Interview With Nelson Everhart-Lead Composer for KingsIsle

February 10, 2012 Blaze Shadowhorn 0 Comments

New Year's Check List - [X] 100% achieved my goal of getting an interview with a KingsIsle employee! 

Now the man I interviewed was Nelson Everhart, lead composer for KingsIsle. Nelson doesn't "technically" have an office at KI but he is part of the team and has made all the music from the Wizard City through Zafaria. Nelson is a very talented man who loves to share his music with others over at his website -  nelsoneverhart.com. Nelson has never been interviewed for a blog so I am honored to be the first blogger to ever interview Nelson :) Without further notice, I give you my interview with Mr. Nelson Everhart of KingsIsle.

Me:
Since you are the Lead Composer of music for Wizard101, could you tell me a little about your position?

Nelson:

Well, I don't actually work FOR KingsIsle...  I'm a freelance composer.  They contact me when they need music, and I compose it from my studio in Cincinnati, OH, then send the tracks to them via the internet.  If they have changes they'll email me back, I'll incorporate those changes, and we'll go back and forth like that until it's finished.

Some people are amazed that this works, but when I was employed at a game developer's office, this is basically how we wound up working anyway.

Me:
 Whats is it like working at KingsIsle? Can you give me a brief run-down of your daily schedule?

Nelson:
As I said above, I'm not actually at King's Isle, but my schedule is kinda all over the place.  I have a few different things that I do to avoid feeling burned out so I like to mix it up with different types of projects.  So in a day, I might teach my class in the morning, come home and write for a few hours, and do some coding for an interactive project to finish out.

Me:
How did you find out about KingsIsle? What intrigued you to apply for a job and eventually become the Lead Composer for KI and when did you start working with them?

Nelson:
I moved to Austin, Texas to work for a developer called Acclaim Entertainment.  That company went out of business in 2004, and all the people I had been working with found jobs at other developers.  So a designer I had worked with at Acclaim started working at KingsIsle, and when it came time to discuss music, he recommended me to the team.  I spoke with Todd Coleman and Tom Hall, wrote a couple demos, and they were kind enough to let me write for Wizard 101.

Me:
Since you work at KingsIsle, I suppose you play Wizard101. Do you ever get on to check out your music or to just play in general? If so, what level Wizard are you and what school?


Nelson: 
The unfortunate reality of my situation is that I don't have a ton of time to play games.  That said, I have spent several hours playing Wizard 101, and I try to log in and check out what's going on when I can.  My character is a Level 14 Storm Wizard.

I do enjoy getting into the game and listening to the music...  I think its necessary to try to experience the music in the same way the audience does.  Unfortunately, although I probably have 20-30 hours into the game, I've only heard Wizard City and Krokotopia, and a little bit of Grizzleheim!

When I first started writing music for Wizard 101, KingsIsle let me play the game and run around in the world.  That let me understand the dynamics of the game and get the overall vibe.  These days, they usually don't have the world done when I start writing, so they send me concept artwork, screen shots, or sometimes video to get the feel for a new world, and I write to that.  I've also been known to loop the music I'm working on, and run around online to see how it works.

Me:
 I suppose you have created a lot of the music for Wizard101. Out of all the different pieces you have composed, which do you like the most? 

Nelson:
That's like trying to pick a favorite child!  There's something in every level that I like.  Obviously, I tried to differentiate the worlds musically so it's a little like comparing apples and oranges to me, but here's some thoughts:

I have a soft spot for the original Wizard City theme...  I still remember when that folksy theme came into my head.  I was trying to keep the music in the first worlds simpler, so that I had somewhere to go for the later worlds, and that melody said alot without being too full or bombastic.  Like a lot of people who grew up in the 70's and 80's, I was introduced to film scoring through John Williams' Star Wars score, so I love huge, epic music.  But I've found as a composer that it's when you impose limits on yourself that you're usually at your most creative because you have to challenge yourself to come up with something interesting.

I also really liked the Celestia music...  I think that was where the worlds really got going in a unique direction.  Additionally, KI asked that I write music that bridged the gap into Celestia, so there were a couple tracks I wrote that got to blur the lines between Marleybone and Celestia.  The music just got to do a lot of different things...  some funny comedic moments, some dark eerie pieces, some epic tunes that got to go off the charts with drama.

Plus, being asked to write a Crab March is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

And of course, I also got to have a lot of fun in Zafaria.  The world was very rich with inspirational visuals and intriguing cultural vibes.  In some ways it's a departure from the rest of the W101 music, but in my mind as we get further out in the Spiral it should feel more distant from your dorm room.

Me:
How does the process of creating the music fall into place? Does J. Todd Coleman or the Faculty at KingsIsle give you suggestions of what to base the music off of?

Nelson:
I usually work with Todd or the sound designer TJ O'Leary, who usually collate the thoughts of the designers and act as my point of contact  with the team.  They also have the technical details...  how many tunes,  how long each tune needs to be, etc.  

TJ is really good at providing crazy descriptions of what each piece should sound like in a way that's interesting and inspiring and that makes me want to write it just to see what it sounds like!  He'll say something like, "far off percussion thunder rumbles into an end-of-the-world string crescendo that gives way to a calm woodwind sunset."  I can't do it justice, but as a musician it's a lot of fun to have people describe what they want in moods and colors.

From there I'll sketch out what I think the pieces sounds like, and send rough mp3 mixes to them for critique.  At this point, we're usually on the same page, and they'll come back to me with minor tweaks, and I'll do a final uncompressed mix and we're done.

Me:
 Is their any info you can give us on upcoming worlds, music, and ideas?

Nelson:
I don't get a lot of inside information before the general public.  I remembered being surprised that people knew about Zafaria as I was writing the music!

I do know the team at KI is a ridiculously creative group of people always looking for new intriguing worlds to entertain the players.  I can't reveal any secrets, but there is definitely some exciting news ahead!

Me:
 Thanks Nelson for this amazing interview! I'm sure the Wizards who read this will be intrigued by what you have said and all this amazing info you have shared with us. Is their anything you want to add? Questions you would like to ask me?

Nelson:
I'll just add that the players are why any game developer does what they do and everyone enjoys seeing blogs and fan pages devoted to the game.  It feels great to have people appreciate all the hard work!

So:  what's YOUR favorite music in the game?-)

Me:
Shesh.... I'v got to say I enjoy the Mooshu music :) It's just so calm and relaxing :D It always makes me feel so blissful :) It matches the scenery 110% and it just makes me go WOW every time I hear it :) 

Well thanks again Nelson for this amazing interview! Keep up the amazing work and I can't wait to hear your next piece :D

Nelson:
You're welcome, and thanks for listening!   

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Shadowhorn