'Making Stuff Up'

'Making Stuff Up'

Emmy-winning composer and songwriter Ernest Troost in concert at Old Throop Hall Saturday night

By Bliss 05/21/2014

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As musician bread-and-butter jobs go, composing for film and TV is a pretty sweet day gig, although Emmy-winning composer and award-winning singer/songwriter Ernest Troost doesn’t see it that way.

“I don’t think of composing that way [as a day gig],” he says. “I’ve always composed music. Whether it’s songs or scoring, it’s what I do. It’s all just composing. Making stuff up — that’s what I do [laughs].” 

Troost has several Emmy Award nominations and one Emmy (for “The Canterville Ghost”) to his credit, and he’s composed scores for HBO’s “A Lesson Before Dying,” the cult film “Tremors” and numerous Hallmark Hall of Fame specials. So he was well established as a cinematic composer when, after 20 years, he finally summoned his nerve to play an open mic night at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. That might not seem like a big deal for a respected musician, but at the time he felt like he was venturing into a new world. As it turned out, he was.

The song he played that night was “All the Boats Are Gonna Rise,” which became the title track of his 2004 album debut as a singer/songwriter. That was followed by the critically applauded “Resurrection Blues” in 2009 — the same year he became a New Folk Winner at Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas — and 2011’s “Live at McCabe’s,” a recording made when he headlined on the venue’s concert stage. 

A cornerstone of Troost’s acoustic music has been his quietly masterful Piedmont-style fingerpicking. On his newest album, “O Love,” songs like “Old Screen Door” and the title track expand that folk-blues sound with electric guitar and a thumping rhythm section. Lap steel and pump organ also color the emotional atmosphere of his songs, all of which deal in various aspects of love and relationships — including some that go violently wrong.

“I suppose some people would object to the idea of a murder ballad being a love song, but … that connected for me,” he observes wryly. “There was a lot of experimenting on my part; it was fun to be able to play something like ‘Old Screen Door’ — the guitar playing is more rock than blues or folk. It all grew out of the songs.”

Prevailing economic conditions spur many independent artists to forego costly touring and focus on placing songs in film and TV instead. Troost is countering that trend as he promotes “O Love” through radio, blogs and limited tour dates.

“People in the film world know me more as a film composer than as a songwriter,” he explains, “so I haven’t really pursued [placement] as much. I will, but I really want to see what kind of attention the album gets out in the world.” 

Ernest Troost performs at Throop Unitarian Universalist Church’s Old Throop Hall, 300 S. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena, 7 p.m. Saturday, May 24; $15. Tim & Rebekah Davis and the Dave Morrison Band open. Venue info: (626) 795-8625. ernesttroost.com, throopuuchurch.org

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