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Royally Schmoozing With "Queen Of Carthage" Composer Brian Byrne

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Two years ago, I honestly didn't know who composer Brian Bryne was until I had got a copy of his soundtrack to the acclaimed Glenn Close film, "Albert Nobbs", which had been released by the always excellent Varese Sarabande Record label devoted to showcasing new talents like Brian. The film was getting great word of mouth at the time and also the music was also being singled out as a wonderful stand out soundtrack getting excellent reviews all around.

One day, after clearing out my busy schedule I was finally able to hear what everyone was talking about and boy was I surprised at the amazing musical talent that was being showcased on this wonderful album. Sweeping, lush themes filled with elegance and grace. Sparkling music that really was worthy of all the talk that came with it and became another gem in the feather of the famed Varese record label. I definitely gave it a sparkling review myself and it was worthy of being a best of for that year. After that, Brian has taken off working on films such as "The Good Doctor" and his current film, "Queen Of Carthage" in which Brian was wanted instantly to write the sparkling music for this film.

For this special interview with Brian, we talk about the musical behind the scenes of "Queen of Carthage", revisiting the success of "Albert Nobbs", what his personal favorite score is and his many exciting upcoming projects. So sit back and enjoy the musical schoomzing's of Brian Byrne.

Please tell the readers about what made you become interested in music.

BB: My father was a local amateur music director and barber. He played in bands and most of my family played something. He taught me to play when I was 3 years old and sent me to music lessons at an early age. He instilled a love of all styles and especially film music.

Let’s talk about your latest project, “Queen Of Carthage” starring Keisha Castle-Hughes. Please tell us about the film and what attracted you to this film?

BB: It was a week before Christmas 2012, and I got a call from my agent saying he had spoken to Shiloh Fernandez and his friend Mardana Mayginnes, and they wanted to meet me to discuss their film ASAP. They had just watched "Albert Nobbs" and liked the score. We hit it off immediately. I watched the film that night and agreed to do it. It’s an indie drama set in New Zealand. It’s a fish-out-of-water movie with dark themes that haunt the main character played by Shiloh Fernadez.

Let’s talk about the score, was it easy for you to find a tone for the music right off the bat or did you have to dig deep to find that great theme that would be the basis of the score?

BB: This was a very easy collaboration as Mardana, the director was a big film music fan. He was keen to find a theme that would repeat itself throughout the film. I wrote some sketches over the holidays starting with the song “Waltz With Me Under the Sun”. This melody was pretty much improvised and it just screamed out to have lyrics. I asked my wife Kasey to write the words. The whole song was written very quickly and provided the main theme for the film.

Did you pretty much get a sense of what the director wanted musically for the film right away or was there a discussion about you should and shouldn’t do musically?

BB: I think the director was open to suggestions. He had temped the movie with a lot of ambient synth stuff, which I thought didn’t help the film and slowed it down. I showed him at the piano how we could use thematic development with the orchestra. He was sold on using a strong melody and lush strings. I then enhanced the orchestra with ambient pads that fill out the score.

One thing we both agreed on was that the score should have a classical soprano to represent the inner voice of Amos’ abusive sister. I chose Danielle Deniese, as she had just sung on my Decca Records release “Tales From the Walled City”

Please share with us about the recording sessions for the score and where they took place.

BB: I recorded the score in Ireland with the RTE Concert orchestra. I had just been made artist in residence and managed to squeeze the score in with them when I was home to conduct the Irish film and television awards.

I recorded Kristina Train at Konk studios in London over Skype again.She was amazing. Danielle De Niese was recorded in Bristol again online.

Do you like to conduct your own scores or do you find it easier to sit back and observe everything from the recording booth?

BB: I like to conduct and orchestrate myself and play piano and keyboards. I like to be in close to the score and the players. I have a great engineer Ciaran Byrne and my brother, John is my ears in the box.

