Tuned in Tuesday: Composer Gabriel Mann Talks Modern Family, Marry Me, Rectify and More [Exclusive]
It’s been a little while since we’ve talked to a composer, so it’s with great pleasure that we’re bringing back our Tuned In Tuesday feature. Today, we’re talking to the man behind the music for such shows as ABC’s Modern Family and Sundance TV’s Rectify. Gabriel Mann‘s journey is a little different, though. He started out as a singer/songwriter and through his connections in the business, found his way to composing for TV. I emailed him late last week and found out how Gabriel broke into the business, what inspires him and what projects he’s working on now.
TV GOODNESS: What made you want to become a composer and how did you get started in the business?
Gabriel Mann: “I didn’t want to be a composer.Â I wanted to be a singer/songwriter, so I did that while I worked for other composers, engineered, mixed and produced music to earn a living. So that’s how I started, as an artist. One of the guys I worked for here heard one of my albums at some point and asked if I wanted to write songs with him for his TV show, and I went from that to doing some composing, then back to the record business with my band The Rescues, then back to scoring TV shows. I’ve really been doing both simultaneously for many years.”
TV GOODNESS: Tell me about your process. How/where does it start and what inspires you?
Gabriel: “My process varies depending on the project. I often sit with the picture, watch a few times and know what to do. Sometimes I’m asked to come up with something (a theme, or even a whole cue) before receiving any video, just with a description of what is to be. In those cases it’s a bit more freeing, as I’m relying on images in my head. Generally I’m inspired by the project I’m working on. If it’s my band, well, that’s a whole different story. In that case I have to dig deep.”
TV GOODNESS: You’ve worked on quite a few comedies. How do you go about picking the projects you’d like to work on?
Gabriel: “At this point I’ve worked with many different creators and directors and producers and writers, so when they ask, I luckily get to work on whatever they have in the pipeline. It’s less about me choosing the project and more about the project choosing me.”
TV GOODNESS: How did you get involved with Modern Family? Did they send you the pilot or was it something else?
Gabriel: “Modern Family was the first show that I ever did under my own name. I had worked with Jason Winer, the director of the pilot, on an episode of another show. My wife noticed his name attached to a pilot, so I asked if he needed any help on the music side. Chris Lloyd and Steve Levitan were not sure they were going to need any music whatsoever, but Jason was a great advocate and invited me to meet everyone on the set. I ended up writing a theme and a few other cues. The theme stuck and thankfully so did I.
TV GOODNESS: Modern Family has been on the air for a while now. How do you keep it fresh?
Gabriel: “That’s a good question for the creators and writers! They keep it fresh with smart, funny writing week after week. I’m always impressed with the show, they never take it for granted and are always trying to push the boundaries. Musically they push me as well – sometimes they’ll want to try something totally different, like an homage to Apollo 13 or Whiplash, and we’ll just go for it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but the ideas are always there.”
TV GOODNESS: For Marry Me, how did you hear about that project and what made you want to do it?
Gabriel: “I had worked for Jamie Tarses, the producer, on a short-lived show the previous season and she suggested me to David Caspe. We met and hit it off, he’s a very casual guy and we got on well. I literally had a five minute meeting with him and we were off to the races.”
TV GOODNESS: Is your approach for Marry Me different from your approach to Modern Family? If so, in what way?
Gabriel: “Marry Me has a lot more music than Modern Family. We use it to support the energy and excitement of the action and the characters, so it’s more ‘scored’ than Modern Family, where we normally reserve score for the more emotional and/or uplifting moments at the end of the show.”
TV GOODNESS: I loved Jake and Annie and the ups and down of their relationship on Marry Me. What’s been the most fun to score during season 1?
Gabriel: “I loved the Halloween episode. David Caspe, creator gave me a lot of freedom to spook it up with pipe organs and theremins and things, mixed in with the other more rock sounds on the show that was really fun.”
TV GOODNESS: Rectify is one of my favorite shows on TV. You’ve worked on a few other dramas, but what was it about this project that made you want to do it?
Gabriel: “Rectify is a composer’s dream. Lots of beautiful, dramatic, empty spaces to paint subtle, emotional scenes. When I saw the first scenes as I was writing music to get the job, it was clear that this was a very different kind of show, markedly different than the stuff I had been working on and from most other things on television, a real work of art.”
