Interview With Composers Bruce Miller & Jason Miller of CBS' Hit Television Series, "The Odd Couple"
Profile Of Composers Paul Miller (left) and Bruce Miller (right) Composers of the CBS TV series,' The Odd Couple"
Bruce Miller and Jason T. Miller are a father and son composing duo who have been recently been given the very plumb assignment of composing the music for the hit CBS Television Series remake of "The Odd Couple" Starring Matthew Perry of Friends and Thomas Lennon of Reno 911 playing the surly Oscar Madison and the finicky Felix Unger respectively. They have written the music for the series twelve first season episodes which air on Thursday nights at 8:30 PM here on the east coast.
For this Q&A Interview with the father and son, they candidly talk about their work on the series to date, writing for medium of television and their personal experiences working together on the show. Please sit back and enjoy reading this article.
Hi Bruce and Jason, how are you and thank you very much for this interview and for the opportunity to talk to you. Please tell the readers about what inspired you both to become interested in music and composing.
BM: I became interested in music as a young kid when both of my parents, who were very musical, exposed me and my siblings to big band music that they played around the house. When I was about 10 years old, I started playing guitar, singing, and eventually working my way to playing private parties around Detroit, where I’m from. I began wanting to learn more about jazz and other styles of music, besides the “pop” stuff I was used to doing. I eventually found myself working the local showrooms and doing sessions as a guitarist and woodwind player, including some wonderful years at Motown Records, working with so many of the legendary acts we still love today. After moving to Los Angeles, I found myself pushing to do what I always really wanted, which was writing arrangements and composing. I had some fortunate breaks and good friends that led me to some great opportunities in those fields, and I’ve been lucky enough to keep that ball rolling.
JM: Obviously, I grew up in an environment that lent itself to my involvement in the music world, but to be totally honest, it was a trip to Toys R’ Us when I was about 8 that got everything started. I happened to see a battery-operated electric guitar and decided I wanted to try it. I got home that day and just noodled around, and my dad would come in to my room and I’d ask him to teach me songs I liked by the metal bands of the 80’s. I have no idea why it stuck with me, but I’ve been loving the guitar, and music, ever since.
I got into writing music when my dad instilled the advice in me that a great way to make a career in this field (besides throwing pennies in fountains and wishing for incredible luck) was to write original stuff that people would want to hear; rather than just playing along to Stevie Ray Vaughan records. The idea of scoring never crossed my mind, but when he and I first began collaborating on projects he was hired for that called for “youthful” music, I just got sucked in and that was that. 4 years at UCLA was the best, but I had no clue I’d be doing this when I graduated!
Now let’s talk about your current work on the hit CBS series remake of “The Odd Couple” Starring Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon. What attracted you to the show?
JM: They needed a composer! Haha! Obviously, the chance to score a remake of this classic was very cool to us. The cast is great, and in the past, we’ve worked with some of the producers involved in this show. We figured we could also make corny jokes about being an “odd couple” scoring “The Odd Couple.” Those don’t get old… unless you ask anyone else in our family. And we don’t have the guts to make those jokes in person to anybody else.
BM: It gave me the chance to get a private sit-down with Garry Marshall, who’s a consultant on the show. Doesn’t get much better than that!
Tell me about the approach you both took in writing the score for the show?
BM: Very simply, we were provided with a style (the version of the theme song that’s used) and it was our job to keep our cues cohesive with that.
Before you began, was using Neal Hefti’s classic and memorable theme apart of your plans for your music?
JM: When we were hired, we figured that the original song should be referenced in some way. Before we began scoring episodes, however, the producers/network decided to have a recognized recording artist- Trombone Shorty- do his take of the song. When we came on board, part of our job was to reference the classic song in some of our cues, while keeping all of the cues in the style of the new theme.
Do you use an orchestra or did you both decide on a group of soloists to perform the music?
JM: We often go to lunch on the days we’re scoring episodes, and it’s a lot easier get a table when there are only 2 of us. All jokes aside, in this particular case, we’re the players. It actually works out much simpler, as we can record while we write. In the past, my dad spent YEARS working with live orchestras on all sorts of projects, from record dates to TV and film scores, and he really misses it. He often tells me how he wishes I could’ve experienced those times. These days, though, it’s pretty common- especially in TV- for everything to be done at home studios.
A nice thing about our situation is that we each play a fair amount of instruments, and between us, cover pretty much any style that might come up. Typically, I’ll play the guitar, bass, and drum parts, while my dad will do the trombone, trumpet, and piano stuff. We’re set up in the studio at his house to where we’ve each got our spots and we get a pretty good flow going; in spite of the occasional (all the time) “familial-snark” that flies back and forth faster than the notes are played. That’s part of why it’s such a kick working together.
Do you get any input from the producers of the show in terms of what or how much music each show would need?
