Photo credit: Brett Berwager
If you’re wondering how a musician kept working and had his best year yet during a worldwide pandemic, ask Mick Fury; he did it. The Syracuse, New York native, who now calls Nashville home, has had a banner 2020 and 2021. He placed a dozen songs in the hit daytime drama The Young and the Restless and he wrote the jingle for Nashville Jam, a Nashville brand. He also wrote the song “Exit Wounds,” that is on the Underworld Awakening movie soundtrack. He even created and composed his own documentary show called Front Porch of America which is available on ROKU. What’s left for him to do? It’s Fury’s largest undertaking to date, composing the music for the feature film Panama, featuring Mel Gibson and Cole Hauser (“Rip Wheeler” on Yellowstone).
Prior to the pandemic, when he wasn’t playing 150-plus live shows, Mick had performed at CMA Fest, Americana Fest, Muscle Shoals Songwriters Festival and the Key West Songwriter Festival. He has opened for Brothers Osborne, Stone Temple Pilots, The Goo Goo Dolls, The Marshall Tucker Band and Frankie Ballard, to name a few.
I had a chance to talk to Mick about his amazing past year, here is our conversation:
CN: Hi Mick. Tell us a little background about yourself and how a songwriter ends up writing the soundtrack for a Mel Gibson and Cole Hauser feature film?
MF: I’m originally from Syracuse, New York. When I was really young I moved to LA and was doing the rock thing on The Sunset Strip. I came back to Syracuse and played in a hard rock band called Silent Fury for a bunch of years. Then about nine years ago, I moved to Nashville and got into some old school country music, some pop country music and some Americana music until I found my way to what I am doing now, which is a new rock album that I have coming out soon and the sound track that I have out now. I have written some songs for TV and movies in the past. This new movie soundtrack is the most exciting one I have done to date.
CN: Scoring the soundtrack for a movie that features Mel Gibson is instantly cool and an eye opener.
MF: Yeah, I love Mel Gibson. He’s been in so many great movies. Cole Hauser, who is in Yellowstone, makes it double cool. The movie hits different age brackets, with younger people being into Cole and the older being into Mel. It covers all bases.
CN: How does it come about that you get a call to do the soundtrack for a big movie like that?
MF: It’s kind of a weird story, it would not have happened without the pandemic. My typical life was being on the road between 100 to 150 days a year. I would take off from Nashville and tour the East Coast from Florida to Syracuse. Then the pandemic hit and that went right to zero. I started exploring new ways to make a living doing music. I was doing online songwriting, coaching people for songwriting, giving vocal lessons, anything I could to scrape a couple of bucks together. During that process a lot of other songwriters here in Nashville were also in the same boat and we all started writing things for Sync Licensing. I wrote some music for The Young and the Restless. I started building my studio skills in March 2020. I’m friends with some movie directors in Los Angeles, New York and in Nashville and I had a connection to the director of Panama. Me being a hustler, I called him and said, “Hey, let me send you some songs for the movie that you are doing.” He said, “Send a song over and I will see what I can do.” I sent a song over and he called and said, “Hey, everybody here likes the song, send us some more.” I sent them some and then I sent them more and more. Somewhere during this process, the guy who they had hired to do the soundtrack could not do it anymore. They called and said, “Hey, since you are doing all of the songs in the film, do you think you could do the whole soundtrack too?” I still remember it, my wife and I were on a COVID-safe vacation in San Francisco. We were driving across the Golden Gate Bridge when the director called and asked, “Do you think you can score the whole film?” I said “Well yeah, I think I can do it!” Then they said, “Okay, when you get back you can get to work on it.” It kind of came out of nowhere and I was super fortunate that it did.
CN: I bet you remember every second of going over The Golden Gate Bridge and everything that you were looking at that exact moment when you were asked to do the soundtrack.
MF: I have been very fortunate to have had four or five big breaks in my music career and this is one of the biggest, if not the biggest. My wife knew something big was going on when I was on the phone. We celebrated the news on Haight-Ashbury Street in San Francisco.
CN: You have songs in the movie as well as doing the soundtrack.
MF: Yeah, it’s kind of a unique arrangement. I don’t know how common it is. I am an artist on the movie for some songs and I am also the person who did the score. I got to license a handful of songs that I have written and I did the score for the film.
CN: How does it work? Do they send you the actual film to look at to add the music?
MF: Yes, my situation was a little unique since it was the first time tackling something of this level. They sent me the pieces of the film as they were cutting it and putting it together to give me more time to get it done. Sometimes I would score a three-minute scene and the next week it was gone, they had cut it. I probably had about 15 different versions of the movie until the final cut. First you sit with the director and he would say, “In this scene I need this type of emotion to come across,” it’s called a spotting session. You spot with the director, watch the total film, taking as many notes that you possibly can. After that, I go and sit with the film and I create stuff. First, it goes to the director, he has to like it, then it goes to the video editors and they have to like it. I also found out during the process that the higher-ups have to like it as well. It requires re-jiggering on all of our parts to make the changes.
CN: Did you find the changes happening more than you were expecting?
MF: In reality I probably scored this film in its entirety three different times. I did it all the way through with one idea and then it turned out it was not what they had in mind, then I would go back and change it. It was a six to seven month process. Some of that time was me learning it and the other was me changing it to what they had in mind. This is common in every movie; you have a lot of people who are involved.
