounded by all this live music and these different local musicians from day one. At around 9 years old I discovered I was finding my way around our Casio keyboard well enough to mimic the music I was hearing on TV. I was starting to discover that I had an ear and my parents noticed it too, so they got us a real upright piano and got me into some lessons. Then, within that year, the film ‘Jurassic Park‘ came out and changed my life. I had the soundtrack on cassette tape and played it non-stop. I remember the music being so evocative and inspiring that, after listening to it I would start hearing orchestral music in my own imagination, and before long came to realize this what what I wanted to do for a living. So when the time came, I applied to Berklee College of Music and studied Film Scoring. That was an incredible experience of quantum-leap growth as a musician. At a place like Berklee, when you’re surrounded by so much talent to raise your game, and are also supported and encouraged by your peers, that provides a really strong, solid foundation. I became a completely different musician, in the best way, as a result of Berklee.

After graduation, I moved to L.A. I started out with a data entry job at a telecom company by day, while at night I applied to pretty much every Craigslist ad there was, for both short films needing score, as well as film composers needing assistants. With the help of Peter Gordon who was running the Berklee alumni network, which has a huge presence here in LA, I was connected to and hired by Trevor Morris. Trevor is one of the busiest composers in Hollywood, which was as true then as it is now. During my tenure he was working on several shows at once including ‘The Tudors’ and he had a writing room at Remote Control Productions, Hans Zimmer’s large Santa Monica based studio/music production complex. That was a really, really amazing experience because at Remote Control, you saw the highest bar set, what the expectations are for this line of work.

After my time with Trevor, I went on to assist another composer at Remote Control, Michael Levine, known for the famous Kit Kat commercial ear worm “Gimme a Break”, as well as scoring the CBS show ‘Cold Case’. What I found in common with these highly accomplished and experienced composers was the level of professionalism and perfectionism; the care taken with every detail. Every aspect of the process of scoring media projects requires a massive amount of organization and double and triple checking details. The product we were delivering needed to be pristine. For example, Michael, who is a great violinist, was hired by Hans to create a 16th-note repeated ostinato on a single note for the score to ‘The Dark Knight‘. You can hear it at around 1:12 on the first track ‘Why So Serious?’. After recording takes for around 6 hours, our intern and I went through all of it and time-corrected and pitch corrected each note, as well as eliminating any audio artifacts like pops and clicks. We created about 200+ different files of raw violin notes, that we had to double check for any issues, to deliver to Hans within 24 hours, so he could incorporate into his score. It really moves that fast. So the mission was really about being precise and getting everything right the first time, but also doing it really fast.

Film Composer Mike Meehan

What makes you stand out from other film composers and musicians?

I think every composer, when they’re really trying to embrace their authentic voice, is inherently going to be unique. I think it’s easy to get swayed by the pressures of what can feel like a very challenging career. Yes, there are challenges to it, but I think that as you come to find and embrace your creative point of view, and the totality of you as an artist, that power comes through you clearly. I think that that tends to open up the right doors for you, the right people react to you in a positive way. That creates more opportunity. I think there’s a process of self discovery as well. If I were to sort of define myself, I would say orchestral music is my foundation, my favorite palette to write in. I love the way you can manipulate the colors and the textures of an orchestra. But I try to take that thinking into my work with synth/electronic music too.. colors and textures and how to blend things. And I also take that thinking into account with the way I use plugins in a creative way. It all kind of melds together in my brain as one process while I’m working.

On the back burner, I’ve got an electronica/EDM album cooking, where I’m trying to use a lot of field recordings for the sounds and samples. I’m also working on a musical comedy. I think working on other music projects unrelated to film scoring (when there’s time!) is a great way to take authorship of your career because you are free to create anything you want, and it lets people know more about your artistry that they may not have known through your work scoring projects alone.

 

What is your relationship when composing for music libraries?

