Tom Howe talks Shrinking, Daisy Jones, and Ted Lasso

Tom Howe. Photo credit: Nicola Buck.

Tom Howe spoke to Solzy at the Movies about Shrinking, Daisy Jones and The Six, and Ted Lasso, all of which are currently streaming.

It’s not often that a composer is working on three different series that happen to be released around a close timeframe. But for Tom Howe, it’s exactly what happened. Shrinking premiered in late January on Apple TV+. Daisy Jones and The Six premiered in early March on Prime Video. Ted Lasso premiered its third and final season on Apple TV+ before Shrinking even concluded its first season on the service.

It’s so nice to meet you.

Tom Howe: Likewise. Yeah. How’s it going?

I just found out the good news about Shrinking being renewed for a second season.

Tom Howe: Yeah, fantastic, isn’t it? I thought, well, I was 90% sure it was happening. It’s nice to get the confirmation and have it in Variety and everywhere, isn’t it? Thank you.

I’ve been such a big fan of this season. Here it was, I was expecting Harrison Ford to have the better performance in 1923 but he’s been quite a surprise in Shrinking.

Tom Howe: The role was obviously written with him in mind but it’s perfect for his kind of temperament and character. And as you say, he’s just really funny, isn’t it? I like to think that he’s gonna get recognized for that but we’ll see, obviously, how everything pans out. Ironically, he may find him and Brett Goldstein might be going head to head in the Best Supporting category, which would be ironic since Brett created his character. But yeah, they might end up being up against each other.

I know that you have a previous relationship with Bill Lawrence dating back to a few years ago. At what point in the process did he ask you about coming on board to score the show?

Tom Howe: Because I’ve known Bill now quite a while, he told me about it well before they even filmed it and we talked. He told me they were developing it and doing it and would I be interested in doing it? Which I obviously said, yes. He sent me some early scripts, some synopsis, and things like that so I knew what it was about. I knew Brett was involved and Jason was involved. It just sounded like a really cool idea. I actually started on it probably much earlier than I normally would as well, even though I didn’t really get into scoring it properly until maybe August of last year, September, maybe. The bulk of the work was done November, December going through that period there. I had already written lots and lots of things much earlier in the year just to start a dialogue because we weren’t sure at that point. Bill and I were having back and forth about what it should sound like and what we’re trying to say and that kind of thing. I was on early, which is always good.

Jason Segel and Harrison Ford in Shrinking
Jason Segel and Harrison Ford in “Shrinking,” premiering January 27, 2023 on Apple TV+.

Do you tend to start from the script stage or do you prefer to watch footage first?

Tom Howe: It’s not often that I get asked to work at that early stage but if it’s possible, I really like it. You can you can try and find the sound before they get into another sound if you know what I mean by that. Otherwise, you can be in that position where you start getting—whether it’s a TV show or a film—it starts coming in with a temp track on it and then you’re in a different position because you can be chasing that. In this case, when I got the first cut of the first episode, it had a lot of other things I’d done on it. That’s a rather nice place to be, really, make the temp as you’re going.

Do you have a favorite studio for recording the score because of the way it sounds?

Tom Howe: I like different studios for different things. I like going to Abbey Road and I like going into AIR in London. I like the Village recorded here in Santa Monica, always has a great sound for bands and stuff. I did a lot of recording of the Shrinking stuff in my studio in London, which I’ve got set up there. The drums, the piano, and everything all miked all the time. I can actually just put a track into the loop in the sequencer, and then I can go around the room playing different things, and then go and edit it after the event. That’s just a really good workflow on something like that where there’s a lot of live band-type instruments.

Is there a track that evolved the most from the time you sat down to start composing?

Tom Howe: I think there’s a piano theme which is kind of really for the wife and his loss. That actually started when I first sat down for that. I thought it would be more for Harrison’s character and then it was a much shorter form thing. Once I started getting into it and I did a much longer version of that, one of the editors put it in a different spot and I was like, ah, that works really well there. I developed it further as we went through the series. It’s a recurring thing every time there’s a flashback to her or they’re talking about her and that kind of thing. But yeah, thematically, I like that piece the best, I think.

Given that Shrinking, Ted Lasso, and Daisy Jones and The Six are all being released so close to each other, were you working on each show at the same time?

Tom Howe: Well, no, which is quite strange, really, isn’t it? As you say, because they’re actually all going to be out at the same time, as it turns out. Daisy Jones was something that I worked on last summer. Shrinking, as I said, I got into October, November, December was really when I did most of the work. Ted Lasso, the bulk of that work has been this year. If possible—I mean, you can’t always make it perfect but ideally, you’re not doing too much at the same time because you want to have the headspace to give it a good thing. But yeah, Daisy, that was in June, July of last year for me. It was very much separated from Shrinking and Ted and they were separated from each other, too. Although, Shrinking and Ted Lasso are the same production company so they were happy if they clashed, they wouldn’t have minded, but they didn’t so that was good.

Daisy Jones and The Six
Josh Whitehouse (Eddie Roundtree), Suki Waterhouse (Karen Sirko), Sebastian Chacon (Warren Rojas), Sam Claflin (Billy Dunne), Riley Keough (Daisy Jones), Will Harrison (Graham Dunne) in Daisy Jones and The Six (Lacey Terrell/Prime Video).

I remember getting the screeners for Daisy Jones and The Six and it just became one of those just another episode, just another episode. Next thing I know, I’m up until 2 AM with one episode to go and I just saved that for the morning.

