As a filmmaker, I’ve learned that writing music for films is a highly underrated and undervalued piece of the artistic puzzle. Picking your favorite song to go with a specific part of your film tends to get expensive and it might not even serve your story or set the mood the way you want it to. So if you find a musician who’s good at making the exact track you’re looking for, that’s someone you should really get to know.
Case in point, I met Andy Sorge 10 years ago when I worked at Quiksilver. He was scoring films for Brainfarm, the production company in Jackson Hole that made some incredible Travis Rice snowboard films. Andy was making mostly electronic music back then but he’d grown up playing classical and jazz music on a piano. Knowing this, I figured it was only a matter of time before he switched to a more organic sound.
Andy spends most of his time in Los Angeles now and he and I have stayed friends through all those years, collaborating on many projects along the way. He and his writing partner, Scott McKay Gibson, did an incredible job making original music for the Andy Irons: Kissed by God documentary.
I’ve been happy to witness the birth and development of their band, Wyo. Wyo’s a rock n’ roll band with a big, expansive sound that pays tribute to the natural majesty of its Jackson Hole roots. If you’re into the scope and sweep of U2, Arcade Fire or Radiohead, give their first album Untamed a listen on Spotify or Apple Music.
Wyo just finished recording their second record, “Changes” and recently released a highly cinematic video for their new song, “Moonlight.” I caught up with Andy just before he left with his band for a few gigs at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.
What’s the process for writing music for a soundtrack? What do you listen to, watch, or do to get inspired?
When writing music for a film you have to pay close attention to the momentum of the scene and the music that comes before and after. If there’s dialogue, you write the music for what is being said. A basic way of thinking about it would be sad scene, minor chords, happy scene, major chords. But the trick is to fit the music to the emotional beats of the film.
What’s your favorite sequence of a film that you scored?
In the documentary Andy Irons: Kissed by God, there’s a tragic sequence of events leading up to Andy’s death. A year or two before completion of the film I knew I wanted to write music for this section because it gave me the opportunity to write with a lot of emotion. That is the most meaningful sequence of a film I’ve scored so far.
You grew up with a piano and classical music background and did mostly electronic-based music for your film work. What made you want to play in a rock band?
I’ve always dreamed of having a band and not being tied to electricity and a computer to put on a performance. So I knew I was satisfying my creative needs by starting with a sound that was more organic and then building from there.
What are your musical influences? Do you have any songs that are directly inspired by other artists?
Lots of musical influences. No song, in particular, was inspired by another song by someone else, but I often times hear Jim Morrison from The Doors in the distance when I’m writing and maybe that’s because my dad would blast his music in his convertible before dropping me off for preschool. The Doors, The Who, Michael Jackson, and many other classic acts.
Jackson is your favorite place to write and record music, right? How are you inspired by your surroundings there?
Wyoming is cinematic, peaceful, but also The Wild West. Those three things inspire me to write out there.
You made a ton of music before you started to play live. What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned since you started playing shows?
One of the clear things I learned once we started performing was people generally like uptempo music when they are standing, especially late at night at a bar when they want to dance. We didn’t have a lot of uptempo songs in our first album Untamed, so we upped the tempo with our second album, Changes.
What’s changed for your musically and in your life since your first album?
A lot has changed. We moved to L.A. but continue to write in Wyoming. It’s all a constant and ever-changing exploration.