Skip to content

Interview with Jesi Nelson

Jesi Nelson
Jesi Nelson

Jesi Nelson – composer for film and media

FSC:  What inspired you to pursue a career in film scoring?

JN:  Thomas Newman’s score for “Meet Joe Black”. In particular, the track titled “That Next Place.” I remember seeing that film when I was around 10 years old, of which I was probably too young to fully understand the depth of the film, but I remember crying so much when I was watching it, and being totally. That track came on in one of the final scenes, and I just kept rewinding the tape and playing it over and over and crying, finally realizing that it was the music that kept overwhelming me. (Along with the fantastic film itself) I remember turning to my parents, who looked understandably concerned, as this was not normal behavior for a 10 year old, and deciding, “I’m going to do this.” Not knowing exactly what “this” was, but figured it out later in high school when my music theory teacher, Mr. Larson, introduced me to the world of film scoring, and gave me the soundtrack for “The Mission”, by Maestro Ennio Morricone. I listened, cried and began the pursuit of this career without looking back!

FSC:  If, then, you have to credit a composer as being your main inspiration, would it be Thomas Newman, Ennio Morricone, or someone else?

JN:  Today, I’ll say Thomas Newman. Tomorrow, I may say Maestro Morricone, as it’s always a toss up. Newman has this indentifiability that any composer would envy and every time a score of his comes on I stop everything and just listen. Same goes for Morricone. His long form melodies are the things that can make anyone cry at the drop of hat. I think it’s pretty safe to ask, what composer wouldn’t want that ability?

FSC:  It’s time for you to start scoring a film.  What are the first things you do?

JN:  Listen. I know that sounds odd, but I’ll watch the film a few times through without thinking about music, which forces me to really watch and listen to the film. Then, spotting. That is, sitting down with the director or producer and deciding where they want music, and making sure that I’m seeing the same film that they are. More times than not, little ideas or themes immediately pop into my head and I’ll scribble them down, and bring them back later. If spotting has already been done, then I’ll find the sounds we want for the film, make a template, and off I go!

FSC:  Is there ever anything by your side when you do this, such as coffee or headphones for inspiration?

JN:  Coffee. So much coffee. Lots of post it notes for random thoughts and ideas, and always manuscript paper, so I can jot down melodies or quick orchestration ideas and such. I do this because I’m mostly faster at translating my ideas onto staff paper and keeping them there, versus playing them into my sequencer, getting stuck on or obsessing over one thing and then forgetting part of the initial idea, ruining the idea all together.

FSC:  How would you say your composing style is different from others?

JN:  I think it’s safe to say that all composers are expected and strive to be completely versatile in all styles. But I definitely write for the orchestra first. That is, I love using electronics just as much, but my brain thinks like an orchestra first. If given the opportunity, I’ll write primarily for the orchestra, and my music tends to be very melodic and emotional. (Influenced by Newman and Morricone, methinks) But it’s hardly ever for just the orchestra. That is, it’s usually a hybrid of orchestra and electronics, whether it’s synth heavy in melody or just in the ghost tracks behind the orchestra.

FSC:  Although you go to orchestra first, would you enjoy composing an all-synth/electronic score?

JN:  Absolutely!! 110% yes. There’s nothing sexier than the sound of a purely analog synth. Yes, I think like an orchestra first, but that can easily and quickly be translated and related to synth/electronic scores as well. The two can go hand in hand very easily. I’m always open for something new, and while I obviously love an orchestral sound, my favorite score this year has been Mac Quayle’s Mr. Robot, which is an entirely electronic score. Brilliant stuff.

FSC:  What has been the best piece of advice you’ve received thus far in your career, pertaining to composing?

JN:  I had the great fortune of having composer Kubilay Uner as my mentor for the last year of graduate school at Columbia College, and the best advice he gave me was to always stay positive. It’s okay to be upset when things don’t necessarily turn in your favor, but be upset, and then let it go and move forward. Don’t think of it as win or loss, just accept and appreciate that you were not the right fit for the project, and learn from the experience. There’s a lot that can be perceived as negative, but it doesn’t have to be felt or heard that way. Change your attitude entirely, if need be. I suppose that wasn’t entirely an compositional answer, but it’s necessary advice for any composer, especially for those starting out in this industry. Compositionally speaking, the best advice I received was probably to make sure you give your theme the time it needs to be heard and remembered (if you’re writing a thematic score), but never forget to vary it or develop it, if the film allows your time to do so.


One thought on “Interview with Jesi Nelson Leave a comment

  1. Jesi is definitely a young woman to watch….such talent and beautiful on the inside as well as the outside. Can’t wait to see what the future holds in store for this talented and gifted musician.


Leave a Comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: