Practically everyone has heard of Murphy’s Law that “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” What happens when you create an entire TV series based on this specific law … you get a show like Milo Murphy’s Law, created by Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh with original score by three-time Emmy-nominated composer Danny Jacob.
Songs play a key role in Milo Murphy’s Law just as they did in the creators’ previous decade-long project Phineas and Ferb – and just like on Phineas, Dan and Swampy write the original songs for the series and Danny produces them.
I was given the chance to speak with Danny Jacob about his work on Milo Murphy’s Law, both as composer and producer of the original songs. Before we get into the interview, here is a video of Dan and Swampy talking about Milo Murphy’s Law … not in form of a standard ‘behind-the-scenes’ video, no! Rather a rap song written by Dan and Swampy and produced by Danny. Enjoy!
Watch the Behind-the-Scenes song ‘We’re Gonna Do It Again’:
The beauty of uninterrupted underscore
The main character Milo is the fictional great-great-great-great grandson of the Murphy’s Law namesake, and is the personification of Murphy’s Law. Therefore anything that could possibly go wrong, always goes wrong – times 9000. This concept enabled composer Danny Jacob to write up to five minute long sections of uninterrupted score. While it was a big challenge on one side, Danny Jacob loves the cinematic aspect to it, which composers rarely have working on these types of TV series. “I’m so excited about that! You can think more cinematically. It let’s you really have time to develop themes.”
Let’s jump right into one of the episodes so you can understand how crazy it gets for Milo and his friends.
Please enjoy Milo’s normal way to school:
As you might have noticed at the beginning of the clip, the roller-coaster odyssey of Milo’s everyday life is definitely not everything the show is about. In its core is the key message that “life is what you make of it. Even in the face of adversity, there is something good to be found,” as Dan Povenmire puts it fittingly in another (more standard) behind the scenes (watch here).
The many musical styles in Milo Murphy’s Law
Music-wise, you may have noticed that using a big band sound is a part of Danny Jacob’s score. Apart from having more time to develop themes, Danny is particularly glad for this opportunity: “Composers have lonely jobs. They sit all by themselves and I do a lot of it alone but [for Milo Murphy’s Law] the good news is, I am able to get some great L.A. players to create the big band sound. That’s the little hook that I sold to [Dan and Swampy] and they liked it.”
The general discussion about what direction the music of Milo Murphy’s Law’s would take starts with the songs: “I get a song to record and produce, sometimes months before I ever see a picture. It could be a silly song and they’ll say ‘Weird Al is going to sing it’ or I’ll have my son sing it (who is featured a lot on Phineas and Ferb as well as Milo Murphy’s Law). I then make it sound however it’s supposed to sound: Like a record or like an opera, for example [watch below]. Then, months later, its time to spot the episode to figure out the score placement; basically I watch two 11-minutes segments. Dan and Swampy have great musical taste as they are both musicians themselves, so they will temp it sometimes with a style of music that they want – which could anything. We’ll then kick around some ideas, I’ll take notes and I go home.”
Let’s have a listen to three songs from Milo Murphy’s Law!
Curious about how an opera sounds in Milo Murphy’s Law? Watch below!
In need of another earworm? You’re welcome:
Or a fan of Doctor Who? Then check this out:
Starting a project can always be a daunting task, especially with the looming TV deadlines and with so many different styles to cover: “I like to have two weeks to write music for the 22 minute episodes. But lately, I’ve only had 10 days. Anything less than that and I can’t stop to sleep,” Danny noted. Especially because he prefers to write more music than is needed: “Usually I ‘overscore’ and they will take some parts out at the dub stage.”
Danny Jacob always focuses on the characters when approaching the underscore: “You have to fall in love with the characters. Thankfully, it’s easy to do with characters created by Dan and Swampy. You start out not knowing who they are. Once you realize how to get into the minds of the characters, they usually make you want to tug at the heartstrings. It makes a difference. They are not one-dimensional.”
Learning from ‘Phineas and Ferb’
Because he had a background as a professional guitar player and song producer, Danny was given the opportunity to work with Dan Povenmire and Swampy Marsh, over ten years ago: “I made their songs sound good, and then I spent ten years composing in every possible style on Phineas and Ferb.” Not being a classically trained composer, Danny mentioned that “the composition of the underscore always has been the challenge. And I just keep getting better at it.”
When you watch Milo Murphy’s Law, you’ll definitely hear how modest he is, as the score perfectly underlines the constant surprises Milo and his friends live through. The music feels just as diverse as Milo’s daily life and as light-footed as his way of overcoming all obstacles. This is the result of Danny making the score more feel more seamless this time: “Phineas and Ferb was a lot more ‘stop-and-start’ than Milo Murphy’s Law is.”
We are almost at the end of this spotlight on Danny Jacob’s work. I think it is safe to say that you can hear both in his score as well as his production on the songs, how comfortable Danny Jacob feels working on the new show. After working ten years on Phineas and Ferb – which was actually Danny’s first real scoring job – he was fortunate to compose in a variety of different styles right from the start. It enabled him to really get to learn a lot about composition, as he remarked: “You sometimes have the ‘fear of failure’ and ‘fear of getting fired.’ However there is no better training than four TV seasons and one movie with the same characters – and being told on a deadline to go from jazz to James Bond, to Carl Stalling – that makes you learn the craft.”
Nominated for three Emmy’s along the way is proof of what an extraordinary song producer and brilliant composer Danny Jacob has become. In conclusion, it seems like the first season of Milo Murphy’s Law is just the beginning of another decade of creative fireworks from Dan Povenmire, Jeff “Swampy” Marsh and Danny Jacob.
Let’s finish this little glimpse into the musical world of Milo Murphy’s Law with another earworm, called I Got A New Routine. If you would like to get more info about Danny Jacob you can visit his website dannyjacobmusic.com, his IMDb, follow him on Twitter or like his page on Facebook.