In a normal world, songwriters Tommy Reilly and Roddy Hart would have been living it up in Hollywood, toasting the unexpected turn their careers have taken and partying with the Warner Bros glitterati. Instead?
“I was sitting in my flat, watching all the reaction on Twitter at one in the morning,” said Tommy, one half of the duo soundtracking one of the world’s most popular cartoon series from a tiny studio near the River Clyde.
Tommy and Roddy are part of the new creative team behind the revival of hugely popular American cartoon series Animaniacs, which debuted in the States at the end of 2020. But the Covid-19 pandemic prevented the pair from travelling Stateside to join their colleagues for the launch.
Their Hollywood breakthrough is a far cry from the well-worn circuit of the singer songwriter, which the pair once ploughed.
Tommy’s big break came after winning Channel 4 series Orange Unsigned Act in the late 2000s. Meanwhile, Roddy built a career as a solo artist and then as front man of Glasgow indie outfit The Lonesome Fire, with whom he performs later this month at Celtic Connections.
The pair came together to work on the soundtrack to zombie comedy Anna And The Apocalypse, which became a cult hit in the States. Its upbeat pop soundtrack got them noticed by Hollywood executives and following a series of meetings in Los Angeles to capitalise on the interest, the pair were offered the gig of their lives by the Warner Bros studios working for the master of the industry, Steven Spielberg.
“They told us they were rebooting this legendary show from the 1990s, which Spielberg was an executive producer on, and asked did we fancy having a go,” said Roddy, 41.
“There we were sitting in these big meetings with these folk from the movie industry, two Scottish guys at a studio which we’ve only ever been used to flashing up on the big screen as the place that made the most iconic movies and TV shows of all time. We’d both gone through different elements of the music industry and suddenly we’re sitting with these people from the film industry who are interested in music from a different perspective.”
Tommy, 31, added: “We thought we were turning up to have a chat in the coffee shop, but it was full-on, the whole shebang. Luckily I’d downloaded the rough mixes of the songs from Anna And The Apocalypse on my phone when they asked if there was anything we could play. It felt like a high-risk moment.”
The risk paid off, with Tommy and Roddy being invited to pitch their ideas to producers at the iconic Burbank Studios in California, getting the gig, and spending 18 months working on music and songs for the series from their studio at Kinning Park in Glasgow.
“To be honest, it felt like a big leap that we’d even be considered for this kind of thing before we’d even submitted a pitch,” said Roddy.
Tommy added: “It’s been such a blast. There have been nights we’ve been in the studio working until four in the morning, just sitting there until we get the thing right.”
While writing and recording for Animaniacs, the pair were also busy working on the soundtrack to Our Ladies, the movie adaptation of Alan Warner’s novel The Sopranos, about an all-girl choir from the Highlands. The film was held back from full release last year due to lockdown.
Having already completed series two of Animaniacs, the pair are now writing music for other areas of the entertainment world closer to home. Roddy, who also presents music shows for Radio Scotland, said: “We’ve done film, we’re in TV land at the moment and we’re working on another couple of exciting musical projects for the next year or so. We’ve had an amazing run. We’ve been really lucky and have enjoyed putting a lot of work into this new chapter in our career. It’s basically what dreams are made of.”
While both musicians refuse to rule out a return to the singer-songwriter circuit, they’re following the unexpected momentum their careers have garnered across the Pond. “When Tommy and I started working together a light went on and we realised we were good at working to a brief,” said Roddy.
“It’s a tough landscape out there for artists. Sometimes things go your way and when they do you follow that. It’s kind of saved us in a way – we had a purpose and studio and we do all the hours a project demands. It feels like the next chapter in my life. I’m loving working as part of this massive machine.”
Roddy Hart and The Lonesome Fire’s Roaming Roots Revue sees them collaborate live with special guests including Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil, Deacon Blue’s Lorraine McIntosh and Ricky Ross, and singer Rachel Sermanni.
The concert, to be streamed online on Saturday, January 30, is themed on songs of survival. Tickets from celticconnections.com
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