I’ve worked for a number of libraries over the years, but really found a home at Premium Beat, which is a boutique music library owned by Shutterstock. They have a good system in place that provides both predictable income and also much flexibility. I know there are at least couple of companies out there who have a similar model. With their system, you’re able to submit tracks that, once approved and delivered, garner a set fee upfront, in addition to potential royalties down the road if track is used under the right circumstances. But then if you get a film and can’t write anything for them for 6 weeks or even 6 months, that is no problem. You come back when you’re ready.

My mission statement is to eradicate tunnel vision

– Mike Meehan | Film & TV Composer

Do you have one or two crowning achievements that stand out?

I would have to say scoring the 2nd season of ‘L.A. Macabre‘ was a real high point for me. My friend Dan Ast wrote and directed it, and we go way back and have a great shorthand. It was a labor of love for everyone involved and we were all very proud of the final product. I loved that I had the ability to develop and play with the score over 12 episodes. The show features a tow truck, driven by a very scary villain in the show. So the tow truck becomes associated with this evil guy, who’s basically a Charles Manson protege. They bought this junky tow truck to use for the filming, and then after production had wrapped, the truck was parked at the producer’s house. So I went over and we did a sampling session and we just hit it with wrenches and slammed the trunks and the doors and banged on everything.

It was cool to be able to incorporate sounds into the score created by the very things you were looking at onscreen. It was so cool to develop the palette so organically. Danny Elfman’s masterclass has some incredible discussion about palette. He spends a lot of time creating his palette for a project. And he’s known for being able to nail tone. I think so much of it comes from taking whatever time you can to marinate in the story and what the feeling of that story should sound like, playing with different instruments and messing around until things start clicking. I was proud of the tone we came up with for ‘L.A. Macabre‘ Season 2.

What are some of the things that are upcoming, that you’re working on that you’re excited to share about?

A lot of cool projects coming through! I just wrapped a jingle for a fall festival happening outside Seattle, this year, which called for a “cheesy 80s commercial throwback” vibe. It was so fun! I’m about to start work on a pair of stop-motion Disney short films based around Mickey Mouse’s stuffed teddy bear ‘Duffy’. I’m also working on a few Christmas Hallmark movies (in July).

 

Output equals visibility: The more visible you are out there, people remember that you exist.

What are the one to two biggest challenges for you as a composer?

I would say, finding a niche authentic to yourself is an important challenge to focus on. If you’ve found a niche, for which there is demand, then you have work coming your way. Setting yourself apart. Especially when you’re competing against the big dogs. I’ve been able to get in the rooms and throw my name in the hat for some really exciting projects because of the relationships that I’ve built and the people that believe in me. So you get in these rooms, but as a newbie your challenge is to make a distinct impression. Especially because its likely that your competitors at this level have the resources and the clout already in their corner.

So finding your authentic voice, finding your niche, that’s the best way I know to think about getting visibility and momentum going in your career.

 

Resources

Full Audio Transcript

I would love to learn more about you as a composer. So let’s just maybe start from the beginning. Could you tell me about how you got into composing or how you got into music in general? 

Sure. Music was very much a part of my household as a kid. My dad is a musician, guitar player, great guitar player, and he always played in bands when we were growing up.

He is an interesting guy. He was a firefighter and then would play in bands. And we had a dedicated practice room, a band room in our house, the band would come to, so music was very much present. So I was very lucky to have that support, the support, being that the minute that they saw that I was kind of toying around on a keyboard and kind of found the lay around it and had, I think it was that I could pick the melody of a commercial on TV. And I was starting to discover that I had an ear and my dad noticed it. So we got a piano and got me in lessons when I was 10. And at 10 was when I saw Jurassic park for the first time. And like, you know, so many other ladies and gentlemen that I talked to in this industry, that was kind of the gateway drug.

So since I was 10, I kind of knew that I wanted to be a film composer and I just, you know, heard music in my head and I just had no idea how to make it a reality at that point, how to manifest it into physical form yet. But I knew the ideas were coming to me. So I went to Berklee and studied film scoring.

