Tell us a little about yourself and what you do for a living?
Sure thing! I’m a composer / musician currently living in Dublin, Ireland. I was born here, but moved with my parents at a very young age to the United States where I lived the majority of my life. I grew up in a classical family, my parents as well as many of my extended family are professional musicians, and at the age of 13 I was accepted into the Juilliard School of Music (Pre-college, New York) where I studied violin & piano. I now make a living writing, producing and arranging music for film, television, artists and the web!
What is your niche or speciality, that makes you stand out from rest of the audio professionals?
I’m not sure if I have a real niche per say, I pride myself on being as versatile as possible with my writing. Saying that, one of my mentors told me, the most important thing a composer can achieve, is a unique voice. If I would have any specialty at all, I’d say it would probably be the “Celtic” influences in my music, and overall playing style. I still work hard every day to develop my “voice”… as composers; I feel that is something that we’ll always continue to strive for.
Can you give us a brief summary of the equipment you use regularly?
Sure, I work from my home writing studio. My main audio computer is an 8core 3.2Ghz MacPro with 16GB of RAM. My DAW is Pro Tools 9, which I’ve worked with ever since college where I studied music engineering. My speakers are a pair of KRK Ro-kit 10-3s and the mics I use for recording are an Audio Technica 4033 SE cardioid and 2 pair’s of SE Electronics sE1a stereo pair mics. I can certainly handle solo musicians at home, but for ensemble recording, I always use local professional recording studios.
What are your go-to plug-ins and software? (virtual instruments, audio processing etc.)
Well, one plug-in I can’t live without is Vienna Ensemble Pro. Because I own so many sample libraries, I had terrible problems with Pro Tools and the limited use of RAM available. VEPro has quite literally changed my life in that regard. Now I can load insane amounts of libraries within my Pro Tools sessions, and they run with ease! For scoring and sheet music I use Sibelius notation software. For effects like reverb, EQ’ing, etc I use an assortment of WAVES plug-ins. For mixing I love iZotope’s Ozone 5! My main samplers are Kontakt and Engine. I won’t even begin to talk about my sample library favourites, cause we’d be here a long time… Let’s just say my top few would be Projectsam, Cinesamples, Orchestral Tools, Sonokinetic, Eduardo Tarilonte Libraries… oh man, I can’t stop!
When do you find you are most creative?
Definitely in the morning. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve awakened with themes buzzing about in my head!
What is your usual process for creating audio content for games, films etc.?
It always begins with long conversations with the client whether it’s the director, producer, sometimes even the editor. Once I have a clear understanding of the brief I usually head straight to my Bechstein piano where I just start putting ideas out. Most of the time, I’ll already have ideas in my head, but you’d be amazed at what happens when you just sit down and play!
Are there any particular secrets to your creativity?
Creativity is a hard thing to conceptualize… it’s different for all of us. Being able to step away from work every now and again is very important. As composers we have a tendency to get lost in our music. It’s important to take time out away from your projects, to free your mind up and rest.
Do you have any audio creation techniques that resulted in something interesting?
I’d have to say that being a musician has definitely helped with creating interesting writing techniques. Before I had so many libraries to make my life easier, all I worked with was a Korg D12 multi-recorder, a mic, my violins and a piano… there is something special with the simplicity of that time when I started writing. It forced my creativity to a whole new level, and it’s something I try to fall back on when I’m feeling blocked.
Any specific “lessons learned” on a project that you could share?
The business aspect to our industry can get very messy and cruel. Surround yourself with people you can trust and know they’re profession well. I’m talking specifically about licensing, publishing, and contracts.
Any tips, hints or motivational speeches for the readers?
Something I touched on earlier was “finding your voice”. As composers, creators, I understand that versatility in your writing is key. Mastering a variety of genres can only improve your chances of success in an industry that exists primarily with brief work. Saying that, make sure you take the time to be yourself. Find out what moves you most with music, and apply that to your writing. Finally, one of my violin teachers’ favourite things to say was “One more time!”. It used to drive me mental during lessons. Only now that I’m older do I understand what she meant. Always go the extra mile when you work. Don’t settle for good, aim for great! As writers, we should always strive to be better, to always be learning. Our education is never-ending and that’s a wonderful thing!