An Exclusive Interview with TREN
Introducing Richard Williams and TREN
Award-winning film composer, Richard Williams, originally from Salinas, California, first tried his hand at composing when he was in middle school but was not very successful at it because he could not notate his musical thoughts efficiently. Nevertheless, he did not allow that minor setback to keep him from pursuing his dream of becoming a composer. He says, “I had many, many long nights, weeks, months, and years working with little to no compensation or recognition while not really knowing if it would work out. Just hoping it would, and working towards that end.”
Richard is also a member of the sensational band known as TREN. The other members of the group are Taylor Miranda, Nate Young, and Eliza Smith. They all met through the Commercial Music Program at Brigham Young University. They combine their amazing music talents to create awesome music, with a unique focus on creating music for major films such as “Captain America: Civil War.” Eliza Smith, the co-writer of the song “Civil War” is currently serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the Philippines. The group has also produced a song for the James Bond movie Spectre called “Ghost,” and a Christmas song called “My Savior” among other projects that they are currently engaged in.
An Invitation to Meet and Interview Richard Williams and TREN
An opportunity to sit down and have a one-on-one conversation with a well-known composer such as Richard Williams and members of an incredible band such as TREN, outside of those who are a part of the news media, is a rare occurrence. However, on 7 April 2016, a member from the newsroom, Kylie Patten, and the videographer, Torre Slaeker, from the More Good Foundation based in Orem, Utah, were granted that once in a lifetime opportunity. What follows are excerpts from that amazing interview.
Questions and Answers with Richard Williams and TREN
Many fans of TREN may wonder how the group got its start. Taylor Miranda explained:
TREN started with a songwriting class. One of our assignments was to write a song for the end credits of Hunger Games. That was the song that Eliza and I were assigned to write together. So we wrote this song and it ended up being really cool and we really liked it and so we wanted to take it to the next level. We thought of forming this super team and so we contacted the Master Composer — Richard, and Nate, who is the master of pretty much everything — he can write and play a million instruments and has a great studio and is great at mixing – and so we kind of formed this team of TREN, wrote more to the song and took it to the next level.
In describing what the experience of recording the song and releasing it for the world to hear was like, Nate Young commented:
It was great, I think that’s why we decided to keep going as a band because it seemed to flow really naturally and we had really good chemistry and we each, like Taylor mentioned, we each specialize in different parts or aspects of the music creation process so we kind of got together and talked about the song and we all really liked the song and got excited about it. Then Richard would go and do more the orchestral things like the strings, composition, and then I would record it and record Eliza and the piano and it started to sound really awesome and it kind of came together really naturally… we decided to put it out into the world and into the movie.
The feedback that the group received through telephone calls, emails and Facebook messages was very encouraging. The song definitely garnered an impressive listening audience as some people passed on their song to executives in The Hunger Games franchise and other people. People listened, and they liked what they heard. Nate further commented, “Obviously we didn’t make it into the movie. . .. We were a little too late to make it anyways, but we established some cool relationships with people that sort of helped motivate us more than anything to keep going and to keep writing music as a band.”
Those comments led to the follow-on question of “How soon before a film is released do you need to start pushing to get your music into a film?” Richard Williams replied, “I think producers get their music months and months in advance, it kind of depends on the film. So we would have to contact them depending on the time, however early they are looking for the stuff.”
Taylor commented that they are trying to get some of the songs that they are currently working on into films but that is not necessarily their overall goal. She explained that the group loves writing songs for big name movies, but at the same time, they realize that some movie producers already have a lineup of the songs that will be used. She used their song “Ghost” which they wrote for the James Bond movie Spectre as an example and said, “We just really wanted to write a James Bond song and as it was really close to the time that it was coming out, we knew it didn’t have a chance to get into the film, but we decided to just write a song anyway to showcase the different type of work that we can do.” She further commented, “We’re trying to build our portfolio. We do want to get into the films and we want people to come to us with projects that they need. And we’re still gonna, if we can get something done in time, we’re gonna give it a shot.”