That was an incredible experience for, you know, my growth as a musician and, and the network there is great, I just had such a quantum leap of growth. I think being surrounded by such talented people every day, all day. So, and then after graduation, I moved to LA and my goal was to get a job as a composer’s assistant.

Initially, that was the advice. That I was being given a lot by people and it made sense. And so with the help of Berkeley’s alumni association at the time, you know, I had a job doing data entry the first six months that I moved to LA just to survive and pay rent and figure it out and like to learn the city.

And it was a big change. But it was all the while applying for jobs on Craigslist, scoring short films or composer assistant jobs. But it was through the Berkeley alumni network, which they had, that they had a presence here in LA, Peter Gordon who was running it at the time. He connected me with Trevor Morris, who is a composer of shows like The Tudors, and many other things.

We were working on The Tudors at the time that I was there, he had a studio at Remote Control Productions, which is Hans Zimmer’s studio. So that was a really, really beneficial experience because you saw how high the bar is set, what the expectations are. What the turnaround times can be like and how to do it, how to accomplish it.

Like how do you delegate resources? You do need a big team for the amount of work that they turn over all the time. And then just like general upping my music production technique that grew there as well. But I think that to really find your sound, and really dig into it deep and have something that’s unique to you and special or makes, or at the very least it makes it a joyful experience for you to create it.

I think that it can take more time, more years to really find that, like, this is my vocabulary, this is my point of view. And in that process since having kind of left Remote Control, I worked for Trevor Morris first, and then I went on to work for, uh, Michael Levine who scored Cold Case. He wrote the Kit Kat theme – “Gimme a break”. He is famous for that. And I saw those checks cuz I was instructed to open those. And that was inspiring. And I got to work on The Dark Knight with Michael Levin, who is a violin player and Hans was scoring The Dark Knight, but Hans needed help with it.

And one of the things we were doing was to just click the strings with the violin bow and it was like 16th notes and it wasn’t pitched, it was just percussive. The way that it works at Remote Control Studios is that Hans invites you to rent a studio there.

If he wants you to be part of the community there, you will then rent the studio, pay him rent, and then work on your TV show, score your films, whatever your projects are, that’s where you work. And that’s where your office is in your studio. And when he needs help with things, he’ll call you and say, oh, can you help me score this?

Can you write this scene? That happened all the time. And so in this example, we were doing The Dark Knight. And so everything that we delivered to him had to be so pristinely, perfectly carefully measured and quantized to him. It instilled in me a deeper level of perfectionism that I just felt like became the new standard for me.

That was a lot of that gig. That was a lot of that time. So anyway, I worked for Michael Levine and then after a few years I went off on my own, and the gigs that I’ve had have been very varied in eclectic explored indie movies.

I did a season of indie TV on this great show that my buddy Dan asked me to do. He wrote, directed and edited the show, called LA Macabre. It’s on Amazon and artistically, that was a really gratifying experience because it was a 12 episode season with a huge palette that I could, you know, kind of play with and explore and, and develop over the episodes.

And I just thought everyone did a really good job on that. So that was a big project for me, a really important project for me. And then, you know, I’ve done a lot of different things. I scored a ride for Dreamworks Shrek Adventure to Santa.

You’d find it in a shopping mall. And it was, you know, you’d be in a sleigh and then there would be wind machines and everything. And it was really, really amazing. I got to work with the director of Beauty and the Beast, and the prince of Egypt. It was a co-director job and it was like wow, that’s incredible.

I have a friend who was at Dreamworks and is now at Netflix and she’s really been great at championing me and trying to get me in for things. So that’s one thing I would say about making relationships with people that can carry through for years and years. And, and depending on the people that really believe in you, you know, you wanna stick with those people and you want to give them the love and attention they deserve and, and nurture those relationships, cuz they’re really important. It’s just special to be seen. And by somebody else as like I’m in a position to maybe help you and I believe in you and those two elements are really cool when that happens. So I think it’s important to be open to always trying to meet people wherever you are.

