June 20, 2018

Film Interview: Tony Morales


Composer Tony Morales has been nominated for an Emmy for composing the score for the History Channel’s mini-series, “Hatfields and McCoys.”


Film Interview: Tony Morales

Tony Morales has been nominated for an Emmy for “Hatfields and McCoys” mini-series score. JP Spence’s Emmy award nominees and picks can be read online at www.topangamessenger.com.

The family feud between the Hatfields and McCoys that was sparked near the end of the Civil War spanned decades and nearly launched another war between Kentucky and West Virginia. The three-part miniseries that premiered last May, showcased an all-star cast led by Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton.

Tony Morales shared his experience of scoring the three-part mini-series and his reaction to being nominated for an Emmy.

Topanga Messenger: “Hatfields and McCoys.” There is a lot of history there, obviously. How did you let the history of that feud influence your creativity when composing, if at all.

After seeing the show in its entirety, we knew this was going to be a dark and heartbreaking score. We wanted to provide music that was contemporary and yet authentic to the time and place. So Appalachian roots music was a natural choice for us to use as our tonal inspiration.

TM: You have a lengthy list of composing action films. How does that differ from composing an historical mini-series?

They are, as you would expect, two entirely different animals. Action films, musically speaking, are relentless in energy and drive. You have a few softer moments but, for the most part, it's all high intensity. I tend to work on action scores that involve a blend of traditional orchestra and contemporary electronic music. This kind of sound palette really works well within the genre of contemporary action film music. With the “Hatfields and McCoys” mini-series, we didn't need the high-energy, driving pace because the story arc didn't lend itself to that. So we could take our time with the musical pacing and just try to support the story.

TM: Composing seems like such an insular profession, what is it like collaborating with someone else? How would you describe the push and pull of the process?

It can definitely be a very lonely job. I really enjoy collaborating with other composers when the opportunity presents itself. All the self doubt and insecurities that come with the territory of being a film composer are nullified when you have someone to run ideas off of before they get to those who hired you. Not every job can work well under a “team” concept but when they do, it's a great joy to be part of.

TM: Starting out with a Flying V guitar and playing in bands, how did you transition into composing? Not everyone can pull a Danny Elfman.

True! My first instrument was the guitar. That eventually led me to Berklee College of Music. It was then that I discovered film music.

TM: What are your musical influences and what are some of your favorite compositions?

Being a fan of the film music genres, I'm always absorbing inspiration from contemporary composers as well as those composers I was influenced by early on such as Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith and, yes, Danny Elfman.

TM: Is there a particular scene that you liked scoring the most or do you tend to look at the composition as a whole?

If I'm lucky, I can enjoy the compositions on a film or TV show as a whole, but that doesn't always happen as I'm my harshest critic!

TM: So, now you’re nominated for an Emmy, how does it feel and how did you respond?

It’s an amazing honor to be recognized. I’m still in shock about the whole thing to tell you the truth, but it has been a fun ride.

TM: What’s next?

I’m about to start work on two independent films, Motel directed by David Grovic starring John Cusack/ Robert De Niro, and In Your Eyes, directed by Brin Hill and written by Joss Whedon who is also the executive producer.