In Scoring ‘Ted Lasso’ and ’Shrinking,’ Composer Tom Howe Looks for Honesty Amid the Comedy

“Scoring comedy, in general, is really difficult,” says English composer Tom Howe, and he should know: He’s responsible for the music of “Ted Lasso” and “Shrinking,” two of the year’s most talked-about comedies, both airing on Apple TV+.

“You can’t take away from the picture and the script,” he says. “From my point of view,” he adds, speaking about “Ted Lasso,” “the music is just honest. Generally, I’ll play the overall mood of the scene rather than specific action.”

Howe and his co-writer, Marcus Mumford, were Emmy-nominated for their theme during the first season of “Ted Lasso,” and Howe has continued to write and record all of the music for the second and third seasons. He plays all of the guitars, drums and keyboards on the score.

But third-season episodes are considerably longer than those of earlier seasons, Howe points out, so there was necessarily more music to write. “In season 3, some cues are five minutes in length,” he points out, compared to first-season cues that were mostly 30 or 40 seconds long. “You’ve got more time to get your point across.”

For “Shrinking,” the new Harrison Ford-Jason Segel comedy-drama from “Ted Lasso” executive producer (Bill Lawrence), Howe was on his third episode before he came up with the song – amusingly titled “Frightening Fishes” – that opens the show.

Lawrence suggested Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie (and, because a Death Cab song was once used in Lawrence’s “Scrubs,” he had Lawrence’s number and just dialed him up).

Howe offered four different tunes, Gibbard chose one, “started humming ideas over top of it, and we did a bit of back and forth,” the composer recalls. The lyrics are Gibbard’s work.

As for the score, it needed “a California feel,” Lawrence and Howe agreed, so in addition to his piano, drums and acoustic guitar, the composer added Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer organ and layered, Beach Boys-style-harmony voices (all, also, Howe; “I used to sing in a band,” he confesses).

Like “Ted Lasso,” the music of “Shrinking” is entirely created by Howe in his studios (one in London, one in L.A. where he finds himself at least once a month). Much of it is based on his main theme. “Season 1 was more about getting the palette right, an overall sound. I’ll have license to pick that main theme apart in Season 2,” he says.

Howe’s other project, “Daisy Jones & the Six,” demanded even more subtlety, because the 10-part Amazon Prime Video miniseries – about a Fleetwood Mac-style rock band in the 1970s – is already so loaded with music, both original songs and needle drops of vintage songs from the era.

“It’s all ambient, minimalist, cinematic,” Howe says. “That felt the best. The score is like a pause, a breath between songs.” Howe, again, is playing guitar and synths from the ’70s and ’80s “with reverb and delay” to suggest the period.

Howe also collaborated closely with songwriter-producer Blake Mills on string arrangements for some of the songs, and occasionally interpolated the tunes into his underscore.

And if he isn’t busy enough, Howe also has two new movies in the marketplace: “Book Club: The Next Chapter” and the animated “Rally Road Racers.”

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