Richard elaborated and stated, “We realize that it would be hard to pitch [a song] to people months in advance, it would be more convincing with a bigger audience and with that portfolio, so we’re aiming for that. In the meantime, we’re like building our fan base.” Nate added:
Our main focus is to create really interesting music that people love and create custom music for anyone that needs custom music with the end goal of eventually making it into bigger and bigger projects, making it into film and TV. But right now our focus is to just write great music that people really enjoy so that if someone needs a song, for you know, their YouTube channel or for a book or you know they have an independent film, we write music for that. But right now we’re just doing music that interests us so we’re writing a lot of music for bigger films, like big Hollywood films because it’s super fun and we think we can do a pretty good job at it. With the end goal of eventually making it into the film industry and getting placements into films.
So, have you ever wondered how a TREN song is born? Taylor explains that it is a collaborative effort of each band member. She said, “We talk about things together, but once we have a general idea of what we’re going to do with the song, we sort of just pass the song to each other.” Taylor and Eliza write the initial lyrics, brainstorm their ideas, pass the song to Richard to orchestrate, give feedback, and then the song is passed to Nate to add his live rock instruments. Afterward, any live instruments that they want to use for the song are recorded, and then Nate turns it all into something beautiful and professional. Nate further commented, “The song might change as it goes through these collaborative processes, so sometimes it ends up like Captain America ended up way different at the end from how it started but I think it works great because we all do what we do best and it’s all written in the studio.”
When asked about Eliza’s involvement (if any) with the band while she is serving her mission in the Philippines, Taylor remarked that she really can’t be too involved in the creative process at this time but “We hope she has something really great to come back to that she’s excited about.” The band does have a song coming out that Taylor and Eliza wrote together before she left.
When asked about their favorite part of the song production process, Richard said, “I think just being able to do all kinds of different things is the most fun thing for me.” Taylor said, “My favorite part of this whole process is just getting to think about the films and come up with the initial ideas for the lyrics and melody.” Nate said, “What’s cool about TREN I think is we certainly have a certain aesthetic that ties it all together like the cinematic, epic sound. So, it’s really cool because we get to write all these different emotions and feelings and genres so it keeps things fresh and exciting which is sometimes hard to keep up in a traditional band.” As far as the instruments used for the songs, Richard remarked, “Most of the orchestral things are from my computer, but we have brought in strings. We brought in brass for James Bond. And Nate plays guitar, bass, and drums.” He also said, “There’s just things that don’t sound as realistic with a computer, or you know, blending the two makes it a lot more realistic.”
The world-renown violinist, Jenny Oaks Baker, will be featured on TREN’s soon to be released music video, Wonderland. The group expressed that it was great fun working with her. When asked the question, “What does music mean to you? Richard’s reply perhaps sums up the group’s thoughts:
I think music, for me, means emotions, kind of. There have been times in my life when I haven’t honestly really thought about music. I didn’t try composing until about 22, seriously. I tend to have musical thoughts when I hear music and if I don’t hear music, I try and listen and think about music but it’s not like I have dancing notes in my head all the time or anything. Honestly, I think music is a gift from God, and it’s just a way to speak emotions in a way that can’t be done otherwise. And that’s why I like doing other genres because there’s so many different emotions and different messages that can be sent that are exciting, and some that are really heartfelt. I think it’s just fun to do so many things.
What is some of the best advice that the group has been given? Taylor replied avoid trying to copy what everyone else is doing. She said, “We feel like we’re getting to be so creative and to continue being creative in all different ways, whether that be the way we share things, the way we contact, the way we create and make our videos or whatever. If we can keep being creative and try to be true to ourselves and also not fall into what everybody else is doing, I think we have a lot to offer that’s unique.” Nate added, “I think that’s what people are ultimately attracted to. They want to hear something that is you, something that is unique. So, I think that is a great piece of advice for TREN and for really anybody that is writing music or being creative.” And Richard said, “I think that in terms of being able to write different genres and things you have to put in a lot of work to analyze music or just practice. If you do that, then I think you will have a large store and the ability to do all kinds of genres.”
What does the future hold for TREN? Taylor said, “We’re gonna keep doing a lot of stuff in the background too, with contacting and trying to get placements. We just hope that if we keep trucking along that good things will happen.”
Latter-day Saint Musicians would like to express their gratitude to Richard Williams, Taylor Miranda, and Nate Young for taking time out of their busy schedules to grant this exclusive interview.
Update to Interview
Following the exclusive interview with TREN, Richard Williams informed Latter-day Saint Musicians that the Independence Day project that Nate mentioned that they were working on has been placed on the shelf for now. The band did write a song for Independence Day but have decided that it might be better used for a different project. They have, however, been busy with Alice and Ghostbusters.