After scoring two documentaries for R&B stars Mary J. Blige and Chris Brown, composer Kevin Lax made his Netflix scoring debut with Burning Sands, released early this year. The project went so well, Lax was recently tapped by again to score the Netflix original film Juanita. The in-demand young composer and USC grad has figured out how to stand out in a highly competitive environment.
“Sometimes there are fantastic musicians, but they have characteristics that are tricky to work with,” Lax says. “The easiest people to work with––that is something that’s considered. Also your work ethic and how you treat people, to a degree, are as significant as how skilled you are.”
Lax describes his style as melodic and harmonic-based, and he seeks to write music that evokes strong emotional responses.
“You can fall into musical ruts,” he says. “What triggers that is a sense of haste. You have just two days to write. When cooking, if you hastily read a recipe, you miss something. So you need to take the time to listen to other music out there and get familiar with the project.”
Lax is somewhat methodical. He says he gathers several musical themes, whether textural or melodic, which he likens to writing an outline for a term paper. One of the greatest challenges of the pre-work, he says, is getting on the emotional level of the characters and narrative of the project, understanding the narrative arc, and tapping into the drama or intensity of certain scenes.
“One thing I’ve learned is patience. You give up some aspects of social life to do this work,” he says. “You have to be mindful of why you made these decisions. At the end of the day, we’re writing music, so enjoy the craft. It’s artistic expression. And do it every day.”