Music, // June 6, 2019
Ric Mills — MUSICIAN
Interview with musician Ric Mills —
His music (and voice) has been heard by millions worldwide but, like so many composers, few will know his name. This is all set to change with Profoundly Piano – A Personal Sketchbook, an album created by Ric Mills which, as the title suggests, finally gives him a voice of his own. Ric’s career has seen him compose music for countless films and television programmes, whilst in a parallel life, he has been one of “the voices” of Channel Four (including the coveted job of introducing Big Brother) in the UK. Profoundly Piano is pure, unfettered Ric: moving, intriguing and definitively laid bare.
1. Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Ric Mills and I’m a British born Composer and Pianist currently based in Sydney, Australia. I compose music for film & tv via production music publishers around the globe. I compose ‘epic orchestral’ as well as ‘gentle piano’ music. I like extremes ;-).
2. Why music?
Good question – music is NO easy career. Once I discovered the shear amount of resolve, patience, talent, skillset and tenacity required to make music creation a long term career I looked at other options. I did attempt a couple of other careers but music was in my DNA and like a moth to the lightbulb I returned to music.
3. What is your earliest memory of wanting to be involved in
I remember being an 8 yr old choirboy in the church choir and hearing the sound of the pipe organ and I was amazed by the sound it produced. Around the same time I recall going to my friend’s house who was the same age as me and I saw him play piano and I was equally inspired… I thought quite clearly “he could play why couldn’t I?” I think that was the start of my musical journey.
4. What are your favorite subject(s) and style(s)?
I love any music that is produced well and has heart. I don’t know about the mechanics of all styles but I can hear sincerity, production excellence and polished performance in any style be it Brazilian samba, Mongolian panpipe, American hip hop or traditional English plain chant. My favourite is probably quite simply, solo piano.
5. How do you work and approach a new piece that you are
Almost every piece I work on comes from a different brief therefore the objective is also different so it’s impossible to say I work the same in all of these cases. A production music brief generally has no images/video to work to other than a written description and track length so that would be created in a very different way to a piece of ‘art music’ that might be composed for a festival, concert or examination. I generally compose with the same tools (digital piano with piano acting as a midi controller & VST sounds) this allows me to play in directly and not worry about scoring. Although in 13 years ago I was writing directly the same way as John Williams still writes (with pencil and paper – maybe there’s a lesson in there!). Production library music generally takes more time to get right as the briefs sound wise as well as melodic-wise are usually quite firm, whereas if I am commissioned to compose a piece for a concert or string arrangement for a piece I can ‘go with the flow’ and just let the music come from within.
6. What are your favourite musician(s), singer(s)?
I love the complexity and almost heavenly quality of English choral composers Herbert Howells and Jonathan Dove. Not many composers can set a scene in a movie depicting time and place like Alan Silvestri, Hans Zimmer and Thomas Newman. I also love the carefully constructed minimalism, drama and beauty of Philip Glass and Henryk Górecki. I really also admire the complex and technically challenging work of songwriter Stephen Sondheim as well as the dreamy classic Disney sound of Alan Menken. I also love Jazz and in particular the string arrangements of Claus Ogerman and piano works of Keith Jarrett – such passion. There’s loads more but that might require more pages to fill!
7. What are the best responses you have had to your work?
When I recorded some music with a cathedral choir I listened to the rehearsal and subsequent recording and didn’t get a lot of visual feedback from the singers… until the end. Every single member of the choir came to me and thanked me and requested an autograph, some were even in tears! This was magical.
8. What do you like about your work?
I like that I create music that I like. Every writer I’m sure explores the sonics and musical techniques of their idols by the very fact that their influences become in many ways part of their own musical identify. I also like the fact that I’m refusing to change in order to ‘get on a playlist’ – there are many classical media outlets that we might say are ‘purist’ in nature and thus do not like any form of repetition of musical period/style and only play purely truly original music using a totally new vocabulary. That is completely fine but I believe it is wrong to deny new artists the opportunity to let their ‘voice’ be heard if it happens to be neo-classical as opposed to ‘modern’. It’s a very strange area.
9. What advice would you give to other musicians?
You need to learn as many aspects of music as possible – this may mean taking grades, going to university, experimenting with short courses even ‘masterclasses’ but you do need to know as much about music as you can as well as the skillset to perform, regardless of whether you are to be a performer or not. I would not necessarily advocate getting a degree in music in the hope that the piece of paper will open doors – if a “B.Mus” does open doors it’s the worst key I’ve ever known. Make contacts, make friendships in the industry and don’t get all his and mighty about earning a high salary at a young age. Experience and association with individuals and companies is paramount. In addition to all that it’s ideal if you either know or know someone how does about arts law, contracts, publishing, graphic design, marketing yourself and self confidence(!) You truly need the full package in 2019.
10. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
It’s funny but the last time someone asked me this – I was 18! I think I considered 10 years away a lifetime away, with time I don’t see 10 years as a long time now LOL. I would hope that my music
continues to improve in both production and quality and complexity of sound. Yes I would love to be asked to score the next Ron Howard blockbuster or perform at Sydney Opera House but I am a realist and I also take great pride and joy in what my close friends, my family and in particular my wife Priscille see in my music – if it moves them and they like it; job done.
Lisa Freeman is an Arts Illustrated’s Correspondent, representing the United Kingdom.
Lisa is also a Public Relations Director for – Quite Great PR & Marketing in Cambridge.