A 2022 Daytime Emmy winner for Outstanding Music Direction and Composition, composer Tyler Strickland is feeling immensely grateful at this career milestone.
His score for Cat People, Netflix’s limited documentary series that follows different peoples’ special bonds with cats, clearly connected with viewers and academy voters. The limited series was also nominated for Outstanding Directing Team for a Single Camera Daytime Non-Fiction Program, Outstanding Main Title and Graphic Design, and Outstanding Single Camera Editing.
Strickland’s previous projects have ranged from Stephen King’s Castle Rock, to Netflix’s Hot Girls Wanted, to George Clooney’s produced series Trial by Media. His current project is HBO’s Edge of the Earth, a four hour documentary series following four groups of elite action-adventure athletes journeying into the wild to take on incredible endeavors of physical prowess and mental fortitude.
Strickland spoke with Awards Focus about his early days as a composer, the moment he picked up his Emmy for Cat People, and what inspired him while working on Edge of the Earth.
Awards Focus: Earning an Emmy nomination is such an inspiring and career affirming moment. In your case, you bring home the trophy on your first nomination. How did you feel on the night when you heard your name?
Tyler Strickland: It was surreal, being my first nomination… just being there with my team was incredible. When your name is called, it’s definitely a shock. I’m pretty sure I gave a speech, but I hardly remember it (laughs).
AF: Tell us about your scoring approach to Cat People. How did you design your palette and what are some highlight moments from the project?
Strickland: The biggest challenge in scoring Cat People was that each episode took place in a different part of the world. We went to Greece, Japan, San Diego, and each of these places required their own sound.
On top of that, each of the main characters were dramatically different. For the Greek episode, it definitely had quite a few Eastern European instruments, and with San Diego I used a lot of guitar for the surf cat, Maverick. Each episode was pretty different, musically, but the goal was always to highlight the emotional moments and capture the bond between our subjects.
AF: You also scored the HBO series Edge of the Earth, which has some dynamically different environments as well. Can you talk about the challenges and highlights on that series?
Strickland: Edge of The Earth was a huge undertaking because it was largely driven by breathtaking visuals that always begged for epic music. It’s true, this series also takes you around the world.
I did touch on that slightly with the music, but this one is just much more energetic and grand. I recorded a lot of live orchestra for this score and a bit of vocals to bring in a sense of mother earth. You’re able to hear that in every episode in a nice thematic way.
AF: Walk us through your scoring process when taking on a new series, any conversations with the producers or showrunner that shape the direction or vision of the piece?
Strickland: On a documentary series, it’s always the first step to discuss the director’s vision for the overall arch of the show. What are the big emotional moments, what are the highs and lows of these subjects’ journeys?
It’s helpful for me to know early on what the structure of the show is from an editing standpoint, so that I can save ideas for those moments. After a few creative discussions, I typically sit down at a piano and hash out a few chord progression or simple melodic ideas for a main theme that I can weave throughout.
AF:Are there any early musical influences that have shaped your career path or process?
Strickland: Originally I started in the music industry as a touring musician and producer, mostly a guitarist. I traveled around the world and made lots of records which is a dream to do with your friends, but I ultimately wanted to make my own music. Working in film seemed like a perfect place to go and I love the process, it’s so satisfying to watch a scene and provide the element that’s missing.
AF: What are some of your favorite music libraries?
Strickland: Lately, I’ve really been falling back in love with guitar. They’ve been collecting dust in the studio, but it’s just such a versatile instrument and very inspiring to me. I try to record a lot of audio too, so as few music libraries as possible is usually best, I’ve found. There’s a real magic to the flaws in recorded audio.
AF: What is something you’re excited to be working on we can hear about? Strickland: Most of the stuff I’m working on I can’t mention just yet, but Street Food USA came out on Netflix July 26th. It’s a fun show if you’re into food. Keep an eye out for announcements on Instagram and Twitter @tylerstrickland.