Some of the best parts of watching TV is hearing the amazing music playing in the background. I can count how many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy have been that much more intense because of the intensity of the music playing during a scene. Rob Kolar is no novice to this part of the TV world. As a composer of some of the music we hear playing on some of our favorite shows, he gave us a breakdown of the process it takes to come up with a score for a show.
Most recently working on TBS’ hit comedy series ‘The Detour’ along with many more projects under his belt and more we can catch on current shows he had a lot of details to share! Check out what all he had to say about working in TV composition as well as the wonderful world of musical entertainment in general.
KRISTIN: Before we get into one of your most recent projects, can you tell us how you got into music and composing?
ROB: I had my heart broken at 12 so I started writing songs. My family moved a lot and I rarely stayed at the same school so music was always that haven for me. It wasn’t always easy to make friends or fit in but I always had music. And often the music was a way to meet new people and connect. As for composing, I had always dreamed of writing music for film and television but it wasn’t until recently when Steve Pink asked me to score this show that it became a reality. I honestly can’t thank Steve enough for seeing it in me, even before I fully realized it myself. Now it seems like second nature. It’s wild how quickly life can change when you’re open to it.
KRISTIN: You have kind of established yourself in the television world. Most recently you worked on TBS’ ‘The Detour’ starring Jason Jones and Samantha Beem. How did you get involved in that project?
ROB: Steve Pink was fan of my band He’s My Brother She’s My Sister and shot me an email out of the blue. My wife didn’t believe it was real and thought it could be spam because we are such fans of his work. Shows you how much belief she has in me!
KRISTIN: ‘The Detour’ is a funny show with a lot of quirky characters and outrageous situations happening. How did you decide what kind of score would go well with this type of show?
ROB: There were a couple of phases. First we used a lot of instrumentals of He’s My Brother She’s My Sister. We would edit them and turn them into score. Sometimes I would add elements. Then as I got a feel for the show this interesting sound started evolving. Much of the score uses tap dancing as rhythm played by Lauren Brown. This adds an excitement and a little bit of zaniness to the sound. I also used roto toms (toms which are tuned to musical notes), oohs and aahs I sang, western / surf guitar, nylon string acoustic, castanets, along with experimental noises and other percussion. Once you tap into a certain feel and rhythm it just starts pouring out. Most of the score was not written to picture but written after reading the scripts and watching the pilot. I love to work off instinct and it was wild how often pieces locked with picture without any edits and without viewing any of the footage. I like rolling the dice a bit. So often things land in a captivating and unexpected way.
KRISTIN: From someone who knows nothing about composing music, do you get to see the scene and then write the music or just read the script? Neither? Both?
ROB: I like to read the scripts. We did something fairly unique with this show where I scored most of it before picture was edited. I created many cues and pieces which felt tonally and energetically like the story and characters. Then the very talented editors on the show (Erica Freed Marker and Edward Chin) would chop up or slot in the cues I sent. It was amazing to hear where they felt the pieces worked. This scenario allowed them creative liberty in the placement of the music. So often I loved where the cues landed and sometimes was pleasantly surprised with their choices.
Most often a composer has to replace “temp” music (temporary music cut to picture to later be replaced). I wasn’t interested in this as so often directors / producers fall in love with the temp music because they get used to it and then you end up “chasing” a piece of music thrown in there as opposed to building something completely original. I feel that this “temp” music approach is a bit archaic and doesn’t always lend itself well to achieving the most authentic score and sounds. Fortunately and the post production team (Jason Jones, Paul Leonardo, Ron Binkowski) were really laid back about my approach and gave me a lot of freedom. I just ended up sending them a whole bank of pieces for the editors to rummage through.
KRISTIN: You also play in a folk rock band called “He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister”. How do you balance the demands of the TV industry when it comes to deadlines and such while also working with a successful band with performances, recording, and practices?
ROB: It can be tricky. For example my new band KOLARS will be touring this fall and I keep asking the network when they need me. Haha. The schedule isn’t set yet so I’m crossing my fingers that it will all work out. I will probably start creating cues this summer with the second season in mind. Word is much of it will take place in NYC!
KRISTIN: Do you have other TV projects that we can check your work out in?
ROB: My band Lemon Sun has songs which appear in several shows like Homeland, New Girl, American Crime, Community and a few others. He’s My Brother She’s My Sister has music in Legend of Mick Dodge which is one of my favorite reality shows. It’s about this man living in the wilderness of Washington State. A really amazing depiction of how we can live and survive and thrive in nature.
KRISTIN: And because we are always interested in music, where can fans check out the music for your folk rock band?
ROB: Well there is a new album of The Detour: Season 1 which just came out! It includes KOLARS (my newest band), He’s My Brother She’s My Sister, score and original songs Jason and I wrote for the show. Jason is a great and funny lyricist and made my job so much fun. We wrote a politically incorrect musical theater song about conquistadors, a Lilith fair female angst rock number about “talking to the hand”, a Russian euro trash pop song about annexing countries and a Christian rock song about the singers BFF in Jesus. All the original music from the show and songs from KOLARS and He’s My Brother She’s My Sister and others can be found on Tidal, Apple Music, Spotify and all digital platforms.
KRISTIN: Where can we keep up with you online and stay tuned to all your upcoming projects?
ROB: I’m currently traveling through Egypt and Turkey (on the Turkish coast as we speak) so my Instagram has some fun stuff @robkolar
I also have a website with score and info about my various bands and productions www.robkolar.com
KOLARS and HMBSMS are both on Facebook as well.
Make sure to follow Rob on his Instagram account and website. Make sure to like all those amazing photos from Turkey and Egypt! You can also check out his music on iTunes and of course on season one of The Detour on TBS! Season one has completed, but season 2 has already been ordered! We are looking forward to seeing more from Rob Kolar on all his other projects as well as more on our favorite TV shows!