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INTERVIEW: Emmy-nominated composer Michael Simon

1. Hi, Mike! I appreciate you taking your time with this interview. First off, huge congrats on your first Emmy nom! Once Upon A Time was such a beloved show with a hardcore fanbase. Please talk about saying goodbye to the show and making the music for the remaining episodes knowing the series was coming to a close.

Thank you, I’m excited to answer your questions!  We found out that OUAT wasn’t going to be renewed again in February of this year, at which point we had about 8 or 9 episodes left to write on.  While it definitely was disappointing, it was also a wonderful gift in that we knew the coming episodes would be leading us to an actual ending.  Compare this to what happens more often, which is that you finish a season without knowing whether or not the show it coming back.  Having this certainty was really helpful in allowing a deeper emotional commitment to the score in a way we might not otherwise have had, especially in the final episode (for which we were nominated).  We were able to help give each main character their “happy ending”, which was really meaningful for us after 7 years!

2. Speaking of the Emmy nom, talk about the score that finally did it for you after several years on the show! Did you subconsciously want to end your time on the show on a high note by creating an award-worthy piece?

Honestly every episode we gave it our all — but not every episode had the epic turns and resolutions that we found in the finale.  And while I know that the people who voted for our nomination didn’t really get a chance to watch the season (or all the seasons, for that matter), and see how the music helped tell the story throughout, I think the final episode definitely wouldn’t have been what it was if not for all the years we spent exploring the sound of the show and its many themes.  And no, I don’t think any of us had the Emmy Awards in mind at all when we were scoring the show (or the final episode) — it was always about telling the story in the best way possible.  That we were honored with a nomination after all these years was an incredible and totally unexpected surprise!

3. Can you please give insight into the actual crafting process of the score, from conception to what we heard on the screen? How long did the entire process take?

We typically had about a week to write and record the music for each episode.  We’d start with a phone call discussing who is doing what, and generally if a new theme was needed (i.e. for a new character), Mark would provide that — and then we’d get to work!  One of the biggest rewards of working on this show was the live recording sessions we had each week.  I don’t think there is any greater honor as a composer than having your work played by some of the best musicians in the world — and LA has some of the best!  After than entire process was finished it was mixed by our talented engineer Jason LaRocca and then sent off to be mixed into the show for the final product.

4. What will you remember most about working on Once Upon A Time?

There’s so much — the amazing stories and the actors that portrayed them, the entire music team, the trust that Adam and Eddie (creators) gave us… Ultimately, I suspect the live recording sessions will be what stands out in the long run.  It was such an amazing way to put an end cap on each episode; live players add so much more depth and character to music over what we were able to give in the demos we make on our studios at home (all on the computer).

5. Do you have a singular favorite score from the duration of the series?

Well I do really like what we did for the finale (ep. 722) because it was when we said our final goodbyes, and if you want to hear it you can actually stream it (http://hollywoodrecs.co/onceuponatimes7)!  But another one that sticks out in my mind was episode 509, “The Bear King”.  It was the origin story for Merida (from “Brave”) and had a massive field battle and we recorded live bag pipes (uilleann to be specific) — it had a cinematic epic-ness to it that we didn’t often have in the show.

6. What lies ahead for you! Anything you can talk about that’s in the pipeline?

I can’t yet really talk about the projects I have upcoming, but I’m not going anywhere so expect to hear something soon!  It’s been a huge pleasure working with Mark and Cindy and I hope it’s not long until I work with them again.

by Erman Baradi

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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