Bryn knows the score when it comes to composing

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Composer Bryn Evans… “I think if 16-year-old me could see me now he’d be pretty thrilled.” Photo: Holly Treadaway

BRYN Evans may write music from a small studio in a corner of Gorman House next to Civic, but it’s heard by millions of people around the world.

A composer who’s carved out a career scoring tracks for television and film, Bryn’s music has featured on networks such as HBO, MTV, E!, NFL, NBA and baseball telecasts, and even for the Bronx Zoo in New York.

One of his dramatic tracks was played to close out the NFL playoff between Green Bay and Tampa Bay last season, an event with 45 million viewers.

“I’ve always loved writing music, but came to Canberra to study economics at ANU and was working as a public servant,” he says

“One day I was reading an article about the guy who scored the music for ‘Survivor’ and I thought, well I love writing music, saw you could get paid for it, and thought, this is what I want to do.”

His studio may be small, but inside it feels like a world of its own. Dual computer screens show hundreds of named folders: indie-pop, electro, hip hop, alt country. There’s genre stacked upon sub-genre, all filled with endless ideas.

The screens rest atop a desk Bryn stands, rather than sits, at. It doesn’t take long to realise why.

“Say I’m writing music that’s meant to move me, if I’m not moving then it’s not flowing,” he says.

As he works, his feet tap around his studio, you can see his mind beating along like a drum. 

“When you’re sitting down it doesn’t have the same impact, you can’t feel when something’s wrong. It’s about the movement.”

Not long after we’ve started chatting we’re interrupted by a “ding!” An alarm rings off behind us.

“Sorry, that’s my signal to start a new idea,” he says.

It’s the perfect segue for Bryn to explain a day in the life of a full-time composer.

“On a Sunday night I’ll go through all the emails I get during the week, and I’ll see something from one of the publishers I’m partnered with like, ‘Hi Bryn, we need a true crime track – bittersweet, tension building’ or something like that,” he says.

“On Monday, I make an album. I put together a bunch of ideas, and I start a new idea every half hour. When I hear that alarm it’s time to start a new one.

“On Tuesday I’ll go back through them and I’ll have a ‘yes’, a ‘maybe’, and a ‘no’ pile and by the end of the week I’ll have finished the collection and sent it off to the publisher who then pitches it to the big entertainment studios.”

Bryn’s music also features in popular reality television programs in the US, forming a backdrop to build the tension for dramatic scenes.

“They say if you notice the music in a reality program something’s gone wrong,” says Bryn.

“An hour-long episode has around 44 minutes of footage, and there’ll often be around 42 minutes of music. We have to create music with drama and tension while at the same time never drowning out the conversation on screen.”

Bryn still has a collection of some of the first music he ever wrote when he was 14, lyrics that his dad mistook for attempts at poetry. He laughs recalling the memory.

He bounced between bands throughout his younger years writing hundreds of songs, but it was a long time before he would be able to call himself a full-time musician.

“When I realised I wanted to do this full time, I reached out to industry professionals and got brutal advice. They told me if I was good enough to do it, I’d already be doing it,” he says.

“For six months I was the best in the world at being rejected. I pitched three different collections of songs to different music publishers every week.

“I got some great advice a long time ago: if you get rejected just let your emotions out the first day. I’d do just that, then a few days later look back at the work and think about how I could make it better.”

As is the case with music, it’s better to hear the craft than have it explained. He opens some of his work on the computer and his talent immediately becomes more real.

“Once you have a main theme or idea of what the music is about you write the melody,” he says.

Mouse darting around his complex editing software, Bryn presses one of the dozens of play buttons. A dramatic string of notes plays through the studio, it’s the melody: the main idea.

Then, he presses play on other instruments one at a time that come in over the top. More strings, a bass, drum beat. They overlap into a crescendo, all in perfect harmony with one another, but all complementing that original idea.

“It’s like a story. You start with your concept and then use the craft of writing to shape it,” he says.

Being a music composer in Australia, let alone Canberra, makes Bryn an outlier in his industry.

“I go to a music conference in the US once or twice a year and there are thousands of people. In Australia, you’re lucky to have 100 people,” he says.

As a result he’s looking to collaborate with others to continue his climb up the ladder.

“You just have to keep getting better. It’s like a relay,” he says.

“I can’t write a number one song now, but I can pass the baton to the future me who’s better and who might be able to write a feature album. Then maybe he can pass it on to the next me who can write a top 40 song, then a top 20 song and then one day, who knows.”

But for now living in Canberra, spending time with his partner Virginia and her kids, and writing music for a living has Bryn pretty upbeat.

“I think if 16-year-old me could see me now he’d be pretty thrilled,” he says.

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