BM: We were brought on board, on this particular show, to make sure that the cues we would compose felt cohesive with the style of the theme music that was previously chosen by the producers and network before we got started scoring. Our job was to give the impression that the same group of musicians performed the theme and cues. This takes into account the instrumentation, as well as the overall vibe and mix characteristics. Additionally, various pieces of source music had to be delivered in record time, besides the cues themselves. In those cases, we would speak with the producers about what would work and go from there. Sometimes they had temp tracks to go by, other times we’d offer suggestions.
How much music do you record for each show?
JM: It varies. Sometimes it’s just the cues leading in and out of commercial breaks, with some transitional cues throughout. Other times, it’s those, with any additional source music that may be needed. Some of the source we wrote this season included solo violin pieces, roller-rink disco music, and yoga studio ambient/relaxation stuff. We always look forward to getting the opportunity to branch out from the style of the cues and write some stuff that we didn’t know we’d get to.
Is it difficult to write for a television series that needs music in sporadic bursts without any real continuity?
JM: Not particularly, if you’re doing multi-camera comedies, or reality shows. On a sitcom, it’s not uncommon to have cues that are under a second long; maybe just a chord that hits on a mark and fades out. For dramatic TV and film, it’s a whole other story. Music usually plays a whole different role, running underneath lengthy scenes. That gives us the chance to really stretch out and do what we do!
How much music have you recorded for the show so far?
BM: We scored all 12 episodes of the first season. We actually finished scoring everything just before the show premiered in February, since all the episodes were already shot and edited.
Bruce, you’ve worked on other television series such as Frasier and Knots Landing in the past for example. How you feel about working on “The Odd Couple” now?
BM: I love doing what I do. I frequently get buried under a ton of music and love when that happens. In the case of “The Odd Couple,” we were called upon to score an entire season’s worth of shows in a very short amount of time. Fortunately, I love the involvement and really enjoy the show, as well.
(For Bruce) You were a guitarist and an arranger for singer/songwriter Paul Anka. Can you please share your experiences working with such as great musician such as him?
BM: I could write a book on this! However, for the purposes of this interview, I’ll just say that I was very lucky to have met Paul and have the long relationship that I had with him. I was in college (Wayne State University in Detroit, MI) and was called to play guitar at a local showroom where he was appearing. After the 2nd night he asked me to come to his dressing room and offered me the chance to travel as part of his band. I spent the next year on the road with him, and then came the ARMY (the NORAD band, in Colorado Springs, CO, playing jazz for 3 years). When I got out, Paul asked me to be his music director/conductor/guitarist and moved me to NY to work with him on and off the road. Best of all, a gig with him in Puerto Rico led me to meeting my wife of 42 years at the airport on our way back to NY. I did my “thing” (hit on her incessantly) on the plane and we got engaged 3 weeks later, then married after 5 months! It was time to settle down, so we moved to LA, and… I can write another book!
(For Bruce) After working with Paul, did you get more steady work soon after or did you have to branch out?
BM: After a lot of promises of “instant work” once in Los Angeles, I sat on my a** waiting for the phone to ring. I did a few road conducting gigs to pay the bills, and was also involved playing jazz in various bands around town. I actually didn’t get any “steady’ work for about 3 years, until I got involved in writing arrangements for records, which is what I really wanted to do anyway. I spent a lot of years writing a lot of notes for a lot of artists on their records and loved it. That involvement in the pop world led to other composers calling me to update their more traditional themes on the shows they were scoring. That then led to my getting hired as a scoring composer, and luckily I’ve been able to stay involved to this day.
(For Jason) You’ve worked with artists such as Kanye West and Reba McIntire. What is it like from transitioning from style of music to another?
JM: It’s what I always hoped for. To be able to work in different genres keeps me feeling creative. It allows for involvement with different collaborators, different work environments, and different overall experiences. I’m glad I enjoy so many styles of music, as that keeps me interested in writing so many different things. One day I can pick up an acoustic guitar and a dobro, the next day I’ll make sure the baby isn’t sleeping, so I can get working on a hip-hop track and shake the house a little bit. Getting to work on both records AND in TV/film helps me avoid feeling stagnant.
(For Jason) What’s it like to follow in your father’s footsteps as both a composer in television and as a musician.
JM: It’s awesome. Growing up I had this “private teacher” 24/7, which I was grateful for (even though he’s got the patience of someone with absolutely zero patience). Also, since the nature of this business is so crazy, it’s nice to be able to get an idea of what he went through when he was my age, as well as getting advice when I may need it. And now, I can share my experiences with him, since we also work on projects independent of each other quite a bit. I’d like to think that I can offer him some guidance every once in a while!
BM: And he’s MY insurance that my music will always be “cutting edge cool!”
