Award-winning composer and songwriter Cormac Bluestone currently scores Fox's The Cool Kids, executive produced by Charlie Day. Cormac frequently collaborates with Charlie and is best known as the composer for It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Cormac also scores YouTube Premium's female comedy "Overthinking with Kate and June" and the viral YouTube series "Teens React," "Elders React" and "YouTubers React," which have accumulated hundreds of millions of views since their premiere. He discusses creating original songs for It's Always Sunny, as well as a jazzy, upbeat score for The Cool Kids.
PH: How did you get into this and at what point did you realize you wanted to be a composer? Can you talk about The Cool Kids and how you got involved?
Cormac Bluestone: I have always loved music in television and film: How it made me feel when I was watching a program or how it would evoke imagery from that project when just listening to a score.
I wrote a lot of music for theater in New York early in my career: songs, scores and soundscapes from Shakespeare, Brecht to contemporary new works. It’s where I learned and applied the simple principles of scoring narrative work. The Cool Kids, being a multi-cam, feels very much like theater: We have an audience and the music carries us from one scene to the next as if it were covering the footsteps of stagehands changing scenery. At the same time, the music can’t add time to the change and needs to lean into the given circumstances to keep the audience in the narrative.
I have known Charlie Day for years and have been lucky enough to do a variety of work on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. We have played music together as long as we’ve known each other (a lot of blues). When The Cool Kids got a pilot order, it felt like the right fit for me.
PH: You've worked with Charlie before - you're known for your work on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. What was it like working with him again?
Cormac Bluestone: I love working with Charlie! It is a great pleasure to have a job you love where you get to do it with friends. Working on a multi-cam was a new experience for us in terms of scoring music that helps create the world of the show. From our very first conversations, it felt like we were in the same ballpark of what the music was going to sound like.
PH: Now you created original songs for It's Always Sunny. What's that process like? How are you inspired?
Cormac Bluestone: The guys on the show have a very clear idea of what they’re going for when they bring me in: What needs to be done, what things need to sound like and how much time we have for them. When we did “Old Lady House: A Situation Comedy” for season 12, the script (written by Dannah Phirman and Danielle Schneider) called for a Sitcom theme song for the “Sitcom” within the episode. So, I did three versions of the song in various sitcom styles (Full House, Moonlighting, Facts of Life) for the guys to pick from. FX ended up using the instrumental version of the music for the promos as well.
PH: How was the approach for The Cool Kids different? Talk a bit about the jazzy, upbeat score.
Cormac Bluestone: The Cool Kids was different from Sunny because it’s a complete score that lives in one world (wherein Sunny we’ve done musicals, Lethal Weapon Parodies, Claymation Christmas Specials, extravagant Children’s Pageants, etc.). The score needed to be emblematic of the characters stage in life. The script made me think of the opening to the movie White Men Can’t Jump which features a trio singing “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” on the Venice boardwalk. It has this great bouncy groove, but still feels laid back. It is the type of song that any age person can tap their toe to.
I wanted to build a score that felt like that. All the cues are inspired and named after fad dances from the fifties - The Watusi, The Madison, The Dog, The Hitchhike to name a few. The score is fun without being intrusive and everyone can dance to all of it like a New Orleans Wedding band.
PH: What were some of the challenges you faced?
Cormac Bluestone: This was one of the most enjoyable projects I’ve ever gotten to score. We had an amazing cast, all of whom I grew up watching on television. The one challenge I faced was creating music that was worthy of the work on screen. Working on The Cool Kids was an incredible experience.
PH: In terms of composing, who inspires you and which scores do you love?
Cormac Bluestone: Television music was also something that constantly rang in my ears. Mike Posts’ Television scores were the music of my childhood. I also loved the contemporary sounds of Television and Film: Harold Faltemeyer, Mark Snow, Alan Thicke and Jon Carpenter.
I grew up listening to a lot of guitar-driven instrumental rock - Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Steve Morse. I loved how their music transported me, told stories without lyrics and in my mind, had pictures. Bernard Herrmann’s score for Hitchcock's Vertigo is one of my favorite film scores as is Elmer Bernstein’s (often overlooked) score for Ghostbusters. And anything by Danny Elfman (and that includes Oingo Boingo).
PH: What is the piece of music you are most proud of?
Cormac Bluestone: I’m extremely proud of the theme music for The Cool Kids. I am a guitar player and my foundation in music came from learning to play blues. The main riff for Cool Kids feels like a representation of the music I grew up playing. It’s also fun to play and is something you can dance too.
Another cue from the show I really like is The Madison. It’s this halftime piano-led groove - it’s a little funky but still feels like something you might hear walking down the halls of the Shady Meadow’s Retirement Community. I think it’s the cue we used the most in the show as well.
PH: What other projects are you working on?
Cormac Bluestone: I’m enjoying a little downtime with my family, working on some personal music projects, and getting some practice time in. I’m also looking forward to two Emmy Composer Panels in Los Angeles in June.