It is hard for you during the recording your scores to make changes on the fly if necessary in regards to certain pieces that are just missing something or need tweaking?

BB: For these sessions, I only had one day to score everything with the orchestra so I took at lot of time with the mockups for the director and with the lack of budget we had no room for error. On bigger budget films, I don’t mind changing on the fly. I was an orchestrator and conductor on a lot of other sessions and gained a lot of experience on the stand in Ireland and Los Angeles.I am a jazz musician first so on the spot changes are very much welcomed if they make the music better.

All told, how much music did you record for the film?

BB: About an hour.

Will there be an album released of this score?

BB: It is out now on Decca US label.

Let’s talk about the soundtrack album. How did you put it assemble it because a lot of people think it’s very easy to put together a soundtrack album?

BB: I changed the running order of the cues to suit the listener. Putting the big song first then picked a sequence that would engage the listener. Keeping as much as possible to the order in which they appear. But sometimes it’s just better to play the tracks with tempo in mind, i.e. not too many slow tracks together.

Where you happy with what came of it?

BB: Delighted. Budget was small but it sounds as good as I could get it. I hope people get the opportunity to see and hear it.

Let’s talk about a score that was really popular with soundtrack fans for the Glenn Close movie “Albert Nobbs” which was directed by Rodrigo Garcia. Please tell about how you got the film?

BB: Bonnie Curtis, the producer, got my name from a music supervisor in LA. I was in Ireland working on an Orlando Bloom film called "The Good Doctor." Orlando was meant to be in the film. They wanted an Irish composer that might be able to write period music and some traditional Irish sounding music. I met with Glenn Close and Rodrigo Garcia in Ireland around that time and we just hit it off.

Let’s talk about the recording sessions. Do you still remember them with fondness?

BB: Yes. For the orchestral sessions Glenn Close and the producers were in the US listening in on Source live. I could not hear them, as there was a glitch. But they could hear us, and all of our colorful language!!! I used the RTE concert orchestra again. I know them all personally so know what to write and what not to write for them.

I recorded Sinead O’Connor’s vocal for “Lay Your Head Down” in Sofia, I was in Ireland and Glenn Close was in the US. It was all done over Skype and it was a crazy session as the communication wasn’t the best. But somehow we got through it.

I loved everything about writing and recording Albert Nobbs.It was the film that opened up so many doors for me. Put me on the film composer map.

Now let’s touch upon the album which was released by Varese Sarabande. Where you involved when it was being assembled and produced?

BB: I produced it and assembled it. Mastered it with Bernie Grundman and handed it to them completed. Bob Townson from Varese was a delight to work with.

How did you feel when you got the call that the label was interested in releasing your score amongst the many legendary composers that have made up the label’s roster for the past 35 years?

BB: I was very humbled and excited. It was an amazing feeling to be alongside some of Hollywood’s greatest composers.

What was it like working with a legendary soundtrack producer like Robert Townson?

BB: Amazing.

Is it a score that you are fond of personally?

BB: I love everything about it. All fond memories.It got me to the Golden Globes which was amazing and we won two World Soundtrack Awards. It is still getting me work!

What was the hardest film you’ve had to score to date and why?

BB: The Good Doctor. There were a lot of producers on that film all with opinions on how the music should be. Had to walk a fine line between all of them and keep the director happy. I like the score though. Lot of drama!

Which composer has influenced your work the most?

BB: John Williams, Alex North, Bernard Herrmann.

Who is your favorite director to work with?

BB: John Carney.

What is your favorite film score that you haven’t written?

BB: Superman.

What is your favorite film that you have scored to date?

BB: Albert Nobbs

Is there a film score that really has inspired your music throughout your career that just completely inspires you to push on to compose the great music you’ve written over the years?

BB: Changes every few months. Depends on the film, mood and deadline! I love to be inspired by old and new regardless of genre. I love melody and great orchestration.

Please tell the readers about upcoming projects that you may have.

