Interview with Jason Graves

Jason Graves

Jason Graves

Jason Graves Tomb Raider and Dead Space

FSC:  What inspired you to compose music?

JG:  I’ve always loved writing music. Even in elementary school I enjoyed making music instead of practicing my proper piano lessons. My band director in high school, Alan Atkinson, was a big inspiration and even performed some of my music at school concerts. I also have to credit my parents, who always told me to follow my dreams and supported me every step of the way, especially those formative years and directly after college. I honestly wouldn’t be where I am now without them.


FSC:  You’ve had the chance to work on some big video games, such Tomb Raider, Dead Space, Devil May Cry, the upcoming Evolve, and many, many more. How special is it to be associated with these titles?

 JG:  “Special” would definitely be the understatement of the year! I grew up with a lot of these titles and consider myself a huge fan. So to be able to work with the people responsible for creating these universes is a real privilege.


FSC:  What do you prefer about composing for video games over film and vice versa?

JG:  I’ve found games allow for a lot more creativity, musically speaking. The last thing a developer would want is a score that sounded like something that’s already been written. Basically the opposite of the temp track situation in film, where it seems most composers are asked to copy the temp music the music editor has been using for pacing, cuts, etc.

 But the immediate interaction and instant gratification that comes from scoring to picture with film is also a lot of fun. I’ve found if I chose my projects carefully, I can also have the same kind of creative freedom in film.


FSC:  If you could choose any upcoming major film project to work on, what would it be?

JG:  If we’re considering a complete alternate reality I would love to score the last Hobbit movie. I’ve always been drawn towards fantasy films and haven’t yet had the opportunity to really stretch out and compose a proper epic fantasy score. I feel like fantasy and sci-fi are fertile ground for adventurous harmonies and sweeping melodies.


FSC:  What other composer has inspired you the most to this point?

JG:  That’s a definite toss up between Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky. I love the drama and orchestration of both, plus their melodic sensibilities and how they underscore drama, especially in the ballets they’ve composed.


FSC:  What did you want to accomplish in Adrenaline?

JG:  I had the idea of scoring the entire film with a rock band, but really underscoring the scenes properly – not just dropping rock riffs under the action and acoustic guitars strums under a quiet scene. The composition part was straightforward enough, but the trick was I couldn’t just hire a band to come in and record. I kind of needed them on call all day so I could lay down the tracks as I wrote them.

 So I spent some time practicing and building up the studio guitar, bass and drum selection and played everything myself. It was the best of both worlds because I got to write everything on guitar but also score it all to picture and make it sound like a full band.


FSC:  How challenging was it to work on such a well-known game as Tomb Raider?

JG:  I think the biggest challenge on Tomb Raider was finding the proper instrumentation to fit the amazing world Crystal Dynamics had built. There was definitely a lot of pressure to deliver a score that hit all the right touchstones, from vulnerable to epic and everything in-between. Thankfully, I was brought in three years before the release date, so I had plenty of time to experiment and try different things. Of course, it helps that Crystal was such a pleasure to work with. They were up for anything I suggested and really just wanted whatever worked best for the game, whether it was a tried and true technique or something totally crazy out of left field.

 And that’s what I love the most about games. You’re actually encouraged to innovate and be as original as you can. It’s truly a team effort – everyone is trying to make the best game they possibly can. And I get to work with some of the most creative people in the industry.

For more, visit Jason’s site at

Interview with Joey Newman

Joey Newman - Photo Credit: Lisa Voll Photography

Joey Newman –
Photo Credit: Lisa Voll Photography

Joey NewmanLittle People, Big World and The Middle

FSC:  What inspired you to compose film music?

JN:  I began composing on the piano in middle school and high school and after I got an opportunity to score a family friend’s UCLA short film, I was pretty much hooked on visual and audio synchronization! But I never truly considered it as a career until I was at the Berklee College of Music. Initially, I wanted to be a studio drummer, however, it just took a few years later to ultimately get the performing bug out of my system – enough to realize that I had much more fun having talented musicians play on my music (and conduct them) instead of me playing on theirs!

FSC:  You have something very special, which is a truly musical family.  What is it like to be a part of such a legendary family?

JN: I am a huge Newman fan – I would be even if I wasn’t related.  It’s a gift to share in the family’s legacy and continue the “family business”.  I can’t escape music as my dad is also a musician (Joe Frank Carollo from the 1970’s hit-making trio “Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds”). I love how each composer in my family has this incredible sensitivity to picture and uses their unique musical voice to support it. As a “Newman Composer”, my hope is to continue to uphold the quality and rich musical contribution my family has given to the medium. I won’t do it in the same way as my cousins, but I will do it in my own way based on my training, experience and individual music voice.

FSC:  You’ve had the opportunity to work with your family before, such as when you worked on Cars with Randy Newman.  What is it like to work with family?

JN:  Working with family is incredible rewarding.  I scored a film called “Any Day Now” which was the first project I worked on where my cousin Amos Newman (Randy’s son) was my agent (WME), I was the composer and my cousin Jaclyn Newman (Alfred Newman’s granddaughter) was my music editor! Cars was amazing as was working on Seabiscuit with Randy. Randy is so immensely talented and so funny and wonderful to talk to. He embodies the essence of my grandfather, Lionel. It’s what I imagine a relationship with him would have been like had he seen me go into film and TV music so I hold it very close to my heart.  I had the opportunity to conduct the “Pixar In Concert” with the San Diego Symphony in August of 2013 and it was an amazing experience conducting Randy and Tom’s music. Nothing better than Pixar and the Newmans together!

