Gabriel Mann has been to Sundance before. But as a performer with his band The Rescues, not as the composer of the score for a TV miniseries.
Yes, TV miniseries. Mann, who scores the hit sitcom “Modern Family,” among other things, wrote the music for the Sundance Channel’s “Rectify,” which is one of two TV miniseries screening at Sundance this year. It’s a moody, engrossing six hours about a man (Aden Young) released from prison after spending nearly two decades on death row.
“You’re supporting what’s happening in the show,” Mann said. “It’s not about your music. So it’s the opposite of songwriting in many ways.”
Mann is a busy man, what with a solo career, The Rescues (Mann, Kyler England, Rob Giles, Adrianne Gonzalez ) and his work as a TV composer. But he struggled to get there, at one point deciding “this whole TV scoring thing was sort of for the birds. It was shocking to me that was a stressful job.”
Five solo albums later, he opened for Alanis Morissette on one of her tours “When I came back from that tour, I figured there would be a big ticker-tape parade in my honor,” he said. “And that didn’t didn’t happen.”
He got a call from a friend and ended up writing songs for “Arrested Development.” And that led to more TV work, including video games, TV movies and series like “Carpoolers,” “The Protector,” “Ringer,” “Bent,” “Jane By Design” - and a little show called “Modern Family.”
“I feel lucky I’m part of it,” Mann said. “It’s a big hit.”
Much of the time, the music on a TV series is for background only. And how much work Mann does varies widely from episode to episode. Some simply recycle music he’s done earlier in the series. Or, like in the episode when the family went to Disneyland, Mann’s work was heard throughout.
He wrote the song’s Haley’s (Sarah Hyland) boyfriend, Dylan (Reid Ewing) sang. He writes songs for Cameron (Eric Stonestreet), now that he’s a music teacher. And there’s a “Phantom of the Opera” episode coming up.
But just as “Rectify” is a very different show from “Modern Family,” so is Mann’s music very different.
“There’s a lot of space in this show,” Mann said. “It’s maybe the first show that I’ve been that that’s had a lot of room to explore.”
The pace is much more deliberate; if it was “CSI,” the six hours would have been condensed to one.
“It’s almost shocking in its non-shockingness,” Mann said. “Which, to me, is one of the great attractions. I had a great time working on it.”
“Rectify” is scheduled to premiere on the Sundance Channel on April 22.
Scott D. Pierce