EXCLUSIVE | Composer Joey Newman Talks THE MIDDLE, DIARY OF A FUTURE PRESIDENT, & EARTH TO NED
Few families are as recognizable in the music composition world as the Newmans. From Cars and Hello Dolly! to Anastasia and Finding Nemo, the Newmans have placed a major footprint into film and TV composition. And Emmy-nominated Joey Newman has set his own foot into virtually every part of Disney movies and television, composing for shows like The Middle, Diary of a Future President, and Earth to Ned. This week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Joey Newman and chat about his exciting new composition projects, so keep reading for our EXCLUSIVE interview!
CORBAN: Hey Joey, and thanks for your willingness to share your story! As a third-generation film composer and a member of a prominent musical family, what did your musical background look like, and when did you know that you wanted to enter the world of composing?
JOEY NEWMAN: It feels like I have been involved with music one way or another all my life. Growing up surrounded with music on both sides of my family, it was hard not to be influenced one way or another! I started playing drums early on and then piano. I then started composing at the end of the high school and when I got to college, I realized a few years in that writing music for film and television was what I really wanted to do. From that point on, the focus has been writing music to picture with a sprinkling of playing drums…
CORBAN: I have enjoyed every bit of your composition work, and you most recently wrote the score for Season 2 of Diary of a Future President on Disney Plus. What were some of your musical goals when composing for Diary of a Future President, and how did COVID-19 affect your day-to-day workings on the show?
JOEY NEWMAN: I wanted to give the show a solid musical voice that spoke to the Latin/Cuban background, but also a sound that could be morphed into whatever picture called for. I also love the songs that Janet Lopez, our music supervisor, was bringing to the table, and it’s always nice when the score and songs can be symbiotic. I also try and create themes for moods, situations, and characters so we can vary those throughout the show’s run and feed off of them for more cues as the characters evolve. COVID-19 definitely changed things up for us in season 2. Composing-wise, I do everything in my studio and deliver online – so it didn’t change my process. However, I usually hire a few musicians who come into my studio and record for each episode. We had to do that virtually, and they certainly rose to the challenge and did a great job! I really missed the interaction and creative collaboration that comes with seeing people in person, though. I didn’t visit the set or any post or production offices at all – everything was virtual, including our spotting sessions (where we decide where music will come in and out) and final dubs. It was really amazing to watch the cast and crew pivot and adapt to all the new protocols. I feel that they did an amazing job and succeeded in making our best season yet!
CORBAN: Diary of a Future President has a great story to tell, and the music truly helps to carry that story forward. You also worked on Earth to Ned, which premiered on Disney Plus just over a year ago. What does the instrumentation look like for a show like Earth to Ned, and how did you capture the intergalactic nature of Earth to Ned through music?
JOEY NEWMAN: Right from the top, the producers and I decided we would create a sort of “late-night house indie rock band” for the show. Mainly, guitars, bass, drums, keys, and vocals. That’s where the Main Title theme, walk-ons, and walk-offs feel like you’re watching a real talk show. However, each episode had a theme to it, so we would sometimes completely shift gears and go into any musical style that picture called for. For example, we could be doing an all 8-bit sound for an episode about technology, or a horror feel for an episode where Ned has Eli Roth on as a guest. All of these would be doing variations on the Ned theme and more. It was really fun and always a challenge. A highlight was having Kevin Clash come record at the studio for a singing Clod moment with Grace VanderWaal! He is incredible to watch…
CORBAN: That variety of genres truly amplifies the entire show! In looking back, Earth to Ned and Diary of a Future President fit into two vastly different TV show genres. How did your approach and composition process differ between these two projects?
JOEY NEWMAN: Yes, they totally are! The main difference was that an episode of Ned could need a wide palette of sounds and styles, while Diary was pretty true to its main musical foundation and would just vary that off and on. It is definitely harder to get one’s head into many different musical spaces, which is why I had additional writers on Ned. It really helped to keep us focused on getting through the musical variation on tight schedules. When I look at both shows, they do share the concept of having a “band” as a foundation. Everything else layers on top of that.
CORBAN: I love that! And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention your work in writing the music for The Middle on ABC. What was one of your biggest takeaways from working on The Middle for almost a decade?
JOEY NEWMAN: The Middle was an education in learning musical comedic timing and restraint. Our show runner and co-exec producer, Eileen Heisler, is just a genius and was so good at helping mold the music to fit together with the comedic beats of the writing. I was always learning from her sensibilities and the pacing of the show’s edit. I loved the musical palette that was created for that show, too, and to be able to write a more “heartland” type cue for the endings of an episode was probably my favorite thing next to the live arrangement I did for the “La La Land” inspired episode with Sue and Brad singing and dancing!
CORBAN: I haven’t seen the “La La Land” episode, but I definitely need to check that out! In the meantime, do you have any future projects in the works, and how can our readers find and connect with you?
JOEY NEWMAN: I am in the middle of projects at the moment, but readers can always find me at www.joeynewman.com. Thanks to all your readers for supporting these shows and my music!
CORBAN: I am so excited to see where your next projects take you – thank you so much for chatting with us about your story!
And, to the reader, you can stream Earth to Ned and Diary of a Future President now on Disney Plus.