Behind Peacock’s “Till Jail Do Us Part” with Award Winning Composer, Juan Carlos Enriquez

Published on in Exclusive Interviews

Composer Juan Carlos Enriquez's most recent project includes NBC Universal's Peacock's first Spanish-speaking and Latino-produced streaming show, 'Till Jail Do Us Part which follows the story of four women who are going through their worst nightmare after the police arrest their husbands for being linked to the same criminal organization. 

Juan Carlos recorded a premium score for the show at Capitol Studios in Hollywood with an A-list team of musicians and engineers. He also recorded for an orchestra in Europe (Macedonia). 

Juan Carlos has also worked on projects produced by acclaimed filmmakers such as Darren Aronofsky, Robert Rodriguez, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Roberto Orci, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Damon Lindelof, David Fincher, Alex Gibney, Jose Padilha, Matthew Heineman, Jorge R. Gutierrez, Los Perez, and The Duplass Brothers. 

PH: Can you share your background and a bit about your journey in the production industry thus far? 

Juan Carlos Enriquez: I was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, which has a very musically rich community and culture (the land of Mariachi music), and decided to pursue a career in the film music industry when I was in high school after being in love with both filmmaking and music. I used to make short films with friends and play in rock bands.  

I then moved to the US to study Film Scoring at the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston, and right after graduating, I flew straight to Los Angeles, CA, to pursue my aspirations in the industry.

My first job in the industry was being an intern for a film and TV composer, which then transitioned into a full-time assistant role. I lasted a few months in that role and then was hired by Pedro Bromfman, a Brazilian composer who has been a big supporter of mine throughout the years, both personally and professionally. I worked with him as his right-hand man and an additional composer on notable projects such as Netflix’s Golden Globe-nominated Narcos (seasons 1-3), movies like Robocop (the 2014 reboot), and video games such as EA’s Need for Speed: Heat, and Ubisoft’s BAFTA-nominated Far Cry 6. 

For a while, I also jumped around on different established composer writing teams as an additional composer and/or music arranger on projects such as Universal’s Furious 7, Fate of the Furious, Sony’s The Girl In The Spider’s Web (produced by David Fincher), and Netflix’s BAFTA nominated animation Maya and the Three (produced by Jorge R. Gutierrez). 

My music career has also exposed me to the advertisement industry, and this year I had the honor of being awarded two bronze Clio Music awards for my music work on a trailer starring Cristo Fernandez (Ted Lasso) for the video game Forza Horizon 5, produced by Microsoft.

PH: What have been some of the biggest lessons you've learned working a career in the production industry?

Juan Carlos Enriquez: Some of the biggest lessons learned have been the importance of self-discipline and organization skills, especially as a freelance professional, as I am in charge of the internal production schedule of a score and as “head of the department”, or as a hired composer on a project, it’s on you to meet the deadlines and time and on budget. Besides that, being a clear, efficient, and tactful communicator is paramount to expressing your ideas, needs, or problems to other production members in other departments or to your own team members. The final lesson is that building a solid career in the industry takes time and constant hard work. 

PH: Let's talk about project selection — how do you determine what projects you select to work with?

Juan Carlos Enriquez: At the beginning of my career, I said yes to everything offered to me, from no-budget short films to higher-profile projects as a ghostwriter for other composers. Every project was an opportunity to learn more about my craft, improve my production skills, build a new relationship, or make some extra money that particular month, which I needed to afford living in Los Angeles, CA. 

It was not until recently that I started to have the luxury of being more selective about the projects I pursue or accept if offered. For me to accept scoring a project, I am mainly looking at the story (if it resonates with me or I find it interesting or exciting), the musical style that is, or might be, needed to evaluate if its something I am interested in diving into, and who are the filmmakers in charge of the production (director, producers, network, studio, etc), and if their current or past work is something that excites me. 

PH: How did you get involved with your latest project Till Jail Do Us Part?

Juan Carlos Enriquez: I had the great luck of being recommended to the producers as a composer candidate for another project they were working on at the time. I was not chosen for that project but the producers were impressed enough with my work and past credits that they invited me to demo for ‘Till Jail Do Us Part, which was another show they had in the works. I was asked to present a proposal for the Main Titles and a few key scenes based on the script of the first 3 episodes. Thankfully, everyone on the creative team, as well as the head producers, Kate del Castillo, Mariana Iskandarani, Juan Ponce, and Marcos Santana, loved my proposals, and I was offered the project.  

PH: Can you share your creative approach and process going into this project?

Juan Carlos Enriquez: Going into this project, I knew I had to capture the essence of Miami in a fun and unique way. I also knew that I had to come up with a distinct musical identity and language for each of the lead characters and the show as a whole and that I wanted to give the show at certain key moments a very grandiose and cinematic feeling, so I knew live musicians and a live orchestra were going to be crucial aspects of the score. I started thinking about musical styles and the general aesthetic I wanted to give to the show and how I could produce it given my budget and post-production schedule ahead.  

