French Composer Lionel Fabert Designs Award-Winning Scores for Films and Brands

As an award-winning French music composer, Lionel Fabert has filled our lives with some of the most recognizable cinematic trailer scores. After the first notes of Heart’s “Crazy on You” from the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 rings in our ears, we’re left with a broad smile plastered on our faces. We were lucky enough and completely thrilled, to sit with Lionel Fabert for a conversation and dive into some of his famous trailer scores.

Where in France are you originally from? Paris? – or did you move to Paris to pursue your career as a freelancer?

I was born in Guadeloupe, a French Caribbean island, and lived there until I was 18 years old. I decided to move to Paris to study Information Technology Engineering because there were no engineering schools in Guadeloupe.

So you have an Information Technology Engineering Degree and started your career as a Data & IT Project Manager. How did you become a music composer & sound designer from there? 

In school, I did well, l but I had no clue what career I’d love. My parents and teachers suggested engineering for its stability and good pay, and I went along with it because it seemed like the easy choice. However, music has always been a big part of my life. Once I began composing music for artists, I realized I wanted to make a career out of it. After spending seven years at a top company in France, where every day felt like a compromise of my true passion, I quit. This was in 2018. I wanted to see if I could make it as a full-time music composer.

That’s pretty brave.

The decision to leave a well-paying job and dive into the uncertain world of music composition wasn’t easy. I was acutely aware of the financial challenges that lay ahead. The music industry is notoriously unpredictable, and achieving financial freedom as a composer is a daunting task. It requires not only talent but also a bit of luck, persistence, and the ability to navigate the highs and lows of freelance work.

Did this IT experience in any way help or influence you throughout your music career?

The key skills I acquired from my engineering background include organizational proficiency, a problem-solving approach, and effective presentation abilities for both projects and personal representation. These are skills I actively apply daily.

Which instruments do you play, and for how long?

I started playing guitar when I was 9 and then learned drums, percussion, and piano at around 15. I am mostly a guitar player but I manage to play other instruments fairly easily. 

Have you always wanted to work in the music/film industry?

 Initially, I aimed to work predominantly with artists, focusing on composing and producing music for rappers and pop singers. However, in 2013, I had the opportunity to meet a film producer who was impressed with the music my team and I were creating. Our group, called “TheStormz,” was offered the chance to score parts of the movie “La Cité Rose” and compose the soundtrack alongside renowned French artists. What captivated me the most was the process of creating music in tandem with the movie’s scenes due to the profound synergy between the visuals and the emotions that music can introduce to the narrative. This experience was a turning point for me, leading me to shift my focus primarily toward composing music for visual media, such as advertisements, trailers, and films.

Music is powerful. What was your process for composing music for films such as “Argylle,” “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season 3”?

The composing process varies significantly from one project to another. In the trailer industry, big studios typically reach out to composers through trailer houses and music supervisors to work on custom songs for their upcoming trailers. The trailer house manages the trailer’s edit, while the music supervisor oversees music selection, clearance, and the relationship with the composer.

I usually receive a brief that outlines certain guidelines and asks for my unique touch on top of all that. For instance, for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” Disney wanted a trailer remix – known as trailerization – of “Crazy On You” by the rock band Heart. They liked my initial version but requested a more pronounced climax. I delivered a revised version, which they approved for use in two movie trailers.

Great trailers! And Jack Ryan?

The process for “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season 3” differed markedly. I collaborated closely with several music supervisors, one of whom recommended a song I did for his catalog a few years back. The trailer house integrated my music into their edit, which was then showcased to the team at Prime Video, and everyone loved the cut with my music.

 And Argylle?

For “Argylle,” I was tasked with creating an energetic action remix of “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley. Despite the challenge, the final product was exceptionally well-received. It’s one of my most successful trailerizations to date, with Universal Pictures choosing it for all international trailers and promotional materials.

I loved that song choice!

I have so many people reaching out to me to listen to the full song, but I can’t because I don’t have permission to release it! 

Was anything the same for you in your process for these three projects with such different song genres, and how you approached them?

 I believe the introduction is the most challenging and crucial part of music composition. So, I usually contribute much to engaging rhythms and melodies for the introductory part of every song. While the middle section and final part are also important, I value the “wow” effect with big drums, orchestra, and a lot of sound design!

Regarding my approach, trailer music is generally divided into three main parts. I hold the belief that the introduction is essential. Therefore, I put a lot of work into crafting an enticing preview of the song through captivating rhythms, melodies, and sound effects. After that, I am working on the middle part and the climax. Even if they hold their importance, my emphasis there is mostly on heightening the impact that’s vital for a movie trailer, using powerful drums, orchestral elements, and extensive sound design to achieve the “wow” factor.

You mentioned that you played a vital role in the award-winning TV marketing campaign for “The Gray Man.” What exactly did you do for that movie? Can you clarify? 

I composed music for one of “The Gray Man” trailers, featuring an arrangement of the classic song “Anything You Can Do.” This trailer edit was completed by “Rogue Planet,” a prominent trailer house based in Los Angeles. The TV marketing campaign garnered numerous awards, notably two Clio awards and one at the Golden Trailer Awards, both prestigious honors in the advertising industry. The music I composed received critical acclaim, earning two awards. Even the movie directors, the Russo brothers, known for their work on “Captain America” and several major Marvel films, listened to my composition and were impressed by it.

 How is your work different when you are in charge of leading/supervising the music production for global brands such as McDonald’s and LinkedIn?

 When I work for a brand, the process differs significantly because my focus shifts primarily toward creating a thematic melody that is repetitive, appealing, and catchy for the audience. Clients prefer the music not to overshadow the image. This means I engage in more discussions with the creative team to understand what will resonate with the brand. Consequently, I often produce multiple alternative versions to ensure the music and emotions align perfectly with the message.

You mentioned a few awards from “The Gray Man.” Could you tell me more about all of the different awards you’ve received?

 I’ve received 4 awards so far. First, the 2023 Production Music Award for Best Hip Hop / Rap Song for the song “Know My Name,” featuring great vocals by the Canadian artist Patrik Kabongo and published by Infinity Scores. I was thrilled to win this award showcasing my work and dedication to innovation. Next, there was the 2023 Golden Trailer Award for Best Music TV Spot. For my work on the music of “The Gray Man” TV spot.

The year before, I received the Bronze 2022 Clio Award for the music of “The Gray Man” TV Spot on Netflix. It’s one of the most famous recognitions. I also earned an Honorable Mention at the Los Angeles Film Awards for the score of “Alternatum” with the group “TheStormz” in 2016

That’s pretty impressive. I bet you were thrilled.

Yes, the biggest accomplishment is the award to recognize your talents and skills. It’s always inspiring to take one step further. 

Proposition: Seeing my efforts acknowledged by numerous professionals in both the music and film sectors is truly rewarding. I consider it a significant accomplishment.

Ok, so I know you probably can’t give me details, but do you have any upcoming projects, or are you currently working on a project we might know? Maybe you could give me a glimpse of what you’re up to?

No, no details, but I am working on a new album for the trailer world with influences that have not been explored so far and will be released under my music label “Cooking Noise,” a new music house specializing in music for brands, trailers, and sports. 

 Well that is something we’re excited to listen to! Thank you so much for your time today, Lionel.

 My pleasure.

 About the Interviewer

Kara Blevins is a freelancer who is lucky enough to cover her favorite things: movies, TV, music, and entertainment.


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