Jadeen Mercado of Nerd Alert News got the chance to interview Jay Gruska who is a singer-songwriter as well as an on-screen composer. “Supernatural” fans know him well as he has been helping to create “Supernatural’s score since season one. Gruska composed the music for landmark episodes including the 200th in season 10, and now the 300th episode in season 14. This is a huge milestone for the show and he is directly apart of it. Followers of the CW hit series know all about the rock music that gets played, but what about the scary sounds you here in an abandoned building scene? What about the background music to an emotional scene? This man is responsible for all of that and much more. He opened up about what it is like to work on “Supernatural” and the 300th episode as well.
Jadeen Mercado: First of all, on behalf of all “Supernatural” fans, thank you for the music you have created. What can you tell us about how you got involved with SPN in the first place?
Jay Gruska: I am always very grateful for the fan support and appreciation of my contribution to “Supernatural.” I am on this project because Robert Singer who has been Eric Kripke’s Co-executive producer since the pilot episode, suggested me to Eric, even though Eric had just hired Chris Lennertz to score the pilot. So long story short, Chris did the pilot and I did episode two and both producers were happy with each of us, luckily, and we both went on from there alternating episodes until this very day.
JM: For the musicians and composers out there, how would you describe the difference of composing a piece for pleasure and composing one for a scene on a TV show?
‘Supernatural’ music composer Jay Gruska. Photo courtesy of Jay Gruska
JG: Even though both of those processes are filled with pleasure AND frustration. There are at least a couple of primary differences. When someone is writing a piece of music for its own sake, ‘absolute music’, it is the center of the universe and the most important thing, and there is no timeline on when something needs to be finished. When one is composing a score for film, it is not the most important thing in that it is always in the service of the scene, the actors, the story, the emotion etc. so sometimes a musical choice that one would make for ‘absolute music’ is very different than something that is serving a dramatic purpose in a scene. It may be simpler, or more complex – musical ego has to be put aside in whatever way necessary to be appropriate for the picture.
JM: When composing for a dark, possibly scary scene, how do you find your inspiration for it?
JG: The answer is always a very simple question, what is the scene asking for? Sometimes less is more, and sometimes more is better. In the case of Supernatural after so many seasons, there is a bit of a language that is established so although there are no ‘rules’ it is often familiar territory. The main function is to scare the crap out of you. Sometimes that is a big noise, and sometimes that is an eerie quiet.
JM: Going back to the 200th episode, how special was it to compose the music for ‘Fan Fiction?’
JG: That was a particularly fun episode because it involved songwriting and producing the tracks. Even though the dramatic underscore was done in the same time frame as every show, about one week, the songwriting process started at least six or seven weeks before Phil Sgriccia even shot the show.
The songs had to be entirely completed other than the final production elements like finishing arrangement touches. I was flown up to Vancouver to produce all the women singers for each song. That was a lot of fun because they hired genuinely wonderful singers who could act…or actors who could sing 🙂
JM: Switching gears to the 300th episode, how was it scoring that episode and what were the differences between the 300th episode ‘Lebanon’ and the 200th ‘Fan Fiction?’
JG: Two entirely different situations. Episode 200 was extremely tongue-in-cheek while also having emotional moments and was primarily song driven. Having just finished episode 300 last week it was purely emotional composing. I finally had an opportunity after a decade, to not only write a B section for the “Family Theme” but a wonderful opportunity to write a new theme for the boys’ relationship with their dad. I will wait to see what the
SPN Family names that. I simply have called it ‘Dad’s Theme’.
JM: What can we expect out of the 300th episode score? Anything you can share with us?
JG: Nope. I’m sure there will be all sorts of likes and dislikes after we air in a couple of days. All I can say is that the emotional acting performances are very strong and I put my heart into it.
JM: How would you describe your overall experience composing for Supernatural and being a part of a huge milestone which is the 300th ep?
JG: Very lucky. I never take it for granted. I will elaborate more on episode 400.
JM: What kind of music can we expect to hear from you outside of “Supernatural?” Any new projects?
JG: I have two musicals in various stages of development, but it’s too soon to share much more. One of them had a really successful opening in Boston last September, but not much else to report other than some songwriting projects starting soon.
JM: Can you give us a fun fact about you that we surely don’t know?
JG: The same dynamic that Jared and Jensen have, which is a true friendship and love and respect for each other, is very much what all of us in post-production have experienced with each other for 14 years. I have done a lot of television and this is a rare occurrence, for people to still really like each other after this long a run. I credit much of it to the way Eric Kripke and Bob Singer set the tone right from the beginning.
JM: Lastly, what words can you leave the Supernatural family with?
JG: Thank you, for your appreciation, your support, your honesty in sharing when you like something and when you don’t!
Jay Gruska is a very special asset and family member to “Supernatural” fans, his lovely answers gave us all a whole new level of love for him. Stay tuned for the 300th episode and have your ears ready to hear his amazing work. Check Jay out on his website to stay up to date with his new projects! NerdAlertNews thanks him for his time!
Written by Jadeen Mercado