Artist Spotlight: Grant Harold

Find what motivates you and never let go.

It's impossible to spend time with Marmoset Artist, Grant Harold (aka Jules Blueprints) and leave uninspired. There is magic in his words that fully translates in his music. When approaching a project, he starts from scratch every time to find what the film needs, and the results are constantly exceeding any previous expectations of what a soundtrack would do.

His recent collaboration with the Boston Children's Hospital explored empowering and revelatory territories. It paired beautifully with the inspiring work the hospital does and harnessed a powerful message of hope. Grant's music is playful without venturing too far into whimsy, as there is weight and depth to his compositions. Often filled with string plucks and strong piano melodies, there's always something to glean from his compositions, always bits and pieces to take to carry with you.

We chatted with Grant about his life as a full-time composer, dispelling common misconceptions about his profession, and where he finds inspiration when starting a new composition. Enjoy.

M: When did you start writing music? Why music over other things?

GH: I guess I started writing music when I was in the 7th grade. I had a garage band and was afraid to sing at that point, so my job was to write the music and the singer would come up with the lyrics and the vocals. I found out something interesting about myself recently. I was looking at my old third grade classroom yearbook (why do I still have it?!) that had notes about what students will be when they grow up. The section on me said that I would be some sort of musician because I was always whistling or humming new tunes.

M: Would you say it was your dream job to be a full-time composer?

GH: It's definitely my dream job to be a full-time composer, although I would say my dream job is actually to be performing the music that I write in front of an audience. The nice thing about being a full-time composer is that I have a large collection of songs that I can pick apart and take melodies from to make new material.

M: What's a common misconception of your profession?

GH: I think a common misconception of my profession is that you can do anything with just a laptop and a midi keyboard. It's really important to know how to pull that off successfully, but it's also super valuable to use as many live instruments as possible. Also, I'd say a common misconception of my profession is that all full-time composers are the same archetype. For instance, that we all went to Berklee or Julliard, or know this amount of theory or know that about music history. The reality is that composers are as unique as the human personality is: it can only be bound or contained by the limitless amount of personalities there are on this planet.

M: Let's say someone's just kicking off their career in composing...Do you have any advice/learning experiences you'd like to share?

GH: If you're just starting off a career in composing, my best advice for you is to find out what triggers your sense of wonder. Once you're able to dive into what motivates you and gets your imagination going, then the music should write itself. 

M: When working on a new composition, where do you find your inspiration?

GH: I think since music is such an emotional experience, it is good to start with emotion and feeling and one of the most powerful feelings I arrive at is a sense of wonder. So if I can find that sense of wonder in the eyes of my daughter as she gazes at me, or in the sound of rain hitting the pavement in a courtyard, or maybe a picture in a magazine that takes me to another place.

M: What's your favorite instrument?

GH: My favorite instrument, believe it or not, is the hammered dulcimer. I think the hammered dulcimer is associated with a sort of heavenly nature, definitely a Celtic environment where magic does exist.

M: What technology would you advise other composers to use? Why?

GH: What technology I would advise other composers to use is voice memo on your phone, and the power of whistling. Those two things can get you -- no joke -- almost a hundred different sketches within an hour, and all you have to do is sit in your choice of environment and record little snippets of melodies, grooves, drum patterns and you'll have this huge catalog for yourself to go back and make finer productions with. 

M: How's composing a song for licensing different than composing a full-length song?

GH: Composing a song for licensing is different than composing a full-length song. With full-length songs, there is a potential to rely on vocals, especially in the pop realm. And when you take the vocal track out, there is a tendency for instrumentals to sound very dull and to not be able to retain the ability to take the song into different dynamic realms. When I compose for licensing there is usually an expectation that the song will contain different transitions and builds to make the video more interesting and to create more scoring points. When I compose a full-length song I tend to rely more on the general feeling that I get and the ideas that I have when I listen to that music…so sometimes it could just be a droning sound with a beat behind it, staying on the same note for three minutes and I'd be totally good with that. On the other hand, if I want to license a song it needs to take me somewhere, it can't just be looping over and over again.

M: What do you prefer to compose for? Commercial? Film? Anything else?

GH: I prefer to compose for a variety of projects...choosing just one is tough for me, because I like exploring how different each kind is. Composing for commercials are always challenging and always different, like playing in a basketball game. Film is a longer, slower process where I get to explore abstract ideas and recording techniques and composing theories. There are also games. I've composed music for more than fifty games and that is also super enjoyable. I really like composing for animated shorts, as well, which are usually in some sort of style niche like jazz (the first time I had to compose something similar to Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown theme). So I am interested in all of those things, and I can't really decide which is my favorite.

Posted on April 22, 2016 and filed under Music.