Interview: Joff Bush on his Experience Writing the Music for BLUEY!

Meet the Brisbane-based composer behind the songs, “Dance Mode,” “Keepy Uppy,” and the iconic BLUEY theme song!

By: Aug. 29, 2023
Interview: Joff Bush on his Experience Writing the Music for BLUEY!

The Australian animated television series, BLUEY, has captured the hearts of both children (and adults) around the world. Being the perfect blend of heartwarming stories and humor while showcasing relatable family dynamics, audiences can’t get enough of the show that premiered in 2018. Created by Joe Brumm and produced by Ludo Studio, the series follows Bluey, a young Blue Heeler puppy that frequently engages in imaginative play with her younger sister, Bingo. Her adventures are sparked by her creativity, curiosity, and drive to explore the joys of life. Supported by their equally creative parents Bandit (father) and Chilli (mother), Bluey and Bingo navigate through their childhood through imaginative games and roleplay scenarios that develop their young minds. Taking place in the suburb of Brisbane, BLUEY showcases many components of Australian culture and the joys of living there. BLUEY has become such a beloved children’s show entertaining audiences globally with its clever humor, endearing characters, and incorporation of valuable life lessons. 

Brisbane-based composer and musician, Joff Bush, is the primary music composer behind BLUEY. He is a Bachelor of Music graduate of the Queensland Conservatorium of Griffith University, one of Australia’s leading music and performing arts schools. Having worked in all eras of music including sound design, education, performing, arranging, and producing, Bush has found great success in composing for film, television, advertising, live theatre, and new media. Having written the soundtracks for shows such as “Australian Survivor,” “The Family Law,” and “Are You Tougher Than Your Ancestors?” Bush has quite the experience behind him. 

The music of BLUEY is an integral part of the show enhancing the stories of every episode with various unique music styles and richly layered instrumentation. BLUEY’s music was crafted by Bush (with the help of a team of additional composers and musicians) to seamlessly weave itself into each story through the addition of dimension to the high and low points of the series. Whether it’s ethereal melodies that add depth to more emotionally charged moments or upbeat tunes that enhance the more playful times, Bush brings audiences closer to BLUEY in unimaginable ways. The music of BLUEY is more than just a soundtrack representing the animated show. The songs elevate, inspire, and leave a lasting impression to all that watch and listen.  

Interview: Joff Bush on his Experience Writing the Music for BLUEY!

Bluey, Bingo, and friends. Photo Credit: Ludo Studio. 

Perhaps the most memorable song of BLUEY crafted by Bush is the 25 second theme song that begins every episode. The theme’s time signature is often debated and analyzed for being unique and features the distinguishable hand-claps, saxophone, and melodica sound that almost every child can immediately recognize the moment it reaches their ears. Furthermore, Bush produced 2 BLUEY full length soundtracks entitled, “Bluey: The Album” released in 2021 and “Dance Mode!” released in April of this year. “Bluey: The Album” features 17 original songs from the first season of the series including, “Keepy Uppy,” “Grannies,” “The Pool,”, and “The Creek.” Dividing the album into 2 parts, the 1st half contains more upbeat songs while the latter focuses on softer compositions. The album was the 1st children’s album to reach the top of the charts in Australia and debuted at number one on the ARIA album’s chart in February 2021. Additionally, it also won “Best Children’s Album” at the 2021 ARIA Music Awards. “Dance Mode!” was the follow up album after the successes of the first. Containing songs from the first, second, and third seasons of Bluey, the soundtrack features the bright EDM style song, “Dance Mode” and contains 17 songs written by Bush that capture the true essence of the show taking you on a musical journey full of wonder. 

Joff Bush has played a pivotal role in the success of BLUEY by touching audiences through the music that encapsulates the stories of the show. With the driving force behind Bush’s creativity being his love for storytelling, the magic and passion felt in each episode is exceptional and unmatched. On behalf of BroadwayWorld, I had the chance to speak with Joff Bush about his experiences composing for the show including the process of creating music for each episode and how the “Bluey sound” was formed. Read the full interview below! 