PH: Can you dive into your creative process a bit? 

Juan Carlos Enriquez: Whenever I start a new project, I like to begin away from the computer. I am an avid instrument collector, so I like to jump around my studio playing different instruments aiming to find a musical phrase, progression, or texture that resonates with the project’s story or mood. It is not the same to “search” for musical ideas using a piano as your instrument, as using a guitar, or even a modular synth system. Each instrument and its idiosyncratic elements, such as its tuning, how skilled you are at playing it, or its sonic qualities, guide your musical instincts in different ways that I find inspiring.  

PH: What were some of the challenges you encountered, and how did you resolve them?   

Juan Carlos Enriquez: For the ‘Till Jail Do Us Part, the timeline we had for post-production was one of the main challenges we faced. I both created an internal library of sounds that were used recurrently on several cues, as well as an internal library of full tracks with stems that we were able to edit on certain scenes. 

PH: Some of your other recent projects include recording a premium score for the show at Capitol Studios in Hollywood with an A-list team of musicians and engineers, as well as recording for an orchestra in Europe (Macedonia). How does the approach you take on these projects differ? 

Juan Carlos Enriquez: Whenever I know there will be a budget to record live musicians other than maybe myself and a couple of soloists, I approach the music production in a slightly different way. When live sessions are planned on a project, it means having more team members involved in order to fill the roles needed to make such recordings happen, such as an orchestrator, a recording and mixing engineer, and a music editor. On higher budget productions, I am able to book studios such as Capitol Studios, or FOX’s Newman Scoring Stage in Los Angeles, which have legendary acoustic spaces. I tend to mix and produce as I compose - I don’t separate the processes as much, so when I know we will be replacing the demo orchestra with a live orchestra recorded in the US or Europe, I make sure to write in a way that will make sense for musicians to perform. Sometimes when writing exclusively on the computer, you can get away with certain unrealistic parameters or musical ideas, such as unusually big live musician ensembles or musical sections that sound good but would be awkward or take too much time to record live. Because of this, whenever I know that I will have live recording sessions, I always have that thought in the back of my mind when composing, as it influences my choices in the instruments, writing of parts, and overall production. 

PH: Following up on this...can you pinpoint some of the differences between composing for film vs scores for live shows and orchestra?

Juan Carlos Enriquez: Composing music for different mediums have both many similarities and differences. The way I see it, composing music against visuals is an art form that requires attuning your musical sensibilities to the specific needs of the story. Media music needs to serve the image first, and work as a cohesive musical idea second. Sometimes film scores can feel unsatisfying as a standalone listening experience because a big part of the entire experience is the missing visuals. 

Film scores can enhance the story, play against it, or distract if not crafted carefully, so it is important as a media composer to always consider the visuals and the dialogue when working on your compositions. Film and TV scoring can be very similar in terms of needs, especially nowadays with modern productions on streaming services where a streaming series is practically a 10-hour movie event. 

Video games have some aspect of traditional composing to picture when dealing with “cut scenes,” but the interactive aspect of it is a whole other world that needs your attention and pre-planning when writing for that medium. 

On the other hand, concert music, usually performed by orchestras at live shows, is a different beast of its own that is usually commissioned by orchestras or organizations as part of their concert programs. 

In such cases, the majority of the time, concert music is supposed to stand alone by its own merits and can be both abstract in nature or tell a story, and is usually restrained by a certain ensemble size or instrumental lineup. 

Related to these differences, it is often said that modern film composers are what opera composers used to be before cinema was invented, as it is the concert music medium that most resembles the role of a composer in modern media.  

PH: Are there any general rules of thumb for composing? Can you describe your process and approach when working on something new? 

Juan Carlos Enriquez: There are no strict rules of thumb with composing, especially for media, which is a big reason why I enjoy this career so much as opposed to, for example, being in a band or being a solo recording artist, which might be more restricted in terms of the styles they can work on and release. Having said that, the closest thing to a “rule of thumb” in composing for media is that it needs to serve the story. If it doesn’t serve or help the story, then you are hurting the project and failing in your role as a media composer. 

Each project is an opportunity to explore a new style or try a fresh approach to something you have done before, which keeps the journey exciting. Whenever I am working on a new project, I tend to do a lot of research in terms of the story and also the references that the filmmakers might already have edited in as temp music. I analyze what is working and what is not working about the references they like. Most importantly, I try to distill the “why” something is working, as then I can also approach the project from a different musical angle, as long as I am addressing the story's needs.

