When Music Calls: An Interview with Brian Vickers, Assistant Music Supervisor-The Walt Disney Studios
Let our readers know your background. Who is Brian Vickers?
Let’s see … short answer, I grew up in music. My parents put me in the church choir when I was in the single digits. It’s a part of growing up down south. (I was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama). Growing up, my parents had me listening to a lot of Classic R&B, Soul, Gospel, and Jazz. And on my own, I listened to a bunch of hip-hop, some pop, and a bunch of my era R&B.
I loved music so much that I went to college for it…got my bachelor’s in Vocal Jazz Performance and eventually an associate’s in Recording Arts. To this day, I try to read as much as I can and learn as much as I can about performing, recording, and whatever else as it relates to music. And of course, it helps me to be the best music supervisor that I can be.
How did you get into music supervision?
I had no idea how I was gonna do music when I moved here to LA. But fortunately, after I finished Full Sail University, they sent me a list of available opportunities in music around LA. So one of the spots was for an internship at the company Bunim/Murray Productions (which, at the time was walking distance from where I was living…at my Uncle’s apartment). I started as an intern there, working and learning under their music supervisors, and eventually got promoted to Music Coordinator, and much later down the road, got Music Supervisor credit on one of the shows.
How would you describe the role of a music supervisor?
A lot of people are discovering the job of Music Supervisor, so it’s becoming one of those “sexy” jobs when it comes to music. And yes, I’m grateful that I get to spend a good portion of my day listening to music, but the job is much more in-depth than just that. A good music supervisor has to have the ear to find the right music for a project, but to also walk that music through all phases of a project. That means working with the band / composers to make sure the material is good (and to give thorough notes), working with the editors to make sure the music fits properly, and working with the producers to make sure it all makes sense before presenting to the client. That also means having (and keeping) all of the music assets organized so that everything can be found and transferred quickly and efficiently. In the end, it should be a win for the band / composer as well as the editorial team when everyone’s vision aligns.
What does it take to become a music supervisor?
To become a music supervisor, it takes a good, developed ear, some patience, and a ton of attention to detail. I firmly believe in being honest with people and not just giving notes for the sake of giving notes. So it’s a matter of having clarity and being patient in giving notes to others and receiving them (particularly when you might not agree). And it also takes pretty strong organizational skills, because it’s best to know where things are when you really need to find them.
How do you discover new music on your own time? What is your process?
Are those songs based on what you like at the time, or what you've thought would be right in the scene, or something else?
I try my best to always look for new music any way I can. When I’m out and about, I’m quick to “Shazam” things, whether in stores or restaurants. But I always am looking at other trailers, movies, and tv shows. I regularly check out new releases on Spotify and do Soundcloud also. And music blogs are really good when I want to hear more stuff in a specific genre.
How do you keep from imposing your taste on a scene? Have you ever had to use music you weren’t fond of and you just have to go with it, or the opposite?
That kinda answers itself…you don’t impose your taste on a project. There’s a difference from what you like vs. what you think will work. Every now and again, the stars line up and those 2 things go together. But it all comes down to you doing what’s best for the project…because the success of your team as well as the artist all depend on that. I’m sure everyone has music that they pitch for projects that they might not blast in their car going home. It’s whatever. Don’t have to like something to know that it will fit. It’s good to keep the ego monster in check.
Can you share some past projects and current ones you’re working on?
As I currently work for Disney’s in-house trailer team, we’re currently working on a number of campaigns that range from “Solo” & “The Avengers” to “The Incredibles 2”. And when I first started, the first campaigns that I got to work on were Star Wars; The Last Jedi and Black Panther. And I’m sure that we’ll be working on a couple of other huge projects that folks will be excited to see later this year and next.
How else is your love and passion for music manifested? Personal life, involvement with the community, any organizations, etc...
I try to speak to students and up-and-comers about music when opportunities come up. I’m hoping to have the opportunity to do even more of that very soon. I’m a big fan of networking, so I try to attend music-related events around LA whenever I can. And on a few weekends, I regularly work on the audio team at my church.
Favorite new artist/bands at the moment:
*Imagine Dragons (I don’t even care…they’re dope!) *Anderson Paak *Daniel Ceasar “H.E.R *Oddisse *Goldlink *Kaytryada *Mac Ayers *PJ Morton *Anomalie *Jazmine Sullivan *Moonchild *Snarky Puppy
Favorite artist of all time:
Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Donny Hathaway
One line lyrics (the first that comes to mind):
"to the end of the week, I live by the beat like you live check to check / If you don’t move your feet than I don’t eat, so we’re like neck to neck.” – Elevators by Outkast
What advice would you give to aspiring music supervisors?
Find the projects that have music that you love, and see who’s the music supervisor. Then, see what else that person has done, and do what you can to notice the choices that they made. Meanwhile, listen to as much stuff as you can…different styles and genres. And begin to listen to as many music production libraries as you can to develop your ear. Lastly, meet some editors and see if you can learn something about how they work and what they usually look for as it relates to music. Same with directors, producers, and anyone else whom you (as a soup) would end up working alongside.
Any thoughts on the Rattan Bow Ties project?
I really like this Bow Ties project. Honestly, I’ve never been one to wear bow ties outside of a tuxedo, but I like these because the styling is so unique. Also, I really love the story behind these ties. Anyone can create something stylish, but this project ultimate resonates with me because of Racso’s vision to also provide a source of livelihood to people in so many different countries. He’s making something dope, and he’s changing the world at the same time. That in itself speaks volumes!