We’re thrilled to speak with Abby North, a renowned music industry professional who currently runs Unchained Melody Publishing LLC, the publisher of the timeless classic “Unchained Melody;” Dylanna Music, a boutique record label, and North Music Group LLC, a music media company. In addition to controlling the legacy of her father-in-law, Alex North, Abby also works as a music supervisor.
Through Abby’s expertise, previously unheard works by Alex North have finally hit public ears. Intrada Records recently released the Sounder/Decision for Chemistry CD, two of North’s film scores that were previously unreleased. La-la Land Records has also recently released Rat Patrol: Volume 2, including never-before-heard compositions.
We had the opportunity to speak to her about her thriving career and Alex North’s legacy.
What does it mean to you to represent Alex North’s legacy? What can you tell us about him as a person?
Alex died long before I met my husband, his son Dylan. However, I feel as if I know Alex through his music, through his family, and by living in the home he lived in for the last 21 years of his life.
My kids and I recently watched a video of Alex’s acceptance of his Lifetime Achievement Academy Award, and I was moved by his elegance, sophistication, grace, and charm. Not only was he one of the most important American composers of our time, he was moral and kind.
To say I’m honored to represent Alex’s legacy is an understatement. I am truly in my dream job.
What are your favorite scores of his?
I love “Hey Eula” from The Long, Hot, Summer. It’s lusty, hooky, and completely engaging. As an overall score, I’d have to say Cleopatra or Spartacus. The Love Theme From Spartacus is one of the most beautiful compositions I’ve ever heard, and there are so many incredible covers that successfully approach the piece in varied musical styles. Hearing the LSO last November perform John Mauceri’s arrangement of a Cleopatra Suite commissioned years ago by my mother-in-law was overwhelmingly moving – so much so I had tears during both the dress rehearsal and full performance. Alex’s music oozes emotions, and you’d have to be a brick wall not to feel something during live performances of his music.
Unchained Melody Publishing LLC controls the publishing of the timeless favorite. How often does this song get placed? Can you point us in the direction of some great covers?
I love the Al Green cover [left]. My mother-in-law’s favorites were the Al Hibbler and LeAnn Rimes masters. When MPL was still our publisher, we co-commissioned Toots Hibbert of Toots and the Maytals to create a reggae master, which is great. And I think George Kahumoku Jr’s Hawaiian master is a top five for me as well. There are just so many covers of Unchained, and so many brilliant ones.
“Unchained Melody” gets placed constantly, all over the world. Very often, ads will parody the iconic Ghost pottery scene. Recent placements were the Phil Spector biopic on HBO, Two and a Half Men, The Voice, and many others.
You’re also a music supervisor. Any favorite projects you’ve worked on? What do you to stay on top of the musical trends?
H2Indo was a particular favorite because it’s a documentary about standup paddling, which is one of my favorite sports. The soundtrack stands up well on its own. Wahlburgers is a great show to work on because the producers and editors are exceptional, and together we’ve created a great sonic statement for the show.
I believe it’s impossible to truly be on top of musical trends, but I do my best. I listen to radio and watch television to hear synchs, read the charts and Soundscan numbers, listen to new music on rdio and spotify, and frequently check out reverbnation and soundcloud for independently released music.
Do you also compose music?
I do. I’ve been writing music since I was a kid, and I completed the Film Scoring Certificate program at UCLA Extension. I have done a bit of composing in video games, television, and film, but once I had kids it’s been difficult, as I rarely have more than a 4 hour window to work.
We’re excited about the recent releases of the Sounder/Decision for Chemistry CD and Rat Patrol: Volume 2. A lot of music has been coming out of the vault… does Alex North have a lot of more unreleased gems?
We do have a few more that I know of. There is Rebel Jesus, which was never even released as a film, to my knowledge. Additionally, we have serious works that have never been recorded, and some songs as well. We are slowly recording new masters.
What other visions do you have for Alex North’s legacy?
We are working with Peter Alexander on building the Alex North brand, and soon Alexander Publishing, the premier source for orchestration on the web, will launch The Alex North Film Scoring Series. The first in the series will be Alex’s unused score to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the engraving of which is almost completed by David O’Rourke.
We are seeking more exposure to young composers, more live concert performances, and more Alex North releases.
And of course, working with Score Revolution is a piece of the puzzle.
You run a publishing company, a record label, and a music media company. Can you describe your day-to-day? How do you juggle everything?
I wake up around 6:00 a.m. and immediately read and reply to emails. I have an 8-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son, so once they wake up, my husband and I get them fed, dressed, and off to school…except during summer, when all bets are off.
I have a zillion lists floating around my desk with all of my tasks, most of which take way too long to complete. I think of it as triage: I attack the most important ones first.
I tend to keep all windows open on the computer so I don’t forget what needs to get done immediately. And I’m a skillful and experience multitasked.
And finally, I have amazing people working with me, without whom I would be falling flat on my face.
Interview by Carrin Tanaka