After that internal process, I start to work on specific scenes based on the early cuts, dailies, or even the script. I then share these short musical ideas with the director or producers to start getting the musical discussion going and gauge if we are going in the right direction or if I was off in my approach.    

PH: Throughout your time in the industry, what have you learned about yourself (both personally and professionally?) 

Juan Carlos Enriquez: I have learned that I can thankfully handle stressful situations regarding short deadlines, changes of plans, and wild requests, as well as different personalities and communication styles on any given project. 

I have also learned that I need to be careful and more disciplined in terms of my working hours as if I am not vigilant I can stay 24/7 in the studio, so I need to make sure that I also make the time for the other important things in life.  

Professionally, I have learned that no style is out of my “scope” if I put in the focus and work to figure out the “why and how” any particular style that I may be unfamiliar with is what it is or working with the story. 

There have been a few moments in my career when, after the dust settles, when I look back and genuinely say, “Wow, how did I pull that off?”. Those moments are incredibly rewarding, so I aim not to be limited in the styles or types of projects I work on. 

PH: Can you talk a little about past projects including Maya and The Three, Narcos, Furious 7, Fate of the Furious, and more, and the challenges each of those presented? How have they shaped you as a professional today? 

Juan Carlos Enriquez: I participated in most of these past high-profile Hollywood productions as either an additional composer or music arranger on the music teams of composers such as Brian Tyle, Pedro Bromfman, Tim Davies, and Gustavo Santaolalla. I have had the incredible fortune of being invited to join these composer’s teams as a support element during the production of those scores, which is always a huge team effort. 

For example, I may be assigned to work smaller scenes so the lead composer can focus on the big moments of the film, which was the case in Furious 7 and Fate of the Furious, or I may be hired to work on specialized styles, such as Mexican folk music, which was the case on Maya and the Three. 

On Narcos, on the other hand, I started as an assistant to Pedro Bromfman and slowly evolved as an arranger and additional composer throughout the first 3 seasons of the series. Each project presented its own challenges, from the stresses of dealing with a massive franchise such as Fast and Furious to the challenges of crafting an interesting musical aesthetic that felt fresh, authentic, and cinematic using mostly only Latin American instruments for Narcos 

Having the privilege of working on the music teams of more established composers on such high-profile productions gave me the opportunity to treat each of those projects as a learning experience. Without a doubt, I am the composer I am today thanks to all the feedback and lessons learned from the composers that hired me during projects earlier in my career. I had to learn very fast and improve my production and composition skills in a very short amount of time in order to be a helpful asset in such productions. 

PH: You were also selected as a participant of the sought-after Recording Academy's "GRAMMY Next" Program which aims to identify and empower the next generation of music industry leaders. What has that experience been like?

Juan Carlos Enriquez: Being a participant in the GRAMMY NEXT program was immensely rewarding. GRAMMY award-nominated composer and arranger Ryan Shore (In The Heights, Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures, The Oscars), was the assigned mentor I had for the duration of the program. He spent time with me and answered a lot of questions and concerns I had about the industry and has been a big supporter of my career. 

Also, thanks to the program’s networking opportunities with other GRAMMY NEXT participants, I was able to reconnect with my current go-to orchestrator, Lorenzo Carrano. The pandemic sadly limited a lot of the activities the program could organize from 2020-2021, but I am thankful for the honor, and I look forward to continuing my role as an active member of the Recording Academy advocating for the rights and well-being of musicians, producers, composers, and other music professionals. 

PH: Do you have any other upcoming projects you're excited to share?

Juan Carlos Enriquez: I am very excited to share that a few months ago, I scored the upcoming Netflix show, The Secret of the Greco Family, which premieres on Nov 4th, 2022. The 10-episode series is a moody, dark, and tense crime drama about kidnappings set in the 80s in Mexico based on real-life events that took place in Argentina. The show is produced by NBC Universal/Telemundo and Underground Producciones, one of Argentina’s premier reproduction companies. The acclaimed Argentinian filmmaker Sebastian Ortega is the showrunner of the show and stars Mexican actor Manuel Masalva (Narcos: Mexico). The show was an exciting professional challenge to tackle as I had to give the score an 80s feel without falling into cheesy troupes, as well as find the musical language for the weight of the show’s subject matter, kidnappings, a very serious matter in Mexico and Latin America. 

PH: What's a piece of advice you have for upcoming professionals in the industry?

Juan Carlos Enriquez: My main advice would be patience. It takes time to develop your skills, craft, sensibilities, creative and technical processes, and build the relationships needed to have a career in any creative field - music composition for media is no exception. I also highly suggest developing self-awareness to recognize both your strengths and shortcomings and use that knowledge to leverage opportunities in the industry by working for more established individuals that need your skills, but also to keep improving on the side of your weaknesses so you are constantly growing and evolving as a creative person, personally and professionally. 

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