We had the good fortune of connecting with Jacob Yoffee and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jacob, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking.
As a musician there is risk in everything you do. The idea of paying your bills by performing or creating music is, to put it blunty, ill-advised. But musicians are amazing people, we help each other, we look out for the up & coming generation — it’s almost a familial culture. That makes it work in a lot of ways. But it’s still a risky business. The ACTUAL business side of it is brutal. You get used to a certain amount of uncertainty though and it’s easy to feel like you’re always pushing yourself, living on the edge, thinking BIG. But over time you find that you start following a path of safety; the same gigs start coming around and you can count on them every week, every few months or every year. In order for me to expand as a business I’ve had to take some big leaps of faith – consistently. Moving to LA from the east coast was the first jump and then hanging in there for a few years until things got going was the other half. Or maybe the other 99%…..hard to tell. Every year or so I’ve tried to look up and think of what big changes I could make that might shake things up in a good way? What scares me? What could I go for that seems insane but later will be the one thing that made the difference in surviving?
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.
When it comes down to it storytelling is what I love most. Who doesn’t love a great story? As a kid it started out as just a fun way to pass the time – reading books, comics, watching movies and listening to music. What always fascinated was how quickly you could transport yourself with the right story. But music spoke to me more than the other mediums and I jumped in head first. I wanted to know everything. How does it all work? What makes the different genres of music so different? How do you learn to compose for all the instruments, do you have to play them all first? What the hell is music theory and why do I need to know it? It was all so fascinating and every question revealed more questions and more music to discover. Since the beginning I’ve taken it very seriously but have absolutely loved every microsecond of it. I’ve had some wonderful mentors in music and there are so many titans of music to study one can never get bored of listening. At the start I spent the majority of my time as a performer but always with the mind of composing. It’s been a natural progression to film scoring as this is a perfect marriage of visual and auditory narrative. Ten years ago I moved to Los Angeles from the east coast and have been working in the industry ever since. The challenges were probably not much different than most of us trying to ‘break in’. But we composers have our own obstacles to overcome when creating music for media. As an artist you are constantly developing your own voice, refining your craft. But when you’re hired to write for any given project you are tasked with writing the best music for that particular story. It may not be exactly in your voice so you have to learn to speak in unfamiliar worlds (and QUICKLY). Over time you write so much the question becomes, ‘Well who am I now? Do I even know what my artistic voice is?’ It can be scary but I find all the pushing and pulling in different directions has only strengthened my musical voice and broadened my palette. If left to our own devices I think artists can wallow and keep perfecting things forever. The best part of this industry is how much is pushes people to just release things into the world. You’ve asked what lessons I’ve learned along the way and there really have been way too many to list. A few that I always like to pass on to young people though are: 1) Say yes and then figure out how to do a great job no matter what. 2) Never stop learning. You are not ever ‘ready’ which is freeing because it gives us license to dive in whenever the opportunity arises. But also the responsibility to forever be honing our craft. 3) Don’t take things personally. Unless someone is physically stabbing you in your body with a knife it’s best to remember that all decisions boil down to money. People are afraid of losing the money, not getting the money or sharing the money. It’s not personal. 4) Bring the Positive Energy. No matter how stressful, corporate or ‘business-y’ the gig seems it is always always important to have fun with the music and bring positive energy to the table. As the music makers we have the best access to this energy and we should always aim high. 5) Get up early and reserve the first part of the day as your own. Tackle YOUR items before jumping onto someone else’s agenda.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
In the age of Covid it’s hard to say what we could do eh??? But assuming all is well I love to take people on a journey of LA’s restaurants and outdoor activities like hiking or hitting the beach. Sushi with Alberto at Okomura in Encino — seriously he’s incredible, check it out. Barbecue at Maple Block in Culver City, Felix Trattoria for Italian food in Venice (expensive but amazing), Malibu Cafe for a cool experience, the Grand Marketplace is always fun and then Salt & Straw for ice cream! Hiking is amazing with tons of choices – the Hollywood Reservoir, Griffith, Fryman Canyon….. Beach-wise out-of-town guests always love seeing the Santa Monica pier. But then we love either going south for more open beaches or north to Malibu and beyond.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Utmost thanks to the music teachers & mentors in my life: Gary Thomas, Deniz Hughes, Ira Newborn, Morris Moshe Cotel, Cedric Lewis, Mark Honnold, Perry Ditch, Jeff Pellaton and Sonny Kompanek. My parents, of course, who supported me through all those critical years. And my wonderful amazing wife Jerri Penland, who has always believed in me and this crazy crazy dream.
Photos by Priscilla Jimenez