TV GOODNESS: Season 3 of Rectify is in production now. When will you start working on it and does the way you approached composing for the show changes from season to season?
Gabriel: “I wrote the first piece of music for season 3 yesterday! I havenâ€™t seen any footage yet, but I was asked to get started with a few ideas as Ray [McKinnon] doesnâ€™t like to recycle material too often. So Iâ€™m just finding some new sounds, while keeping the pace about where weâ€™ve been, just exploring new sonic territory. Ray is always looking for new ways to express himself, as am I. This is actually the first time Iâ€™ve been asked to write before seeing the footage, so the approach is already different this season from the last two.”
TV GOODNESS: How different is composing for a comedy as compared to composing for a drama? Are there challenges specific to scoring different genres, is it all about the material/tone or is it something else?
Gabriel: “Composing for drama is quite different from comedy. Both are looking for a ‘sound,’ something to provide a signature palette against which the action plays out. Iâ€™d say as a general rule, at least in television, the sound of a comedy is a bit more specific, a bit smaller in terms of its arrangement, and generally more ‘fun.’ That said, not all dramas are dark and dreary, some require lightheartedness and there are times, for example, in Modern Family, where we need to play a more emotional scene. But as a general rule, both comedies and dramas need music that matches the action of the scene and the tone of the show, so theyâ€™re both points on a spectrum. Itâ€™s often not so black and white as ‘comedy’ and ‘drama.'”
TV GOODNESS: Switching gears, tell me how you got involved in the ASCAP Songwriter Residency. It seems like such a great program.
Gabriel: “I was asked by Sue Devine from ASCAP if Iâ€™d be interested in the songwriter residence. I was a participant in the Lester Sills Songwriting Workshop at ASCAP a few years ago and it was such a valuable experience. I was happy to be able to help out on the other end. Iâ€™ve done a lot of work producing vocal music, so I think that was what made her think of me. The kids were a pleasure to work with and I think the song we wrote together came out just right, a tribute to their friends and families.”
TV GOODNESS: Anything on the horizon you’re allowed to discuss?
Gabriel: “A few pilots just got picked up: Rosewood with Morris Chestnut; a medical/crime drama for FOX; Angel From Hell with Jane Lynch; a CBS single-cam comedy; and Dr. Ken, Ken Jeongâ€™s new multi-cam for ABC. Iâ€™m very excited about all of these. Itâ€™s exactly what I like to do, a little bit of everything. And The Rescues are back together writing new songs for an EP which weâ€™ll hopefully have finished by the end of the summer.”
Edited for space and content.
The season 6 finale of Modern Family airs Wednesday, May 20th at 9/8c on ABC.
All 14 episodes of Marry Me are available on NBC.com.
Season 3 of Rectify premieres this summer on Sundance TV.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Catching Up with Ted Lasso and Previewing Season 2
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] The not so dirty little secret about how I approach a new series is that I sometimes make a call based on the headspace I’m in at the time. It’s been a minute since I’ve picked up a show after the first season and then binge…
Interview: Henri Esteve on Grown-ish Season 3
An interview with Henri Esteve, who plays Javi on Freeform’s Grown-ish. He talks about his season three experience.
