1. ADAM YOU ARE VERY PROLIFIC AND YOU HAVE COMPOSED FOR A HUGE VARIETY OF MEDIA: FILM SCORES, TELEVISION, GAMES, SONGWRITING etc. IS THERE A MEDIUM THAT YOU FEEL MORE AT HOME WITH? WHAT SETS YOUR INSPIRATION ABLAZE?
As a kid I wasn’t a jock, and so I fell into music and theater to find my tribe. I loved video games. Disney. The Muppets. Cartoons. TV. I think most of us get into music because of the passion we feel when we hear it (and especially when it accompanies a form of media we love) we’re inspired us to want to recreate that passion in others. It starts small; a rock band in your neighborhood, maybe singing in the school musical – then expands as the addiction to create and share grows with our skills and abilities. I think the first film scores I truly fell in love with were “The Dark Crystal” (Trevor Jones) and “Labyrinth” (also Trevor Jones) and it struck me that there was a person doing this thing that I loved and that particular person happened to do MULTIPLE things I loved, so I got interested in who he was and what he did, but could really only get information about him as the internet became a thing. BUT – I DID discover that some of the video games I was really into had phone numbers listed in the manuals, and I was able to call places like Blizzard in 1995 and get invites to come talk about tech and process! I was also obsessed with Disney music, songs, Nickelodeon, and all the funky weird stuff on MTV Liquid Television. The source of my initial inspiration is where I find the most joy composing these days – songwriting, video games, Disney, musicals!
2. YOU HAVE ONCE REPLACED A THEME FOR A SHOW THAT WAS ORIGINALLY COMPOSED BY JOHN WILLIAMS! CAN YOU PLEASE TELL US ABOUT THAT?
That’s a weird situation. Warner-Chappell commissioned me to write the new opening theme for the NBC Today Show in 2013. I LOVED “The Mission” theme, but NBC was looking for something more modern-newsy, and had really super specific specs that they wanted me to stick to. I still get occasional hate mail from the die-hard JW fans. No argument from me, John Williams wrote a masterful theme, just not what NBC wanted moving into their new tone.
3. IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT DO YOU BRING TO THE TABLE THAT MAKES YOU SO MUCH IN DEMAND? I BET IT’S NOT JUST TALENT, RIGHT?
The qualities I’m often complemented for include my ability to work quickly/efficiently and take direction well. To be a part of a team and play well with others. To show up to the gig on time. To stick to deadlines. To take revisions without taking them personally. Also, I do a really good job of getting to know my clients personally and build relationships with them that extend beyond our working arrangement. I call them “Partner Clients”; and our growth is symbiotic as we progress through our careers. I try to reflect my passion for my work onto the projects I’m on, and to serve the project rather than myself. I find great joy in creating, and being a part of that process, and I think my clients appreciate that enthusiasm.
4. YOU RECENTLY CO PRODUCED THE GOLDEN GLOBE WINNING/OSCAR NOMINATED, SONG FOR ‘THE GREATEST SHOWMAN’. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT? CAN YOU PLEASE WALK US THROUGH THE PRODUCTION PROCESS?
I had just gotten off of another film project with Justin and Benj, and they called me somewhat frantically asking if I was free the next day to help them get some songs in line for a film that was trying to get green-lit. They told me a little about the project and asked me to pack up my gear and move into director Michael Gracey’s loft for a few days to get through it. It was a really interesting experience – the loft was basically just a couch and a bed, but beautiful, and overlooked Hollywood Blvd. Inside was an upright piano and a desk for me, and in the corner the film compositor was working on shot layouts while the choreographer and his wife conceptualized movement. It was almost like musical theater camp. I’ve never experienced anything like that before.
Justin and Benj had just written “This Is Me” and Justin played through it on the piano for me. I recorded it on my iPhone and used that as reference to do the basic track layout. Once I got the skeleton of the piano out, the opening riffs, and some other lines I ended up using to build the countermelodies, I dug into production. By the end of the second day, it was pretty solid. The boys asked if I would come the third day down to Amerycan Studios in Burbank to help with the vocals and production. The original demo was sung by Shoshana Bean, and we had an amazing group of background singers pour through the vocal arrangement that Justin had done to my track the night before on his computer, and printed out at Michael’s house.
The VP of music at FOX was really excited by the track, and asked me to stick around and work on the project for the next week, which meant I would move my gear from Gracey’s loft to the FOX lot and produce out of their offices. This ended up being a great thing for me, as it allowed me to meet the rest of the FOX crew and be in the heart of what was happening with the film. We did another five days at FOX and I ultimately contributed to five songs, two of which were cut.
5. THERE IS A LOT OF TALK NOWADAYS ABOUT MUSIC AND COMPOSERS BEING DEVALUED. WHAT IS YOUR OPINION AND WHAT IS YOUR GENERAL ADVICE FOR UP AND COMING COMPOSERS?
It’s not something I’ve personally noted in my own work or rates. We’re in a really tricky spot now where things like Spotify and digital streaming royalties are the new tin-pan alley, and a sore spot for those that worked so hard to build careers off of residuals. Media is changing. We’re dealing with stuff we haven’t had to think about; composers that thought X could make money for them their whole lives are realizing they should have probably worked on X,Y, and Z…you know, too many eggs in one basket, etc. I think it’s getting better tho, but it’s going to be a slow roll as negotiations put composers in a better position to collect. As far as what clients are paying, my rates have only increased, as have the job opportunities. I’ve always found places to make money doing music – and I’m constantly building new relationships that, while they may not flower immediately, are on a slow burn and eventually may pay off.
The other issue is that everyone thinks they can be a composer, but not everyone wants to work as hard as it takes to make it happen. The 2018 market is flooded, so a lot of complaining comes from those that are just starting out who begin to get a taste for how tough this really is, or those that have burned bridges and been general assholes and wonder why the hell their work dried up. Maybe I’m just “too positive”, but I know the hard work and relationships that I’ve built and continue to build are paying off more than ever. Up and coming composers need to attend conferences, begin to build those relationships, and work extra jobs to allow them the funds to invest in their own career. Building any business is hard; music particularly so as the little defeats can hack away at your ego as you try to figure out if your work is a viable source of income. Once I started to separate my personal feelings from the “no’s” and to focus on how each “no” was an opportunity to grow and improve my craft, I got less whiny and brooding and a lot better at knocking on doors. When you stop taking it personally, it becomes a more positive journey. Also, no one likes a complainer. Be someone people like. Then, your chances of getting hired increase exponentially.