Glasgow composer Owen Devlin chats to us about his music career, film & brand projects and his new releases.
Owen’s work has been featured on numerous Indie Films over the past five years or so and also some high profile Brand campaigns on TV and/or online i.e. (The National Trust for Scotland 2016 TV ad, shown on STV, Channel4, Sky etc and The Dalmore, Scottish whisky high profile brand launch campaign for their new product ranges also in 2016).
We delve into his composing world to find out more about his work and why he does what he does.
Q: How did you get started in music, what instruments do you play ?
“I started out learning the guitar from the age of 15. My parents bought me an acoustic guitar and I started to really get into playing and learning all my favourite songs on that. I play the guitar and most folk stringed instruments, as I previously worked in a music shop for years repairing instruments, I had to be able to check and set-up these instruments. I also play the piano and use this mostly when producing my music and coming up with ideas.”
Q: Are you self -taught, or did you have music lessons ?
“I am a self-taught musician. I took music up until 2nd year at high school then gave it up. It’s probably one of my regrets, as my teacher thought I was going to be a grade A pupil, but for some reason, I decided against it. The only reason I regret that decision is more from the theory side of music. I can read a little sheet music, but I mainly used guitar tablature when I was learning the guitar. There is something quite nice about the unknown when writing music though, I think it can make you feel more creative when you are writing music, as you are making your own rules.”
Q: Were you in any bands when younger – are you still in them now or do you prefer being solo in music production ?
“I was in a band in the early days and we gigged around Glasgow for a while. It was a great experience and worked with a lot of great friends and musicians. I’ve always loved collaborating with other musicians and have a lot of friends who are really into music. I always use to write with a fantastic bass player when I first started really taking music seriously. We used to analyse all the music we loved and jam away into the wee small hours. We still bounce ideas off of one another when we get the chance. I also love working alone in the studio, coming up with ideas and having your own headspace to create. There is something quite nice about the solitude of it all. Creating music is definitely more fun when collaborating, but I need both to keep things fresh”
Q: When did the composing bug hit you. Any particular pieces of music which inspired you to pursue a composing path ?
“I luckily grew up having parents with excellent taste in music. I used to watch old cowboy movies with my dad and the scores always stuck with me. Growing up with Ennio Morricone, John Williams and Danny Elfman scores in all my favourite films must have had a subconscious effect on me. I think when I heard Hans Zimmer’s ‘Time’ from Inception, it was one of those ‘wow’ moments for me. Not only because it was such a powerfully moving piece of music, but because of its simplicity, in terms of musicality. I suppose I thought I would give composing music for film after that and got into production music.”
Owen’s music on The NTS TV Ad campaign
Owen’s music on the Dalmore’s “Quintessance” new product launch online
Q: How long have you been composing for ?
“I’ve been composing since about 2014 I think so about 6 years give or take. Its all a bit of a blur but I think I started to get short film gigs around this time and realised I was starting my journey as a budding composer.”
Q: Have you composed for Films, TV or other visual media ?
“I have composed many short film scores over the years, working in a collaborative environment with some great Directors who are still working on amazing things. I really enjoy the creative process when working on films, it’s great to hear the Directors ideas and how they envision the end product. It’s an absolute privilege to be given the responsibility of delivering a score to accompany their film. I’ve also worked on a lot of corporate work for independent production companies, covering lots of different brands. Most notably was one of my first serious gigs in “The National Trust for Scotland” TV advert which was broadcast on Channel 4, STV and Sky. It was absolutely bizarre to see that advert for the first time.”
Q: What’s your DAW and what sample libraries are you using ?
“I use Ableton Live as my DAW, simply because it’s the first I learned to write music on. I know there are a lot of musicians who swear by other DAWs and would love to try them, but I simply cannot find the time to learn another one right now, plus I’ve never had an issue with Ableton. It’s intuitive and does exactly what I want it to. A sample library I picked up recently is Cinematic Solo Studio Strings, which I absolutely love. I’m still delving into the depths with it, but so far it sounds beautiful. I was looking for more intimate sounding strings and the expression levels on this are the best I’ve seen/heard so far. I still use East West Symphonic Orchestra for certain things like timpani hits, or percussive effects, but I think I need a standalone strings plugin to really get the most out of the virtual instruments. I picked up Spectrasonics Keyscape a while ago for all my go to piano sounds, which has a wide range of sounds and you can get some really great results from.”
