EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Composer Kevin Besignano
Composer Kevin Besignano chats with us on his work in the new film Killing Eleanor and what he thinks the future of the music industry will look like.
What compelled you to work on the film Killing Eleanor?
Kevin Besignano | I don’t remember how the ball exactly got rolling on being involved with the film, but Annika Marks (the writer and lead), who is a wonderful personal friend, sent me an early version of the script and I just fell in love with it. The story and characters were so honest and exciting that I knew I had to work on this film! I think the next thing was Annika and Rich Newey (her husband and the films director) coming over to my house and me playing a sizable chunk of musical themes and ideas I had written just to the script. This was months before they were even close to shooting. Everything was still very much an idea. Being involved so early and being a part of the film growing into what it became was incredibly inspiring and kept me on my toes to be as creative as I could possibly be!
You even learned to play the cello for the film! What was that like?
Well, I can say I learned to get it to make the sound that Rich and I wanted it to make, ha! It’s a less traditional way to play a cello, I played it more like a guitar, plucking it with my fingers. As a guitar player this was fairly comfortable, the main challenges were playing notes in tune and the fact that it’s tuned very differently than a guitar. I eventually put together a few different melodic pieces that could all play nice with each other, based on a theme I wrote for the end of the film, and just practiced non stop for a few weeks. I really wanted it to feel very “live” and as if it was performed front to back by two musicians specifically as a duet with piano, each voice representing a character. I essentially improvised the piano part live to picture with no cuts, maybe over a few takes. Then I went back and did about a hundred takes of the cello, start to finish with no edits trying to get the perfect full take. Eventually, we made a few small changes here and there just to fit it better in the dialogue, but I’m very happy with the way it turned out. Especially that it’s essentially a raw, live emotional performance that sits inside a beautifully acted scene. You can hear the whole piece at the end of the film.
How did being in multiple bands shape you to become a film and television composer?
Well, it definitely taught me to always remain a team player. Being in a band is like being in a relationship. It can get a little deeper than working with a team on a film since you tend to live with people in very close proximity, but it’s essentially the same. It’s important to try to do your best to serve the greater good and not be selfish or get too set in your ways.
Do you have a dream genre or type of show/film to compose for?
As far as my ultimate dream job, I really love big orchestral scores that can be loud and bombastic and then cheerful and bright like a Disney film. Disney is a huge part of my life – especially now with my daughter getting older – and I think anything from that studio would be an absolute dream come true for me. There is always something incredibly magical about how music feels in those films and I really would love to be a part of that someday.
What are some albums that really shaped you as an artist?
I’ve always had a lot of very different influences but to keep it short I’ll just name some that are like big giant road signs in my past that I always compare things I do to.
The Beatles – Rubber Soul, anything Zeppelin, anything by Martin Denny or Les Baxter, David Bowie – Low, NIN – With Teeth, Portishead – Dummy, Refused – Shape of Punk to Come, The Clash – London Calling, Charlie Parker and that whole era of bebop, soundtracks by people like Bernard Herrmann, John Williams, and Danny Elfman. Most of these people pushed boundaries of what was expected and I love them for that. I mean I can go on forever, I absolutely love music in all forms, these are just some off the top of the list, but I try my best to give everything I hear a fair shake and see if I can learn or feel something from it!
What can you tell us about your upcoming web series?
Unfortunately, not much at all yet! I’m actually working as the sound editor/sound designer AND composer, you sometimes need to multitask to stay ahead of the game these days! What I can say is, it’s with some people I really admire and enjoy working with, and I believe it has a chance to do some very cool things!
What do you think the future of live music is going to look like?
That’s the million-dollar question! I hope one day it just gets back to the old normal, maybe with a new shared sense of appreciation and love for going to see people playing for you on stage. I think the world is a sad place without music and I sure won’t take it for granted when people get back on stage in front of crowds.
Then finally, you grew up in New York but now live in LA. Which do you think is better?
Well, one thing I learned touring around the world for years is that everywhere is pretty much the same. It’s all just people, cars, and 7-11 hotdogs – haha! But honestly, it’s all what you make of it. That being said, I just prefer life in LA to life in NY. I love living here and I love to visit NY. Not the other way around. The only downside is that I don’t get to see my extended family much. I always say to people who ask, especially from home, you know that feeling when you get into bed after a long hard day? That’s how I feel at home in LA. It’s just where I feel comfortable and creative.