BB: "Heartbeat of Home" from the producers of Riverdance is about to go on a world tour and I’m just finishing producing and mixing the official album. Latin salsa big band meets Irish music with big lush orchestral tracks too. I’m starting a very interesting movie in January based on the life of Eileen Gray. To be announced soon. New James Joyce song cycle project coming up in 2014.

I'd like to personally give heartfelt thanks to Brian for the pleasure of granting me this interview and knowing more about this talented, amazing musician and composer who is definitely going to be a star and his past few scores including this one, will no doubt make him highly in demand. I owe you one Brian! God bless. I'd like to also personally thank the lovely and amazing Beth Krakower for wonderful grace and assistance on getting me these interviews. Without you I'm nothing my dear! I'm totally and eternally grateful to you!

Please feel free to visit Brian's official site and hear the lovely theme from "Queen of Carthage" as well exploring his other film projects and sound samples at

The "Queen Of Carthage" soundtrack is now available on Decca label here in the U.S.

The acclaimed soundtrack to "Albert Nobbs" is available on Varese Sarabande Records

Here is Brian's Bio:

"Golden Globe nominated composer Brian Byrne moved to Los Angeles from Ireland in July 2003 to expand his career as a film and television composer. Since then, Brian has consistently worked as a composer, conductor, songwriter, arranger and pianist – in the US and in Europe. Brian recently won two World Soundtrack Awards for his music to the song and score for the movie Albert Nobbs.

From huge orchestral scores to minimal ensemble compositions, Brian has written music for films in many genres. He won the Irish Film and Television Award for his original score for the Irish Sci-Fi comedy Zonad, directed by John Carney. He then scored an indie drama called The Good Doctor, starring Orlando Bloom and has just finished the score to Oscar hopeful Albert Nobbs starring Glenn Close. Brian’s previous film work includes conducting and arranging the scores to Jim Sheridan’s Oscar-nominated In America and Kristen Sheridan’s drama, Disco Pigs.

Brian has just completed composing the music to Heartbeat of Home a new show from the producers of Riverdance. featuring Paddy Moloney, Carlos Nunez, The RTE Concert Orchestra, Jessica Sanchez and guests.

Brian has collaborated with such international luminaries as Katy Perry, Bono, Barbra Streisand, Lisa Stansfield, Van Morrison, The Corrs, Sinead O’Connor, Alan Bergman, Ronan Tynan, Luis Miguel, Vince Gill, Gladys Knight, to name a few. He toured with Diane Warren, arranged a song for Sex and the City 2 and played piano on Liza Minnelli’s cover of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it).”

Brian’s American conducting debut came in 2004 at Carnegie Hall. He was commission to write all the arrangements and conduct the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for the release of Ronan Tynan’s first solo album. He continued on as Musical Director for Ronan’s Tour and subsequently wrote two original compositions for the album. Ellie and Passing Through

As musical Director for the BBC Beautiful Night concert, he conducted the Ulster Orchestra with artists Jamie Cullum, Bob Geldof, Neil Hannon (The Divine Comedy), Hot House Flowers, Ronan Keating (Boyzone), Brian Kennedy and Alanis Morissette, performing for 10 million people during a live telecast throughout Ireland, the U.K. and Europe.

Brian was educated at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. He graduated in 1997 with first-class honors in music and was awarded The Peter Knox Memorial Award for overall performance. Later that year he received the Outstanding Musicianship Award from Berklee College’s touring faculty in Scotland as well as winning the PRS Sir Arthur Bliss Prize Scholarship for composition that enabled him to study film composition at London’s Royal College of Music. In 2008, Brian added ASCAP’s Film and Television Scoring Workshop’s Steve Kaplan Scholarship to his already long list of accomplishments and awards. Most recently Brian has been commissioned to write the music to the new Riverdance sequel, Heartbeat of Home and he had the honor of writing a fanfare for Her Majesty the Queen's state visit to Ireland."


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