CN: How do you find the process different between scoring a film and writing a song?
MF: It’s pretty radically different I would say. When you sit to write a song you have a goal in mind. You go into writing a song like, “Hey, let’s write a love song today.” You have ideas of what goes into it and what you want it to say. If we are writing for a specific person, you know it needs to have a specific feel in the song. There is a much more definitive goal in mind when you are writing a song. Writing for Panama, I have to watch the scene and I emotionally digest it and then I need to understand where we are. The movie is set in 1989 in Panama. I have to think what was the vibe then, what kind of music were they listening to at that time. I have to get into the characters and where they are. If they are in a bar, what that bar vibe is.
CN: It sounds very difficult to figure out and get your head wrapped around it.
MF: You have to get into it. You have to believe in the story and you have to get into what the characters would be thinking or feeling at that time. Because the movie is in the ‘80s it has to have that sound. I have to figure out the scene, is it ‘80s hair rock feel, synthesizer feel? I am not reaching for 1920s jazz or Rihanna. It’s easier because I have a more narrow sound I am looking for.
CN: What’s interesting with you is that your music covers so many ranges from old school sounding country to rock. I would imagine that would play into this with your broad array of sound.
MF: I have always worked in different genres. I have been told it’s hard to market because sometimes it’s country, sometimes it’s rock. In the movies where you draw from different sounds it’s been valuable for me to be diverse. If you are doing a scene with Mel Gibson, he has such a vibe that you pull from him to work with. Mel is in a different headspace than Cole is and he’s in a different headspace than the movie bad guy is in. You have to jump into their world and empathize with them and pull from that.
CN: Was there a moment that stands out to you during the process of writing the soundtrack?
MF: I have a funny thing that happened. When I thought the movie was finished, my wife and I headed down to visit my sister and her new baby in DC. When we were about half way there, I got a call that they needed me to make a change quickly. We quickly visited my sister and headed back to Nashville as fast as we could. We left at four am and got into a minor accident on the way back. There was almost a tornado and we were stuck in a parking lot waiting for it to pass. It was like everything was against us trying to get back. I got into the studio that Monday. They give me 24 hours to change the opening of the movie where they have the credit roll that shows everyone’s names. I made the edits and sent it in. It took me about 16 hours straight to get it done and everyone loved it. I thought “Great!” We are all going to watch the change in a private movie theater down here. We are going to critique it and make sure it’s perfect. I am a bit nervous because I have not been a part of something like this. The lights go down, we all have clipboards and notepads, it’s like the coolest studio that I have ever been in. The movie starts up and it’s like a rock concert volume, so the music is blasting. I am so excited about how it sounds, I am happy how my tones sound, I am excited. It comes to the moment where the name of the movie lines up with this big musical moment and the guy who lined it up got confused and he missed where the big musical moment hits. I had just driven 15 hours in a storm, had an accident, edited it for 16 hours straight and I am not in the best state of mind. I am thinking it’s not going to line up, it’s not going to line up and it doesn’t. I have never had a normal job and it showed when I grabbed my clipboard and slammed my hand on it and yelled out an expletive. I blew all the clipboards off the table. Everyone started laughing, the director looked over and said, “He will fix that.” It was a hilarious moment, something you would never do in a professional job. I lost my cool. (Laughing) It only took him a few seconds to fix it. That was my funny “You can tell Mick has never had a professional job and does not know how to act in these moments” time.
CN: If you had quietly said, “It’s not lined up” it would not have been the same. They know you were passionate about it with that response. And I bet they are still talking about it.
MF: I am a perfectionist, I want things to go a certain way and I am truly passionate about music.
CN: Tell me about Front Porch of America.
MF: I was sitting on my front porch with my friend trying to do a co-write. We both could not come up with anything to write about. We were in East Nashville and a white guy walks by, a Spanish guy walks by and then a black family walks by. One of us had an idea that we were sitting on the front porch of America having a view of everything. Then we thought maybe that’s a song idea. At the time in America, there was a lot of fighting with each other and we were thinking that maybe we could do better as Americans. We were thinking that we are better than this. I thought how we could get people to come back together again. I had an idea to drive around the country 9,000 miles and sit on front porches and interview people. No one told me that was a bad idea so I did it. I got my videographer and I told him that I wanted to drive around and sit on people’s front porches with them and see their view of the world from there. Like, how the guy I interviewed on the rooftop in the Bronx has a way different view than the guy I interviewed in a small town in Syracuse, who is sitting next to a big pile of firewood talking about his values and how different his values are from the girl with the pot farm in Oregon. Everyone has a different outlook on life. They all have a different view and I wanted to collect them together and come up with something. I am always looking for a way to stand out. Whether or not people like the music, it gets them thinking. It was a really cool project and I am super proud of it. I like the idea of creating something new and different. If I have an idea, I do my best to pull through and make it happen.
CN: I have the final question. It’s called “One Grab.” Your house is on fire. You, your family and pets are all safe and with you. You can run into your house to grab one thing. What do you grab?
MF: Oh, interesting. If I’m going to be honest, I am going to run in and grab a bottle of whiskey and watch it burn down.
CN: (Laughing) How did I almost guess that one, I was thinking you weren’t going to grab a guitar.
MF: (Laughing) Yeah, why not just sit back and watch it? Sometimes it is what it is.
CN: Thank you Mick, it was a fun interview.
MF: Thank you, have a great night.