Oliver Schnee

May 10, 2020

Obviously there’s been a lot happening since I arrived in Tennessee.  This project is very close to my heart because the artist is my son, Oliver.  

When he was in high school I saw he had a gift for putting music to moving pictures.  I called my old friend, composer James Newton Howard, and told him my feeling about Ollie.  James is one of the absolute best film composers with over 100 films and 8 Academy Award nominations in his career.  In my book, I talked about the direct to disc album I produced on James and Toto members in 1983, and I elaborate on it more behind the secret door - if you’ve got the key.  But my friendship with James started a decade earlier when he played on the second Ringo album I engineered.  James trusted my instincts about Oliver, and had him start interning with him while Ollie was still in high school.

In the book, I also talk about Joel Sill.  Around 1980, he became one of the first (and ultimately best) Music Supervisors in the film industry. But a decade before that, Joel introduced me to Clive which led to my big break that kept me from continuing law school.   About eight years ago I realized I hadn’t seen Joel in a decade, so I called and set up lunch with him.  After lunch we came back to my studio to chat some more.  He asked about my kids, and took special note of what I told him about Oliver, who by then was at USC.   I happened to have a student film Ollie had scored, and showed it to Joel.  He was quite impressed and, wanting to hear more music,  asked for his contact info.  They got together and while he was very encouraging to Oliver,  shot him straight about the competition in that field.  

About two months later, Joel called and told Oliver that Leslie Zemeckis (wife of famed director Robert Zemeckis) was now finishing the second documentary she had directed with her husband as executive producer.  Joel had been music supervisor on several of Bob’s films, and was now working with Leslie on her new doc. Joel said he was going to put Oliver’s name in the hopper to score the film.  Leslie subsequently sent Ollie a couple of scenes to score to see how he would handle them.   She liked what he wrote.   Joel then told Oliver they were wanting a theme for the movie, something like the feather theme in Forrest Gump - one of the pictures Joel had done with Bob.  Oliver wrote a beautiful theme everyone loved, and he got the picture.  Bound By Flesh is an interesting but emotional film about conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton who were sold at birth and ultimately became sideshow freaks.  With a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, it went on to win Best Documentary at the Hollywood Film Festival.  His mom and I were there when Bob himself walked up and told Oliver he really liked the music Oliver had written for the picture.

Since then, Leslie has made her third documentary which Oliver also scored.  She’s working now on a new one that he will score as well.  Joel also suggested Oliver to write a theme for AltaSea, a non profit dedicated to preserving the oceans.  This beautiful theme accompanies some stunning ocean footage on the home page of AltaSea’s website. Subsequently, AltaSea had a party to celebrate the launching of their website where they unveiled the homepage footage with Oliver’s theme. Later in the party, someone pointed out to Oliver that Gore Verbinski was in attendance.  Gore is the Academy Award winning director of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Rango, The Ring among others. Being a huge fan of the Pirates movies when he was in high school, Oliver simply had to meet Gore.  He walked up and introduced himself, and sheepishly asked what Gore thought of his theme.  Gore apologized that he had arrived late and missed the presentation, but would love for Oliver to send it to him.  After he listened to it, Gore called Oliver and said he loved it - that it made him think of an underwater western.  That really spoke to Oliver, as that was exactly what Oliver was going for.  They set up a meeting at Gore’s office, which happens to be quite close to Oliver’s studio.  After listening to more of Oliver’s music, Gore said he liked what he wrote for AltaSea, he liked what he wrote for the Zemeckis movies, and he liked what he had written for National Geographic.  But he wanted to hear something else.   He wanted to hear what Oliver would write for Oliver - with no one giving him a “something like this” to bounce off of.  Oliver had been thinking about doing his own album for a while, and hearing Gore’s suggestion was all it took for him to pull the trigger.  He started writing as his inspiration moved him, and even developed some old themes he had written for himself years earlier.

I mentioned in my Alya post about the young arranger I was impressed with, Cody McVey.  After starting a friendship with him, I introduced him to Oliver, thinking they would make a great team.  They worked very well together on several projects, including the AltaSea theme.  Last year, Oliver worked for several months composing and doing pre-records for his album, and Cody fleshed them out with beautiful orchestrations. We all met at Ocean Way Nashville in January to record the orchestra.  The results have made his papa quite proud.  The album has great depth as well as breadth … from beautiful melodic ballads to rhythmic high energy tunes. From The Orchard To The Hill will be released later this year.  The title song is the first single, and it’s being released on June 12th.