A Watertown native is making a career out of creating music that is short but sweet, mainly for television shows.
Kevin J. Mello is vice president and managing partner for Music Media Solutions, based in Cumberland, R.I., He was born in Watertown when his father, Kenneth Mello, was stationed at Fort Drum. The family moved to Massachusetts when Kevin was about 1.
Mr. Mello was hired by Sean Peter Hagon, CEO of Music Media Solutions, who is a composer and orchestrator for the film, video game, television and advertisement industries. He’s also the associate dean of career education and services at Berklee College of Music, Boston.
Mr. Mello said that Mr. Hagon founded Music Media Solutions about 14 years ago and a few years later, asked him to join him as a partner. Mr. Mello is a bassist, guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist with over 30 years of live performance and recording experience.
The team specializes for creating music for television shows, short snippets, often no longer than 90 seconds. Their tunes can be heard most often on “American Pickers” on History channel.
“We also have credits for shows on several other networks including CNBC, PBS, Discovery, Investigation Discovery and others,” Mr. Mello said.
Mr. Hagon received a degree in professional music from Berklee College of Music and graduated cum laude with a concentration in music production, composition for film and TV and music education. He went on to receive his diploma in media composition and a diploma in Cinematic Orchestration from the London School of Creative Studies.
“We work well together,” Mr. Mello said. “He’s formally trained. I’m completely self-taught.”
In 1980, Mr. Mello and some buddies formed a band called Sanctuary and played in clubs in southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. They became the house band at a club in Middletown. R.I. called Sebastians. The band broke up in 1984.
Mr. Mello also played lots of ice hockey in his youth, mostly in Pro-Am leagues. In the late 1980s he was offered the opportunity to play professional hockey in Europe but turned it down because his wife was expecting their son.
In the early 2000s, Mr. Mello and Mr. Hagon were members of The Dan Lawson Band, which toured nationally. Mr. Hagon was keyboardist and Mr. Mello played guitar.
Music Media Solutions provides “music solutions” for clients in television, film or interactive media projects.
“In the beginning, he (Mr. Hagon) would throw around music theory terms and I would have no idea what he was talking about,” Mr. Mello said. “It’s gotten to the point now where we can pretty much read each others’ minds.”
He added, “Even though he has the degree, he takes input very well. If I think something’s not working, he’ll want me to express my opinion. We just click. There’s no egos.”
Sometimes the pair is given an example by television producers of what kind of music they are looking for to add to a TV show or other project.
“For example, in one of the ‘American Pickers’ episodes, they were doing ‘the best of the ’70s,’” Mr. Mello said. “Everything they found was related to the 1970s. They were looking for disco music. I ended up downloading a bunch of stuff off iTunes to hear different disco rhythms and we wrote from there. That happens quite often, when they’ll tell us they’re looking for a specific style. But sometimes, we’re just kind of winging it on the fly.”
Writing tunes no longer than 90 seconds takes a certain set of skills, Mr. Mello said.
“When you have three to four minutes like a typical pop song, that’s easy,” Mr. Mello said.
Sometimes, producers of the television shows want the short song broken up, to be heard in different segments during the production. There are several other companies like Music Media Solutions that provide such music.
Mr. Mello said he was told “‘American Pickers’ sometimes will use between 150 and 250 songs in one one-hour episode.
“There are many people who write for the show and they have an extensive library from which to choose,” he said. “Sometimes they use as little as five seconds and sometimes as much as 30. They refer to these song placements as cues.”
Mr. Mello, who also has a home studio in Hanson, Mass., said a song he wrote that had the longest stretch of time was in an “American Pickers” episode when the two “pickers” found the original van that the band Aerosmith used when they were first starting to play clubs in New England in the 1970s.
“When they showed that graphic of what they paid, there’s a song that starts there and goes all the way to the end, about 30 seconds long,” Mr. Mello said. “I wrote it and I’m playing guitar and bass on that. But that’s about the longest they’ve used. Typically it’s in the 10-to-20 second range.”
Mr. Mello, 59, is inspired by a variety of music, which began when he was young when he was introduced to it by his mom, Beverly, who died six years ago. He inherited her vinyl record collection.
“My mother liked all kinds of music and I think that’s probably where I got it from,” Mr. Mello said. “It was anything from classical to Alice Cooper. It’s like all over the map, and it’s kind of like what I am as well.”