This month we’re featuring Nathalie Bonin, an award-winning violinist and composer from Montreal, Canada now living in Los Angeles. Concertmaster of La Voix TVA (The Voice) in Montreal, she has been a featured soloist with Wynton Marsalis, Ted Nash and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra as well as performed or recorded with: Stevie Wonder, Luciano Pavarotti, Chance The Rapper, YES, Cirque du Soleil, DeadMau5, Alan Parsons, Peter Cetera, Charles Aznavour, Gino Vannelli, Moist, Bran Van 3000 and Nanette Workman. She recently premiered Quinsin Nachoff’s violin concerto which was released on the album Pivotal Arc (Whirlwind Recordings).
As a composer, Nathalie scored the music for five Hallmark movies this past year alone and has composed numerous theme songs and soundtracks for worldwide audiences. Her production music tracks can be heard on TF1, BBC, RTS, PBS, ESPN, MLB, Radio-Canada and NBC including the popular series New Amsterdam and the Award-Winning documentary The Kingmaker.
A bit of a daredevil, she also developed a world-class aerial violin act, performed at the NHL All-Star Game, Loréal, Toyota World Conference, SNC-Lavalin and numerous television shows including: La Vie est un Cirque, L’Heure de Gloire and Star Academy Finals.
How did you get your start in production music?
I had composed a bunch of music for the Just for Laughs Gags TV series in Montreal during the summer 2016 and just as they were starting the new season, the company was sold, their priorities changed, and all new music returned to the bins. I was left with about twenty unused tracks. A few months later, one of my composer friends, Cyril Morin, introduced me to his business partner Arnaud Gauthier who liked my work and so these tracks along with a few others sitting in my drawers were added to the Musique Package catalogue. The following year, Michael A. Levine, for whom I had interned in 2016, invited me to compose for MPATH, the label his wife Mirette had just started and that he was curating. I was in the middle of transitioning to Los Angeles and had no real composing contracts at the time, so I started writing for every album project MPATH invited me on and, so far, have composed about 30 tracks on 20 albums. Around the same time, Dan Brown Jr. was starting a new label called CrimeSonics. He had heard my violin playing and asked if I’d be interested in doing a dark, emotional solo violin album. Of course, I said yes and finished it in late 2018. In 2019, Arnaud was finalizing a deal with Universal Production Music France and invited me to be part of the core composers for the series Scoring Pictures for which I’ve been collaborating on 3 albums so far… It’s interesting to me how within just a few years, the production music side of my career quickly became an important aspect and I am very grateful for it. I discovered it’s a creative way to fill in the blanks between contracts, collaborate with amazing people and get some extra income.
What kind of music do you like to create? Has it always been that way?
It really depends on my mood and what I’m inspired by. But generally, I like creating organic music using my violin and sometimes even my voice. I like textures that add counterpoint to the melody. I also love writing orchestral, epic and fantasy music including live instruments as much as possible. Last week, I just remixed an epic adventure track MB Gordy played on, and it made me think, I got to do more of this haha!
Since I had an extensive career as a concert and session violinist before I started writing music, I struggled initially to define myself as a composer. Everyone would assume that I wrote only for the violin or for strings and I felt I had to prove I could write for other instruments. This pushed me to avoid using the violin or try to focus on other aspects but it’s only when I accepted that the violin was an important part of who I was and part of my voice, that I started getting noticed and truly appreciated as a composer. Even if there is no violin in a particular composition or it ends up being all electronic, this acknowledgment is an important anchor for me.
What has been your favorite placement or project you’ve worked on thus far? What made it special for you?
My most exciting placement was on the show New Amsterdam last year. “The Edge of Melancholy” (MPATH, APM/EMI) got placed in 2 episodes and I thought “Wow! My music is on NBC!” while remembering all the great NBC shows I used to watch as a kid never thinking one day, I’d have my music on one of them lol!
I started composing for Hallmark (Crown Media) last year which marked my first real contract in LA, so that was cause for celebration, and I’d say my most exciting recent project was getting to score the TV Movie “Christmas in Vienna” with Sarah Drew. Going back to my classical roots and writing in the Viennese style was a treat and coaching the lead actress for her role as violinist while getting to play all these fun violin features and supervising a bunch of other live to picture music scenes with the actors were all incredible and wonderful challenges added to the fact that the story resonated with me in many ways. It was certainly one of the most challenging scoring projects I’ve done but also one of the most rewarding. Really looking forward to the Premiere this fall!
Walk us through your writing & creation process. How do you get started? How do you know when it’s finished?
It really depends on the project or motivation. Sometimes, a spark will just inspire me to play something on the violin that will just lead to other ideas, sort of like adding colors to a painting as I go. Other times, I’ll have a direction and a deadline and just fumble on the piano (with more or less anxiety lol) until I find something that triggers an energy I recognize, a recognition of something that resonates with the message or emotion I’m trying to convey through the music and then, it usually guides me through the rest of the cue or the piece. The emotion is always my guide and I find it fascinating, almost a journey, to follow it and see how it will end up being articulated and what instruments, textures, tonality and even mixing techniques will express it in the end.
As for when it’s finished…. Deadline! It’s the only thing that will stop me haha!
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find most of my inspiration from living and experiencing life itself, witnessing the beauty and the struggles of our society and the world, watching nature in all its wonderful and sometimes cruel aspects and getting exposed to different art forms from different cultures. I believe that it all comes back out in my music in different ways whether I need to express love, sorrow, excitement, heroism, mystery, wonder, desperation… On the practical side, I like listening to music in a wide range of styles and if asked to compose in a particular style or genre, immersing myself in it is always very helpful. On the day to day basis, hiking, running or riding my bike are for me opportunities to let my batteries recharge, process and reset. When I feel a blockage, I stop and go for a hike and I usually come back with new fresh ideas.
What has been the most unexpected aspect of this industry for you?
People, how wonderful they are! When I set my mind on Los Angeles in November 2015, I had no idea what I was really getting into and was just following a deep and strong instinct. I had been told the competition was fierce and there would be no place for me especially since I started composing later in my career. I had no guarantees but was ready to do my best and wanted no regrets. I kept an open mind but honestly never expected so much generosity and kindness from so many people offering support and introducing me around the industry. I have made many friends here already that I now consider my LA family.
What is your dream placement?
Disney! I grew up as a kid watching all those wonderful Disney movies and, someday, I want to be part of that family! I have to add that reading Bob Iger’s book these days adds to the admiration I have for the company and the culture and values it is built on.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Be prepared when luck comes around!
Now give us your best industry tip!
Nurture your own voice and show your uniqueness! No one else can be YOU!