I scored animated cutscenes for Drake and Lil Wayne concerts on jumbotrons.

A company that I have worked with extensively was the reason they brought me on. They were hired by Drake to produce these animations and they needed music. My point here is Amanda, the producer that I know at that company who was hired by Drake and Lil Wayne. I met her through an ex’s friend. She was the roommate of an ex’s friend, and I went to a party in 2009 and met her and we just hit it off. She was a film producer at the time. And then she’s kind of gone more into the video game world, but not creating, well, actually they are creating video games now, but for the longest time they were promoting video games, they were hired by video game companies to help promote.

So they would create content. They would create immersive experiences and they needed music for a lot of this stuff. So, yeah, I was their guy. So it’s a cool thing to work for a company that peppers your resume with all these weird, different, cool jobs, because what they’re doing is so weird, different and cool. So that’s been an adventure working for them. 

What in your opinion makes you stand out from maybe some of the other composers or musicians out there. What makes you unique and different from everybody else? 

Yeah. First of all, I think every composer when they’re really embracing their authentic voice is inherently going to be unique. And that sounds really simple, but I think it’s easy to get swayed by the pressures of trying to do what is a very challenging career.

There are a lot of challenges to it, but I think that as you come to embrace more, what your voice is and the totality of you as an artist, That power comes through to people that are experiencing that. And I think that that tends to open up the right doors for you, the right people react to you in a positive way.

That creates more opportunity. And I think there’s a process of self discovery as well.That has to happen in order to do that, and I think that is the goal. And I think that is where the power is. So to answer your question. If I were to sort of define myself, I would say that I really strive to hit a high standard when it comes to authentic sounding orchestral scoring and orchestral music is my foundation, my basis, my favorite vocabulary to write in my favorite style to write in and like so many composers, I see into it.

Colors and textures in music. And I think the orchestra has such a great palette to play with to create those colors and textures. This is where I feel like I’m unique or trying to be more unique is that I’m trying to take that thinking a step further into synthesizers into EDM style.

Like I’m working on an EDM album right now as well. I’m working on a musical right now with a book writer, but I think it’s important to not have tunnel vision about what you’re doing as a composer. A recent mission statement for me was that I want to eradicate tunnel vision. And that’s why in addition to pursuing, you know, pitching demos for TV shows and podcasts and, and all the other things that I’m doing in order to get this standard normal type of work that we’re all trying to do.

The EDM album is more for like my own creative sanity to have a balance of, of learning a new style. And, but separate from that, the musical and the video game stuff was a two pronged approach to help publicize my work. Because what I was saying to my friend, who I want to be in this musical, we were talking, she’s an actress, very talented.

So often we’re waiting for projects to come down the pike for us to score, so that we can work. But we as film or as media composers sometimes lock ourselves away from the notion that we’d create something from scratch. I think that is your meal ticket. So a musical made sense to me, because I don’t wanna film a movie and then score it.

I don’t know how to film a movie, but I can write a song. So with the help of a book writer who can write a compelling, good story, because I feel like I would need help with that. That’s not my bag. And these are just the things that interested me. They seemed like the lowest hanging fruit, maybe like the most obvious thing.

Like I had pieces. That we’re already kind of coming into place for me to pursue these things. And I think that’s what the key is. Output equals visibility. The more visible you are out there, people remember that you exist, and that’s important. And that’s sometimes all it takes for them to be like, Ooh, I need to text Walt. See if he’s free. I need some music, you know? And then I’ll just say really quickly, I’m very lucky because a friend of mine from college works at a music library, a big one that pays fees up front for tracks. And so there’s a sort of a predictable, steady income based on how many tracks I write

And that has been crucial because I think it’s important to have that foundation when you’re freelance. If you don’t have a lot of passive income happening already. To have a steady, like source of income and have it be music related. And for me, it’s writing music, you know, I feel really lucky to have that, but it allows you to sort of, you have one less problem to solve.

