Jody Whitesides lands theme for A&E’s ‘Nightwatch’
November 20, 2015
Park City-based composer, musician and performer Jody Whitesides has been busy.
In September, he received a Utah Music Awards Best Pop Song nomination for his song "Touch," and he’s gearing up to create a video for his new single, "Thump, Thump, Thump."
In addition, his music is now heard on A&E’s reality show, "Nightwatch," which follows a group of first responders who work the graveyard shift in New Orleans.
Whitesides’ theme started with the series’ second season on Nov. 5, and it took the composer a few months to get it right.
"I got a phone call earlier this year, I think in April or May from A&E and they asked if I would be interested in doing a theme song," Whitesides told The Park Record. "I said yes, even though another production company had contacted me a couple of weeks earlier to do a theme for an animated series, which I was working on at the time."
A&E sent Whitesides a "Nightwatch" file so he could read about the requirements and get a feel for the series.
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"I realized that they wanted something like a piece that I had already written," he said. "So, I reworked the concept of the music and made something new."
Whitesides sent in a bluesy instrumental that was centered around a southern-rock guitar motif.
"Within two weeks, I got a notification that the production company passed off on it and then the network passed off on it and that I was good to go," he said. "My immediate reaction was, ‘Wow! That was fast.’
Since Whitesides had not composed a TV theme before, he called some friends who had and asked if the quick turnaround was normal.
"I was told that this was not normal and that it usually takes several months," he said. "Granted, before I submitted the theme, I had asked A&E if there were other composers writing themes and they told me no. I thought that was interesting, because there is usually a stable of composers vying for the job. But I went for it anyway."
Whitesides’ friends were right, because the next email he received from A&E told him that the theme has been "unapproved."
"They told me that they would send me another file and I could send in another theme," he said. "So, I did one that was totally different and turned it in."
The new theme was more modern and percussion oriented.
"It was sparse and it didn’t have guitars," he said. "I went with something that had more pulse to it. I used some electronic bass."
Whitesides immediately was informed that the producers didn’t like the electronic elements. So, he took them out and submitted a second mix and waited and waited.
A few weeks later, A&E notified Whitesides and said they were going back to his bluesy guitar theme.
"They did want some changes, and I added a few more things and then they asked if I could send them my final master mix," he said. "I had supplied them with multiple edits and gave them a couple of alternate endings."
Writing any kind of theme song is a challenge because most of the compositions have to be short, Whitesides said of the project.
"For example, the ‘Nightwatch’ theme comes in at 30 seconds and it, like other theme songs, still has to have a beginning, middle and end," he explained. "That’s hard in terms of production value, because you don’t get that 2 ½- to 3-minute, let alone the 11- and 12-minute space if you’re doing anything in progressive rock, to develop ideas.
"With themes, for the most part, you have to hit the ground running, unless you do get a longer theme length, because there are some themes that run a minute or more," Whitesides said. "When it’s short, you really have to pay careful attention to what you’re doing. You have to get the idea in really quick."
It also has to be catchy.
"If it’s not, then the theme won’t work," he said. "The music has to be something that viewers can recognize in a short time, so the motifs can become intrinsic to the situation."
There are exceptions to the rule.
"Yes, some theme songs are taken from a longer song or have been expanded to release as singles," Whitesides said. "The ‘Nightwatch’ theme was originally one minute long, and I cut it down to fit the 30 seconds."
While he was working on "Nightwatch," Whitesides also submitted his theme to the production team that was working on the animated TV show, and while the music was received with open arms, the production itself has been in limbo.
"Unfortunately, the show wasn’t picked up right away, because it didn’t go over well with the targeted audience," Whitesides said. "However, the producers loved it enough to still want me to make more music for the show, provided it does eventually get picked up in the future."
In the meanwhile, Whitesides is working on other projects and just developed a new foot pedal that will help him hone his live shows.
"The pedal runs my laptop and all of my backup music, so I can play solo acoustic sets with looping in the background," he said. "I can also run full band gigs as well, because the pedal also runs all my guitar sounds. So, I’m hoping to start playing live more often."
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