10 Questions with Stewart Eastham.
Nashville composer and songwriter Stewart Eastham releases his album ‘Human No More (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)’, featuring music he composed for the feature horror film of the same title. The lead single ‘The Calamus’ is out now on all streaming platforms. We got the chance to speak to him more about the album and more.
1. Thanks for your time Stewart. To our readers who might not know you, could you give us a little insight into your musical journey?
I became a music fan when I was a small child. The first step was becoming enamoured with my parents’ old Beatles records that I’d listen to on my little Fisher-Price record player. They were scratched to hell, but I knew them inside and out.
I grew up in a very small town (pre-internet), so it was difficult to be exposed to and get your hands on music. So, at an early age, I took it upon myself to join Columbia House…suddenly I had a cassette tape collection I listened to constantly.
As far as playing music, I started with piano lessons early on. Those didn’t really take, so a little later I tried guitar lessons. That took a little better, but I was more interested in learning my favorite pop songs rather than actually learning any fundamentals. It wasn’t until college that I started taking music more seriously. My freshman year I joined my first real band as a drummer. I played drums in bands throughout college.
Writing my own songs didn’t come until much later. I joined a band called Minibike in Southern California as their drummer. With encouragement from the frontman, I started writing my own songs. I eventually moved up to the co-frontman position…singing and playing guitar as I brought in songs I had written.
That band eventually morphed into a band called Day Of The Outlaw. We put out one record in Los Angeles, and then, after moving to Nashville, we put out a second record with a different line-up. From there, I put out three “solo” albums under my own name. I’d always dabbled in film music, but it wasn’t until 2020 that I composed my first feature film score for the indie horror film Human No More.
2. You’ve just put out your new album – the soundtrack to ‘Human No More’, how did that come about and what challenges did you face writing an album like that?
That project initially came about when an old friend of mine, Christopher Broadstone, had just started post-production on his feature film Human No More. We had worked together many years prior on one of his short films that I was the cinematographer for (back in my film school days). I reached out and let him know I was now doing film music. I sent him a bunch of sample stuff I’d done, but, at that point, I didn’t have a proper reel with all my film work. I am very grateful he took a chance on me and I think we both ended up very happy with how everything turned out.
I think the biggest challenge for me was that I had never taken on a film music project that large. It was a bit overwhelming initially, but once we got going, I absolutely loved the process. The other challenge was doing all of the production and recording myself. On my previous albums I’d always had an outside producer or co-producer, but on this project I did all of the producing and engineering myself…recording in my small home studio in Nashville. I did this project during the heart of the pandemic lockdown in 2020, so I couldn’t have had help even if I wanted it. In the end, it was good because it really forced me to sharpen my technical skills.
3. As a songwriter and musician, how different was it to write a movie soundtrack to writing a conventional album and what did you learn about yourself as a songwriter and an artist throughout the process?
Weaving themes and motifs throughout the score was something I really enjoyed that you don’t really get to do when writing in the traditional pop song format. On the album I released in 2020 (The Great Silence) we had a bit of a “concept album” vibe, but ultimately it was still a “collection of songs”. Writing a film score is almost like writing one big song that just has different sections. So it’s a bit of a different mindset in that regard – a mindset I found very exciting as a writer.
I guess the main thing I learned is that I love writing film music! Even though I was writing to picture and collaborating with a film director, there still felt like a lot more freedom to me versus writing pop songs. You can just let the track go where it wants to…rather than having to fit it into the traditional pop song format.
4. Are you a big horror movie fan and did you, like the rest of us, sneak out to watch horror movies when you were growing up as a child?
Yeah, I am definitely a big horror movie fan. And, yes, it started when I was a kid. My older cousin and I would devour classic 80s horror films on VHS at my grandma’s house. I still remember the very first time I saw Texas Chainsaw Massacre back then! And, horror films were a staple at birthday / slumber parties and such. (Thankfully no slumber party massacre ever occured!)
I also read a ton of horror novels as a kid. I started with all the early Stephen King stuff and then moved on to Clive Barker novels among others.
5. We’ve all got that one thing we have an irrational fear of. What is yours?
Popsicle sticks! I know it sounds crazy, but the texture of popsicle sticks gives me the willies. Similar to how some folks don’t like nails on a chalkboard to the sound of creaking styrofoam. For me, it’s popsicle sticks. Just thinking about them right now gives me goosebumps.
6. If you could play any part in a horror movie, which character would you choose to play and why?
I think playing the bad guy in any horror film would be pretty fun. Maybe it’s time for another A Nightmare On Elm Street reboot with me playing the part of Freddy Krueger?
7. Now you’ve written a movie soundtrack is it something you would like to do again?
Absolutely! I originally moved to Los Angeles to go to film school, so I have a filmmaking background. I’ve written several feature film scripts over the years. And I have a horror film project I’m planning to shoot at an old cabin in the mountains of Northern California that belongs to my extended family. I’m ready to go full John Carpenter on that one (…writing, directing, and scoring).
Writing film scores perfectly melds my love for film and my love for music. I’m a big fan of soundtracks and have a ridiculously large collection of soundtracks on vinyl.
8. Are there any movies – horror or otherwise – that you would love to have written the soundtrack to or been involved in?
I’m a fan of filmmakers like David Lynch, Gasper Noe, and Nicolas Winding Refn and would love to work with any of them. (And newer directors like Jordan Peele, Panos Cosmatos, and Brandon Cronenberg.) There seems to be a resurgence of more artsy horror films lately, which I really enjoy. Mandy is an example of a recent film I would have loved to have been involved with! I love all the 80s throwbacks that have been happening lately. At some point, I’d love to do a full 80s retro horror score.
9. Just for fun now: If there were no consequences for a day, what would you do?
I suppose I would have to steal a jetpack and fly around the world like Superman.
10. Thanks for your time Stewart, what are your plans for the rest of 2021?
Lately I’ve been busy promoting my two recent albums: Human No More (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) and The Great Silence. I’m also actively looking for a new film project to work on.
Meanwhile, I’m in writing mode for two album projects I have on the horizon. Working on the horror film has really inspired me to try writing pop songs outside of the traditional pop format. I’ve been listening to a ton of Frank Zappa lately which I find very inspiring. I’ve also been very inspired by the classic pop sounds of bands like The Beach Boys and The Bee Gees.
On the other side of the spectrum, I’ve started writing songs for a straightforward country album (influenced by both 90s and 70s country music) I’ll be collaborating on with a local producer who’s a good friend of mine.
You can read all about the album here.