INTERVIEW: Emmy Winning Film & Television Composer Martin Davich

Hi Martin, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

I’ve been well…always writing, always teaching. I wrote a college music curriculum called Composition for Visual Media for the LA College of Music, and have been teaching various classes within that program for several years now. It’s not precisely a financial windfall, but I feel strongly in giving back and passing on what I believe to be valuable information.

Can you talk to us more about your song “The Conversation”?

I tend to think very visually and emotionally and after chasing a few ideas down for this piece, I sat back and listened to what I had done. (This for me is a very important step in the writing process, as it is the first time I can get some perspective on what I’m writing.) Now I will either repair or move ahead. When listening there was such a back and forth between the musical lines, and such inflection in the phrases, that it seemed very much like a conversation. And then as the emotions changed and eventually resolved I was convinced I had the proper title.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

The only event that triggered this song was the composition of the first 24 bars or so of music, where the inherent rhythm of the piece made itself known to me and the “Conversation” began. This piece was more of a musical exploration than an emotional journey.

Any plans to release a video for the track? 

That is such a good idea…I have thought about this a lot, but I’m really not yet sure which piece it might be. Paris Stroll is another contender…might have to travel for that one.

Why naming the album after this song in particular?

I think it’s an intriguing title, and I like the sound of it. I don’t think it will be the most popular song on the album but I am very proud of the composition.

How was the recording and writing process?

…long…I started writing in January of 2017…I finished writing that December…then editing and orchestrating took several months and I started recording in June of 2018. My basic band was me and a string quartet, with all first chair players…the best in town. Aside from that one day of basic tracks with the quartet, I had some individual sessions with Lee Sklar, Lee Thornburg and Lisbeth Scott. I went up to Idyllwild CA to record the choir for A Prayer for My Father. Truth be told, none of this was a hardship…I loved every minute of it

After a productive career in the TV and film world – what made you want to put this solo record now?

I love to write. I come to the studio every day and write, whether or not there is an intended destination for the work. It is my happy place…when I write I forget about everything else. I wanted to put this out now because it was just time to step out a bit. In my work everything we turn in is a “work for hire’ so the production company owns the work. I have no legacy really. I just wanted to take some time to write exactly what I wanted to write, free of criticism or suggestion from a superior. And I wanted something to live outside the vault at Warner Brothers.

Was this record a total departure for you or rather a continuation? Did you approach this album as some sort of a score?

I certainly tried to explore areas that I do not normally get to explore. I did a choral piece which I never get asked to do. And in “Passive Aggressive” I used harmonic language that I have never used before. The thing is I gave myself as much time as I needed  to find what I was looking for…there was no deadline…so yes,  this was really a total departure in my approach, and in what I was hoping to come away with musically.

What role does Arizona play in your music?

When I think of Arizona I think of simple and clean, wide open and airy, nothing overwrought. Hopefully I display some of that in my writing.

You brought on a great number of talented artists – did you handpick them or how did they come on board? 

These are all people I have worked with consistently throughout my career and I couldn’t imagine doing this project without them. They graciously came on board and I promise you the album would not have been the same without them.

What did they bring to the table? 

They bring a level of musicianship that I find it difficult to replace. And they know me, so there is a shorthand in communication and trust. Things move more quickly when all those elements are present.

Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than working on your own?

I take a different approach in that I write for a “live” player, who can simply do more and give more than I can, no matter how good an electronic setup I may have. For authenticity and performance you just can’t beat those pesky, noisy humans.

Having collaborated with all these great people – what have you learned from these experiences?

I always learn something when I write and record. When you hire someone to play your music they are going to play it the way they interpret it. You can direct them, but you’re going to hear back what you wrote, good or bad. The notes might be fine but it just gets in the way, or it muddies up a line that’s higher up. Sometimes you just have to tack it up and see how it fits. What I learn from them is always does it work, does it fit, is it graceful, is it beautiful? Many times I simply don’t know these things until I hear them.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

The songs are both interesting. “Fathers and Sons” started off as an instrumental piece for the quartet and piano, kind of a question and answer between the two. After a while it started to feel like verses, so I called my son, Jacob, and asked him to see if he could come up with a verse or two. He left and came back with this beautiful lyric pointed in my direction. Once I was done crying we recorded it, and here we are.

“A Prayer for My Father” was written by me long before the lyrics appeared. I had been working on the music for quite a while before I realized what I was writing. I am not a good lyricist. I called my friend Lisbeth Scott and asked her to sing it and she graciously said yes. It was after that when I realized that I needed help with the lyrics. We are good enough friends that I was able to tell her my feelings about my dad and she was able to use that for the song.

Any plans to hit the road? 

I would really like to take this on the road, albeit with a smaller ensemble. There are lots of possibilities, including a couple local venues and hitting a few wineries up and down the coast.

What else is happening next in Martin Davich’s world?

Let’s see…I’m working on improving my pizza making skills, I’m hoping to increase my travelling, starting with Italy next year, I’m writing a lot of small pieces, piano pieces, for Spotify and such and in general I’m attempting to work enough to satisfy myself, but allow more free time to enjoy all that I have worked for.

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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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