There were only 3 weeks to go before ‘Piers Morgan Tonight’ aired for the first time, and CNN executives were in a frenzied state of anxiety over what the theme music would be, and who would be the ideal composer. Following a relentless search and having received countless demos they just couldn’t find the music that matched their global vision for the show, filling the shoes of the illustrious Larry King after 25 years of hosting ‘Larry King Live’. When the status of the show’s music quest was brought to the attention of composer Anthony James he sent a show reel to the executive producer of the show, Jonathan Wald, and the quest was happily over.
The stimulating adventure for Anthony James and his writing partner Yiorgos Bellapaisiotis began at the speed of light. Both composers wrote numerous successful themes for TV and Radio and their body of work has been published in over 28 countries around the world. This project was another creatively intense challenge except that this show would be shown to 211 countries around the world 3 times a day.
Anthony James recalls “It took two weeks to do and the deadline was getting closer so the pressure was on to write ‘That Theme’ that ultimately Jonathan Wald the show’s Executive Producer would say “this is it!” Finally one Tuesday morning after a full night of mixing and trying various things in our Upper East Side studio, I sent off the rough mix as an mp3 and went to bed at 8am! When I woke I had many emails to say “We Love It” *We* were Jonathan and Piers, who were in LA at the time recording the Oprah Winfrey interview. I guess Piers had to like it too! So that was it, the hard part was done so the rest was relatively easy. On the night of the first network airing in America, we all went to Piers suite at the Mandarin Hotel here in New York, drank champagne, watched the show whilst Piers was behind me on twitter, tweeting like a bird. As the Theme played out, Piers shouted out to us “hey guys, love the Music, well done! After that night I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders and I could continue with ‘normal’ life!”
“During the endless hours of composing, recording live instruments, mixing, mastering and having conference calls with the executives of the show in Atlanta and here in New York I was trying not to read any media publications about the show and how the world was expecting to find out about the new show replacing ‘Larry King Live’. Is this show going to be up to the same standards or perhaps better? The thought that your music will be playing all over the world, in some instances to countries that you have never even heard before, can paralyse your creative process. So you try to minimize the scale of the project to a size that fits your recording studio and you play the make believe mental game that you are working on a project that will showcase your best possible creative abilities to yourself and your creative ego. Musically the object was to create a strong theme that wasn’t too newsy sounding, as directed by the executive producer Jonathan Wald “not too hard and not too light” something a little unexpected for CNN. They wanted something that could sound more like a song than a theme but have a 5 note sonic logo on the end. Creatively everything came so naturally and pre-production was effortless. I wouldn’t think twice doing it again” said Yiorgos Bellapaisiotis.
AJ (Anthony) continues “In order to create the big sound CNN were looking for I knew I wanted live strings on the Sonic Identity and Main Theme track. I record a great group of musicians here in New York and they’re not your normal session players, they’re all virtuosi in their own right and a real joy to work with. Jesse Mills, the group captain and lead violinist (twice Grammy nominated) had got together our usual string section “The A team” for these recording sessions.
I don’t have a large live room but it can hold up to six players and that’s always a challenge from the sound point of view, as there’s not going to be a lot of air for the sound. The tonality of the room is actually great, I have the usual auralex foam with T-fusers dotted around for a more natural ping! However with 6 players tracking 4 or 5 times the same or divisi parts, I thought it would be cool if the players swapped chairs between each take to get a different sound on the spot and ambient mics. It’s my ‘musical chairs with strings attached’ technique. This caused a riot with them and they loved it. It really made a difference to my normal string sessions. The depth was gorgeous and the mics picked up each players own way of doing things, but with this technique it was different on every overdub, giving it a larger sound”
We brought in Brian Delaney (of New York Dolls fame) who’s explosive drumming never fails to add another dimension to our tunes. – Pete McCann added many tasty guitar parts to the tracks using various new technologies in the industry. Many of New York’s finest musicians were called in at a moment’s notice to add Trumpet, Trombone, Bass guitar, French horn. In total about 22 musicians were used on the various versions of the themes.
The result is a powerful and memorable theme that will soon be instantly recognisable to viewers throughout the world. CNN predict that ‘Piers Morgan Tonight’ will be at the centre of national and International conversation and they now have a theme that matches their Global vision”. To listen to the Theme visit www.ajmusicproductions.com