Brian Vickers is a music supervisor, musician, singer, music producer, beat box aficionado, and downright cool-guy! Hailing from Birmingham, Alabama, he first realized his love for music at age four, when he was singing in the church choir. It was a love affair with music that would go on and on. Education was key (pun intended) to Brian and he graduated with a Bachelor's of Music, Vocal Performance and Jazz Studies from Howard University. On a quest to learn more, he went to Full Sail University and received an Associate's of Science in Recording Arts. All this knowledge comes to play as a music supervisor.
You've got a lot of musical training but you went in a slightly different direction.
It was a bit of a flip up. I knew that I wanted to work in music, and I loved the performing aspect, but I wanted to figure out how to apply it a little bit differently.
So, after Full Sail, you came to Los Angeles to do an internship. Do you think than an internship is critical on the road to becoming a music supervisor?
Yeah. I think internships are the most important thing, because when you are fresh out of school, you’ve got to prove yourself and I don’t think there is any other way to prove yourself other than doing the legwork. If you get in there, you grind it out, working hard but also just learning as much as you can. I also studied while I was an intern. Reading up on articles - like who did this. What else did they do? Who did that? Where is their company? So it became a big mixture of research and networking and doing everything else in order to make sure that you are really becoming solid at your craft.
Is it competitive getting a slot as an intern?
It’s very competitive. But that’s the nature of the industry. I always tell young artists: when you are competing – whether it’s to get signed by a label or to get a publishing deal or whatever it is, you are going to be competing nonstop. There are so many people who want to do what you do, and think they can do it better than you, so you have to find some kind of way to stand out, to be unique, memorable and stand out without pissing people off. Talent is very important, but I think that hard work is equally if not more important because that’s really what’s going to keep you in once you get the big opportunity.
Was there a show that influenced you to want to pursue music supervision?
Yeah. The Bernie Mac show! That’s the one that started it for me, man. For one, I enjoy the comedian, Bernie Mac. He’s an amazing comedian. I grew up on the Kings of Comedy. Cedric the Entertainer, Steve Harvey, Bernie Mac, D.L. Hughley - all of those guys. Bernie’s show was my favorite because he did it in this “I am being myself” way. It is not really a mocumentary-but it kind of is. As I was watching it, the one thing that became evident to me was the music. In one episode, a kid is running around the room and they are playing Earth, Wind and Fire’s Getaway. Or, on another episode, one of the kids was getting picked on by some of these other girls. Bernie had to sit and talk to her and explain sometimes people are this way or that way, but I still love you…one of those “full house” moments and I think they were playing That’s the way of the world. They use so much classic soul. It was so evident to me that the music is so important to this show because it just accents these moments. Just a little bit more comedy and a little bit more soul. The Bernie Mac show made me think, “what (music) would I have put there? What song would I have chosen or what style or why did they come up with this? That’s the first show that I saw that used the music that I liked -really well. That’s what opened the door.
Right on! What was your first credit as a music supervisor?
When I was at Bunhim/Murray productions, it happened right after I left. The show was called Love Thy Sister, and it was a reality show about three sisters down in North Carolina. They were a pretty well off family and the show kind of followed them around and documented their story. Fortunately, I got to sit in on a bunch of episodes. That was really awesome and yeah, I think the first time I saw my name on screen - I took a screen shot like “Yo! That’s crazy. Finally made it!”
That’s awesome. What do you do when you have a perfect song for a trailer but for some reason at the last minute, you can’t get the rights to it?
Happens regularly. There will always be a couple of songs you keep in your back pocket. You always have a list of alternatives. Usually when we submit projects, we try to give enough options because then if something doesn’t clear, you have a bunch of other songs ready to go.
You are in an acapella group called Traces of Blue?
Yeah. We all started as a group from our university, where I went for undergrad and it is a vocal jazz acapella group. While we were there, we got a call from the NBC show, The Sing Off, and producer asks us, “why don’t you guys try for the show.?” So we ended up going on the show and we finished forth out of 16 group - which was amazing! The group we lost to was Pentatonix and they ended up becoming the biggest act to come off of an NBC show. I’ll never forget, week two, when we were on the same show, I said to them, “I think you guys will win the whole thing. I am dead serious. I see you guys running the whole thing. Sure enough, not only did they win, I think they knocked it out of the park! But yeah, our group, we are hoping to finish our EP soon. It’s tough because it’s ten people and we are in about five different states. It’s a bit of a challenge.
So, what vocal range do you sing?
I am usually baritone. But for them I primarily beat box.
Awesome! Now for something a little different. Can we do some free association? Here we go! Mad Max-Fury Road.
The greatest ever.
Super unique. Super unique!
I noticed on your Twitter page it said “Man of God”…
One of my favorite verses growing up was “let your life shine so that people can see that...” and when you enter a room, you should have something different about you. You should provide hope and provide love for people because at the core, that’s what it should be about. So that’s why the answer to that is the source because I think that any idea or any inspiration… that’s why I love Stevie (Wonder) so much. My favorite songs of his are also songs that reflect his spirituality and reflect his relationship with God.
Interviewer | Paul Goldowitz
Research, Editing, Copy | Paul Goldowitz
Extending gratitude to Brian Vickers.