Like, how am I gonna pay the rent? You got your needs covered. And you’re able to kind of like to be more creative and dabble in all these different projects. They have pretty deep pockets. So three times a year, they hire a live orchestra that we get to write tracks and record the orchestra. They don’t always do the full orchestra. Sometimes it’s the strings section. Like we just did winds, strings and harp for the first time we did that at a place called Hollywood in Glendale. 

I haven’t been involved in the money stuff because it’s been through this library, which, you know, if you were in a position where you did need a high quality sounding score and there was the budget for it, I would recommend them. They’re really good. 

PremiumBeat.com. They’re a boutique version of Shutterstock. So it’s a great company. Like I, when we were first investigating recording with an orchestra, I kind of helped them initiate that phase. They hadn’t been doing it before. Previously, all of their orchestra tracks were all in the box.

Is it kind of a situation or arrangement you have with some of these music libraries where you’re like, Hey, this is my price, or I’m just curious how the negotiation works or they come to you and they say, this is the budget. You get X amount. Just kind of curious about that whole process and like how you’ve been able to continue that in your composing career.

Yeah. So I have worked for a number of libraries over the years. Premium Beat has been the best model for me. I’ve had another place, which I won’t say the name of because I mean, they actually, they cut their royalty percentage. They cut our royalty percentage. I don’t blame them because the price of cable music is going down, the payouts for it are becoming pretty bad, depending on the network. And as we sort of figure out this whole streaming thing, which I think that we will figure out and I think, I mean, I have faith that yeah, we gotta pay our creators.

And I think that we’re just going through this weird transition. But we should all embrace, you know, streaming new media and TikTok and stuff. I was just at NAMM, Anaheim, the convention, and heard some great talks about the new music industry, the new music business.

So my experience has been that since PremiumBeat has been the best library, I’ve been more or less just sticking with them and working for them. In addition to whatever other projects might come across, they set the fee in the beginning and the fee actually goes up based on the percentage of clicks to sales, you know, people can go in on the website, buy my track. It has to reach a certain threshold. I dunno what the algorithm is, but then I get a pay bump per track. Once it reaches that threshold, which it takes a while, it’s the equivalent of a raise, but it’s based on that percent. And that rate, that percentage takes a few years to sort of materialize depending on how successful your tracks are.

You keep the writer’s share of the royalties. I’ve had some national placements, so that’s been good. Very, very nice to have. So royalties, they have other deals with other artists there though artists that have been there for years and years.

And those deals are sometimes that the artists will take a cut of the actual sales. So it’s like $59 for a track and you get all the elements. So you get the 5 second, 30 second, and 60 second stems loop. But I think, you know, this one artist that I’m thinking of, they have a deal where he gets a percentage.

Every single time somebody buys the track and they don’t pay him anything up front, but he just continues to collect a steady stream as his tracks get used. And I think they can do that because he’s one of their most successful producers. But the point is that there’s wiggle room and it just depends on, you know, I’d say maybe it’s a thing where if you’re getting in with a big company like that, get yourself in the door, prove yourself to be valuable.

And you know, if you’re at first another beautiful thing about a company like that is, I’m a much better music producer now because of that company than I was when I started, it’s basically you’re being paid to practice. Then they give you feedback. They have the option to give you feedback to make fixes, or they’ll say it’s just not gonna work, which, you know, beginning happened, but not too often that they were like, oh, this guy is horrible.

You have to sort of stay with it, but taking their feedback and then the repetition of it all in every aspect, the way that you learn to sketch out an idea on piano and. Flesh it out after the fact and how fast, like I have such a system down on how I write and compose. Now that feels just because of years of whittling away and finding what worked, I feel like I have a good process that works for me, but thanks to getting to write tracks that often for them and know that you’re gonna get paid.

When it comes to music libraries, has there ever been a time where you’re just like, I wish I priced my track what I think it should be valued versus what, you know, maybe another company says it’s worth. Does that make sense? 

