BWW Interview: Get To Know Patric Caird, The Composer Behind SAVE ME, THE ORDER, and ED, EDD N EDDY's Iconic Music
Many artists spend their career focused on doing just one thing, but for Canadian composer Patric Caird, variety has been a priority over the last two-and-a-half decades. From his home in Los Angeles, Caird delved into his personal history with animation, film, and television - and even hinted at upcoming work - to give us a sense of what it takes to succeed in an ever-changing industry.
With credits ranging from his recent work on Fab Filippo's CBC comedy series Save Me and Netflix's supernatural drama The Order, all the way back to the early days of his career with the beloved cartoon Ed, Edd n Eddy, Caird has remained an important figure in the world of music composition because of his ability to adapt to the demands of a multitude of genres and mediums.
When it comes to creating music for a series, Caird leans into his responsibilities during pre-production to ensure the post-production process goes as smoothly as possible. "It's different with each project but ideally I'll get involved early and read the scripts as they're writing them, I'll get into a conversation with the producer, the main showrunner or main writer, about what they're hearing and I'll usually respond by writing some stuff or playing some examples. The music isn't always from TV or films, sometimes it's mainstream songs or classical music - the goal is to get an idea of what we're all hearing and try to get on the same track."
Despite his work in the early stages of creating a show, Caird's contributions are often among the last to be implemented. "Once you start making the show, that's when you can really start to figure out how much music do we need to put into this, does [the story] ask for a lot, or does it need no music? And those kinds of questions are basically answered by the show itself when I get a cut of the show. Once it's been acted and edited and I can see what the cameras, lighting, set design, and actors have done, then I can kind of get a feel for what kind of music we want to put in there. Music can have a lot of different functions, but it's often the last creative element on the way out the door."
Music in a show or movie, regardless of whether audiences really notice it, is important when it comes to conveying tone and emotion. Caird notes that while his main role is to compose music that suits the story, he also supports the decision-making around that music's placement in the scene. "It's very interesting to see the before and after of a scene with and without music. Actually, one of the most interesting things about the job is deciding when you're going start to play music and the why. You could be watching something and then realize 'Oh, there's music,' but then other times you're watching something and the music starts, and you realize, 'Oh, something's happening'? Those decisions, the beginnings and endings of cues, those are the real decisions that can change and really impact the tone of the show."
Aside from his responsibility in making sure the music he creates works with the footage, Caird must also account for transitions between the original score and music brought in from outside sources. "I don't usually get involved with [selecting or editing] that song, it just stands as it is. Sometimes I'll write my music to lead us up to it and join it, so I have to know what the vibe is, as well as issues like tempo and key and such. In The Order there was some music that they used for the love scenes between Jack and Alyssa which worked beautifully when they were rolling around and having fun, but then we had to pick the spot where the tone of the scene changed and I would come in, in the same vibe and idea and feel of what we've just been listening to, and I would morph it into the score."
Considering the amount of work involved, does Caird find orchestrating his music around other artists' work daunting? "It's really a lot of fun! It's great when you can go, 'Hm, where did that - when did we change? We're not in the song, we're not in Kansas anymore!'"
Caird's ability to write for a wide range of genres has also proven helpful when a series requires a tonal shift. "With a show like The Order, for example, we started in One Direction with a more modern, aggressive percussion and sort of synth-y sound, but as we got deeper into the show it started to ask for a more formal, not gothic, but operatic sort of voice. We also needed to be where we could get a little arc from time to time because the characters were getting arcs - and because let's face it, if someone's about to turn into a werewolf for the first time we're not talking verité!"
As with many artists, there was a clear launching-point in Caird's career that helped him carve a place out for himself as a composer in both Canadian and American media. Ed, Edd n Eddy first aired in 1999, and has remained an important part of Caird's life since it wrapped with a televised movie in 2009. But how did he first get involved with the show, which is widely-known and loved by many people for whom the show was an iconic staple of their childhoods?
