After a long and successful run on CBS, the hit Fox series "How I Met Your Mother" has reached its' pinnacle and now entering its' final season which will premiere on Monday, September 23rd. The Emmy nominated series which has now reached syndication, is a constant fan favorite and the DVD seasons have sold extremely well making it one of Fox's best selling television shows along side "The Simpsons" and "M*A*S*H".
Along for the ride was composer John Swihart, who made a sensational splash with the hit comedy, "Napoleon Dynamite". Soon after, John was approached and hired for what would be surprisingly one televisions more popular television series for the next nine seasons. Writing some some of the more memorable musical scores for the series as well as the popular songs on the show, John is also a big screen veteran with plenty of comedies under his belt that include "Employee Of The Month", "Flypaper", "Youth In Revolt" and some dramatic work in "The Other Woman" and the upcoming "Odd Thomas" for "Mummy" Director Stephen Sommers.
In this interview, John shares his insights on the series, his work on the show for all these years and his upcoming work which is quite interesting. So let John share his thoughts on "How I Met Your Mother" for one last season.
Please tell the readers about who aren’t familiar with your work of what made you become interested in music and what led you to become a song writer/composer.
JS: I watched a lot of movies as a child. Maybe this is why I eventually gravitated towards story telling but I was always drawn to music. It consumed my thoughts and when I realized I could make people feel something through music that is all I wanted to do. My influences are too many to name, but basically it includes everything I have listened to on my journey to where I am today. There is a lot of great music out there that inspires me today.
Let’s talk about the hit Emmy nominated CBS series “How I Met Your Mother ” which is now entering its’ ninth and final season. How did you become involved with the project?
JS: The series started right after Napoleon Dynamite had come out so I was lucky enough to get a meeting and have them listen to some of my music.
Was it difficult or easier for you to find a tone for the music as each season went along?
JS: One of the great things about being on a show for a long period of time is watching the show evolve. A friend told me a long time ago “It should be easy” and it usually is if you’re not distracted with the usual demons any creative person has. Especially with comedy because you find yourself laughing while you work.
What was your approach for each episode musically speaking?
JS: Each episode has a different story that warrants a different theme of some kind. One episode was about the fastest way to get across Manhattan, and I’m making a lot of action music. Another episode is about Ted getting a job as a professor and his friends buy him a hat and a whip, and we are making an “Indiana Jones” type of score. It always depends on the writing. There is usually an emotional moment near the end that is scored with acoustic guitar and piano, but again it really depends if the episode is a cliffhanger or not. They’re all different.
How much music have you usually written each season?
JS: I write new music for every episode so quite a bit altogether. We do come back to some themes now and then but they often are enhanced in some way specific to the episode.
In writing the music for the series, do you use an orchestra or do you perform the music yourself much like other composers in television do?
JS: Usually the big orchestra sounds are all samples.This depends on the budget for the show usually and how important it is to the producers. We have brought in a lot of live players over the years and I play guitar, piano, bass, drums, and some other less obvious instruments but the orchestra is usually all samples. When we did “Nothing Suits Me Like A Suit,” we had a live session that took all day just to record the one song. Most of the orchestral music we do is done in a “tongue in cheek” style, so the samples probably work better than even a live group would. Also there are time constraints. We have two mixes on the show, so we get our notes on the cues that we need to edit about two hours before the final mix, so it’s really hard to have an orchestra on hand with that schedule.
Please tell us about the soundtrack album. How did it come about?
JS: The "How I Met Your Mother" soundtrack album was the idea of the creators of the show. The fans had been asking for this for a long time and this really motivated the guys to push for it. Andy Gowan, our music supervisor, was really instrumental, and is helping the creators sell it to FOX. There was a lot of organization that needed to be done for it and Andy really took great care in the process. Most of the music was already done but we had it all mastered by David Donnelly to make sure all the tracks had a similar sheen to them. David has mastered countless soundtracks in the past. He is one of the finest, and we were lucky to have him.
Do you think a score album featuring your work from the series would ever come out?
JS: It would be terrific. People can listen to music from the series here:
If you were to put together a soundtrack album or albums for the series, how would you put it together and what music would you like it to include?
JS: I think the songs that have been released are really what the fans want most. There are a few pieces of score that have been used time and again and those would probably be good candidates.
You also composed the music for the comedy “For A Good Time, Call”, can you please tell the readers all about that.