FSC:  What is your favorite work of yours and why?

JN:  In TV, I have a few favorites, but “The Middle” sticks out for me.  I truly love the hilarious take the show has on family and married life – so much of it I can relate to as a husband and father of three girls. In film, I really had a fantastic time working on “Any Day Now” – being a part of this film and its message was very special. Plus, I got to arrange/record with Alan Cumming, write a string arrangement for Rufus Wainwright, moonlight as the on-camera drummer in the film AND work with some of the finest musicians LA has to offer. It doesn’t get better!

FSC:  When you sit down to compose music, do you have any type of regulated routine you go through?

JN:  Not in particular. I generally develop a pallet of sounds I like and just begin exploring my musical canvas.  TV tends to have tighter turn arounds than the films I work on, so I try to watch my time a little better. Though I still can work late into the night!

FSC:  Is there anything that helps you focus on writing music?
JN:  Great coffee!
FSC:  If you could have your pick of any upcoming film project to compose the music for, what would you pick?

JN:  I would love to work on a project for Pixar or Disney Animation… 
FSC:  If you hadn’t become a film composer, what would you have done for a career?

JN:  I would have gone into the medical field.  I love the brain and am constantly fascinated by human behavior.

FSC:  What is your most memorable moment with an orchestra so far?

JN:  “Pixar In Concert” was an incredible learning experience and joy to conduct!

FSC:  Where do you want to be in 10 years?
JN:  Hopefully doing what I am doing now with more great projects under my belt. I love writing for TV and film but I equally love watching my children become amazing women and being married to my best friend. I couldn’t be a more proud and lucky guy!
For more, visit Joey’s site at

Interview with Jeff Russo

Jeff Russo

 Jeff RussoFargo and The Surface

FSC:  What inspired you to compose film music?

JR:  I was asked to play guitar on a film score and that experience really got me interested in doing that. I really enjoyed coming up with music to support the narrative.

FSC:  Congratulations on your Emmy nomination!  What has that experience been like for you?

JR:  Thanks so much. It’s been quite surreal. It’s so thrilling to have your peers say “hey, we think this is really good work.”
FSC:  When you were composing the first notes for Fargo, what were you trying to capture?
JR:  In the initial conversation that I had with Noah (Showrunner), he had mentioned wanting the score to sound cold and lonesome. So, that was the feeling that I was really trying to capture.
FSC:  What are the main differences in composing for television versus a feature film?
JR:  Schedule. That’s really the biggest difference. You have way less time to write and record and mix in TV. Your first idea is usually your only idea.
FSC:  People have commented on your musical versatility.  How hard do you try for that, if at all?
JR:  I don’t think you can try for versatility. I just try to write what is appropriate for the picture.
FSC:  What did your experience with Tonic do to help prepare you for your composing career?
JR:  I think the process of songwriting and collaboration really helped me in this part of my career. I look at narrative the way I look at a song. The dialogue is like the lyric,  and I just have to let it say what it wants and support that.
FSC:  How do you feel about your work on The Surface at this point?
JR:  This was a really great project. I had so much fun writing it. I was able to just take my guitar out and play while watching the picture, and come up with parts while experiencing the movie.
FSC:  What is your favorite score from another composer?
JR:  Brokeback Mountain. Fantastic score for guitar!

FSC:  What is your most memorable moment with an orchestra so far?

JR:  The first time the orchestra played the main theme I wrote for “Fargo” was such a memorable moment. Hearing the melody played by the violin really made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
For more, check out Jeff’s website at

Jeff Russo

Interview with Ah2


Ah2 – Jeff Lippencott and Mark T. Williams

FSC:  What inspired you to compose music?
Mark:  As a child when I began piano lessons, I seemed to always interpret music differently than what was on the page.  Looking back, I clearly see that the inspiration to compose music is a gift from God and there is no stopping that gift from manifesting itself.
FSC:  What is the biggest challenge with writing music for reality television shows?
Mark:  The main difference is that we are not working with a script in advance and do not always get a locked cut prior to composing.  This sometimes creates more back and forth as we explore the musical tone with the producers.  As with any television genre, deadlines are tight and there really isn’t an option to have “writers block.”
FSC:  What is it like to be an Emmy nominated team?
Jeff:  It’s a great honor to be nominated by your peer group.
FSC:  If you could pick any upcoming major Hollywood film project to compose for, what would you pick?
Jeff:  We would love a crack at the new Star Wars saga but I think that one is already taken.
FSC:  As you gain industry experience, do you see yourselves expanding into other areas of film or do you think you are where you’re meant to be?
Mark:  Our long term vision is to continue growing in television, as well as, expand further into scripted television and feature films.
FSC:  What has been your favorite project so far?  Why?
Jeff: All of them have different facets and it’s hard to pick just one.  I guess if we had to pick a favorite, working with Steven Spielberg was a highlight.
For more, visit their website at