This week I got the opportunity to interview Katya Richardson, an LA-based composer for orchestra, film, and dance. She has had her works performed at Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, and the Royal Opera House in London. She tells us about her love of classical, jazz and electronica music and her dream to work on a feature length film.
Artist Name: Katya Richardson (composer and producer)
Genre: Film music, jazz, electronica
Originated From: Los Angeles, CA United States
Discography: Left From Write EP, studio assistant on The Grinch (2018)
How would you describe your music?
Although originally trained as a composer, my background spans a variety of other mediums, like jazz, synth pop, and scoring for dance and film. Musically, I’m drawn to combining elements of all these influences and making art that is collaborative. I’m fascinated in blurring the line between acoustic and electronic music, and juxtaposing modern sounds with a cinematic tone.
What is your musical creative process like?
I generally approach each project – whether it be a film score or a song – as its own entity, so the process is a little different each time. I would say that most of my music is naturally cinematic and emotive, and I like focusing on certain elements for each piece. I’m super into minimalist textures and vocal loops, and sometimes a whole piece is about exploring that.
Other times, my jazz piano background kicks in and I find myself prioritizing melody and harmony. In my most recent electrojazz release, Left From Write, the musical process was especially driven by the narrative. It was a dance collaboration with a choreographer, aiming to sonically reinterpret the creativity and alienation of a dyslexic. For me that meant creating an entirely new language for the piece and completely disregarding traditional musical phrasing. I looked at it in terms of sound design, production, and experimenting with the stereo space as if it were someone’s inner monologue – playing with moments of musical saturation and focus. I’ve never interacted with something so thematically before.
How did you start out in music?
I first got into music via piano lessons, but took particular interest in writing and improvising my own songs. In high school I was selected to be a part of a two-year composing intensive with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Through that intensive I was able to workshop pieces for orchestra, an experience that really shaped my confidence in pursuing music. I then went on to study composition and film-scoring at the University of Southern California, and now work as a film composer and multi-disciplinary artist.
Who influenced you within the music industry?
Classically, I’m influenced by minimalist composers like John Adams and Phillip Glass, and the electronic aspects of my music are largely inspired by the jazz fusion of Flying Lotus and dance composer, Son Lux. In terms of current muses, I really look up to the work of Isobel Waller-Bridge; there aren’t many female film composers out there, and I love how her recent score to Vita and Virginia (2018) showcases grungy electronics and traditional strings to both romanticize and modernize the 1920s. I think it’s super cool when genres collide and something traditional, like a film score, can still be innovative and genuine.
Have you performed live much and what was your favourite gig to play at?
I haven’t performed any songs live yet! Most of my music is instrumental and either notated, recorded, or produced. I used to perform as a piano soloist and with jazz bands when I was younger, but I’d like to revive that. I recently started implementing vocals into my music, so it’d be super cool to do a live vocal and synth set soon!
What is the best thing about being a musician?
Definitely working with other people! I find collaboration to be so important to personal and professional growth. I am thankful to have had many amazing opportunities to travel and collaborate with artists from all over the world – most recently, with dancers from the Norwegian National Ballet and The Royal Ballet in London. It’s amazing to see how music can bring people together from completely different backgrounds; art truly has no boundaries.
What’s the biggest problem you’ve had to overcome so far as a musician?
There aren’t many female film composers, so it was difficult finding mentors to look up to. And although things are certainly changing, there have been a number of situations where my aspirations haven’t been taken seriously or my ideas not credited. Tuning out negative people and biases has been hard, but I think it’s only made me more resilient and motivated.
What plans have you got coming up this year?
I just finished scoring an experimental dance film about plastic pollution in our oceans, and I’m very excited to share that soon. I have a few other film and dance collaborations lined up, but my priority for the next year is to start working on a classical album and apply to Master’s programs.
What is your ultimate dream as a musician?
Music transports and connects us in unspoken ways, and I think the most timeless art is the kind that is reactive and questioning. As a storyteller, my most important goal is to channel that innate part of humanity, communication, and move people in a genuine way. Career-wise though, working on a studio feature film or TV show would be the ultimate dream!
If you’re in a band or a musician and would like to appear on this blog, please contact me and I’ll forward you an interview template.