JS: This film was directed by a super talented director by the name of Jamie Travis. As soon as I saw some of Jamie’s short films I knew I wanted to work with him. It was a very clever and cute movie that a lot of people really responded too. It was a very straight forward film to work on. Once we found the voice of the film it was very easy to move forward.
Was it easy to find a tone for the music for this film having scored comedies in the past?
JS: As long as you are willing to get it wrong a few times it’s always easy. I usually will go through the whole film very quickly in the first few days I have it and write a bunch of scratch ideas. Some of these will resonate with the film and what the director and producers want to do with the film, and then it becomes more obvious what the confines of the music need to be. Everytime I play something for someone there is an emotional thing that happens that guides me.
After achieving success with the hit film “Napoleon Dynamite” do you feel that you’ve reached the pinnacle or do you feel that there’s even more room to grow musically?
JS: That was the film that put me on the map and was a memorable experience. I still feel like I’m just getting started.
What is your favorite film that you have scored to date?
JS: I have to say this changes daily.
Do you have a dream project you would love to do?
JS: Variety is nice so I just want to keep going and keep it a little different every day. A dream would be to continue working for another 30+ years.
Please tell the readers about future upcoming projects you may have.
JS: I completed a film titled "Odd Thomas" which I am very proud of, but do not know when it will be released. Also, I have a new show coming out on CBS titled, "We Are Men" that is going great. It has been really wonderful writing on this show
Very special thanks to John for being very gracious with his time to conduct this interview and my first ever repeat interview. Definitely one of the best, thank you very much John!! Very special thanks also go to Jeff Sanderson for setting this up for me and I'm very grateful to you for pulling all the good strings on this one!
Please go to the "How I Met Your Mother" official website on CBS' website the series entering it's ninth and final season which premires on Monday, September 23. http://www.cbs.com/shows/how_i_met_your_mother/
Please check out John's personal website for his upcoming projects that he mentioned as well as his previous works. The link is here: http://johnswihart.tumblr.com/
Also check out John on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/johnswihartmusic
Original songs from the hit series, "How I Met Your Mother" is available via iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/how-i-met-your-music-original/id562393536
John's score album to "For A Good Time, Call" is available from Lakeshore Records via iTunes and Amazon downloads
The Napoleon Dynamite Soundtrack is Available on Lakeshore Records
Here's John's Bio
"Unique sounds and surprising instrument choices put John Swihart on a path to creating unpredictable contemporary scores. His distinctive style can be heard in over 40 films, including NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, YOUTH IN REVOLT, NEW IN TOWN, EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH, THE GREAT NEW WONDERFUL, THE BROTHERS SOLOMON, DALTRY CALHOUN and FOR A GOOD TIME CALL.
John Swihart was raised in Bloomington, Indiana, the son of a physicist based at Indiana University. He spent a portion of his formative years in Europe and Asia, where his father would sabbatical. John studied Piano at an early age but was not deeply absorbed by music until he was eight when he found the saxophone, which he played exclusively before switching to guitar at 12 or so. In high school John was a big fan Miles Davis, Gershwin, Stravinsky and Ravel, as well as such bands as The Residents, The Dead Kennedys, Gang of Four and Captain Beefheart.
Swihart would leave Indiana to attend the renowned Berklee College of Music, in Boston. At Berklee, John was struck by the level of commitment of his classmates to immerse themselves in musical experimentation. This made for an amazing culture of learning in the tight-knit Berklee dorm, where there were always people playing and inspiring each other.
After years of performing in numerous bands, John decided it was time to put a studio together. The corporate communications and advertising work came, but the Emerson student films that John worked on made it clear that this would be the least restrictive and most creatively rewarding experience. Around that time John auditioned for the Boston production of Blue Man Group. The Blue Man Group experience was phenomenal, fun and creatively motivating. Working with some of the best musicians he’s ever met, Swihart played Chapman Stick, Bass, Guitar and Zither in the Boston, New York and Las Vegas shows.
When Swihart made it to Los Angeles, he scored a few Independent films before his breakout project NAPOLEON DYNAMITE premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004. John is the long-time composer for the hit CBS series HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER starring Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segal, which is now in its ninth and final season. He is also writing the music for the new CBS series WE ARE MEN starring Tony Shalhoub and Kal Penn which premieres in September 2013. His upcoming films include the film adaptation of Dean Koontz’s New York Time best-selling novel ODD THOMAS."