Paul Zacharias is a producer, singer, songwriter, engineer and the Sound Designer and Composer for this summer's 'The Sunset Limited', now playing on our BMO Studio Stage. A Rosebud regular behind-the-scenes, selected credits include 'The Last Train to Nibroc', 'The Wizard of Oz', 'Freud's Last Session', 'Jake & the Kid', and 'May & Joe'. Other designs include 'We are the Body' (Burnt Thicket Theatre) and 'Winter's Tale' (Shakespeare Company / MRU). He is one half of the folk duo 'Me & the Mrs.', currently on a Western Canada tour, and the head of doG House Studios.
For ‘The Sunset Limited’, you’re Sound Designer AND Composer? What’s the distinction?
A Composer creates original pieces of music and (in my case) performs and records them to be presented with the production. A Sound Designer puts together sound effects and music to help tell the story. As a composer I did everything from writing music, lyrics, singing, playing guitar, drums, bass and of course engineering and mixing the recording. On the design side I recorded sound effects such as neighbours quarrelling in the hall, doors being slammed, and manipulating trains sounds to fit our production (to name a few). A special thanks to my dear friend Jason Bertsch who came into the studio to record many of the lead guitar parts for the show. He’s fabulous!
When you’re given a project like this, where do you begin?
I lay down on the couch and read the script, making notes as I go, about my first impressions of the piece. Often it’s very obvious what genre I will be approaching the show from… in this case, Blue Collar Blues just jumped off the page at me!
Is there a best part to your process? Hardest part?
The best part of the process on this show was the tiny window between writing and recording. I wrote all of the songs in the studio. Often I’ll have to wrestle a song to the ground to get it right… on this show they mostly happened quite naturally and easily. As soon as the last word was written and in place I’d set up all the microphones and gear to start tracking. Having the songs fully realized before I even knew what I had written was a thrill. Having Jason come in and add his guitar magic was a very special experience. He’s an amazing blues player and I loved collaborating with him.
Coming in each day and seeing the way that Nathan and Carl poured themselves into the work, into their characters and the story they are telling was amazing. I have SO MUCH admiration and respect for both of them. They make the story so true, so heartbreakingly human and emotionally three dimensional!
The hardest part: wanting more time with the show before letting go. Putting it down and being done.
What resonates with you about the world of ‘The Sunset Limited’?
The way that these two men who are so very different are able to share moments of communion just grabs me every time I see the show. The importance of loving your brother and making the criteria of who is your brother broader.
As a singer/songwriter, how’s the process different than creating for a show?
It’s different in a number of ways but perhaps most significantly when writing for the band the only creative parameters I have are self imposed. I don’t have to align what I’m writing with anything or anyone else… I can if I want… but I don’t have to: the SONG is the show. When writing for the theatre, the song is a small cog in a big machine. I see it as very much a supporting role. It involves tuning in to what everyone else is doing: the director, other designers, the script-writing, the actors and trying to get caught up in that same wave that everyone else is riding.
Read anything fantastic this summer? (or binge watch any Netflix)?
Yes! Frederick Buechner’s The Hungering Dark is a beautiful book full of good things for the soul. Stranger Things on Netflix was good fun. And, Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Café Podcast Episode: Dave Buys a Casket.
What are you listening to right now that’s inspiring you?
Into The Mystic by Van Morrison. Man, that song has EVERYTHING!
Coffee or Tea, and how do you take it?
Earl Grey, little bit of sugar, little bit of milk, little bit of love.
'Sunset Limited' is set in a gritty New York tenement. Do you think sound has stereotypes, or does any style of music have the potential to be universal?
Yeah, I think sound has stereotypes and often for good reasons… but I think things can always be flipped on their head, truth transcends.
Lastly, you do it all! What's next for you? Any shows coming down the pipe? Projects we can look forward to?
Me & the Mrs. Are about halfway through our BC, SK, AB tour and now getting to spend some time playing around our home province(AB). We’re really looking forward to a very special concert we’ll be doing in Rosebud September 3rd with our good friends The Dearhearts and The Fig and the Flame. I’ve [also] been working with my dear friend, film maker Michael Janke as a sound engineer on his Web Series, Youth in Decline. (Watch it!) The work involves live off the floor recording sessions with the fabulous Calgary band, Young Neighbours. I’ll [also!] be sound designing/composing for Rosebud Theatre’s Miracle on 34th Street this Christmas. The script is lovely and I can’t wait to see what director Paul Muir will do with it. I’m going to be writing SO much music for the show and can’t wait to jump into the wonder of Christmas with our team!
Also, I haven’t played a lick of tennis all summer long… that’s gonna change soon!