"Say yes to as many projects as you can handle at a decent quality level" composer Graham Reynolds

Best known for his work on the film Bernie, the composer Graham Reynolds talks to Mandy News about how he got involved with the film Sister Aimee, where he does most of his work, plus he shares his advice for upcoming composers.

20th February 2019
/ By James Collins

Composer Graham Reynolds IMDB

How did you get involved in film composing?

I started playing piano when I was 5, my mom was taking piano lessons and I thought my mom was cool so I asked If could take lessons too, and it grew form the there.

I started improvising and composing my own music so my classical teacher said I should switch to jazz. When I finished school in 93 I moved to Texas and started playing punk rock clubs, where people would ask me to score their puppet show or experimental film. 

It wasn’t something I started out to do I was just playing shows. Now all those composing gifs have blossomed into a career where I do a lot of those things all the time 

‘Sister Aimee’ is at Sundance this year; how did you get involved with the project?

I worked with a producer before who connected me. Its set in 1926 and they were looking for something that started there in the music vocabulary, which is right when the drum kit was invented - when these things were first evolving. We built a drum kit by using a marching drum for the bass drum, we took Chinese cymbals and turned them upside down for rides and hi-hats.  

Also, there is a song that closes the film, for which I studied chord progressions of the 1920's. I then drew from a whole bunch of songs to build my own 1926 style song that the lead actress sings.  

At what part of the production did you get involved?

I got the script and at the very end, at the climax, it just said ‘song here’ no lyrics or description but it was positioned at a critical moment of the narrative.  

It is all sang on screen so we started building the score by writing that song first, then taking the ideas, harmonies, progression and instrumentation and applying it to the rest of the score.

"Say yes to as many projects as you can handle at a decent quality level" 

Where do you work?

I have a studio at my place, 1000sq ft. and a team of 4. Everything is done here, on a rare occasion we go somewhere else like for Jack Black’s vocals on Bernie for example. But all the work for Sister Aimee was done here. 

What’s in your toolbox?

I do both in the box and out so, a huge array of virtual instruments but also for this the first session was 16 piece big band and singer, all live, so we could remix it and peel it back and even reconstruct that later with different layers. 

***** Read our interview with composer duo Giona Ostinelli & Sonya Belousova*****

What else have you been working on lately?

Where’d you go Bernadette with Laurence Fishburne, Kristen Wig and Cate Blanchett. It’s a Richard Linklater movie and Cate is amazing in it, we worked on it for a long time and I am very happy with that.

What advice do you have for up-and-coming composers?

Say yes to as many projects as you can handle at a decent quality level. My scoring was informed by working on all types of films, bands and ballets. Learn how to score and how to collaborate. 

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