Yeah. I mean, For me, honestly, the majority of the libraries that I’ve contributed to, I wasn’t selling it for a fee to them directly. I wasn’t saying this is my rate for this song, because, you know, as a composer, I wanted to make sure that I, maybe this was wrong thinking in hindsight, but I wanted to go to big established libraries because I felt like they would have the power to place and have the relationships to place and stuff. I did get royalty income from it, so I wasn’t complaining. And at the beginning, to get your first royalty check is like a miracle, you know?

In terms of budgets in general and pricing and rates, I always defer to what they offer and I’ll say no, if it’s not enough. Depends on the amount of work, right? If I think that something’s gonna take two full hard, like not hard, just like two full dense days, I wanna make sure that I’m kind of comparing what I would normally get for working in another area, doing other work.

I think that the way that it works for me is that it comes down to do I have time to do it and can I carve out time? Can I book out time to do that? And if I have time, generally, I’m gonna say yes. And here’s the reason: How it is in my career right now, as it stands is a lot of the work that I get is from repeat clients, clients that pay well, or know me and like we have a good rapport. The communication is great. The rapport is great. And hence why it is a repeat business relationship. I credit that to the 15 years of being out here and just kind of meeting people and living here and, and finding that organically.

That’s kind of what I have driven to do. I mean, I’ve tried to promote myself too, but I just find that organic relationships feel better. Pay better, work better, are more consistent, right. Nothing is as good as these relationships. So you have to live somewhere for 15 years and develop relationships so that everyone’s calling you. So what I would say to somebody who is maybe new to a scene, newer to a scene, and doesn’t have that repeat business all the time, people say, when do you take paid work? Or when do you do it for free?

Take on as much as you can do while still being able to do whatever it is that you do to support yourself financially. Take on as much as you can do so that your schedule is filled up, balance it with family time, whatever you need, but make sure that you fill up as much as you can, free time with composing work and then you do free work until you’re so busy that you can’t accept any more work.

So say yes, a lot in the beginning. Once you are too busy, then you start to tell people I cannot do this unless you pay me. And the reason is because I have all this work, right? You want to get yourself busy enough that you are in demand, that you are practicing, that you are improving your value just by working.

You’re improving the value you bring by getting better by practicing, by working. The thing will fill up and then it’ll be like, well, I have no choice. I have to charge people. And it’s like, you’re building your portfolio along the way. And there’s kind of, I think for people starting out, there’s kind of this, it’s hard to kind of shift away from like, oh, like building the portfolio, you know, doing free work.

I feel like getting a good writing procedure, composing procedure in place. This is for me, was very helpful in helping me to sit down and focus and, and actually compose. I mean, I had a screensaver that just went across the text, said just keep writing.

I just always wanted to pull away and go do something else. I don’t know. And I’m like, well, I wanna do this for a living. Why don’t I wanna sit here? I think that the reason was that I didn’t know how to focus the process into a workable, systematic process. All of those library tracks, the efficiency of getting an idea down. So here’s my procedure and this helps me write a lot of music and be prolific and write every day and feel like I’m getting stuff done.

I’m a piano player. So I start with a piano idea. I don’t really play the piano actually, until I get something bubbling. It doesn’t have to be a specific melody or harmony, but anyway, I get an idea and then I start fiddling around on the keys.

I’ve got my voice memos open. I’m on my acoustic piano, because it’s just a more musical experience to play a real piano. So I’m gonna get better ideas probably on that. So I’ll have my voice memo and I’ll just record like 30 seconds. Once I have something that I’m like, Ooh, good, I’ll record the 30 seconds of it.

The 15 seconds, whatever that seedling of an idea is, and then I’ll transfer it. Like I’ll send the audio to Cubase. I work in Cubase.  and I will start at a keyboard. I will replay the idea, Polish it, expand on it. That’s for library music. if I’m scoring a scene though, I’ll watch it and, and play on the Midi keyboard.

