Episode #159 — Composer/Artist/Producer Kotomi

And just like that, it’s the second week in August. It’s funny — August always brings us some sense of urgency, like we have to pack a lot of fun into the short amount of time we have left before school starts again. We wonder if we need lots more extracurriculars to get into our colleges of choice, and whether we’ll finally make the dance drill team this year. Then we remember that we’ve completed our formal education and it’s only the excessive back-to-school commercials giving us fever dreams about being late the first day of class. (Side note: Rock ‘n’ Roll Grad School is always in session; we don’t take summers off. But we will take some time off to watch “Summer School,” starring Mark Harmon.)

Of course, we know that we should never stop learning, though we wonder whether we’d have the same level of commitment as this week’s guest. Kotomi (Lauren Culjak) not only is a talented singer/songwriter and a classically trained pianist, but she also composes music and is a self-taught producer. That’s what we call serious motivation, and her efforts clearly have been very successful, based on her work so far. Kotomi has composed music for television and film, including “Love, Victor” on Hulu, “Nancy Drew” on the CW, and the feature film, “Long Weekend.” Given how much we love a good soundtrack, we had a lot to talk about.

Kotomi shared with us what made her decide to try her hand at producing music. She is completely self-taught, so she has great insight about where to even begin tackling that skill set. Given that you can hear her compositions in commercials, on TV, and in movies, it seems she did an excellent job teaching herself! Kotomi shared with us how she approached learning, along with the level of trial and error that was involved. So, if you’ve ever listened to a piece of music and thought, “I could do that,” we might be giving you a certain kind of look because it takes a lot of work. But if you heard it and thought, “I’d like to try that,” hear what Kotomi has to say and go for it!

We are curious about how different the processes of songwriting and composing are, and Kotomi was happy to give her perspective. Though everyone has a different process, for her the difference comes down to which one is more collaborative and which one she can just cut herself loose on. She talked about how composition involves getting input and then using the scene it appears in to help color the style and mood. That sometimes means that things she wants to try don’t make it into the final version. She then gave us some great examples from her work on “Long Weekend.”

Kotomi shared many aspects of what it means to be a composer, an artist, and a producer. She also shared what inspired her professional name, what she’s been working on this past year, and what it was like to have a song in an episode of “Rick and Morty.” If you’d like to hear her fantastic music, search for her on your music streaming service of choice. Kotomi also has examples of her music up on her website and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

We’re off to check the cast list that was just posted for our high school production of “Seussical: The Musical.” We’re short one extracurricular. If we’re cast, Heidi might get into her first choice for college (it’s somewhere in the Caribbean — doesn’t matter where). And Luke will finally have an excuse to wear that Cat in the Hat top hat, now that he doesn’t go to raves anymore. Fingers crossed!

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