BLUEY has become a global phenomenon ever since it was released in 2018. Gaining traction for its ability to touch both children and adults with its humorous, heartfelt stories and music, the show has grown immensely and keeps getting bigger with time. How has your journey been with the show over the last few years? 

It’s been a wild ride, but probably not as wild as you’d think. We’re a relatively small team in Brisbane, Australia, which isn’t a huge city, so I think we’re a little bit isolated from the hubbub around the show. Each episode feels like we’re just friends in a room trying to make something great together and then … BAM! people talk about it all over the world! I’m still coming to grips with it all to be honest. 

Could you describe the process of how the music for an episode of BLUEY is created? Do you begin the creative process for the music after an episode is finished or do you compose as the episode is being created? 

It really depends on the episode. Some we start months before the deadline (even from the script stage), but usually we work from the animatic (a rough animated storyboard) a few weeks out. Most of the episodes I just do myself, but I have an amazing team of co-writers and musicians that I work with which allows  us to do multiple episodes in tandem. There are too many to name, but they are all amazing, beautiful people and make me a better composer.

Interview: Joff Bush on his Experience Writing the Music for BLUEY!

Bluey (Left), Muffin (Centre), and Bingo (Right). Photo Credit: Ludo Studio. 

The creative process for each episode must be so exciting! The BLUEY music team must have had a blast coming up with all kinds of ideas and directions where things would go for each episode. Were there any episodes that were challenging to compose for? In contrast, what was the episode where composing was the easiest? 

Absolutely. Some episodes just flow and some are more of a challenge. Coming up with ideas is the fun part while most of the challenges come from all the intricate details that go into each score. Sometimes it doesn’t come together at all until we have specific musicians come in and add their unique flavour. This part is like magic and I’m often rewriting things in the recording session. Keepy Uppy was one of those episodes where I re-wrote the main melody on the spot to match what the musicians were leaning towards playing. 

What sets the music of BLUEY apart from the music of other children’s shows is how different each song is. The true magic and beauty of being transported into different stories with each song is part of the reason why both the show and music have been so successful and really shows your versatility as a composer. How did your creativity with your music develop? Would you say it was more project based or experience based? 

Good question. I think a bit of both. Everything I need to know about what the score will be comes from the story. Each story can take a different approach. For example, the music for ‘Bike’ is me trying to emulate a child learning to play ‘Ode to Joy’ on the piano (so it’s quite a conceptual score) while an episode like 'Hotel' or ‘Grannies’ is very much about the perspectives of the characters. More often than not, the music plays how the kids perceive the game and the world of the game they’re playing. I just have to trust that it will end up sounding like me in the end. I like to think I have a unique ‘Bluey-esque’ sound to my writing. 

Interview: Joff Bush on his Experience Writing the Music for BLUEY!

Bluey (Left), Muffin (Left Centre), Socks (Right Centre), Bingo (Right). Photo Credit: Ludo Studio. 

This year, the second BLUEY album: “DANCE MODE!” was released in April and included a special edition zoetrope vinyl release for Record Store Day (which was extremely hard to snag in stores)! Listening to the songs in order, the first half of the album seems to reflect episodes with upbeat games and themes. The second half of “DANCE MODE!” seems to extend into the music for the more story-based episodes. I’m not sure if this was intentional, but I love the attention to detail that was put into everything about this album. What was the overall process like putting this entire album together (especially after the successes of the first album)? 

So glad you noticed that. We were very conscious of the Side A and Side B format (same with the first album). There’s actually a secret story to the album. The story is a little bit clear at some places. For example, Calypso’s ‘The Gnome Song’ leads into her introducing Rusty to Jack at the start of the track ‘Army.’ I still think it’s wild to have Chattermax and Rain on the same album, but I think it works.

One of the most interesting aspects that you embed into the music of BLUEY is the style of sound and purposeful imperfections placed within the songs. Along with your use of standard instruments like saxophones, string sections, etc, you have mentioned before that you like to use unique and/or broken instruments to create the “Bluey” sound. From secondhand guitars to an old Yamaha YC-25D organ that you have referred to as “the filthy beast” on Instagram, where did this style come from? Would you say you have adopted this way of creating music because of BLUEY or have you always been drawn to doing this? 

