We had the good fortune of connecting with Keegan DeWitt and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Keegan, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
It’s funny, because although my job is creative in it’s essence, so much of being a successful composer is managerial and administrative. In many ways, I’m the head of an entire department. Studios are trusting that I can deliver a mixed, orchestrated, recorded score that is uniquely artistic/moving, works with the edit to solve problems in performance or narrative and also do this on time, on budget, and in constant collaboration with not only the director, but a long line of producers who have plenty of notes. When you toss in the factor that the entertainment industry tends to be home to a bunch of sometimes difficult and untraditional personalities, this can be a true balancing act. So, like any job, even an artistic career is only as successful as your ability to manage all this. It’s a very wild balancing act, to be in constant conversation with your artistic side, which is inherently impulsive, emotional and often a bit irrational when it’s really clicking… and then still have to be extremely practical and able to handle difficult people and demands.
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.
The biggest thing I try and remind myself of as an artist is that your limitations are actually what makes you unique. There are plenty of composers out there graduating from world class programs, with world class music knowledge, but there is always a premium on fresh voices that seem individually inspired. It’s easy to get lost doubting your arranging abilities, your lack of tech knowledge, whatever it may be. But for me, embracing the limitations and leveraging them into strengths has been instrumental in me hollowing out a niche for myself as a composer. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t always be improving and thirsty for knowledge. I’m CONSTANTLY taking breaks in the studio to reaching about orchestration or watch a video series on how to be a better mixer. I’m constantly searching out my weaknesses, but I’m also allowing myself to know that those improvements will be tectonic, below the surface, and happen gradually. There’s no “cramming” to suddenly be a crack mixer for a giant orchestral score. But you can just slowly get better over time and continually circle back to focus on what you ARE good at. For me, I didn’t train heavily in music theory, but I have a deep trust in my first instinct and ability as a compositional improviser. So instead of losing sleep over my inability to read/write music hyper fast, I surround myself with talented people who can help me, and then I free up my mind to really excel at what I AM good at.
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?
For me, so much of a city is it’s food. I’d start with breakfast tacos at Home State, then coffee at Le Colombe in Frogtown with a bike ride on the greenway, then an “Auddie Cornish” from Wax Paper (if they’re not open you pop over to Dune in Atwater Village). After that, maybe you take a hike at Eaton Canyon out in Altadena before grabbing some beautiful natural wine at Good Luck Wine. Drink some Orange Wine around the pool at our house/studio here in the Altadena foothills, then load into the car for either Sichuan in the San Gabriel Valley or Night + Market Song on Sunset. Finally, end the night in the bar at Stella for a night cap.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The best advice I ever received was not to compare your career to someone else’s as everybody’s journey happens differently. Some people get there overnight, others peak later, and most importantly… what looks like “success” from the outside can sometimes not feel at all like it from the inside. I’m really grateful, not only for the many different mentors I’ve had through film school, on through acting conservatory and now in my composing community but also to my arranger and collaborator Dabney Morris who has been a huge help as things scale quicker and quicker in my career. Same goes to Catherine Joy at Joy Music House. Between the two of them, they’ve really helped me STAY agile and focus on the possibilities of each project, rather than question the road blocks.