Q: Do you plan to upgrade or expand your DAW / Samples / VST’s or gear etc ?
“Not so much at the moment. I felt like getting more plugins in the early days of composing was the answer to creative block. But now I’m slowly realising, it just distracts me from creating the actual music. I feel I have enough tools now to create what I want to, of course it’s always lovely to get a new toy, but that can be expensive and counter productive sometimes.”
To further understand his art and to learn more about TV & Filmmaking etc, Owen studied an HND TV Production at Glasgow Kelvin College He Directed & Edited The Guitar Workshop documentary below >>>>
Directed & Edited by Owen
Owen’s music on Reiss Clothing menswear campaign
Q: Composing for Film, or TV, or Brands etc – which do you prefer and why ?
“I think all of the above for different reasons. If I had to pick then maybe composing for film is my preference. I think this is because I love watching films and really engage with an interesting story. I also think it also gives you more scope to play about with different ideas and lets the composer be a little more creative. You usually have a variety of different emotions to convey through music throughout film, which really tests your musical chops and gives the composer a bit more of a challenge.”
Q: Do you listen to classical music, as well as Filmscore/Soundtracks ?
“Yes to both. Most of the music I listen to these days is scores from various films, as well as anything that sounds cinematic like A Winged “Victory for the Sullen” or “Olafur Arnolds”. A lot of what really captured my imagination when I was younger were pieces like Rodrigo’s Guitar Concerto and lots of classical guitar pieces like Stanley Myers “Cavatina”. It’s just what I love listening to, but sometimes I go back to stuff I listened to growing up like John Martyn and Jeff Buckley.”
Q: What’s your process for new pieces. Can you compose for yourself, off the cuff when an idea comes or do you prefer to compose for a Brief, which seems to focus and fuel composers ?
“Right now, I love coming up with musical ideas not specifically for anything. I like when I have time to do it for myself because I enjoy it, it takes away any rules or brief you need to be guided by as well as the pressure of deadlines. It gives me a bit of freedom to work in a way I want to and my music can go in any direction it wants. Working to a brief when working on corporate work is a little different and has it’s own benefits. I do feel having a deadline sometimes makes me work a little more efficiently and I love being able to work collaboratively with production companies and see the work these guys do.”
Q: What genre/s do you compose ?
“I would like to think most genres I have covered. I have worked on Horrors, Thrillers, Science Fiction, Comedy’s, Dramas, as well as Documentary and Brand work. I would say I enjoy working on most genres of film, as I always like a new challenge. I always thought I would struggle with comedy, as my music can be more cinematic in direction, however from what I have worked on so far, I feel I’ve done a good job. “
Q: What’s planned for 2020 musically ?
“I have just released a new production music album and have another two to finish before April, so I will be busy wrapping these up. I release music through a few different labels at the moment, so I usually hop between this while working on short films and corporate work, where they require bespoke music. I am gearing up to work on a new short film soon with Director Simon Fox and I’m hoping to get some more film work and potentially some documentary work in the diary for later in the year.”
Q: You’ve just released your new album, how did that come about and what’s the intention/plans for it ?
“I release most of my work onto platforms such as Soundcloud and this is where a lot of my contacts came from back in the day when Soundcloud was a more engaging platform. Here, the label releasing this current album got in touch asking if I would be interested in releasing production music. Fast forward to 2020, we have released two albums with another two lined up. This album is released and used throughout Europe and some of my work has featured on talent shows and adverts abroad. I enjoy releasing Production albums, as I enjoy writing music and think it’s better to have some of my finished songs out there and active as opposed to sitting in a folder on my computer gathering cyber dust”
Wishing Owen every success in 2020 and beyond
Owen Devlin (@OwenDevlinMusic)