This month we’re featuring a 2020 Mark Awards winner! Chris Hanson founded MidCoast Music which is an award winning hard-working outfit of producers, songwriters and musicians, headquartered on the shores of the Great Lakes in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
With twenty-plus years in the production music business, production credits stretching back to the 1970s, and catalogs with industry powerhouse Warner Chappell Production Music, MidCoast Music has carved out a niche for itself by consistently delivering inspired material across a huge range of genres for television, film, and online media.
In addition to its core group of musicians, MidCoast Music draws on a talent pool that includes Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver), Robben Ford (Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis), Joe Bonamassa, Roscoe Beck (Leonard Cohen), Jon Cleary (Michael Jackson), Victor De Lorenzo (Violent Femmes), Greg Koch, and many others, and it has credits with every major network (from ABC to Zoom!) and practically every show you’ve ever seen (from the Academy Awards to the Super Bowl to WWF Smackdown!).
How did you get your start in production music?
I’ve been performing and producing with artists in the Midwest since my teens. One of my guitar students who was a DJ at a Milwaukee radio station hooked me up with AV Deli, a radio library.
From there an opportunity opened up to contribute to the launching of the Gravity, Ignite And Who Did That Music libraries
at Groove Addicts. I spent ten years with my friends Joe And Stew at VideoHelper, then was executive producer for the Live Source and Sound Stories Catalogs at Banshee Music which were distributed by 615 and APM.
I started MidCoast Music’s Artist Songs, Wired and Special Occasion Catalogs found at Warner Chappell Production Music.
What is your favorite style of music to create and why?
The music that came out of America influenced the world. Jazz, blues, rock, hip hop, country and folk reflects what happens when you put people from all over the world together. Performing live music in any of these styles, either in the studio or stage. The interaction and musical conversations and friendships are so uplifting. You can communicate on levels conversations just can’t do. A well crafted song or composition is a work of art which can affect people.
What was your first ever placement?
I have no idea but I do remember my first ASCAP statement and and having page after page of promos and backgrounds for 20/20, SNL, Monday Night Football, Sex In The City, The Today Show…
What has been your favorite placement or project you’ve worked on thus far? What made it special for you?
Well the one I just finished is always my favorite. I also love collaborating with fellow writers.
I did a project where I made my metal body Dobro be the only sound source for everything (percussion, melody, pads. sound design, hits).
That Dobro was hit, bowed, picked, hammered, slid, scraped……….
It wound up being placed on numerous episodes of Deadwood (HBO) and many others.
What has been the most unexpected aspect of this industry for you?
How kind and helpful everyone is to each other in Production Music. My composer and music industry friends are the best and
these friendships have gone on for decades!
Where do you find your inspiration?
From life and the people and situations you encounter. This keeps you in tune with what really matters in life reflected in music.
If it’s a lyrical song hitting on what the pulse of the people are at the time in a timeless way. That being said I tend to listen to singers and then try make the instruments sing like a voice. Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone. From there the sounds you hear everywhere.
As a kid and budding guitar player it was Les Paul from my home town of Waukesha. I used to visit his mom. Very inspiring! That led to Django, Chet Atkins, Albert King, Roy Buchanan, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Pass and countless others.
On the production end Les Paul, George Martin, The Beatles, Brian Wilson, Prince, Quincy Jones, Mick Ronson (Bowie’s guitar player), Queen, the Glam rock era and experimental electronica.
The arrangements of Billy Strayhorn and Fletcher Henderson are engraved in my brain. I love the composers who twisted the expected and took you to places no one has been before.
What impressionistic composers Faure and Satie did with voicings and tonalities in many ways is a parallel universe to what Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Coltrane and Hendrix did with jazz, blues and rock.
What is your dream placement?
For financial reasons a Theme on a hit show that runs for years!
For artistic gratification I love when a song or composition fits a scene perfectly and helps tell the story with the emotion and setting the producer/writer intended or needs. Preferably on a blockbuster hit!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Once you start a song finish it while you’re still in the mood. Write a lot and you’ll get the hang of it. Leave the door open to the next thing to learn and you’ll never stop growing.
Now give us your best industry tip!
Make your music real and from the heart. This will get you farther than any latest trend. Be aware of the trends but better yet create the new trends. Learn the business of music! The PMA is superb resource!
Follow Chris & MidCoast Music!