Mark Crawford is an Emmy-nominated composer and music producer, composing scores for films and TV, as well as producing cover songs and original songs. Most recently he’s composed music for the feature length documentary The Social Dilemma, and produce a cover of "I Put a Spell on You" featuring Brandi Carlile & Renée Elise Goldsberry.
Mark Crawford is an Emmy-nominated composer and music producer. Most recently he’s composed music for the feature length documentary The Social Dilemma, and produce a cover of "I Put a Spell on You" featuring Brandi Carlile & Renée Elise Goldsberry. Additional music for the award-winning feature documentaries Chasing Coral and Chasing Ice.
Mark works with a local music studio in Longmont, CO to create unique acoustic flavors using a blend of vintage/retro instruments and modern technology and techniques. He also writes his own original songs and lyrics in a wide array of styles and genres.
Mark's in the music business to find new creative challenges, unique collaborations, and to ultimately keep pushing the boundaries of music.
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Interview with Mark Crawford
Q: Is there anyone on SoundBetter you know and would recommend to your clients?
A: I worked with Tia Simone through Soundbetter on a fun musical demo. I also worked with David Simmons (also on Soundbetter) on another song demo as well.
Q: Analog or digital and why?
A: Analog for the depth of acoustics and emotion. Digital for the ease of use, and trying things out quickly. I really have so much respect for both, and it depends on the project for which will be the best choice.
Q: Tell us about a project you worked on you are especially proud of and why. What was your role?
A: I was the composer for the Netflix original documentary The Social Dilemma. It's had an amazing world reception, and has created a lot of positive impact in the world. Out of this experience I also had the opportunity to work with Brandi Carlile and Renée Elise Goldsberry on producing a new cover of "I Put a Spell on You".
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: There are a few film scoring projects coming down the pipeline, but I've also been having a lot of fun writing my own music outside of any project, dabbling in a little bit of musical theater, and just really excited to work with talented musicians and vocalists.
Q: What's your 'promise' to your clients?
A: My promise is that I only work on a project if I know I can put my 100% energy and creative soul into it. I really do feel like I put a piece of me into every project I work on, so if I take on a project it means that there's something about it I really connect with and I hope the feeling is mutual.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I like working on different stories because they require changes in my approach and often times I don't exactly know what may come out of it. I love surprising myself though. Along these lines, different projects require me to work with different musicians who have different specialties, and I love exploring music through collaborations like these.
Q: What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A: What's your process? How do we work together on a project? What's your rate? Some answer to those are in the previous questions I've answered. For rate, I have my ballpark rate (in my sound better profile) for writing usually with virtual instruments and with two rounds of feedback, but then if the project allows for recording with real musicians, then there's more discussion and budgeting involved.
Q: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?
A: I think in the past film composers have been thought of as adding the last layer of a film, slapping on a coat of paint to glue things together at the end of the production. I really like coming onto a project early on to figure out how my music can blend into the DNA of a story. I am also an introvert when it comes to being around large groups of people, so often times I'm quiet. I like to think talent in music production is my way of speaking my truth to the world.
Q: What questions do you ask prospective clients?
A: If it's for film scoring: Who's your audience? What do you want them to feel when they listen to a piece? What are we adding to the story using music that isn't already there in the acting, cinematography, editing, etc.? If it's for song production void of visual elements, what pieces of art really light you up? Not necessarily talking about music, but what are you reading? What are you watching? Who inspires you?
Q: What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A: Do what's right for your creative vision, but also be open to unexpected creative collisions. I respect artists like the Coen Brothers because they know how to stick to their creative vision to the end of the earth, but also know how to balance working with their collaborators.
Q: If you were on a desert island and could take just 5 pieces of gear, what would they be?
A: Piano, computer with composing software, guitar, headphones, oh and I guess maybe a hatchet?
Q: What was your career path? How long have you been doing this?
A: I had a 10-year run over building my own film production company, wearing many creative hats including director, camera operator, editor, graphics, sound recordists, you name it. This allowed me to cut my teeth on a lot of different creative projects, but I eventually landed on my original love of writing music and wanted to pursue it full time. So even though I've been around the film production world for a while now, I've only been full time film composer, song writer, and producer since 2018.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: I have a versatile body of work, but I'd describe my style as being true to the project and story. I love using the studio as an instrument, and I love building music with orchestral elements turned on their head.
Q: Which artist would you like to work with and why?
A: I would love to just have a discussion with Lin-Manuel Miranda just because I respect his work very much. Who knows if we'd work together well, but could be fun. I'd also really love to work with some of the players surrounding Vulfpeck because their musicianship is some of the best in the world. For vocalists, I love Melody Gardot's voice as well as Adele. Their voices consistently give me goosebumps.
Q: Can you share one music production tip?
A: To discover new creative ideas, one can't be afraid to totally change up the approach and try to forget everything they know about how to produce music. Even though at times it may be uncomfortable to try something totally different, being open to diving into the unknown can often yield something you would have never thought you could have produced. For example I created a bluegrass style score (I had never written anything close to this) and a electronic synthesizer/acoustic hybrid score that had completely different approaches, but because I approached the music in completely different ways, I ended up with two scores that were unique and right for the project. If I feel like I'm on autopilot with writing music and writing something that's expected, I start to get worried I'm not pushing the boundaries enough.
Q: What type of music do you usually work on?
A: I typically work on music that's tied to a visual medium like film, commercials, and tv. I love working with small orchestral ensembles to create rich compositions, but I am also fascinated with hybridizing synthesized sounds and acoustic instruments (as demonstrated in the film I scored, The Social Dilemma)
Q: What's your strongest skill?
A: My strongest skill is collaboration. While I usually have a strong intuition for what music needs, I am ALWAYS open to ideas that can come from the most unexpected people at the most unexpected times. Because I've worn many production hats, I know how to speak many creative languages in order to be able to work with artists to communicate their vision.
Q: What do you bring to a song?
A: My background in story allows me to approach songs as another form of storytelling, whether it's to convey an actual story arch, or convey a certain feeling. I have a wide swath of different styles in my tool kit, from bluegrass to electronic synthesizers, musicals to documentaries, but these all stem from a deep understanding of how to get the music that's in my head out into the world.
Q: What's your typical work process?
A: I typically sketch first drafts of my music out using my large collection of virtual instruments. This way I can work quickly, fail fast, and create a product that sounds great on the first pass and can only sound better and richer if the project allows for recording with real musicians. I work very quickly and because I have a background in production, I can communicate well and have empathy for all the different creatives who create a story or a song.
Q: Tell us about your studio setup.
A: I work out of my home studio the majority of the time, and if the project calls for it, I also work with the producing team over at our towns recording studio, Wind Over the Earth, which has an amazing facility filled with unique and vintage instruments and recording abilities.
Q: What other musicians or music production professionals inspire you?
A: I love "unreasonable" musicians. As George Bernard Shaw said, "Reasonable ones adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable ones adapt the world to themselves. Therefore all progress relies on the unreasonable ones." So I look to those who strive to make art that is an expression of who they are, even if it means may be different and unpopular at times. So in that respect, I'm inspired by Brian Wilson, The Beatles, Bernard Herrmann, Ennio Morricone, Danger Mouse, Quincy Jones, Lin-Manuel Miranda to name a few composers. I love vocalist who really go for it, which is why I've loved working with Brandi Carlile & Renée Elise Goldsberry.
Q: Describe the most common type of work you do for your clients.
A: My most common type of work is composing music for film, commercials, and TV. My background is in production and story, so I understand how to build my music into the DNA of a project's story.