One of my greatest mentors in college, I was writing a string quartet and I was like, I don’t know how to start. I don’t know how to do this. And he said, take a piece of paper and sketch a shape of what you want. The string quartet, if you could represent it visually, the left side of the page is the beginning and the right side is the end. Where does it go? How does it swirl around what’s the texture? So that was super helpful.

And in the context of this, and when you’re only focusing on creating the P and O sketch first. You can think about things like it’s a broad strokes idea. You’re just fiddling around. You can think about stuff like the shape and where does it grow? Where does it get quiet? And these are just very general things to think about.

So it’s a question of composition, making it so that it feels good all the way through. And it’s a little bit of a weird thing to describe in words like this, but the process of, of playing out the parts in the piano sketch, that’s what that process ends up feeling like. And then you can refine the piano sketch.

Then you take a break, you go for a walk and then you come back. The hard part’s done, you’ve written it. Now you just get to color in the pieces and you can try trial and error. You get better at orchestrating just by trial. And, the last part of this is I got a first rough orchestration done and I’ve removed all the midi piano and replaced it with an actual orchestral instrument.

I’ll render an MP3, take a break, come back, and listen to it. And I will, in my notes app, make a checklist of everything that bugs me about the mix and the composition, everything that makes me feel like, oh, that sucks. And I’m just completely harsh. Not mean, but I’m thorough. I’m very much like, oh, that bass drum could be a DB lower.

Just whatever feels wrong, write it down. And that’s the best part. You have a checklist of things to do. And when you finish that checklist, You render another version, go take a break and come back. And your track is gonna be much improved, but you might still, now that you’ve taken another ear break, you might still now notice another thing or two, every time you do it again, the list gets shorter and shorter until there’s no more things that has sped up my process so much, because a lot of time you’re just sitting there like looking at the whole sequence, you know, and you’re like, oh, I gotta work on this part.

To me, it makes a difference to listen to an MP3 and do the notes rather than have the sequence open and do the notes because with the sequence open, it just doesn’t you’re listening as though, that this can be fixed if it needs to be, but something about listening to the MP3 file locked into its own file. For me psychologically, I’m like, if I were to send this out right now, I would be bothered by this, this, this, this.

For me, that’s how I’ve been able to crank out more music. So the more efficient you become, the more music you can write, the more time you have to do more projects. And it’s all about taking breaks, making sure that you’re taking care of yourself. My friend, another producer, said that if he’s sending a pitch to somebody, he will not only check the MP3 separately and check. If the mix is good, he will write the entire email. Attach the MP3 to himself and just sit as if he’s the person listening, and just take in the whole experience of the reading of the email with them, the mix after. But, it’s so funny, he’s got a point because what you wanna do is you wanna be aware of what experience you’re creating for the end user.

Yeah. Even if it’s an email, like how’s this gonna feel. You know, and it’s taking that break and that breath, just to, you’re always kind of in control of what you’re presenting. You’re trying to see it through someone else’s eyes or hear it through someone else’s ears. Yeah. And ear breaks help with that too.

Do you have one or two crowning achievements that really stand out? 

I think that LA Macabre, that show that I mentioned in the first season, did the theme for it, but they didn’t have the score. It was found footage. Season two, they shifted the style and it became a traditional drama. So season two of LA Macabre, my friend and I worked with Dan. This is actually a good story for another networking thing. It’s the show that I’m most proud of. It’s the work that I’m most proud of, because I think that everybody came together.

And I know all the actors and I know the cinematographer and I know Dan wrote and directed it. So I know these people, it’s like a family and everyone came together and did a really good job and I’m really proud of everybody. And I’m proud of that. I won an indie series award for it.

We recorded there’s a tow truck in it and the bad guy in it, who’s basically a Charles Manson level serial killer cult leader. He’s a tow truck driver. They bought this like a busted up tow truck, and then after they were done with production, it was at the producer’s house. I went over and we did a sampling session and we just hit it with wrenches and slammed the trunks and the doors and everything.