Tom Howe: Yeah. They’ve done really well with it. The actors—they look and sound like a band. In a way, one of the silver linings of Covid was that they had more time to rehearse and get good at instruments and singing and things like that. Initially, when they first started getting together, I think there was gonna be a lot of correction done in post, if you like, of vocals and things like that. But in the event, when it came down to filming those sequences, they’re so good. It’s literally just roar and that’s what you get type of thing. They can all play and even down to the right guitar chords on the guitar or the keys. It’s all exactly as it should be.

It’s such a phenomenal show.

Tom Howe: We are very pleased with it. It seems that everyone’s liking it—number one on Amazon so that’s exciting.

Were there any challenges in recording the score because of the pandemic?

Tom Howe: I think by that point—doing Ted Lasso season one during the pandemic was challenging because we’d never really done anything on Zoom. I’d actually never heard of Zoom until 2020. That was the first time I’d ever heard about it and all these other things that everybody started getting into. But by the time we got round to this year and Daisy Jones, we were meeting up in person to spot although we were wearing masks and things. It’s not quite the interaction you get when you’re all in a room and you can read people a bit better.

We’d all got so used to receiving everything over the internet and sending music back. It was quite a smooth process. TV is good, because it always—films can sometimes push. There’s a schedule and provided they haven’t put the date on the poster on the side of the bus that you have to hit, it can often move around, but on TV, generally, the schedule is pretty solid and it sticks to it, by and large. I like that having that this is what it is and we’re gonna work on this and feedback will be on this day and you can address the notes on that day. It’s a nice way of working and they were really great people so that always makes things easier as well.

How did you first get interested in becoming a composer?

Tom Howe: Well, watching and listening to Ennio Morricone and John Williams. Those scores obviously stood out to me when I was growing up. I’d always done music. My dad’s musical. I did a lot of instruments growing up, at school, choir singing back in England and things like that. I got a couple of Ennio Morricone scores—one being Cinema Paradiso and then one being The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, which was so wildly different. I remember hearing and thinking, this is interesting. I heard it was the same person and then thinking, Well, that’s pretty cool. One minute, you can be enjoying a full symphonic score and then you can do Minority Report or something. There’s so much kind of variation that’s possible so it always keeps it interesting. I like the idea of as well—the music is obviously, to me, the most important part, but you’re serving a higher purpose. We’re all just trying to make the best show that we can make and I like that feeling of being part of a team. I’m not sure how good I’d be at just sitting, making my own records, really, because I wouldn’t know what I was doing it for. You know what I mean? I like that idea of here’s a great show that someone’s made and they’re entrusting me to try and bring something to it and add something to it.

Christopher Reeve in Superman.
Christopher Reeve in Superman. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

You mentioned John Williams. Do you have a favorite John Williams score?

Tom Howe: Yeah, I do. People often say E.T. or Schindler’s List, which are genius scores. But actually, for me, I’m Superman, the first one that he did, because it’s got so much variation in it that he did. The stuff on Krypton has got some synth elements and it’s very kind of discordant. You’ve got this stuff when he’s in Smallville that sounds like total Americana classical music, and then you move into Metropolis, and there’s different changes, and then you’ve got that fanfare that you just only have to hear the bubbling note or little rhythmic thing underneath and you know what it is.

I think the movie is actually being re-released. I don’t know if it is here, but throughout Europe, it’s going back to the cinema for an anniversary of whatever it is. It’s going back to the cinema tomorrow and I’m going to be first in line to get my tickets and go and hear that in a proper theater with speakers.

Yeah, I think that was 1978 so it would be 45 years.

Tom Howe: 45 years, there you are.

I know Warner’s releasing the Superman films in 4K Ultra HD in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the studio.

Tom Howe: I didn’t know that. I’m gonna have to get those, too. But yeah, that film was almost hard to beat in terms of the warmth and at the same time, lightness and believability of character. Christopher Reeve was obviously great as well. But yeah, I love that score.

Right now, it’s hard to imagine studios going with an unknown actor for a leading comic book character but that was the 1970s.

Tom Howe: Yeah, I have to order those 4K ones. I’ll do that.

Brett Goldstein, Brendan Hunt and Jason Sudeikis in Ted Lasso.
Brett Goldstein, Brendan Hunt and Jason Sudeikis in “Ted Lasso,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

Are you going to miss working on Ted Lasso?

Tom Howe: Yes, It’s been a big part of my life for the last few years. It was funny going to the premiere and screening the other night. A lot of the time, anyone in post is not on set with the actors. You might meet them for the screening, but you’re not so involved, obviously, in that side of things. We have our own little bit that comes afterwards. But in the case of Ted Lasso, I’ve obviously attended a few different events with everybody there so I’ve met everybody, but I’ve also been on set lots of times. I had to do a few things in the new season that that involved my input, actually, musically, in the filming process. I got to go on set and hang out with everybody. When I went to the screening the other night, it’s like catching up with old friends. I’m certainly gonna miss that and that feeling of family. They were such nice people and the show’s got such a great feel to it and warmth and heart. I’ve only good things to say about it.

Yeah, I’m looking forward to watching the new season. I just haven’t pressed play on the screeners yet.

Tom Howe: Yeah. (Laughs) It is good. How many did they send you?

They have four in the screening room.

Tom Howe: Right. Okay. Yeah. I think it’s great so yeah, go check it out and see what you think.

It was so nice to meet you. Thank you so much for your time.

Tom Howe: Thank you. Thanks for the time.

Shrinking and Ted Lasso are streaming exclusively on Apple TV+. Daisy Jones and The Six are streaming on Prime Video.

Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Substack.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.