"Well, Danny Antonucci, the creator of the Eds, is a huge jazz fan and we actually met living in the same housing development. He looked more like a punk rock musician with the spiked hair and tattoos, and I was the freaky jazz guy with the long hair and the white skin, totally pale from never seeing the sun - but we got along really great, we both loved Sinatra and Coleman, and we would hang out and listen to music together."
"There is a bit of a tradition in animation of horns and jazzy kind of stuff, but Danny didn't want to do anything that had been done before - that was his big thing. He doesn't like copying stuff, he wants to be original, which I think is one of the things that made Ed, Edd n Eddy so popular - no one had ever seen something like that before." If we can assume anything based on reception to the show, it's that the choice to do something completely new was a good one. The show ran for almost 11 years, making it the longest-running Cartoon Network original series. At the time of its finale, it was also the longest-running Canadian-produced animated series - not bad at all for a show with the simple premise of three friends causing trouble in their neighbourhood.
While Antonucci was the showrunner and main visionary behind the Eds, Caird is to credit for the musicality of the show, which features extensive musical accompaniment throughout all six seasons, four specials, and movie. "I like to describe the actual underscore as like, Louis Prima's band bus and Duke Ellington's band bus are in a head-on collision in the desert and the Eds band is made up of the survivors!" Caird laughs. "Of course, you don't want either of those band buses to get into a collision, but if they were, and it was the middle of the desert...anyway! That was sort of the motivation behind it, and I just loved doing that show. It was pretty intense work but I got to record live musicians for every episode, and I had teams for each character. They really loved doing it because it was so weird, and it was challenging for them and challenging for me, so it kind of kept us on our toes for ten years."
Even with such a wide-reaching catalogue of work, Caird finds that it's his contributions to the slapstick cartoon that earn him the most recognition. "It's one of the things that, it was big in Canada, but it was massive in the States. When I moved down here people would say, 'So what have you done?' and I'd go through a few series that I'd done and they'd stare at me blankly, and then I'd say 'Oh, and I do the music for Ed, Edd and Eddy,' and they'd go 'Yeah right,' and I'd have to insist that I did!"
"It's funny, not too long ago in my neighbourhood there was a guy building a house, so I would say hi to him every morning on my walk. Finally one day he'd finished the house so we were standing there and we started talking, and he asked, 'What do you do?' So I told him I write music, and he asked if I had done anything he might have heard of. I didn't even bother with the other things, I just said 'Ed, Edd and Eddy,' and he went, 'You're kidding me, right?' and takes out his cellphone and he said, 'Listen to my ringtone.' It was the theme for 'Ed, Edd and Eddy!' Caird laughed at the recollection. "It was so funny! It's so great, here he is, he's a contractor building homes in the Hills, and that's his ringtone."
"It's really gratifying and I think culturally, it made a bit of a mark and just to be involved in something like that is a privilege. I'm glad we did it and I wish it was still going on, it was so much fun. Even if it was kind of grueling work, I would do it again tomorrow in a heartbeat."
Caird credits the multitude of collaborators he's had throughout his career for helping to make his work more interesting, and even hinted at an upcoming musical he's developing alongside Save Me showrunner Filippo.
"It's top secret - it's double top secret! No, it's totally fine to mention that we're collaborating on a musical, although it doesn't really have a title yet, it's still a work in progress, but the process is really a blast. We work well together, we've been friends for years, and I've always loved the stuff that he's done, and he's liked the music that I've done, so it seems like the next great idea. Fab has such a unique vision of the world - it's funny, it's dark, it's human - it's just beautiful. I really enjoy our work on Save Me, and obviously a musical will be different from that, but it's soul is Fab's soul and he's a great guy to work with."
And of course, Caird loves the challenge that comes with writing for a musical. "There's that saying that, you know, how do you go from saying something to singing it? And ideally, it's when the emotion or the idea gets bigger than what can just be said, and the only way it can be expressed is through song. So, those transitions where you can only say so much with words and then music has to happen. The thing that I find is really powerful is when the music has to happen and the actors are suddenly singing - that's a huge leap of faith, and you've got to sell that and make it work. That's in the writing, it's in the music, and Fab and I are exploring that and having a ball with it."
Main photo credit: Michael Becker