For years Fred Coury was best known as the drummer for Cinderella. After touring the world over with the band, Fred has gone on to become a multi-award-winning TV composer. Some of his projects include the NBC series ‘The Night Shift’ as well as assignments for the LA Kings and the Portland Trailblazers. AXS had the chance to speak with Fred on Tuesday.
AXS: We hear you are in the midst of writing the score for season 4 of ’The Night Shift.’ How’s it going?
Fred Coury: It’s going well, a lot of hours. No sleep. So not that much different than in the 80s, we didn’t sleep a lot back then either.
AXS: When did you get into composing for television?
F.C.: I started way back when, I was still on the road. I started writing things that weren’t rock songs and actually started focusing on the LA Kings in particular. I felt there was a need in the arena for something they just didn’t seem to have. It was just the same sounds over and over, it was the same music. So I thought I would write a song that would be cool for them to put with some highlights or something. That’s really the first thing I did. I put some stuff from a hockey highlight reel and just scored it. It came out really kinda cool. They still use that piece till this day for in-game highlights. That was the beginning of it. Then there was the chance encounter with Gene Simmons from Kiss on the street. He gave me season three of ‘The Family Jewels’.
When I ran into him he asked what I was doing now and I said writing music for television. He said, “Really?” I fibbed it. He asked if I was any good. I thought to myself, what would Gene say? So I said, “Yes I’m very good.” He said “Excellent!” We walk down the street. He introduces me to the producer. He says to the guy, “This is Fred. He’s been a friend for a long time. He’s a TV composer, if he’s any good let’s put him to work.” Then he looks at me and says, “How’s that?!” A few days later I got the gig. He said one thing to me, “I’m not going to take anything away from you, this is yours. Please turn this into something big.” Basically he knew he was giving me an opportunity.
AXS: How does composing music for television differ from writing a rock song?
F.C.: It’s not similar at all. Rock songs are lyrically driven. With television it is emotionally driven. The lyrics are already there, it’s the dialog. To write a pop song I can sit down and be like well this melody is kind of cool. Or if I have lyrics first the emotion will come from the lyrics. With TV writing my emotion is already laid out for me. Whether I’m playing against it or driving it, telling the story or driving the story or even just helping the story along-these are things where the decisions are a little more difficult because now you are answering to someone else. It’s about what they want.
It would be like if I was writing a pop song for someone and they told me every detail that they wanted, that would be like TV writing. You have all these eyes on you making sure you give them what you want. At the same time I need to make myself happy and be proud of what I’m writing. It’s quite a bit different and a bit more challenging but when you nail a great cue it’s the best feeling on the planet.
AXS: With television you have the images and story to inspire the mood of a composition, but creating a song for the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and NBA's Portland Trailblazers seems like it could be trickier.
F.C.: I have visuals for the Kings and Trailblazers too. I do a show called Black and White. It’s like we need 30 seconds of this, we need blocks of giving something there and then we need all hell to break loose for 30 seconds. These are what the visuals are going to be. The difference with the sports stuff is I get to make the decisions for making the cuts saying what if the picture did this. I get to go back and have some say in what the visuals look like.
AXS: You began to play the violin at 5, studied at the Beirut Conservatory of Music in Lebanon from the ages of 7-9. Do you come from a musical family?
F.C.: Yes. My mom is a pianist and my dad is a violinist. Being a musician is the only job I’ve ever known. My mom told me that if I was going to do this for a living, which we all knew I was, you are going to stay home and practice. I was only eight years old and I was playing three hours a day and by the time I was 10 I was playing four hours a day. It was pretty heavy training.
AXS: When did you move to the United States?
F.C.: I was born here. We moved there when I was one. We went back and forth quite a bit. I went to school there for a couple of years and then went to school here for a couple of years. It was funny, when I was in seventh grade here I went to a private boarding school and we were learning math I had learned over there in third grade.
AXS: You grew up playing multiple instruments, what was it about the drums that made you realize that was your path in life?
F.C.: Girls! I wasn’t meeting girls playing violin in the orchestra. The marching band always looked like they were having way more fun and there was this girl that played the snare drum that I fancied quite a bit. I never said anything to her and started to think about how I could get closer to her. I thought I will play the drums! That’s how it started. I was on the snare drum line with her for a year and I still never said a word to her.
AXS: Any advice for musicians coming up in the industry today?
F.C.: One thing that was instilled in me from my mom from the beginning was to remember this isn’t a party. This is a job. This is the rest of your life and you have to treat it as that. It is hard work. I would say if you are going to school for music, take your musical knowledge and really focus it to find what you want to do. Composing for media is a great way to go. There is so much content needed and there are companies looking for artists to be a different kind of star within music. Music schools are great but musicians need street knowledge as well so get in with other people and learn from them. If you know you are going to make it in this business then you will. If you have doubts, you won’t. If you have something to fall back on you will fall back. Just go for it!
Visit Fred's website Double Forte Music.