Award-winning composer Patrick Warren hangs with the coolest of musicians having collaborated with the likes of Lana Del Rey, Ray LaMontagne, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Dylan. His ear for music crosses genres and age groups, which is evident in how he can record with an artist like Fiona Apple, then work with hip hop heavyweight like Common. This past month saw the return of the hit Showtime series “The Chi.” Returning to the show for its sophomore season, Patrick dives into his career, how he’s stepped up his game on “The Chi,” and more!
What was it about music in film that compelled you early on? Did you always want to tell stories through the medium of music?
I always had a fascination with cinema, I came out of Cal Arts as a piano performance major. Composition fascinated me. I took those types of classes and realized it was where I belonged. I would go on tour in rock bands and play. I approached the keyboard as an orchestral thing, which would lead to writing more arrangements for orchestra. That was my gateway to composing.
Of course, working on “True Detective” is no small feat. It is one of the more talked about series on HBO. What landed you the gig of composing for it?
I did a small movie, a rom com. It was a lot fun being on. I was working with T Bone Burnett when that opportunity presented itself. That was the first season of True Detective. I had worked with T Bone for years on records. One day, he was like, “Hey, you want to do this?” It turned out to be “True Detective.”
Tell us how Common reached out to you for “The Chi.” You had already collaborated with him on his album Black American Again.
We worked on “Glory” together with Common as well as John Legend, so we had that history already. I get this cryptic email at 3am from Common. It said, “Do you want orchestrate this song?” I had three days to come up with something. I wanted to see if the orchestra drives it. sent it to him. There were no corrections. He replied loving it.
From the storytelling perspective, how does season 2 differ from season 1?
There are similarities between season 1 and season 2, but season 2 invests more into the characters. Musically, there is more room for melody and orchestra. We explain humanities in these characters in this particular neighborhood the show is set in.
Can you pick a piece from “The Chi” you would call your favorite? I mean this in terms of how it reflects the story or characters. I am sure there are many to choose from, but anything stick out to you the most?
It would have to be the end credits music. We explore possibilities of where it might go. Without giving anything away for those who have catching up, in episode two of the first season, we have one character who is told he shot wrong character. His world caves in. It goes to credits. And the way the music fits is perfect.
So as a composer you are also a music lover by nature. Have you seen anything you absolutely loved and wish you composed it!
I’m a nut for sci-fi. I’ll watch “Star Trek Discover.” I love the full orchestra. In the movie “Arrival,” there’s a song that starts the movie. You immediately know it’s not a regular sci-fi movie. Those moments are the ultimate moments in scoring. You are showing the audience there is something bigger going on than what we see.