I love thinking about pallet. Danny Elman’s masterclass is incredible and he talks about the importance of pallet. I love creating the world. I love understanding the story from a broad perspective so that when we go in, you know, we are storytellers just as much as the writers are. We have to think of ourselves as that. And I recommend reading any books you can on screenwriting to understand story, to understand that it helps with talking to directors.

It helps to achieve a common goal. It’s all about the story. It’s always story, story, story. That is king.

What are some of the things that are upcoming, that you’re working on that you’re excited to share about? 

Yeah. So I’m currently working on this jingle for the peninsula college thing. That’s been really fun. So we’ll have a session that’s due at the end of June. So we’ll have a session in the next couple weeks, working on the musical, working on the video game thing, working on the EDM stuff.

We have a choir session coming up for Hollywood scoring. I think they wanna do choir next. They haven’t confirmed it, but I’ve never written for choir. And I’m really excited to try that. As far as other upcoming stuff. I reached out to this one production company who were hired by Fortnite to do this promotional work last year for a couple different things.

And they hired me for the music for both times. They said they have another thing coming up in the next few weeks, but you know, it’s just an ongoing, revolving door of projects. I’m definitely happily busy. But always looking to be more busy, you know?

Too much is never enough: I think Snoop Dogg said that actually.

What are the one to two biggest challenges for you as a composer? Like maybe not in years past, but like what you’re facing right now.

The challenge, I think for all of us, is knowing what you are when you sell yourself. In the beginning in order to do this, it’s something that you find by trying things and seeing what sticks. If you feel like you need to practice writing, then you need to practice writing.

Just whatever it is, finding those first steps to help you with whatever is blocking you or challenging you. I feel like every composer has different issues. But I would say for me, because I’m in this in-between place, when I go up for projects that are higher level, I’m competing with people who have a much more extensive resume than me.

I’m able to get in these rooms. I’m able to throw my name in the hat for some of these projects because of the relationships that I’ve built and the people that believe in me, but it was up for this Christmas special on a major streamer a couple years ago, you do the demo, you write the music to the scenes that they give you for the demo.

And this can take weeks. It can take a couple of weeks and it’s every day, and it’s a lot of hours cuz you really, really wanna nail it.  But you are competing with the people that can do that sometimes. And in this case, it was a gig where they liked what I did, but they went with bleeding fingers, which is Hans Zimmer’s library, which was interesting, cuz they went out to different specific composers. And then I guess they also went to Hans and the executive producer has a relationship with Hans and probably, you know, we assume told the director, you gotta go with him.

He’s reliable. But they have all these resources. They have music supervisors, they have music editors, they have all these things. They have a built in studio and they can, they have contractors all part of that team. And so I think that the solution to that is to think more like a businessman or businesswoman. To think more about building a team, to plant the seeds for that, what would it take? But the name recognition of Hans Zimmer was impossible to beat and I got it and I supported it and they killed it. They did a great job. They did an amazing job. But my version of that is like, well, I’m not Hans Zimmer. I don’t have his name, but I can go and write a musical.

I don’t have to wait for anybody to tell me to do that. And maybe if that gets some success and people think that’s cool, like I’m gonna try to make it feel like what I am about. So if they like that, then maybe they’ll check out my film, scoring real and be like, oh, he writes film scoring, you know, just I’m thinking.

I think your goal as a composer is to make a living. Obviously, but to do it by embracing the things that you really feel inspired by. As opposed to being stubborn minded about thinking well, people told me this, I had to go this route. So the, the high paying gigs, the big flashy gigs that I’ve had I’ve had because people who brought me in and believed in me, knew about the music, heard the music that I had written that I felt was like, really my music, just because I’ve known them long enough.

It’s so nice because they already know that you’re competent, that you know what they’re like, they know what you are like, and you know, you want those kinds of gigs. So I said like, yes, the goal of a composer is to make a living, but almost as important. And you kind of need this in order to really see the money is to know who you are and to find the people that resonate with who you are.

But those people being your directors, your producers, your music supervisors. There’s so many different ways to use music and to have your music be publicized.

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