Inside My Creative Process — with: Craig Wedren

Photo by: Robyn Von Swank

Craig Wedren wrote and produced the song “No Estoy Triste” from the critically acclaimed film, How to be a Latin Lover. For Wedren, his musical journey all started back with his hardcore punk band, Shudder To Think. This led to putting together a diverse resume working on music within such classics like; Wet Hot American Summer, School of Rock, Velvet Goldmine, Reno 911 and United States of Tara. Today, Wedren takes us inside his unique artistic process:



My Background:

When I was nine, I decided I wanted to be a rock star. I was obsessed with music. It started with Elton John, Kiss, Bee Gees, Sex Pistols, The Cars, and The Clash, and basically mushroomed from there.

I was also always crazy about film, nearly as much as music.

I started playing in bands when I was 12, leading ultimately to Shudder To Think, which formed my senior year of high school in Washington, D.C. That became my career and main creative outlet throughout my 20’s.

We were all movie-crazy, and filmmaker friends would call on me and Shudder to write stuff for their early projects. These are many of the same people I work with today. It started with Shudder To Think and The State on MTV (for which I created the theme and scored occasional skits), then evolved into a proper film scoring career toward the end of Shudder To Think’s run, in the late-90’s, with movies like First Love, Last Rites (directed by Jesse Peretz) and Lisa Cholodenko’s, High Art.

Everything has evolved from there.

Writing a song for ‘How to be a Latin Lover’:

My dear friend Ken Marino (standing member of The State, whom I met first day of Freshman orientation in college) directed How To Be A Latin Lover, an from the get-go we had a lot of musical ideas for the movie.

Ken knew he wanted a celebratory end credits song to wrap things up, something which thematically centered around family and love.

I wrote the music in the mornings when my nine-year-old was getting ready for school.

The lyrics evolved as a response to a classic Mexican song you hear throughout the film called ‘El Triste’ (‘The Sadness’) -we knew we wanted the opposite of that. Then Ken recorded his kids talking about family and love, which became a guiding element.

I was thinking about universal songs like ‘Three Little Birds’ by Bob Marley, and in the production I wanted to capture the happy-sloppiness of something like The Specials’ ‘Rudy (a Message To You), where it sounds like there are a ton of people in the room playing and shouting together. Then the trombone solo, I wanted to be like the solo in Sinatra’s ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’, only played by a drunk. The AMAZING band Jungle Fire were happy to provide!

The emotion of ‘No Estoy Triste’:

Ken and I wanted the vibe of ‘No Estoy Triste’ to be totally upbeat and celebratory, something that would leave the audience smiling and singing and tapping their feet. We wanted it to put a punctuation point on the movie.

I’m rarely asked to write something overtly ‘happy’, for kids -as well as adults, so the writing ‘No Estoy Triste’ was a joyous assignment.

Photo by: Robyn Von Swank

My Writing Process:

When I’m writing something -either a song or instrumental score- for a show, I like to know what music the director loves, and if they hear anything in their minds, musically.

Then I blend that with whatever I hear in my head for a character, or a relationship, or for the movie as a whole, and then build from there.

How my early musical career prepared me for work in TV/film?

CW: My early musical career fronting Shudder To Think in many ways paved the way for the film and TV work I do now.

For one, I now have a composing team, Pink Ape, which I think of as something of a composing band (but hopefully more mature). My role in Pink Ape is still that of frontman; in many ways, Pink Ape is becoming what I’d dreamt Shudder To Think could-and-would become, had we stayed together.

Also, the foundation of longstanding creative relationships I have with directors and writers began in my formative years, growing up with David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer) and Stuart Blumberg (Thanks For Sharing) and making things together in Cleveland, then into NYU (Ken Marino, The State), and beyond.

These people are my family, and the creative -and professional- relationships are invaluable.

‘School of Rock’:

School of Rock was a dream. My friend Randy Poster was the music supervisor (the person in charge of overseeing all things musical, both songs and instrumental score) called and asked me to write a ‘Creed-like’ hard rock ballad for ‘No Vacancy’ to play during the battle of the bands scene. The song I wrote was ‘Heal Me, I’m Heartsick’. Ridiculous (I say with pride).

Then they need some instrumental score, plus someone to rehearse with the kids, both of which I was thrilled to do.

School of Rock is just one of those movies -magic from the word ‘go’.

My New Solo Record:

My new album is called ‘Adult Desire’. Its about age, sex, and family. I feel confident its the least boring midlife crisis record ever (I’m fine now, thanks).

The music is terribly melodic, maybe the most direct I’ve ever written; but the arrangements and the production may be the most experimental, disorienting I’ve done. So it has that tension, which I love. I call it Domestic Surrealism.

The songs evolved out of pieces I originally started writing for Stuart Blumberg’s movie Thanks For Sharing and Jill Soloway’s film Afternoon Delight. Music that I write for movies often mutates into personal stuff.

What’s on tap:

Recently I’ve been creating live, choral meditation music called ‘Sabbath Sessions’. The music is made up on-the-spot using two microphones and a couple of looping pedals. I love it, and will be doing more and more in the coming year (and beyond).

My team -Pink Ape- and I just finished composing the music for GLOW, a new Netflix show about women’s wrestling in the ’80’s; Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later (self-explanatory); Permanent (debut feature from Colette Burson, co-creator of Hung on HBO); and William, a new movie by Tim Disney, all of which will be rolling out this year. I’m very excited.

We’re also going into season 4 of Fresh Off The Boat.

And, I have a batch of new Shudder To Think ideas gestating which I’d like to develop into a Shudder feature.

Fun!!!

~Craig Wedren

for more info visit: CraigWedren.com


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In collaboration with/produced by Jeff Gorra

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