By Mary L. Holden
Many family trees contain personalities of note. So does Joey Newman’s. He’s a composer, a musician and a singer. The notables in his tree all happen to share a DNA rich in musical ability and talent.
Lionel Newman was Joey’s maternal grandfather. Born in 1916, Lionel was a pianist, composer and conductor who wrote the hit song “Again” in 1948. He won an Oscar in 1969 for Best Musical Adaptation for “Hello Dolly.” His career in music direction at 20th Century Fox lasted 46 years.
Joey’s dad, Joe Frank Carollo, was a member of the T-bones (a pop music group from the mid 1960s; check out “No Matter What Shape” on YouTube) and Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds in the 1970s (remember “Fallin’ in Love,” from 1975?). Joey’s mother, Jenifer, was a ballerina with the New York City Ballet and the Boston Repertory Ballet. Three of Joey’s cousins are musicians and composers: David, Thomas and Randy.
Joey arrived in 1976 wearing music in his genes. “On my mom’s side were the composers; my dad was a musician. My family says I was beating rhythms on things since I was three years old. As early as I can recall, I played drums. I got my education in tone from piano lessons with Herb Donaldson and my sense of rhythm from playing drums on my own. Veteran drummer Michael Barsimano taught me the musicality of the drum, or to ‘play for the song’ and he introduced me to jazz. I wanted to be a studio drummer, but when I got to college I took up composition.”
As a child, Joey’s hands contained talent for rhythm, but his voice was a ticket to participate in the boys’ chorus of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, where he performed in a production of “Tosca” and “Die Tote Stadt” featuring Placido Domingo.
By the age of 15, Joey knew he’d have a career in music. He loved being immersed in music during high school and thus he went to Berklee College of Music in Boston, where his education became the equivalent of surround sound. “I wanted to be in music 24/7,” he shared.
However, it was a job selling men’s clothing on commission that taught him to learn everything he could about any commodity. In Joey’s case, that would eventually be the music he wrote. “It’s really the place I started training to honestly pitch a product and make the customer or client feel confident in their decision. It’s similar to how I now work with film and TV directors, producers and executives. Even if you are a creative person, you have to have a mind for business to understand budgets, contracts, pay scale and rate.”
In addition to this extracurricular knowledge, Joey credits his friend and fellow musician Mark Robertson (whose career also spans work as an orchestra contractor and music supervisor) for teaching him the duality of music and business. Robertson introduced Joey to individual players in an orchestra and got them to talk to him about their creative roles. Through the friendships that Joey forged with musicians, he learned about economies of scale in the arts. Joey learned to produce high quality music when the environment dictated that it be created quickly and on a low budget.
After college, Joey returned to Los Angeles to compose music with W.G. “Snuffy” Walden. “I co-composed music for ‘Once and Again’ and ‘Providence,’ but I worked as an orchestrator on ‘The West Wing.’” From 2001 to 2006, he wrote the music for NCSoft’s “Lineage” game—one of the biggest role-playing games in video entertainment history. In 2003, he collaborated with his cousin Randy on the Universal movie “Seabiscuit,” and in 2006 on Disney/Pixar’s “Cars.” For six seasons of the TLC docu-series “Little People, Big World,” Joey composed the score that matched the everyday life of the Roloff family, earning himself an Emmy nomination in 2008. In 2010, he provided the original score for the movie about 9/11, “The Space Between.” Currently, the music he creates for TV can be heard on ABC’s sitcom “The Middle,” starring Patricia Heaton and Neil Flynn. The movie “Any Day Now,” released in 2012 on the movie festival circuit, features Joey’s compositions. Both “The Space Between” and “Any Day Now” are award-winning films.
Joey has an interesting philosophy about writing music for TV, movies and video games. He understands how his part in the creative process has to fit the story. Writers and producers often don’t quite know what they are looking for, but they know it when they hear it. “Musicians have to navigate psychological and musical components of the story,” Joey explained. “I take all the information I’m given, evaluate and analyze it, then put my own spin on it. It’s an interesting, amazing and beautiful process because I get to experiment and have fun, even though the sound is prescribed by others and the story. Music is all storytelling, and my nature is to visualize a concept, feel it, get the rhythm, melody, harmony and lyrics.”
While at Berklee, Joey met a singer named Jerelyn, who became Mrs. Newman 13 years ago. The couple has three daughters, Ella (9), Ava (6) and Leah (2) and lots of pets. Family life is important, as are Joey’s other-than-music interests: trying new foods, travel, photography, tennis and walking.
Newman can see himself in the future becoming a teacher and working with young composers and musicians. He speaks at schools about his career in music because, he said, “When I was a student I always wanted to hear what the music industry was really like.”
For now, Joey Newman is happy to carry his musical genetic code forward, composing music to support the entertainment industry and waiting to see if his daughters will bring music with them into the fourth Newman generation. “A great song will have a great groove,” he said as the levels of his voice fluctuated appropriately, and in the background, Jerelyn asked if he was ready to go for a walk with the dog.