For All Mankind Season 2: Talking with Wrenn Schmidt, Krys Marshall, Jodi Balfour, and Sonya Walger [Exclusive]
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] One of the hooks of For All Mankind is that it’s very much a story about the women of NASA. In Season 2, we explore the journeys of the women in the program, either through their own service or through their family affiliations. Four of those…
Rosy McEwen Talks The Alienist: Angel of Darkness Season Finale [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers for the season finale episodes.] How’s everyone after that finale? I will freely admit I got a little misty in episode eight as John told Sara why he loved her, and later that he wanted her despite what he might forfeit, and then at the end when he…
Rosy McEwen Talks The Alienist: Angel of Darkness [Exclusive]
Hands down, one of the best surprises of The Alienist: Angel of Darkness is that the serial killer this season has been front and center alongside the cast as a fully-formed character. We’ve watched Libby Hatch devolve from a prim, mild-mannered nurse to a woman in a rage hell-bent on…
The Alienist: Angel of Darkness Relationship Recap: John and Sara
[Warning: Spoilers for “Belly of the Beast” and “Memento Mori”] If you’ve read me for a while (thank you!), you know two things — I lean way, way in on the characters I adore and I loathe love geometry arcs. So, I’m torn about where we are and where we…
Louriza Tronco Talks The Order Season 2 [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Season 2.] The Order’s second season is dark yet delightful entertainment on many levels, and one of its biggest sources of joy and snark is the sassy Gabrielle Dupres. Last season, she was assertive and deadly and fairly annoyed with the world. This season, she’s been…
Previewing Netflix’s Virgin River
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] Full disclosure: I have a Netflix account for my Mom, but I’m not a regular viewer. If I get a heads up on something, I’ll go look for it, but I don’t have a wander across its offerings, which, as I understand it, is how most…
Final Thoughts From the Killjoys Team [Exclusive]
This is the day of the week I’d normally hit you up with a Killjoys preview, but now that we’ve put the series to bed and released Team Awesome Force into the wild, I have one more treat for you–some final thoughts excerpted from my conversations with the Killjoys folks….
Michelle Lovretta Talks Wrapping Up Killjoys [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers for the series finale.] To quote Miss Jackson, “That’s the end?” Yes, friends, it is. And like I promised you, everything would be, was, and is alright. I went to the Killjoys source, series creator Michelle Lovretta, who wrote the last episode, to break down that delicious finale….
What They Said: Three Revealing Conversations from Survivor’s Remorse “Closure”
WARNING: Spoilers for Survivor’s Remorse “Closure” The latest episode of Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse featured conversations that showed characters really digging deep into their thoughts, emotions and motivations.
Two Takes: The Catch “The Knock-Off”
Who can you trust? If this episode of The Catch was any indication, the answer is just about nobody. Betrayal was running rampant as Felicity (Shivani Ghai) arose from the dead to seduce-con Margot, Gretchen (Maria Thayer, Gotham, The Mindy Project) played gold-hearted Alice 2.0 before swindling Ethan, Tessa jumped…
What They Said: Top 3 Quotable Moments from Preacher “El Valero”
Both Quincannon and Jesse refuse to give up on what they each think is rightfully theirs. While Jesse is struggling to face the consequences of his actions, Quincannon has laid his past demons to rest and is hellbent on moving forward and putting Annville on the map again. Despite a…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Supergirl “Worlds Finest”
Oh, Supergirl. That ending was cold. But I can’t hate on you because the latest episode has quickly become one of my favorites.
What They Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Black Sails “XXIII”
The dialogue in “XXIII” is phenomenal. It’s always a fun ride when Black Sails carries its viewers along without giving them the chance to catch their breath. When an episode moves at this unforgiving pace, there is no chance for a breather nor is there a respite from the information…
What Lucifer Said: Favorite quotes from Supernatural “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Supernatural episodes are almost always funny but thanks to the dialogue and a certain man speaking said dialogue, I laughed a lot during “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” You know, when I wasn’t busy fearing for Sam’s life or wondering what in the world was going on with Dean and…
What They Said: The Flash, “Legends Of Today” and Arrow, “Legends Of Yesterday”
Two nights of Arrow +Â The Flash = what more could we ask for?! I don’t know what it is about blending these shows, but I canâ€™t help but feel that every time they come together, they somehow become greater than the sum of their parts. And thatâ€™s saying a lot…
What they Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Graceland “Little Bo Bleep”
Shoot outs. Fake outs. And long-awaited revelations. “Little Bo Bleep” was a jam-packed episode that wrapped up some loose ends and totally frayed others. Â It finally gave us one Sarkissian in jail and pulled back the curtain on Briggs’ master plan, but it also set up Jakes for a world…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Poldark “Part 4”
â€œWhat have I told you, I don’t require my wife to crochet and sip tea, but I do require her to remember she’s not a beast of burden.â€ No, Iâ€™m not talking about The Rolling Stones! I have to admit though, just for a second, the lyrics popped into my…
3 Moments of Goodness from Brooklyn Nine-Nine “Johnny and Dora”
The most satisfying part of this season’s finale has to the Jake and Amy kiss. Well, they kiss three times but the last one is the best one — and it means something. The Charles and Rosa dynamic was also great. I love how she’s convinced he doesn’t know anything…