Audio graduate achieves success in music composition
27 Jan 2017
Audio graduate achieves success in music composition
27 Jan 2017
Upon graduating from SAE Sydney with a Diploma in Audio Production in 2012, Liam Fox O'Brien made a life-changing decision to relocate to Los Angeles and pursue songwriting collaborations and a career in film scoring. That same year Liam recorded a live-to-tape album with Australian rock group Faker with the iconic music producer Steve Albini at his studio Electrical Audio in Chicago.
Two years later Liam made a second life-changing decision and that saw him pack his bags once again and relocate to New York to open his very own sound recording studio. During this time, Liam was offered the opportunity to write the music score to what would be his first feature film, Soledad, starring Chase Austin and Montana Gillis.
Alongside scoring music to commercials, Liam is currently working on the scores to the next two films from his New York studio while also playing the guitar and co-writing songs with his band DL as they gear up for their first single release and a showcase performance at music festival, South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas.
SAE Instiitute Audio graduate, Liam Fox O'Brien, composed the music for the movie 'Soledad'
Having experienced recording albums and performing live, the multi-talented musician, record producer and composer has acquired a broad musical vocabulary and a passion for creative innovation. He acknowledges his time studying at SAE as an essential ingredient to the success he's experienced developing his career.
What inspired you to enter into the career you're in?
It just kind of slowly happened. I was studying fashion after high school but dropped out when my band The Scare started to get some attention and a record deal with EMI. We moved to UK to tour and that’s when I really started to get inspired by all of the great bands I was hearing and seeing live. There's nothing like the raw energy of a live punk show to get you inspired to race home and start pouring your soul into your own music.
What are your fondest memories of your time at SAE?
For one of my assignments I decided to score a scene from the film No Country For Old Men. I wanted it to be a live performance in the style of Neil Young's score for Dead Man, and so I invited my favorite guitarist at the time, Sean Francis (New Brutalist) to come in and do some shredding. I had just figured out how to operate one of the big analogue consoles at the SAE studio - so I was feeling brave. We setup a projector, an amp, some effects pedals and some inspirational literature in bold font on the wall, dimmed the lights and hit record. It was around 1am and the magic really started to happen. That's when I knew I wanted to pursue film scoring.
Are you able to shed some light on how studying at SAE lead you to where you are now?
SAE provided me with a set of tools that I wasn't able obtain anywhere else – studio time, assistance from professional staff and an incredible curriculum to take in. There were things that I learnt in every class that I still recall on a daily basis today. Mostly the basics like signal flow, basic music theory, gain structuring, stereo imaging, basic mixing rules etc.
What are your career highlights?
So far, recording with Steve Albini has to be up there. His renaissance approach and hardline purist ideals about audio engineering and music production really gave me perspective on what it is that I value in a good music recording. Also seeing Soledad on big screens at film festivals with packed audiences was super fun, and having people tell me that my music is the 'soul and heartbeat' of the film was pretty awesome.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I am almost done on a score for a bank-heist/thriller Among Them starring Evalena Marie and Jonathan Thomson, which is really unique and honestly kind of terrifying at times. I’m also getting started on another film The Tangle, directed by and starring Christopher Soren Kelly. It’s set in the future and it’s about a connected world where only five people are assigned to keep the peace offline and among those five a murder mystery takes place. It has a kind of sci-fi meets 1940’s film noir feel to it. So far the music is sounding really cool!
What advice would you give to students aspiring to become successful in their field?
Read as much as you can and never stop being a student. Once you graduate from audio or film school you still need your 10 thousand hours of experience. Once you’ve had those 10 thousand hours you might feel like a 'professional' but you’re still not a 'master'. The point is there is always another level to get to. Also know that you can learn transformative lessons from people with half of your technical experience. Pay attention to and learn from absolutely everyone you can…and stay awake!
Who inspires your work?
Cliff Martinez is my guy. His style of scoring is always exceptional and like nothing else I have heard before. His work is bold and unique and it always becomes a narrative that is indispensable to the film. I'm also blown away by pretty much everything that Johann Johannsson composes.
Did you do any studies before starting at SAE, or have you studied since?
Prior to studying at SAE I was either on tour, in rehearsals, or in the studio with my band all the time so that was a good form of study. Since moving to New York with my wife a few years ago I joined The Society Of Lyricists and Composers (The SCL) and I'm about to embark on a 10-week mentorship program with them.
What do you enjoy most about working in your industry?
The freedom to express myself and constantly be challenged and educated.
What did you love most about studying at SAE?
The easy access to world-class gear and lessons on how to use it properly.
What projects have you worked on, and which one are you most proud of? What did you produce in this project?
Soledad the movie. I composed and produced the original score as well as all of the music supervision. I am really proud of the score because it's my first one. I think I outdid myself! Most of the songs we wanted to sync did not fit the film’s budget so we had to write and record our own original songs which turned out better, and much more suited to the story.
Who do you follow on social media?
Credit: Erica Snyder
Can you share an artist that inspires you?
THIS AND THAT GAME
Converse or Vans – Both
Coffee or Tea – (brewed, black)
Apple or Android
Instagram or Snapchat
Interested in a career in music composition?
Begin your career in Audio at SAE Institute Australia!