Blackberry composer finishes film ‘bloody and bashed’

Jay McCarrol leaning on piano with his hand up to the side of his head
Jay McCarrol, a Toronto based musician and composer, has recently scored the original soundtrack to the film Blackberry. Photo by Jason Haberman.
Owen Thompson - CJRU - TorontoON | 02-06-2023
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When it comes to certain movies the film's original score can leave a lasting impression that people remember well after leaving the theatre. It is no easy feat to score a whole movie with a soundtrack that fits.

Jay McCarrol, a Toronto based musician and composer, has recently scored the original soundtrack to the film Blackberry which was released on May 12. This marks McCarrol's second time composing a soundtrack for a full film and he says that is nothing like the standard process of making music.

“Scoring is not so much about music, it’s more about film making. You have to have your filmmaking hat on tight, much more than your musician hat on to do a good job,” says McCarrol. “If you’re a better filmmaker than you are a musician, you are going to have a much easier time in film scoring land.”

McCarrol says that composing on Blackberry was very difficult due to the frantic nature of the film and all the sounds that permeate through the whole movie. He says the movie is very dense with audio which made some scenes hard to compose, recalling one scene where a character is receiving bad news in an office with loud video games noises going on.

“I remember I wanted it to sound like a hybrid between diegetic Doom like music but also have it sort of get a little fuller as the story drops some new darkness and ominous bad news. I was aiming for it to sort of feel between a score and quirky Doom music,” says McCarrol. “[The director and I] went through it a few times until finally it got to the point where I don't know what to do anymore…the last one I did is my favourite cues and it really took relentlessly sticking to it.”

McCarrol composed his first full film soundtrack in 2020 on the film Kid Detective. While he went through the same audition process as everyone else, he remembers that he was underqualified. When he started he was terrified but determined to get the work done well.

“I was freaking out. I’ve listened to other scoring greats do their little roundtable talks and interviews. It’s a very small club of film composers that have really made a name for themselves in the movie world,” says McCarrol. “When you hear them talk about the job you can’t really escape that it is a very difficult job to take on. It has really crazy time constraints and sometimes it’s not so easy of a path forward.”

The difficulty of the job can lead to moments of low morale and large triumphs. McCarrol says that there were moments where he felt immense pressure from not making good time and not “churning out killer ideas.” Composing has given him a large amount of respect for other film composers that do the job at a high level of output.

“It’s something that has been in a really great way, a great challenge to squeeze through all these films and emerge only bloody and bashed but it’s certainly humbling,” says McCarrol.

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