Living in LA and originally from Westborough Massachusetts, Sarah started playing piano at the age of 6, Guitar at 8, Drums at 10, and has been a working musician ever since. Drums led her to study at Berklee College of Music, and very quickly to LA where she performed and recorded with the band “Glider,” later known as “Rain Fur Rent,” bringing the opportunity to work with industry professionals such as Owen Husney (Prince). Always taking on more work with countless other projects and broadening her musicianship into other areas, she collaborated with Blind Mellon Vocalist Travis Warren to form the duo “The Lookout Kids.”
This amount of merit and recognition is the type that so many musicians strive for, however there is another facet to this that is also very impressive. It is the leveraging of all this live performance and recording experience that has led to opportunities in Composing and Producing music for Television & Film (Production Music).
For so many musicians and music industry professionals who entered the workforce in the late 90’s and early 2000’s there was a seismic shift that had begun to dissolve the walls that once tightly segmented the entire industry. Before, managers were managers, producers were producers, musicians were musicians, and that was it. Any overlap between the business end and creative end was very rare, even taboo in some cases. As the recording industry took a nose dive, the barriers between roles went with it. Couple this with the cost of technology also taking a nose dive and you have a situation where more artists had more opportunities to create and deliver their art to whomever, whenever. One area of the industry that this holds true in particular, is within this area of Film and Television.
Currently working as the East Coast Music Director at 5 Alarm Music, Sarah has also had compositions placed in all sorts of productions, from a national commercial for The General Car Insurance, to TV series such as 30 Rock, Chicago Fire, HBO’s Hung, to movies like Tower Heist. We spoke with her and she had some wonderful insight into how artists and musicians are working today, within the world of Production Music.
How does your live performance experience help your work within Production Music?
“Production schedules for TV are really tight. By the time a request comes in, they needed it yesterday. For custom music, the most common turn-around time is anywhere between 3 hours and up to 2 days for a song. We just had a guy bust out 4 original big band compositions from start to finish in 3 days; 4 songs with large orchestration, which requires hiring a lot of session musicians and detailed composition. I think that producers with a lot of live experience know the right people to hire who work fast and you also know the right lingo to get the job done. The biggest job of the producer is to communicate exactly what is needed so there’s no ambiguity. If you’ve been in bands, you know how to deliver musical direction in an effective way. For example, I was working with a horn section and the players were great, but there were a few things that could be improved. A producer who has a performance background can isolate the horn and give the right direction. I had access to the score, so I was able to talk to the right player and clarify the part. Sometimes producers will just say, “It’s not right” and not know how to improve the overall sound. Speaking as someone who has been on the other side of the glass, that is the most frustrating instruction a player can ever get! When direction is vague, you end up wasting a lot of studio time and wearing out the musicians.”
We are advocates for disruptive technology within music because we believe it creates more opportunity for musicians and artists who are willing to learn it. Where do you see this hold true in your current work?
“As far as technology goes, the advancements in the past 10 years have really opened the doors for quicker turn-around and more elaborate compositions at an affordable rate. Back in the day, you had to secure a sound stage and hire a 60 piece orchestra to get a full-film score happening. Now with a high quality of samples and scoring software, you can compose a piece that sounds like a 60 piece orchestra with only hiring a few string players to layer the parts on top. In a perfect world, every budget would allow for a live 60 piece orchestra but music budgets are a lot different now. DAW’s such as Protools are great too because you can hire someone across the world and get what you need by getting sessions via dropbox or another big file website. The world is a much smaller place thanks to technology.”
Any final words for musicians looking to do more composing and producing?
“Always remember what got you interested in music in the first place – how it made you feel, the songs that you played on repeat until you knew every note and ultimately what it means to you. Play from the heart because if you work hard enough and with any luck, your song might be the one on infinite repeat that touches someone else.”
“Comprised of baritone guitar, drums and harmonized vocals, Travis Warren and Sarah manage to create a big sound magnified by raw emotions and an honest approach to creating edgy rock n’ roll.”