Interview with Blake Neely

Blake Neely is currently scoring two great shows on television “The Mentalist” and newcomer “Pan-Am”. Blake has also scored various shows like “Brothers and Sisters” and “No Ordinary Family”. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Blake to chat about comparing his scores and what we can expect from the score on this Fall’s seasons.

Mike Gencarelli: What was your inspiration for the “Pan-Am” score?
Blake Neely: My first reaction was to ask”why they wanted me?” I didn’t really do that type of work and 60’s themed stuff really wasn’t in my skill set. I told them this and they told me that the show was more of an American story with big rich orchestral sounds. Since I started doing music for television, I always tried to make the music more like what you would hear in a feature length film. When you think about it a television series is like a 22 hr. movie spaced out over an entire season. When I watched “Pan-Am”, I thought it was a perfect show to be more bold and cinematic. The show travels around the world and there are multiple story lines going on. The show was an opportunity to start with a big pilot and see what I could get away with.

MG: Were you able to see episodes prior to scoring?
BN: They send me each episode with temp music in it. The temp music might have been idea as to what they are looking for. From there we have a discussion about our ideas and I go from there. I do get to see the show way before its finished.

MG: Do you find the temp tracks helpful in anyway?
BN: They can be helpful if you have never worked with a director or producer. After you work with the same clients a few times you start to develop a language and understanding. If you have never worked with someone the temps can help you gauge what they are thinking. I find it interesting because composers are like actors but they never hire temps for us. (Laughs) The biggest hindrance for me is when a film may have been tested to an audience already with a different score. If the score tests really high it can cause people to not want to change what was done so you end up mimicking what was previously done.

MG: How do you feel working on “Pan-Am” compares to working on “The Mentalist”?
BN: When I take on multiple projects I try to look for ones that are very different from each other. In this case they couldn’t be more different. On “The Mentalist” we are dealing with more electronic sounds and grooves. “Pan-Am” is orchestral and less dark. I can kind of choose which one I want to work on by the mood I am in. It’s a nice balance. I have worked on similar shows at the same time before and it’s difficult to come up with different ideas out of the same brain.

MG: How do you feel the scores for “The Mentalist” have differed from season to season?
BN: I try to keep the sound pretty much the same. I look at the music as part of a set. You aren’t going to repaint the sets or change the characters costumes. There is a familiarity that the audience wants. I tend to get bored with myself very quickly so I try to change things up. When I do make changes I have to make sure that I’m not going out of what works for the show. I have really concentrated on that with the later seasons. With “Pan-Am” I am still honing in and developing a sound for the show that will last just as long as the other.

MG: What do you find is your biggest challenge when approaching a television show?

BN: Time is the biggest challenge. On a good week I have 6 days from start to finish. On these shows there is anywhere from 20-30 minutes per show. It’s all a matter of time in getting that much music written in 6 days. You develop tricks over time that helps speed things up. When you are working on a film you have a lot more time to think about your ideas.

MG: Do you have a specific genre that you are most comfortable with?
BN: Looking back I think I am most comfortable with Americana type music. I’m also comfortable doing comedies and romantic comedies. There are certain styles you can do quickly and well. In this profession you have to be able to do all types of genres.


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