Interview with Phil White, the man ‘all things music’ behind The Sweet Shop.

We sat down with Phil White, the composer of all the music for ‘The Sweet Shop’. Alongside Nick Blair, Phil will also be recording the location sound and creating the film’s audio mix. We wanted to find out more about Phil’s inspiration behind The Sweet Shop’s soundtrack.

What are your musical influences?

My earliest musical influences come from my Dad playing Beatles, Kinks, Stones and Who albums over and over during car journeys to Grandparents or holidays. He used to mix it in with some credible pop like Queen or The Eurythmics, but basically it was always music that had really quality melodies and musical hooks. So I guess that’s often a subconscious goal of mine when I’m writing songs, to achieve those elements in my own tracks.

What can we expect from the songs in ‘The Sweet Shop’?

They’re mostly acoustic tracks where the only parts are a vocal and an acoustic guitar. I’m hoping they will be representative of how the characters are feeling at the various points in their lives within during this film. Obviously I hope people like them, they’re all based on strong melodies so even if people don’t like them they’ll probably remember them! We wanted to avoid having to dub music on in this film in as many places as possible, we wanted the music to essentially be recorded live on set and then left untouched so you’re left with the performance we captured there and then, rather than something done later in the studio.

Are there any plans to release any of the songs?

Well, depending on how well the film does, yes we’d really like to release the main theme song, also called The Sweet Shop, but we’ll see how things go. We’ve got an idea in the pipeline as to how and what should be released and a possible EP or albums worth of material being released in some capacity possibly accompanied by some gigs but that’s all under wraps for now until more things have taken shape. There’s also a possibility of a music video to accompany the main song directed by Tom Furr, one of the guys at MWS who’s been intrinsic in the preparation side of things with regards to the music and kick starting something other than just the film happening so that’s pretty exciting for us as well.

How much did the script influence your song writing?

Rather than let the script influence me when writing the songs for the film, I worked in the same way I have done previously with Ben Myers the Director, where he and I sit down and discuss the characters and what’s happening to them at the point in the film where the music is being used. I find it so much easier to then go away knowing the feel of the scene in terms of emotions on display from characters which obviously you can’t necessarily get from simply reading a script. Ben gives me mini breakdowns of the kind of thing he’d like the music to get across, sometimes its just a few words and others can be full paragraphs describing how he see’s, or hears the music for a certain film and I like the challenge of trying to come up with something that fits the film in his mind before we have even started filming, because if the director can visualise the scene with the music I’ve demo’ed up for him then that’s got to be a good sign I guess.

Was is the title track called and tell us a bit about that?

The title track, as I mentioned just now, is called “The Sweet Shop” the same name as the film itself. It’s one of those songs where I had trouble giving it a title initially because it doesn’t have much repetition or a lyric that I felt was deserving of being the actual title, and then after thinking about it for a while, and both Ben and myself constantly referring to it as “the Sweet Shop main song” it dawned on me that that was the obvious choice.

I’m always writing new material. I had started writing the very opening lines to the song, in terms of just the melody and chords but no lyrics, literally just around the time Ben had started to describe to me what he wanted from the main song, and while I hadn’t at that point earmarked it as a song necessarily for the film it sprung to mind immediately, fate I guess. So I finished it off as quickly as possible and Ben and everyone in the office all really liked it. I sent the demo to some other friends and family members whose opinion I trust and they all liked it too. I then added a middle 8 section after chatting about it needing one with Ben, I ran in to another room with my guitar and quickly wrote what was in my mind and that never changed from that point on, it just felt like the song was finally finished.

When Ben and I were discussing where and how music should be placed in the film we hit upon the idea that the main character, Jarvis, is writing a song and has been trying to finish this one song in particular since he was a teenager. The idea behind it is lyrically he can’t finish the song because of his family situation at home, but he also literally can’t sing the song as the melody has a section where he has to flip into falsetto and when he’s a teenager he can’t quite sing it right. So by the end of the film his character’s experience is cathartic and that enables him to finally complete the song.

Personally, now it’s a finished song, I think it’s one of my best and I’m really pleased it’s going in the film. I think it expresses exactly what we’re trying to say about Jarvis’ character and The Sweet Shop as a film as well.

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