I think my music was always heading that way. Using ‘homely’ instruments and keeping the human imperfections of performances helps resonate with the show. I also find using broken and character-full instruments really inspiring - you have to make friends with them first and then they start to shine in unique ways! In general, I don’t think BLUEY would sound the same with a Stradivarius violin played in a beautiful concert hall. A lot of the BLUEY sound actually came from wanting to use live musicians on a tight budget. I had to fill out the violins with accordion and my voice singing ‘ooh’s’ to get a full enough sound. Eventually, that became the sound of the show. I’d also add that the musicians and co-writers that I work with all have unique sounds and sensibilities! When I hear an instrument in my head, it’s usually a particular musician I work with.

Interview: Joff Bush on his Experience Writing the Music for BLUEY!

Muffin (Left), Bingo (Centre), and Bluey (Right). Photo Credit: Ludo Studio. 

I love your incorporation of classical music into the music of Bluey! For example, when I was watching the episode from season 1 entitled, “The Claw,” I inadvertently realized it was Pachebel’s Canon slipped into the music and have noticed when Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flower was used in the “Ice Cream” episode of season 2. What prompted you to incorporate classical music into some of BLUEY’s music? 

There's usually two ways we use Classical music. The first is to take these well known pieces out of the concert hall into the perspective of the kids. There’s something really fun about messing with Mozart and Bach and taking it off its pedestal. Classical music can be super fun! The other way is to take the domestic into the sublime. In the episode, “Sleepytime,” Holst’s Jupiter is played over a simple scene of a family life to remind us that it’s about something much bigger. In that case, it’s about the parents' love of those children as they take the first steps towards independence.

Perspective is a big theme with the music of BLUEY. It’s evident that some of the music that you composed for the show reflects how Bluey and Bingo perceive music. As much as I don't want to think about it, BLUEY and Bingo will grow from puppies to adult dogs one day. If you had to write music to reflect both of them as adults, what style or genre of music would represent each of them? 

I’ve never really thought about that, but it’s a good question because it’s made me realize that I don’t have much experience writing operatic style scores where the music is descriptive of the characters. I’d like to think that both BLUEY and Bingo would grow up with a connection to their childhood and that the music from the show sticks with them. I know that they would keep seeing the  joy, wonder, and beauty of the world through their imaginative eyes.

Interview: Joff Bush on his Experience Writing the Music for BLUEY!

Bluey (Left) and Bingo (Right). Photo Credit: Ludo Studio. 

Either than the character you play in the show (Busker), is there another character that you find most similar to yourself in terms of personality? 

Oh, I love Muffin because she’s so chaotic, but I’m probably a lot more like Jack or Mackenzie.

Aside from BLUEY, what sorts of projects do you hope to work on in the future? Movies? Broadway? More TV? 

I actually have Sondheim’s Hat box set of books on my desk and would love to write a musical one day. In the meantime, Bluey is pretty all-encompassing. Basically, I just want to elevate stories that I love and are loved. Whether that’s a popular show like BLUEY or a little play in a 50 seat theatre, it doesn’t bother me.

BLUEY is available to stream on ABCiview (Australia) and Disney+ (US, Canada, UK, and more). Additionally, BLUEY’S BIG PLAY THE STAGE SHOW is set to tour throughout North America through July 2024. After first launching in New York City in 2022, the show has extended its run adding an additional 120 shows cities across the US and Canada.  The show is a theatrical production that brings Bluey, Bingo, Bandit, and Chilli to life in a live show featuring puppetry, live actors, and sets inspired by the animated series. BLUEY’S BIG PLAY will feature a new original story by the creator of Bluey, Joe Brumm, and new music by Bluey composer, Joff Bush. Ticket purchase details vary by venue. Visit the link below for more information. 

Top Photo Credit: Joff Bush 2023

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