In April, composer Kevin Kliesch won a Daytime Emmy for his work on the Disney animated series “Sofia the First.” Now he is nominated for a primetime award for his work on the telefilm “Sofia the First: The Curse of Princess Ivy.” As he jokes during our exclusive audio chat (listen below), “The Daytime Emmy is sitting on my piano and she’s waiting for her sister to arrive.” In our candid conversation, we talk about several aspects of his work on the hit show, which revolves around a common girl thrust into royalty after her mother marries the king.
Kliesch recalls how he got his start as an orchestrator on a variety of films, including several for Disney. “I had worked with Alan Menken, the legendary Disney composer and songwriter on ‘Tangled’ and they liked the tone I was taking with his piano score, the way I was orchestrating it for the movie. When ‘Sofia’ came around, they had asked me to give them that same kind of sound. They never wanted it to sound like a kids TV show. They didn’t want it to sound like I was writing for 2-7 year-olds. They always wanted it to sound, from the get-go, like a big, lush, orchestral score.”
The composer touches upon the challenges of finding the appropriate tone for the show, saying, “In the very beginning, I had tended to almost over-write the show. By that, what I mean is I wasn’t writing for the target demographic.” He describes one of his early mistakes from the first few episodes, a horserace sequence which was given, “a really driving pulse. One of the comments that came from the network said, ‘it feels very testosterone-heavy…that’s not where we want to be. We want to be in the headspace of Sofia, a little girl princess.’ So I had a tendency to over-write in the beginning, and not quite get into the right space with Sofia: I was writing to the visuals and not necessarily to being in the head of a little girl princess.”
With the show going into its third season, Kliesch admits he still feels pressure to create original music. “Some composers like to recycle their music, and cut-and-paste from other scores, but I never find a need to do that. I think that’s lazy. So every score that I do is completely original. I have character themes that I bring back every now and again, but in terms of lifting from others scores I’ve never done that. So it’s a constant push to be fresh, to come up with new things all the time…it’s never quite the same from episode-to-episode. There’s always a challenge, there’s always a need for me to reinvent myself and not repeat myself over and over.”