2 Minutes With … Dan Mufson, Songwriter and Producer

On finding your strength

Dan's career has spanned over 15 years, running the gamut of commercials, TV and film scoring, performing and record producing.

We spent two minutes with Dan to learn more about his background, his creative inspirations and recent work he's admired.

Dan, tell us …

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in Philadelphia. I now live in Los Angeles. 

Your earliest musical memory.

Listening to The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper on cassette in the car with my parents.

Your favorite bands/musicians today.

Rosalia, Jungle and Run the Jewels.

One of your favorite projects you've ever worked on.

Nike Just Do It: "Tiempo de Ser Héroes"

It was an absolute pleasure collaborating with Walker and Wieden+Kennedy to create an original, gritty and anthemic hip-hop-based score for a Nike campaign. The music was composed and produced by me, featuring vocals by rapper Niña Dioz. "Tiempo de Ser Héroes" ("Time to Be Heroes") tells stories about unexpected female athletes. It is an invitation to a sports-driven movement, encouraging athletes of all levels to become the city's new heroes. It's about empowerment and overcoming limitations. The visuals are very cool. The project was directed by Loren Denis

A recent project you're proud of.

The soundtrack for an exciting Papa John's campaign. The spot is a hip-hop-driven, pepperoni-pizza-fever trip featuring one of the greatest rappers of all time, six-time Grammy Award-winning artist and Atlanta native Big Boi. In collaboration with Tiny Lion and The Martin Agency, I was brought in to create the driving beat, which features dirty 808s, vintage horn stabs and warble-y analog synthesizers. I grew up listening to and loving Outkast and Big Boi's solo records, so when I heard his voice for the first time on top of my beat, it was surreal. 

One thing about how the music world is evolving that you're excited about.

I recently bought a piece of equipment I'm really passionate about, the Trinnov. It's a studio acoustics processing computer designed to make a listening environment as flat and accurate as possible. I've spent many years having to do the "mix car test." Now, what leaves my room will sound the same at Skywalker Ranch Sound, on my Apple iPod Pros or on broadcast television. It really saves me time when it comes to mixing.

Someone else's work, in music or beyond, that you admired lately.

Composer Theodore Shapiro's score to Severance, a drama on Apple+ directed by Ben Stiller. The show is amazing, with the perfect score to match. Specifically, the title theme has this haunting piano melody that makes me feel uneasy. I'm excited for the next season.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

Book: I really liked Tools for Titans by Tim Ferriss. Each chapter showcases a highly successful person in their daily routine. It was fascinating and inspiring. 

An artist you admire outside the world of music.

Tim Burton 

Your favorite fictional character.

1989 Batman 

How musicians should approach working with brands.

If you have fun with a specific style or genre, it will resonate with the listener. Being a jack-of-all-trades is a negative thing at times. Finding your strength and leading with that can help a brand or agency realize how you might be a valuable weapon in their artillery for specific projects. 

How brands should approach working with musicians.

Custom music is a great way to elevate a production. Our favorite films and TV shows have custom scores and music supervision to help heighten the story and message. Brands should do the same rather than turning to library music out of convenience or habit. 

A mentor who helped you navigate the industry.

Rick Depofi. Rick had a music house in the meatpacking district in New York City called NY Noise. In the early 2000s, it was a wonderful place to be an intern. I did everything from running recording sessions to making coffee and running errands. It's where I got my first opportunity to write music-to-picture and quickly got the bug. Great advice he gave me was: "When writing music for ads, don't write music that sounds like ad music." I give that same advice today when I connect with new composers wanting to enter the industry.  

What you'd be doing if you weren't in the music business.

According to my mother, a therapist. 

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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