Marlon Espino, composer

Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music?

I’ve had many people inspire me along the way. I came from a musical family where music played a large and important part in my life. My grandmother first sat and taught me piano as a young boy and my father was a sax and keyboard player. When I went off to college I decided to be practical and get an engineering degree in hopes to develop guitar pedals/FX. Next thing I know, I had applied to the school of music to study composition and music technology. I can’t say enough positive things about the faculty and people at the university I attended. There were some key people at Texas Tech University such as Dr. James Bogle and Dr. Hughes who took it upon themselves to mentor and guide me. I would be in a very different place without these very special people in my life.

Who or what have been the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?

As far as Film and TV specifically, it would be my mentor, Grammy Award-winning composer Mark Mancina. My introduction into Film and Television was through Mark and the education I received from working alongside him and his team for the last decade is invaluable. He has been such a strong source of support and encouragement over the years,

What have been the greatest challenges/frustrations of your career so far?

I would say patience has been one of my greatest challenges. It takes time for your skill set, career, and opportunities to develop. I think everyone will eventually get an opportunity and most of the time you may not recognize it when it presents itself. I feel that being ready for that opportunity/challenge can determine how things can and or will develop for you. I try to take every opportunity to learn and develop my craft.

What are the special challenges and pleasures of working on film/tv scores?

On most film and TV projects, time tends to be one of the greatest challenges. You usually don’t have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to hit. You’re up at 6 AM trying to write 90 minutes of music in a very limited amount of time. Not only does the writing have to get done but you’re also conforming cues, attending playback meetings, orchestrating cues, recording, and mixing. All while the picture is changing. There are a lot of moving parts and watching time run out really ramps up the stress. A great pleasure for me personally is the scoring/recording sessions. Being in a room with a group of brilliant musicians playing back something you wrote is just an incredible feeling. It never gets old and I am truly lucky and thankful to have been able to experience this.

Of which works are you most proud?

I try to give every project I work on my all. For that reason every project is special to me for different reasons. I am very proud of my last collaboration with director Vaughn Stein and producer Richard Lewis, “Inheritance”. I’m very happy with how the turned out, and were able to do something with the music that feels very original.

How would you characterise your compositional language/musical style?

My style seems to be a combination of my experiences as well as many influences. One thing I really love about Film and TV work is that it presents an opportunity to write something that you may not normally write. It’s about the story and my job to help create that emotional journey for the viewers. When I was starting out, I always felt like I had something to prove. I would always tend to make things as musically complex as possible which doesn’t always serve the film. I try to be conscious that I am feeling the right emotions at the right time. As far as specific style, I try to use whatever instruments/resources I have available to me in unique and unusual ways. I have a lot of fun experimenting and developing sounds.

How do you work? What methods do you use and how do ideas come to you?

Ideas are a tough one. They tend to come when you least expect it. On the drive home or sometimes when I am lying there trying to sleep at night. As I said before, most of the time film and TV schedules are pretty tight. I try to spend some time developing themes and or soundscapes before a project begins. I find it very helpful to have a starting point or at least some inspiration when the deadlines are looming. I usually base these ideas off of a script or conversations with the creative team. I do all my writing and sequencing in Cubase which allows me to quickly and easily mock up demos.

Who are your favorite musicians/composers?

I have many influences. In college, I would play in metal bands in the evenings while studying classical guitar and composition during the day. Growing up I was exposed to such a wide range of music, everything from outlaw country, Tejano, to Rock and Metal. I tend to gravitate towards people that have a sound. Artists or Composers that are able to do more with one note and emotion rather than technical ability. I love Mick Mars’ guitar tone and riffs. I love John Williams’ ability to craft memorable melodies, Johan Johannson’s subtlety, Mark Mancina’s blending of culture. The list goes on and on. There are so many talented musicians and composers out there and I can always find something that really resonates with me.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

My definition of success has changed quite a bit over the years as I have gained more experience and gotten a little older. Especially now that my wife and I have welcomed our new daughter. Being able to make a living doing something I love has also been a marker of success.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

An important concept for me personally in the Film/TV landscape is that music is very subjective. I can spend weeks writing something I feel is really great, yet not have the piece of music resonate with the director or producers. It’s important to be ok with that and have the ability to pivot as the project develops. My job is to enhance and elevate the film/project to the best of my ability. It’s a big mindset change from where I began my journey wanting to make records. I try to keep in mind that we are all collaborating to collectively make the project the very best it can be.

What next? Where would you like to be in 10 years time?

I have been so lucky to work with so many talented people along the way. I would love to continue doing so and putting out work that I am proud of.

Marlon Espino scored the recently released psychological thriller “Inheritance” starring Lily Collins, Simon Pegg, and Chase Crawford.

Marlon, who has contributed music to films including “Moana” and “Planes”, and also worked on the live-action remake of “The Lion King”, delivered his first feature score with “Inheritance.” His approach to creating the score was to deconstruct the process a bit. After reading the script, Marlon decided to work backwards and start with the climax for each main character. Rather than the traditional approach of sitting down and writing to picture, Marlon brought in soloists and players, showed them a scene of the film, and then had an improvisational jam session. He experimented with the players, found a variety of riffs that he liked, then used this new music library to compose the score.



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