TV composer Amara Primero talks work ethic, the music industry gender imbalance and early musical memories.
Have you always known that you wanted to be a composer?
I think I knew when I was 10 years old. I had been playing the piano for 6 years at this stage – I used to sit at the piano with my mum, who would help me notate little melodies. At Christmas time we would write ‘new’ Christmas songs together. In high school I still remember saying I wanted to be a composer, but then over the years during and after university, I fell into other musical areas such as performing and teaching. It’s only been in recent years that I thought back to my 10-year-old self and remembered, that being a composer has been the underlying dream all along, so, I went out and pursued it.
You’re a strong advocate for females in the industry. Do you think there is an imbalance between the genders and the roles they play in the music industry?
I do feel passionate about the gender imbalance and I want to be so careful not to blame anyone for this, especially men. I think, like so many industries, women in the composer world are still in the minority, but I think there are so many factors as to why this is the case. Every person that has mentored me, has been a kind, generous man which has indicated the possibility that it’s us, as women who need to step up, stop underestimating ourselves, and don’t be afraid to reach out, shake hands and ask for advice. It really upsets me when I speak to women who say, ‘oh, I tried that for a bit and maybe I’ll come back to it one day’ and then they never come back to it.
How do you approach a brief?
Well, firstly, I get nervous and think to myself ‘they have the wrong person, why did they ask me?’ Then, I try to push through those thoughts and focus on getting to know the creative team’s ideas for the project. At the end of the day, you have to remember it’s not about YOU and what YOU think is good, it’s about what the director or creator’s vision is, and what’s best for the project.
What does your creative process include?
My creative process changes all the time so I find it hard to elaborate on specifics. However, one of the things that I keep fairly consistent as a part of my daily creative process is listening consciously to the world around me and the various sounds that happen; a kettle boiling, the sub frequencies of an idol truck or running water – all of these have become habitual in my day-to-day thinking. These everyday sounds can create wonderful soundtracks and textures. At later stages when presented with a job – they become my ‘go-to’ tool box of ideas.
What advice do you have for new composers to the industry?
Well, firstly, I’m still a ‘new’ composer to the industry myself, but if I had to give advice, I’d say it’s all about work ethic, work hard, play hard. I know it sounds cliché, but there’s a reason clichés stick – there’s truth and value to them. I think there’s solidity to their simplicity. So, I work hard every day at developing my craft and opening my mind to new ideas, and then I play hard when it comes to stepping up to the challenge of pitching for the gig, getting the gig and finally executing the gig. At all times though, I reflect upon my encounters along the way and learn from my experiences – you can never become complacent or let ego get in the way. Which leads me to the last bit of advice – always be humble and take advice.