Gabriel Hays, composer

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

Early on I was drawn to music from listening to my parent’s records. They had a lot of rock and folk from the 60s and 70s (especially the Beatles) as well as some great recordings of music by Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and other Western Classical music luminaries. Those records really instilled a love of melody, contrast in scale, sonics and maybe most importantly the idea that you could reinvent yourself again and again.

I’m a lover of many traditions of music including Western chamber and concert music, pop, rock, jazz, folk and afrobeat among others. One common thread is that new styles often arrive when they mix together organically.

I think the threads of influence that keep inspiring me the most are the artists or composers who have been brave enough to break norms and, just as importantly, reinvent themselves. Also, I’m always a sucker for a good song.

A few of the most influential artists for me would be (in no particular order): Debussy, The Beatles, Stravinsky, Bach, Miles Davis, Steve Reich, James Brown, Radiohead, Brad Mehldau.

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

Probably the greatest challenge is to remember to take pleasure in the journey of being a composer rather than being overly focused on end goals. Obviously, we have goals, but sort of ironically, the best way to get to them is to stay engaged in the day-to-day process and find joy in that. In particular I struggled with this when I was younger.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?

Well, for me the commissioned pieces have generally been for film or television projects. The challenge and the joy is that you are a member of a larger work and you have to remember that all of your ideas and creative energy need to be in service of that goal. I find that to be a positive though because you get the opportunity to help support and enhance someone else’s wonderful idea.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles or orchestras?

I think it depends on what arena you’re working in. If it’s a large ensemble or maybe a more traditional setting, you’re expected to offer very detailed and clear directions so the session/concert can go quickly and smoothly. On the other hand, if the situation is more of a band or jazz-oriented setting, I really subscribe to hiring players who’s playing I’m already a big fan of. Once we have a conversation about what the recording is going for, I like to see where the player’s will take it based on their own sensibilities. The results are often even better than something I would come up with on my own.

Of which works are you most proud?

‘there’s not even room enough to be anywhere’, a piece I wrote for string quartet in 2020 that was premiered by the fabulous Lyris Quartet.

The concert was meant to be the first of a series called images Salon with fellow composers Naren Rauch, Nicole Brady and Tomas Peire, however the Coronavirus pandemic shut down our world. We hope to resume the concerts when it’s possible to do so.

Shortwave Sunshine: The Breakers

The score for Secret Magic Control Agency (Netflix)

How would you characterise your compositional language?

Unrepentantly melodic and textural.

How do you work?

A big thing is finding the moments where I can tune out everything else and get in the flow. I balance between moments of quick creativity followed by a detached and considered assessment of how to improve and refine what I’m working on.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

On the most basic level it’s creating music that connects with others. Though I aim to write for my inner muse, there is nothing quite as satisfying as having your music touch another listener.

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

For composers it would be to focus on your craft while simultaneously working on cultivating your own perspective. To that end, it’s very valuable to study and enjoy art in other mediums.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences?

On a simple level it’s to connect audience members to the music in ways that are tactile and visceral. We aimed to do this with the images salon series and it’s something an old friend of mine Anne Hiatt has done in a real fun way with Opera on Tap.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A summer evening in Paris

What do you enjoy doing most?

Creating new music

What is your present state of mind?

Optimistic and open for unexpected adventures.

Gabriel Hays is a composer, songwriter and producer based in Los Angeles. Originally from Santa Fe, NM he made the moved to Los Angeles in 2012 after having spent the previous decade in NYC being immersed in the cross-pollinating creative music scenes of the 2000’s 

Fascinated by blurring genres and twisting sounds he has created an ever-growing body of work music for film and television, concert music, ambient electronic music as well as funk, rock and afro-beat. 

He is most well-known for writing music for the Netflix original film: Secret Magic Control Agency (which was number in the world on Netflix upon it’s release in March 2021) as well as for numerous Disney projects such as the As Told By Emoji series, Star Darlings and Whisker Haven. He has also contributed music to numerous other animated movies and series, including Puppy Dog Pals (Disney), Pickle and Peanut (Disney), We Bare Bears (Cartoon Network) and Voltron (Dreamworks) among others.

On the dramatic side Gabriel has written for films, TV shows and documentaries including Half the Sky (PBS), A Path Appears (PBS) 7 Deadly Sins (Showtime) and Travis (Amazon) among many others.

Beyond music for media, Gabriel is a co-founder of the Images Salon series which had their debut concert featuring the fantastic Lyris Quartet on March 2, 2020 right before everything changed. Gabriel debuted his dynamic new piece there’s not even enough room to be anywhere.

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