Prolific composer Jared Faber (Teen Titans) creates the score for Splitting Up Together, an ABC TV-series, produced by Ellen Degeneres, best described as a dramedy because though it’s presented as a 30-minute, single-camera sitcom, there’s a lot of the “feels” going on too.
Splitting Up Together stars Jenna Fischer (The Office) as Lena and Oliver Hudson (Scream Queens) as Martin, a divorced couple who agree to stay living together. The arrangement is a bit awkward as each parent takes turns watching over the kids while the other lives the single life from the garage-turned-apartment. Wackiness ensues but so do a lot of tender and touching moments as Lena and Martin rediscover their friendship and rekindle their romance — maybe. The “will they, won’t they” trope is alive and well in some highly entertaining ways. Jared’s job in all of this is underscoring the dialogue and visuals with the right notes that will accentuate the hilarity while drawing out the drama.
PopAxiom had the opportunity to talk to Jared about writing theme songs, making music, and balancing the drama and comedy of Splitting Up Together.
The Show’s Starting!
Think of your favorite show, and you’ll likely think of its theme song too. Those opening notes set a mood for the show. For Jared “It’s all about trying your best to get inside the aesthetic of the show … and what the show needs to feel like.”
Of course, film or television productions have a hierarchy, and Jared isn’t left in a void to figure out this “feeling” on his own “Usually, doing one [theme song] comes with instructions from the show creators. I did Boss Baby on Netflix, and they were really specific. They wanted a hip-hop thing … but also some weight to it. Some horns and layers.”
Part of the fun of composing is the challenge of getting this “feeling” and “weight” right: “It’s a theme song but also a rap song for a kids show, but they wanted to make as many references to financial devices and the kind of words you’d use in business.”
Listen to the song, and you’ll note that Jared nailed the request. “My favorite line from it is ‘My duty is fiduciary.’”
Not all show creators are created equal and, for Jared, one, in particular, is attuned to making music. “In the case of a lot of the shows I worked on with Emily Kapnek, like Suburgatory and Selfie or As Told By Ginger, we wrote those theme songs together. She had a very clear idea of what she wanted it to be. We’d kick it back and forth a little bit until we landed on it.”
How many drafts come out of those back and forths with Emily? “Sometimes there’s a lot.”
Music Not Heard
Show creators and composers are two levels of the final product known as the TV show. And as with any creative endeavor, there’s a lot of feedback to consider, the push and pull is part of the fun, “Best case scenario, you nail it the first time and maybe tweak it. Usually, it goes back and forth between the network. Can you make this more prominent in the song or change this lyric?”
As a matter of course, the process produces “… a lot of pieces of music that don’t make it.”
But consider that practice makes perfect and every unused song was a step towards a more honed skillset and a successful piece of work. Does the leftover music ever see the light of day, though? “… you think, ‘oh I can use this down the road …’
Jared takes us to where that road typically leads. “Inevitably, I wind up creating something custom each time.”
However, along with the ability to experiment and grow as an artist, these pieces of music are in Jared’s creative DNA. “Sometimes something from the past will inspire an idea.
Jared’s simple suggestion is to “… keep all those scraps, you never know when they may return to help you later.”
Growth is a part of human existence, and we all look back to things we’ve done and see them in a different light. “There are things that later on I feel I got right, but sometimes you think you could do it better today.”
Perhaps there’s a bit of magic in naivety mixed with youthful passion. For Jared, there’s a bit of truth to that when he looks at his past work. “Sometimes, there’s little creative moments, little gems because I was really searching since I didn’t know entirely how to do it yet.”
About Splitting Up Together
In preparation for this interview, I watched a couple of random episodes of Splitting Up Together. Within minutes of the first one, I understood the characters and the show. Jenna Fischer is her usual funny self though in a whole different way than Pam on The Office. She’s also endearing too, as is Oliver’s Martin who is the perfect counter to Lena. As the show balances comedy and drama, Jared must do the same with the score. “That’s really the challenge of that show. Trying to walk that line between the comedy and the emotional.”
Jared asserts, “Every episode is funny, but some episodes are heavy.”
The prolific composer accepts the challenge every time and focuses on “… bringing some genuine emotion to the music.”
Another chaotically fun aspect of making music or doing any other creative job is the uncertainty of when things will be “right.” Working on Splitting Up Together on a day-to-day basis “There are some scenes where you just nail it. But then the next five days you try to repeat that, and it doesn’t seem to come as smoothly. We’re always trying to chase that emotion.”
Is The End Nigh?
Making ten, twenty, or thirty minutes of music is filled with all manner of challenges. But, sometimes challenges come in small packages such as the theme song. “Sometimes … I feel like I don’t have a chance to develop it. You have to get right to the point quickly, and then it’s over. Some of them are twelve seconds.”
Over the past ten years, there’s been a dramatic shift in the way people watch television shows. A growing majority view things on streaming services like Hulu. Another popular service, Netflix, lets you “skip the intro,” to which Jared replies “… drives me crazy.”
And in the age of binging, Jared says “… I like to watch the theme song. It puts me in the mood.”
He shares the moment he sits down to watch one of his favorite shows. “Whenever I watch the Narcos opening I’m like ‘Alright, let’s go!’”
However, there’s more content than ever. Is the theme song in danger? “I don’t think so.” Agreed. What Game of Thrones fan doesn’t love that epic theme by composer Ramin Djawadi?
Jared’s got the music in him, and the artist formerly known as J-Radical has more than just scores coming for our us. “I have a project that I work on right now that really speaks to a lot of where I come from musically and music that I love. It’s called War and Pierce, I do it with Sunny War and Chris Pierce.”
Jared gives us his quick description of the kind of music that’s coming “… bluesy, singer-songwriter, Americana thing. It strikes to the core for me.”
While Splitting Up Together comes to the end of its second season, Jared is also busy making superheroes sound, well, super! “I’m working on the sixth season of the Teen Titans TV show.”
Thanks to Jared Faber and Impact24 PR for making this interview possible.