How one chart-topping musician made the move into TV scores
Down with Webster's Tyler Armes on how docuseries Anyone's Game helped him transition into film and television
For Tyler Armes, getting into the film and television score game had been an ambition for some time. Armes already had a long, award-winning career in the music industry, first with late '00s MuchMusic staple rap-rock band Down with Webster, and then as a songwriter and producer working with artists like Lil Baby and Post Malone.
"I love movies and I binge-watch a ton of television and I'm always thinking about the music that I'm listening to, and how much fun it would be to put music to visual," he says. "A friend of mine, Ludwig Göransson, who worked with Down with Webster on an album a couple of years ago — well many years ago, I guess, now — he transitioned into doing scoring, so I've been watching his career path. There's a lot of freedom when you get to work alone and you can really dig in on a project for a longer period of time."
Unfortunately, for all Ames' success, the fact that he had never done a score before meant that studios were reluctant to give him score work.
"People are really hesitant to give work to somebody to someone who doesn't have something under their belt," he says. "And then it's a catch-22."
Thankfully, Everton Lewis, Jr., the music supervisor for CBC docuseries Anyone's Game, saw Armes as able to fill a niche. He was putting together a soundtrack full of up-and-coming Canadian rappers, but he needed someone who could write a score that would complement that.
"The challenge with this is that it needed to have typical score elements that were dramatic in nature, and soundscapes, but it also needed to have music that felt contemporary, like the music that these players would be listening to," he says. "[Music] that had an impact, and tied into the show, also without alienating a potential viewership."
In order to create a score, Armes had to re-invent his songwriting process, which he says initially meant just watching early cuts of the show while sitting at the piano.
"I would just watch in front of and be kind of noodling around with a microphone on," he says. "I would capture that and I would know if I hit a cue or hit an emotion that felt right for it, then I'd listen back to that and see if anything stuck out."
He adds that because of the nature of pop songwriting, he also had a huge reserve of music he'd written over the past several months.
"It's one of the most infuriating things of being a producer or songwriter," he says. "It's a minute number of things that actually make it when you're doing a pitch for pop. Ninety-nine per cent of the music lives on your hard drive and never sees the light of day… I'm making tracks every day all day for the past year in quarantine. So I had a lot of stuff that was like, 'man, the strings from this one thing that I did last month are perfect for this if I slow them down a little bit, or if I make them this way or more ethereal.'"
Armes is back to working with pop and hip-hop artists as a songwriter and producer, but says that since finishing the score for Anyone's Game, he's been approached to work on some new television projects. The trick going forward, he says, will be balancing the two different careers.
"I realized from this one, [writing a score] is like a full time job during that contract," he says. "The best way to get results is to kind of go in head-first and live it like a method actor would. It's got to be what you're thinking about every day."
Watch Anyone's Game Fridays at 8:30 p.m. (9 NT) on CBC, or stream the entire series on CBC Gem