An Interview with Adam Blau

(From Adam’s official bio): Adam is a rising star in the comedy world, with many directors entrusting his musical talents to bolster their projects, often working closely with writers and performers to lend a strong and humorous musical sensibility to their projects. His music has uplifted projects by some of the world’s most popular comedians, including truTV’s Billy on the Street, starring Billy Eichner; NBC’s Mulaney, starring John Mulaney; several Funny or Die shorts; and IFC’s upcoming Brockmire starring Hank Azaria. In addition to composing score, Adam regularly collaborates with the showrunners and writers of projects to create and develop a variety of songs for special episodes – songs ranging from “serious” to intentionally over-the-top satires.

Adam has also scored music and written songs for celebrated films like Warner Bros.’ License to Wed, starring Robin Williams, Mandy Moore and John Krasinski; SXSW favorite The Overbrook Brothers; Phoebe in Wonderland, starring Elle Fanning; and Indian Pictures’ Fuzz Track City. Known for his expertise in percussion, Adam has spearheaded specialty drumline sessions for high profile projects, including Christophe Beck’s We Are Marshall and Mark Isham’s The Express, as well as arranging and producing world percussion for Joel McNeely’s scores to Disney’s popular Tinker Bell films.


What got you interested in composing for film and television?
Well, I had been a musician to some extent for most of my life…I started playing when I was very young, and I’ve always been involved with music in some capacity. And while I was living in New York I was pretty active in theater, music directing and accompanying, that kind of thing. As part of that, I had some friends who were writing comedy shows and they needed some interstitial music between scenes, or maybe they needed a song, and so I would help them out and it was really fun. And as an extension of that I wrote some songs for a friends show in Los Angeles, and while I was visiting LA I met a couple of people who needed some extra music for a film they were working on, they’d had a composer drop out of the production and so from New York I experimented with some music for this film and I ended up really enjoying it. In fact, I ended up being “bitten by the bug” and picked everything up and moved from New York to LA and it seems to have worked out pretty well so far.
Are you inspired by any particular composer?
In general sure, I have those (soundtracks) I like to listen to independent of the film, but being so involved in multiple facets of music production, it’s rare these days for me to be listening to any current film scores while I’m composing, because I do so much of that as part of my actual work. But Carter Burwell’s score for Adaptation is a big one, it really got me in tune with what a film score could be/should be…in terms of what I’m writing, so much of the scoring process is dependent on the material and who I’m working with. There is an extent to which it’s a bit of a service industry because I’m writing music for what is essentially someone else’s vision. I think a huge part of the job is finding out what the vision is for the director and seeing how the music can best manifest that idea for them. Now I’m going to put my on thumbprint on it one way or the other, but especially in writing for television comedy, it’s writing in a particular style, usually to form the “punchline.” So I do listen to works by several composers, but in terms of my current writing, they don’t really influence/inspire me in that sort of way, because it’s dependent on what the director needs.

What’s it like working on You’re The Worst ? How is the music composed for each episode: do you get to see any footage or is everything done in advance?
It’s a blast, the show itself…especially in seasons 2 and 3, goes in a very interesting direction. It’s a fairly racy comedy, but they really start talking about some more significant issues. The characters are very well conceived and written and that’s a testament to the show’s creator. The characters can be assholes at times, but over time you can understand why they might be that way. As that goes on, the show shifts tonally, there’s a spectrum of comedy to emotional stuff.
It’s a really great thing, as a composer, to be able to work in the comedic realm but also to work with the more serious, dramatic stuff, or spoofing a genre, like the ‘Sunday Funday’ episodes. And the other part that is really rewarding, is writing actual songs for the characters. Gretchen is a music publicist and she represents this one group, and Stephen (the show’s creator) and I co-wrote all of the songs that they do; and in the PTSD episode we wrote a song that serves as a “relief” for this one character. It’s an original song that we wrote together, and the song is currently being sold as a benefit for the Wounded Warriors organization. The variety is thrilling for me.
How long do you have to put a particular score together? Is there less time for television?
The schedule, for television, is just ridiculous, there is a very quick turn-around between when the picture is locked, like when they’re done editing and when the episode is released, so we have maybe a week, maybe…to get the music finished. Now, I ask for scripts very early in the process, just so I can look through and see if there are song moments or other moments to keep an eye out for. If there’s music within the show, I write it in advance and then go to the set, which is really rare, but I go and teach it to them. I prepare as much as I can in advance though, but by the time it starts being cut, and by the time the show gets to the producers, there is already temporary music in place, either composed by me or someone else, to prompt discussion about what should be in place there. And by the time we come to a spotting session where we meet to discuss how the episode should be scored, either I’ve already written a couple of pieces OR we will discuss if something is working or if we want to go in a different direction. It’s a quick process, sometimes it feels too quick but other times that quick turn-around is a blessing.

How would you describe your compositional style? More orchestral or electronic/synthetic?

It’s totally a case by case basis, I’ve written for full orchestra, like with License to Wed, which had a jazz, swingy feel for the most part. So we wrote it for a huge orchestra. And the other end of the spectrum then is the electronic stuff that I do for You’re the Worst, it is totally case by case. And with percussion stuff, my first stint with that was for a film called We Are Marshall, and there was also Yours, Mine and Ours as well.

The genre is really dictated by the material and also the budget. I would prefer to work with a live orchestra, but with most tv it is simply not in the cards (except for maybe Game of Thrones which has the budget to do it.)
What’s your favorite genre to work with? Why?

I am happy working in any genre, but I like working in comedies because it allows for working in a lot of ways, I admit I am a huge comedy junkie and I love sitcoms. But these days, if you’re doing comedy, you get to write in a number of genres and run the gamut, because writing comedy can also mean writing in a serious moment or a song, so you can try a lot of different things. One of my strengths has been being able to wear a number of different hats, learning a new genre or figuring out the core elements of a particular style and working in that new style, it’s a fun challenge trying to do that. I also enjoy the collaborative process with comedy as well.
Does one score/project stand out as your favorite?

It’s truly hard to pick a single project that I would call my favorite. I would have a hard time sitting here working day after day on shows that I don’t like so much, so I try to find something enjoyable about the project itself or the music for that project, or the people I work with, or otherwise it’s a long hard slog. But there are some standouts for me, You’re The Worst is definitely a highlight. And the people are just so spectacular to work with as well.

Me: Well thank you so much for meeting with me to talk about You’re The Worst and your work as a composer

Adam: Thank you!

You can follow Adam Blau on Twitter @adamblau .

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3 thoughts on “An Interview with Adam Blau

  1. Pingback: An Interview With Adam Blau Part 2 | Film Music Central

  2. Pingback: An Interview with Adam Blau Part 3 | Film Music Central

  3. Pingback: Exciting news for Film Music Central! | Film Music Central

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