Who has been your favorite artist that you’ve worked for? (Question for both of you)
BM: Just too hard to answer! There have been so many great experiences. I played flute for Stevie Wonder on “For Once In My Life.” As an arranger, going to the pub by the studio with Rod Stewart on session breaks was always an experience; such a down-to-earth guy! Working across the glass from Joss Stone was fantastic. And The Commodores treated me like a member of the group. Loads more that I had great times with… I’ll get those down for the next interview!
JM: I’ll go with pops here and say, as well, that’s a tough one to answer. Obviously working with Kanye West gets a lot of attention, and that was super cool. However, getting a song cut by Reba McEntire is a pretty big deal for me. She’s such a legend and is so respected for what she does. Being that a lot of my credits are in the pop world, having a major country artist give my work a “thumbs-up” is pretty rad!
Is there an artist or musician you would both love to work with?
JM: Can’t answer definitively! So many out there… I used to think it’d be cliché to say, but after how he’s branched out to different styles, Pharrell (Williams) would be a great experience. One of many, but he’s up there on the list.
BM: What could be cooler than to work in tandem with Jason on a Ray Charles project? (Time-machine included in this fantasy, obviously).
Is it harder for you as a composer to work in television as opposed to film?
JM: Two different animals. There are pros and cons to each. I just love writing music. The deadlines in TV are crazy, but that’s almost part of the excitement. In film, you may have to deal with score rewrites, new picture cuts, etc, which can be frustrating, but the music is often very prominent in the final product.
BM: Film can be much more demanding, but creatively, one can argue that you’re gonna be able to stretch out a lot more. Also, much more focus is placed on the work you’re doing, as there’s typically more time allowed for each element. However, in TV, I’ve always thrived on that fast-paced, immediacy. It’s sort of a rush (no pun intended) that is quite different than in the film world.
What was the hardest film or television series you’ve had to score to date and why?
BM: Once, while in the studio with a large orchestra and a huge amount of music, the noted director (who shall remain nameless) had to contend with his wife reminding him that they were late for their dinner plans. Tough session… tough session…
JM: A few years back, we got a panicked call from a friend to score a pilot she was doing… overnight. There was no time for a meeting, and we got zero input or direction. We were told, “Whatever you guys do will be great!” Well, we plowed through the show and delivered a broadcast-ready, contemporary score that worked perfectly, if I do say so. Halfway through the mix the next morning, in walks an “executive production person” who blurts out, “What the hell is this? We need records!” And that was that.
Which composer has had the most influence in your music so far in your career?
BM: Mancini, period!
JM: You can probably guess I’d have to say my dad. I mean, I spent over half my life living with the guy! If I didn’t constantly hear from players he’s written for and the many producers who’ve sung his praises and have shown nothing but loyalty, it might sound cheesy, but it’s the truth. There’s nothing like attending a session he’s leading and one of the players saying something to me like, “I’m so happy to be working for your dad. We always have the best time, and his charts are always impeccable.” Again, sorry to sound hokey, but it’s been that way my whole life. If you told me to choose anyone else, I’d go with someone a lot of people might say, and that’s Hans Zimmer. Stylistically, there’s so much breadth. He’s given so much latitude, and he always takes advantage of it by coming up with the most interesting stuff every time.
Do you dream project you would love to work on one day?
JM: My wife knows I’d love to be a hockey player. I’m not sure that dream is gonna come true, but I think that’d be awesome. That’s what you meant, right? Oh, musically? Musically, it’s hard to say. Just working with some of the geniuses out there would be incredible. There’s so much talent, and to be involved with some more of it in a creative way is the goal. Executive producing an album is something I’d really enjoy. Also, getting more opportunities to score dramatic projects would be great.
BM: Probably, the next project I DON’T get! Otherwise, anything cool; TV, record or film. There are plenty of artists I’d love to arrange for, and plenty of producers I’d love to compose for. My whole career has been so varied, jumping from here to there, it’s just what I’m used to. I honestly can’t think of anything specific.
Please tell the readers about any future upcoming projects you may have.
JM: I’m happy to say there’s a handful of stuff in the works right now. I’ve got some records coming out in April that I’m really proud of. I co-wrote and co-produced a song called “Believe In Love” for the pop artist Iyaz’s album “Aurora,” due out Apr 8th, and on Apr 14th, a song I co-wrote called “Promise Me Love” is due out on Reba McEntire’s new album “Love Somebody.”
BM: Don’t wanna jump the gun at this point… as things get closer, I’ll be more comfortable talking about them. Bad karma, otherwise!
- Very Special Thanks go to Bruce Miller and Jason T. Miller for their time in doing this special interview with me. I'm very grateful for everything and Asenath Nakayama of Costa Communications.
Please visit Jason T. Miller's official website for his current and future projects
- Composer official webpage.
Composer's official website jasontmillermusic.com
Please visit Bruce Miller's official website for his current and future projects at
Composer official webpage at brucemillermusic.com
© 2015 DANNY GONZALEZ