For this episode of Career Study, I sat down with composer, conductor and pianist, Gavin Greenaway. In this 90-minute conversation, we gain a detailed overview of Gavin’s musical journey to date, including his early days in London co-founding the commercial house, Independently Thinking Music, with his fellow Trinity College of Music graduate, John Powell, and how together they forged a path to Hollywood.
Gavin recounts how, after arriving in Los Angeles, he found artistic fulfilment in exploring unexpected musical opportunities, including composing music for the night-time spectacular, Reflections of Earth, at Disney World’s EPCOT in Florida, as well as music for the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
We also learn how Gavin’s experience as a composer and performer led, accidentally, to his becoming one of the most in-demand studio conductors. Gavin provides advice on how to communicate effectively with orchestral musicians, as well as supplying tips and tricks to streamline the recording process.
In recent years, in addition to his studio conducting, Gavin has played a pivotal role in the explosion of live-to-picture orchestral score performances. He has conducted the premiere performances of Interstellar, Independence Day, and, most recently, Casino Royale, at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Gavin also provides an interesting insight into the complexities of preparation and the rehearsal process, and the challenges involved in pulling off a smooth performance with restricted rehearsal time.
Gavin’s work as a conductor has also afforded him time to work on personal creative projects, including his 2016 album of solo piano music, il falco bianco. Gavin talks us through his creative process, and the positive aspects of self-releasing an album in the age of streaming.
0.00 – Introduction – track: Gavin Greenaway – Reflections of Earth;
2:24 – How Gavin describes his occupation at dinner parties;
3:11 – Working alongside his father, songwriter and composer, Roger Greenaway;
6:11 – Getting the most out of studying music at college;
9:52 – Adjusting to the working world / working as a programmer for Patrick Doyle;
13:24 – Forming a commercial house, Independently Thinking Music, with John Powell;
14:30 – “My best agents have always been other composers”;
16:00 – How Gavin and John shared resources at Independently Thinking Music;
20:28 – Course correctiion after taking “a slight wrong turn”;
22:16 – Working at Media Ventures;
24:55 – Finding a musical voice away from film – scoring “Illuminations”, the nighttime spectacular at Disney’s EPCOT;
30:20 – Learning how to conduct on the job;
33:12 – The pep talk Gavin sometimes gives himself;
35:10 – How having a “post-mortem” after every gig/session helps Gavin continue to evolve as a musician;
37:00 – The trust between conductor an orchestra;
39:05 – Communicating with musicians: 50% of conducting is psychology;
44:04 – How to maintain efficiency during challenging sessions;
48:35 – A potential pitfall of composing in a DAW: thinking horizontally rather than vertically;
53:20 – Gauging the room to anticipate problems before they occur;
57:07 – The excitement of conducting live-to-picture concerts without click;
1:01:56 – The rehearsal process for live-to-picture concerts;
1:05:45 – How having experience builds stamina and helps mitigate stress;
1:07:21 – il falco bianco: the writing and recording process of Gavin’s first solo album;
1:13:29 – Self-releasing an album: advantages of maintaining ownership in the digital age;
1:18:29 – Finding a “trusted listener” to give critical feedback;
1:21:30 – The advice Gavin would give to his 22-year-old self;
1:25:14 – Outro – track: Wirbltanz, taken from Gavin’s album, il falco bianco.