We had the good fortune of connecting with Dario Valderrama and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dario, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Many years ago, I skydived without fully understanding the risk of jumping off of a plane, to be honest there wasn’t much of a thinking process involved in that decision. I remember my 23 year old self signing a waiver without reading a single word, agreeing and assuming full responsibility for the possibility of my own death. It wasn’t until many years later, that I got the full picture: It is insane to step out of a moving plane! Since then, life has been teaching me that I’m constantly jumping from moving planes. Sometimes it takes longer to find the parachute cord to pull, which might make the free fall pretty stressful. Yet each time, the parachute opens…the noise suddenly stops and you can literally listen to your own heartbeat. You get a new opportunity to enjoy this beautiful 3D reality, and now you have that extra jump on your list. In a fraction of a second, you’ve made that final decision to risk it all and step out of your comfort zone… it’s kind of addictive. Moving from Mexico City to L.A. felt a bit like that, the city can be tough on newcomers, but if you resist and adapt, then the L.A. magic happens, I made wonderful human connections in my first year, those that keep you excited about jumping one more time. I’m so grateful to have made this move… it all makes sense now.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Growing up, I remember my dad playing guitar and singing along with my mom just for fun. It made me so incredibly happy to hear them singing songs from The Animals, Peter Paul and Mary, Bobby Hebb, Otis Redding to name a few. So there is a deep connection to music and feelings in my subconscious. As a teenager, I played keys with a few rock bands, which eventually allowed me to share stages with wonderful musicians and travel to many countries playing for huge audiences most of my adult life. I started my scoring career in my twenties writing music for advertising and short films. This led me to scoring my first feature film “Nora’s Will,” which won 7 Mexican Academy Awards including one for Best Music. When working with directors I think of myself as a ‘feeling translator’. The only way to practice it, is by knowing yourself as much as possible, being aware of how your brain connects with your heart and guts to produce magnetic impulses that eventually will turn into chords and melodies. My desire is to connect at a deep level with another human being and with some luck music will make them shed a tear or smile. It’s pure magic, and I feel incredibly lucky and grateful to spend my time on this planet doing so.
The thing I’m most proud about my process as a composer (which is still a work in progress) is the ability to ‘get out of the way.’ To recognize that technically, the music is not mine or anybody’s. I feel like we are just facilitators organizing 12 chromatic notes (western music) in a certain way, the exact same 12 frequencies
used by Bach, Billie Eilish, and everything in between. As in any other profession, the more you practice, the more curious your brain/ear gets, and as a consequence, you’ll get craftier at finding your own voice.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Let’s pretend we live in 2019 and we could go anywhere without wearing a mask or worrying about germs. Here’s a list of my favorite spots and activities to plan a fun itinerary. Food – Square One Dining on Fountain has a killer breakfast sandwich, Millie’s Cafe in Silverlake is a classic. Sage in Echo Park, Jewel in Silverlake is so good. I also drool when I think of Ma’am Sir on Sunset. (I think they closed down!!)
Parks and hikes – When you walk around the Hollywood Reservoir is hard to believe that there is a massive city behind those trees and hills, beautiful.
Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge is lovely, they organize open air concerts beautifully lit and set under the trees. Probably one of my favorite spots is the Huntington Gardens, a 120 acre piece of land full of life and happy plants, it’s stunning. Nothing like a good sunset at Barnsdall Art Park a hidden gem on the corner of Vermont and Hollywood Blvd. Another beautiful hidden place I love to visit is the Temple of Self Realization in Los Feliz, they have an amazing zen garden where you can contemplate a typical L.A. hill from a different perspective.
I would do a quick architecture tour driving around Angelino Heights and then straight to downtown with stops at the Eastern Columbia Building, the Mark Taper Forum, The Broad Museum and the last stop could be The Last Bookstore just because you have to.
Drinks at The Prince in Koreatown!, vinyl music and drinks at In Sheep’s Clothing, doesn’t get cooler than that.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I feel so lucky to have crossed paths in life with Graham Reynolds, a dear fellow composer in Austin, some of his outstanding works are “A Scanner Darkly” and “Before Midnight”, among many other credits. He encouraged me to write my first String Quartet and that led to countless collaborations to play and create more music. His company, Golden Hornet is an amazing team of very talented people, who create and produce beautiful music for film, TV, dance and theater, merging all kinds of musical styles. They also focus resources and energy to the creation of music programs that combine diverse activities, helping promote and encourage composers of all ages no matter how experienced (or with no experience at all) to write new music. This I find truly inspiring.