Composer Mario Sevigny discusses his DJ background and scoring Crackle's new heist series. (Gremat Photo)
With no formal education in composition, this passionate musician has come a long way from his humble beginnings producing music for nightclubs in Canada. Through a combination of extreme persistence, natural talent and faith in his own abilities, Mario Sevigny has since become a multi-genre industry veteran with a variety of projects under his belt, ranging from the animated network Teletoon/Cartoon Network’s outrageous space satire “Tripping the Rift” to dramatic film scores such as Human Trafficking (the Lifetime mini-series starring Donald Sutherland).
Having also worked on many other films, radio segments and nearly 100 trailers for production companies such as Christal Films, TVA Films and Equinoxe Films, Sevigny has built an electric resume over the years. Sevigny is currently serving as the series composer for Sony Crackle’s upcoming drama, “The Art of More,” (starring Dennis Quaid and Kate Bosworth).
Recently, the composer was able to take a break from his hectic schedule to discuss how he was able to accomplish so much in the last 20 years and to recall some valuable lessons learned along the way to becoming a reputable music arranger and producer. The former DJ also offers some unique insight into the complex process behind developing the title theme for “The Art of More,” as well as some useful tips for aspiring artists and composers alike.
Living Out Loud – Los Angeles: Could you tell us a bit about yourself and why you chose this profession?
Mario Sevigny: Well, I’ve been playing music since I was 6 years old and originally had a lot of gigs in nightclubs where I had to make backing tracks for artists that would come perform. I was always looking for a way to make new arrangements for these well-known songs, and I got a lot positive feedback for my work. Doing this, I learned so much and got a lot of different genre experience in stuff like country, electro, pop, etc., and that’s when I discovered my passion for playing with arrangements and instruments.
LOL-LA: Any specific “lessons learned” on a project that you could share?
M.S.: Early on in my career I was taking everything I could get. I didn’t study in composition, but I learned that way. One of the very first projects I was offered was a small short film that didn’t have any money. Everyone around me told me that it wasn’t worth it because I had lots of bills to pay and a baby to support. It was a real risk, but taking the job turned out to be one of the greatest decisions of my life. I’ve also gotten to do a lot of movies and series thanks to the director of that short. I learned that sometimes even though you might need money, if you love what you do and think something is going to help, you gotta go for it.
LOL-LA: What is your usual process for creating audio content for TV and film?
M.S.: First of all, there is the whole discussion with the producers and directors of the project. It’s a little hard because most of the time they aren’t able to explain exactly what they want. You really have to pay attention to every sign that they can give like, “Oh, this guy loves when I use this bassline, etc.” So then depending on the time I have, I usually spend about a week or two making sounds with the amps and scrolling through sound banks. Once I have that done, then it really just comes down to letting the image tell you what to play. You really need to be sensitive to body language and the lines because it’s so easy to ruin a scene with too much music. To know when it’s best to hold back or pause is crucial. After the recording, I send out drafts for corrections. The entire process takes like 15 to 16 hours a day because I do all the recording by myself.
LOL-LA: What is your niche or specialty that makes you stand out from rest of the audio professionals?
M.S.: Based on what the producers have told me, I think that my most valued skill is my efficiency and fast delivery. Here in Canada, the budget of a film is so small and the schedule is so tight that we have to compose an entire score and all the songs in three weeks time. I think combined with my efficiency, my ability to work with an array of styles like hip hop, salsa, even reggae – that has allowed me to excel in the industry.
LOL-LA: Do you have any audio-creation techniques that resulted in something interesting?
M.S.: One technique I have adopted is to mostly try to keep things simple and organic. I don’t really like to tweak much from the original recordings I make because I like to keep the sound as “real” as possible. I feel the sound is most pure that way. But it depends, because different genres call for more electronics and plug-ins.
LOL-LA: Can you tell us about your work composing the soundtrack on Sony Crackle’s “The Art of More?”
M.S.: “The Art of More” is so interesting to work on as a composer because it’s the high-end auction world and about a main character who has a double life. When I went to Montreal to meet with Tamara (Chestna, producer) and Muse Entertainment, there was a lot of other composers pitching, and they asked how I saw the music for the show. I explained to them that it’s about about finding a theme for this character that can work in all these situations – when the character is around all these rich people at an auction ,and when he’s stealing objects in the middle of the night. That was a challenge, but it was fun to get to play the theme in a classy way and then you get really suspenseful with the same theme. The whole process of deciding on that 20-second theme took five iterations and many conference calls back and forth with the producers. It was complicated because there are so many producers to get approval from, but it was very important because the theme is the signature. When we finally nailed it, it was nice to be able to just work with the established sound because everything is settled.
LOL-LA: What are your biggest fears breaking into the American market knowing this is one of the first one-hour drama series on Crackle?
M.S.: Well of course I hope that it’s going to be a hit, but this is my first entry into the American market on this kind of serious drama series. It’s really cruel when critics bash a movie but don’t recognize the constraints. My biggest fear is that that people won’t recognize the work put in. I hope that the fast-paced constraints won’t show, and that people will appreciate the music. The producers were really picky, so I think that if they like it, we’re OK (laughs).
LOL-LA: Any tips, hints or motivational words for our readers and aspiring musicians?
M.S.: Never shut down an opportunity or take for granted your talents because you always have to improve yourself. If you love it, take whatever is presented to you because you never know what could happen.
For more information, visit mariosevigny.com.