US-based composer Dhruv Goel talks about multiple projects and making a documentary on John Muir
Los Angeles-based music composer Dhruv Goel is known for his contribution in films such as Thank You Come Again. The talented musician has also designed music for video games and documentaries apart from working in TV shows such as Haunted (Netflix), Little Women: Atlanta (Lifetime) and Guy’s Grocery Games (Food Network). We got the extremely talented artiste talking about his journey so far and releasing a solo EP next year. Excerpts:
Tell us a bit about your musical journey and life in LA.
After graduating from Berklee College of Music (in Boston), I moved to Los Angeles in 2015. Here I started working as an orchestrator and music copyist at JoAnn Kane Music on projects such as X: Men Apocalypse, La La Land, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Secret Life of Pets and Family Guy. A year later, I was hired as a vocalist and additional composer at Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions where I worked on movies such as Todo Mal and Sky Hunter among others.
Now, I work full-time as a freelance composer and musician in films, TV shows and video games in my own studio. I have been composing music for Facebook’s Sound Collection, which is used on Facebook Video, Instagram Video and Instagram TV. Videos featuring my music have got over 100 million views. I am the music producer & orchestrator for Disney’s show Mira, Royal Detective and have been working with Splice Sounds where I released two artist sound sample packs that have received over 100,000 downloads. When I am not juggling deadlines, I love going for long hikes – the beautiful outdoors of LA offer many options!
You have produced and orchestrated music for Disney's Mira, Royal Detective (TV Series) that airs on Disney Junior channel, how was your experience while working on the original tracks for the same.
Mira, Royal Detective is an animated TV series about a brave and resourceful girl who becomes a royal detective in India after solving a mystery that saved the kingdom's young prince. I was brought on the project by Jeannie Lurie and Matthew Tishler to produce the music and orchestrate songs. It’s been a fantastic ride! The Disney executives and writing teams are very mindful of being as authentic as possible. Since the show is set in India, they are very careful about the details- from costumes and architecture to the musical instruments that are used. I am often explaining to the show’s animators how an instrument like the dholak or sarod works- because if a character is playing the instrument in the show, they really want to get movements of the hand and fingers right. For the songs, I have been recording various Indian instruments, from the sarangi to the nadaswaram. Recordings have mostly taken place in Los Angeles and Mumbai. It’s really amazing to hear these instruments on American television!
You have composed music for the film 'Thank You, Come Again' which was showcased at the Los Angeles Asia Film Festival. How does it feel when your work gets recognised on such a big platform?
Nirav Bhakta is an amazing director with a powerful vision. We had initially discussed the story a few times but when I saw the first cut of the film I was blown away. He wanted the score to be textural and gently enhance the emotion throughout the film.
‘Thank You, Come Again’ is the story of how an undocumented Indian-American immigrant who works at a convenience store deals with the loss of his father. The humming of the many refrigerators in a convenience store is literally what an employee working there hears all day. So for the score, I went and recorded the ‘hums’ of the refrigerators that are found all over such convenience stores and turned them into instruments with which I wrote a lot of the score. It was incredible to see the film premiere at the Oscar-qualifying Los Angeles Asia Film Festival! I am really happy that the film has got great reviews and is supposed to play at many other prestigious film festivals in 2021.
You have worked on the music and sang in films like Todo Mal, The Fourth Wall and Sky Hunter. How was the experience?
It is certainly more challenging! Music in Asian movies tends to be more dramatic, while music in American/Western films is generally a bit more understated. For me, it’s always about having good communication with the director- that helps me navigate the unique needs of the film. However, at the same time, music has a universality to it, which transcends these barriers. For example, despite the language difference, the song I wrote for ‘The Fourth Wall’ plays a pivotal role in the film (the song was written in Hindi). Similarly, the vocals I recorded for Todo Mal and Sky Hunter fit seamlessly into these films because I was being authentic to the sound that was needed for them.
Your composition in Season 2 of Netflix's Haunted was very intense. The music in horror shows plays a pivotal part, your take on this. Please elaborate.
I think with horror, music is almost as important as the picture itself. Often the scariest moments are because of the anticipation of something crazy that’s going to happen- and music can really magnify that.
You have worked for different mediums ranging from documentary to video games. How do you balance your act?
Folklore Hunter is a horror survival game. I have been a big video game nerd since I was quite little, so when the opportunity presented itself, I was ecstatic! Most projects for me begin with studying new styles or genres music and discovering new instruments. That ‘research’ phase really gets me going. I also try to take some reasonable time off between projects to make sure I don’t burn out- our industry is notorious for that!
Your future projects?
I am almost finished with my first solo EP that I will be releasing in January 2021 and I am very excited for it! I have a couple of other things happening alongside- I am preparing to exhibit the video game ‘Moonlight Switch’ at the Phantasy Arcade exhibition at Gallery Nucleus art gallery in LA for which I wrote the score. I am also working on a documentary that’s based on the life of John Muir.