Composer Philip White has a built an impressive body of work over recent years, with his latest entry being The Loud House Movie. White’s score for the film earned the composer a 2021 HMMA nomination for Best Original Score for an Animated Film.
White co-scored the film with Emmy nominated The Boys composer Christopher Lennertz. In the film, the Loud Family goes on an adventure to Scotland where they learn that they’re descendants of Scottish royalty. White and Lennertz are contenders in the song and score categories at this year’s Children and Family Emmys.
Of White’s numerous credits, the composer spent 15 seasons on the CW’s Supernatural while also writing music for Fraggle Rock, Lost in Space, Ray Donovan, What/If, Bates Motel, Agent Carter, and Daniel Craig’s 007 film — Quantum of Solace.
Outside of his film and television work, White writesconcert music and was recently honored by The Los Angeles Master Chorale (LAMC). LAMC performed two of Philip’s choir pieces titled, On This Side of the Window and El Niño Mudo. Since Feeling Is First, White’s original piece for a vocalist and piano quintet, premiered in New York in 2014 to excellent reviews.
Philip spoke with Awards Focus about his involvement with The Loud House Movie, the challenges and demands of animated films, and why he’ll always write a song on his future projects.
Awards Focus: How early do you like to start writing when it comes to animated projects, and what’s the general turnaround from the moment you get a script to seeing animatics and rendered scenes?
Philip White: As with any project, earlier is always better. The Loud House Movie was unique because of its timing. I signed the contract in March of 2020 and delivered the score exactly a year later. This was a highly unusual luxury, to say the least! While it depends on how much music is required, I’d say about four months is a decent amount of time. But maybe my expectations have been skewed!
Because of the nature of animation, composers generally have more time than with live action. One great advantage of starting before the animation has progressed to a completed state is that the visual artists can incorporate the developing score and animate to it. Most of the time it works the other way around—I’ll compose based on the animation—but whenever we can have a two-way creative channel, I’d like to think the end result is always better.
In the case of Loud House, the script was mostly finalized when I was brought on board, so I was working to animatics most of the time. The final rendered scenes came in very gradually, with some shots being dropped in after the score was delivered. In some cases, I had to adjust a few bars or tempos once the final shots arrived, but the changes were minimal.
AF: Can you talk us through early conversations with the director and producers and ideas for the sound palette?
White: Because they were making the jump to a movie from a TV series, the producers emphasized the need to create a sound that felt proportionally bigger and epic. Within that, there were three musical styles we circled around: a brash, punk, band-based approach for whenever Lincoln’s siblings hijack the action; the use of Celtic instruments during their time in Scotland; and lastly, a wide orchestral palette to support the larger and more emotional storylines. The fun part was combining these in different ways.
AF: How early did you know you’d be writing a song, and how did the collaboration with Christopher Lennertz come about for this and the score?
White: I was extremely fortunate in that Chris and I were hired together. It was his idea early on to write a song that could function as a thematic north star for the underscore. Because the movie was conceived as a musical (with other songwriters doing the songs), it seemed like a natural fit. Fortunately, the producers let us run with it, and they liked the result. It began with an idea Chris had for the chorus of the song.
We traded voice memos back and forth, as well as ideas for lyrics until we had a structure we were happy with. The chorus became the main theme of the underscore. I also used the melodies of the pre-chorus and the verse, in different iterations, as secondary themes.
AF: What challenges did you face on this project that might not be known to voters and the general viewing audience?
White: The score was very woodwind-heavy, which we recorded live. Since this was at the height of the pandemic and before the vaccine rollout, we had to be extra careful about how to manage risk. We recorded each woodwind player in their own iso booth, which isn’t ideal from a tuning/ensemble point of view but was the next best solution to being together in one room. Fortunately, because I had great players, this was less of an issue.
Another challenge was discovering our one-year-old daughter, Naomi, had to have cranial surgery while I was in the thick of writing. This coincided with the Christmas 2020 COVID surge. Our director, Dave Needham, and writer/producer Chris Viscardi were incredibly supportive and understanding during that period. The whole team in fact.
AF: What was it like seeing the online response after putting in so many months on the project?
White: So gratifying! Especially seeing how much fans of the original show liked the big-screen rendition.
AF: What is the biggest difference between composing for an animated film compared to live-action projects?
White: An animated film has a visual component that is unique unto itself—much more so than live action. The medium often allows—even begs—for colors, harmonies, and stylistic turns that just wouldn’t work in most live-action settings. From a composing point of view, it is so much fun. It generally means a lot more notes, but it can be so rewarding.
AF: What is something new that you learned while working on The Loud House that you will bring with you to other projects?
White: If there’s an opportunity to write a song, do it! Especially if you can base the underscore around it, so much the better.
AF: What’s next for you? Can you tell us where fans can get the latest information?
White: I’m very excited to be working on a Supernatural prequel, The Winchesters, premiering in October on the CW. You can follow me on Facebook (@philipwhite) and Instagram (@philipwhitecomposer).