Bear McCreary Talks About His Creative Process for New Concept Record ‘The Singularity,’ a Project 30 Years in the Making: Exclusive

Bear McCreary is a household name when it comes to soundtracks. He has composed for the God of War video game franchise, Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead, Outlander, and many, many more games, television shows, and movies. Now, however, he’s finally been able to dedicate time to the project that really captures his passion.

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The Singularity has been in the works for more than three decades, but McCreary has worked on it full time over the past five years. It’s an album, a graphic novel, and a concert experience all rolled into one complete, unique, and diverse project. The album dropped today, May 3, on digital streaming platforms, and will release on vinyl and CD on May 10.

Bear McCreary sat down with American Songwriter to talk about the immersive concept album. He spoke about how he chose who to work with on the album, as well as the incredible length of time that he’s been working on the project.

[RELATED: Composer Bear McCreary Announces Concept Album Project ‘The Singularity’ With Legendary Collaborators]

American Songwriter: First of all, there’s such a diverse range of collaborators on this. I feel like there’s a common thread through some of them, like there’s heavy and rock and metal influences. But then there’s also Billy Boyd, Raya Yarbrough, and Rufus Wainwright, when Lee Pace, Ryan Hurst, and Danai Gurira doing the spoken word. How did you decide or narrow down who you wanted to work with on this project?

Bear McCreary: I love that you can pick up that there’s a common thread because I [do] think there is a common thread, I think between all the collaborators on The Singularity, they’re all storytellers … even the metal musicians have of a way of communicating that I find really powerful. I picked Corey Taylor [of Slipknot] and Jens Kidman [of Meshuggah], who I think are very expressive, and I feel like when I listen to Slipknot or Meshuggah they’re telling stories. Rufus Wainwright is a storyteller through and through.

And then some of these other folks I had crossed paths with when we were telling stories. I met Lee Pace when I was working with him on Foundation, and I met Danai [Gurira] and Ryan [Hurst] when I was working with them on The Walking Dead or God of War: Ragnarök … And it’s funny because sometimes I think to myself, the only fan in the world that is a fan of all these people is me, because it’s so diverse. Like, it’s such a diverse group of people, it’s s eclectic. But I think that I’m so lucky to get to work with all of them. I mean, I think they’re al brilliant. And everybody on the record elevated the record, and I’m very grateful for that.

AS: What was the process of making all these unique and diverse styles work so well together on the record?

BM: Part of it was I was motivated to write music for my own voice, for my own storytelling purposes. I’ve spent the last 20 years writing music to tell other people’s stories, scoring video games and television and features. And I realized that there was a creative impulse that was not being satisfied, as fun as that all is. So I started off just by writing this flood of material. I wrote most of the record in a burst of about three or four months and worked with my brother, Brendan McCreary, who’s the primary lead vocalist, he sings on eight [tracks]. But he co-wrote a bunch of the songs with me and was really one of the key people that helped bring it all together.

There was never an idea in the beginning to have it be a whole bunch of different people. But we just started hearing opportunities. I was writing so many different kind of songs, and I wrote a song with Eivør, who sings on God of War. And I started working with Griogair, who sings on Outlander. And I already had a couple of voices, and then I thought, well gosh, why don’t I ask Serj Tankian to do one? He and I had been friends and we did a track for Godzilla King of the Monsters together. And so I sent him a bunch of songs and he picked one. From there, it all started to sort of tumble into place.

I started reaching out to more people that I knew, and I would say about half the guest artists are people I was really close with already. And then the other half, once I started getting more and more people, I just started reaching out to people I didn’t know. I would just reach out to people and say, Hey, do you want to sing on this track? Do you want to play guitar on this track? And I found out that most of the time people were just really excited about it. That was really fun. Especially there were some people that were real surprises. Rufus Wainwright for example. We had met at Sundance and we became friends socially, but I never really thought he would want to sing on a metal song … But he went for it, he was so enthusiastic. And that was awesome.

It really took a long time to coalesce, but I kind of have to pinch myself, it’s like I’m dreaming. And I look back on that and here it is now, on May 12 of this year I’m going to be on stage launching this record … and this thing is going to be real, and starting with that show in Los Angeles, it might finally hit me that I actually made this thing.

AS: You said this is a product of three decades of work, and it feels like I could spend three decades exploring the project and still discover something new. Could you talk a bit about the pure creative expression that went into this project? Where did the idea start and what was your process of working on this as a full, cohesive piece?

BM: I have always had this project inside me yearning to break out. I did start writing it 30 years ago. There’s a song called “Escape from the Machines” featuring Joe Satriani and Slash, it’s an instrumental, and I wrote that when I was 15. And in fact, the first 10 or 15 seconds of what’s on the record is taken from a cassette tape that I recorded on a Tascam four track recorder in 1995. That is my high school recording, and my buddy playing guitar, his name is Malay, he has since moved to L.A. and become a Grammy-winning producer in his own right, ironically. But I wrote that when I was 15, and you hear it, that was me when I was 15. And then Gene Hoagland’s drum fill starts and Slash takes over that riff, I wouldn’t have dared to dream that when I was 15.

But Slash was who I was listening to, Joe Satriani was who I was listening to. And there are a lot of other songs on this record that are very old for me, they’ve been ideas that I’ve been kicking around and I could never find a home for. I think that, really, in 2019, is when I started working on this full time, more or less. It’s been 30 years in the works, but it’s been five years of work to make this happen. And five years ago, I realized that, creatively, I had to tell my own stories or I was gonna go crazy. I think the record was something that I started off by just having to get [it] out, I was gonna go nuts. And then I realized [I had] put together something really evocative and beautiful.

I reached out to some of my friends in the comic book world and I said, I think this is a concept album, there’s a story here, could we make a graphic novel or the record? And in a way that’s emblematic of what I love about The Singularity, is that after 20 years of writing music to fit someone else’s story, I wrote the music first, and then worked with writers and artists to fit a story to my record, which was really, really satisfying, that felt really good.

There’s 16 different artists on the graphic novel, there’s basically 30 guest artists on the album, I got to assemble this group of almost 50 artists who are so creative and inspiring. You have actors and guitarists and drummers and people who play folk instruments and visual artists and writers and letterers and inkers, and I got to just surround myself with them and it was so invigorating. I hope when people hear the record of read the graphic novel that they can sense how much fun I’m having. Being involved with something like this and getting to write something that is the backbone for all this incredible art, [I’m] definitely passionate about so much. It really feels like the foundation of everything, that’s kind of how I think about it.

There are songs on this record that I’m drawing from God of War, for example. There’s a couple others that feel a little like Battlestar Galactica, there’s songs that feel a little like Godzilla. It’s not that those projects influence this record, it’s the other way around. It’s that I’ve always had these ideas in me, and once in a while a project would come along, and I’d have an excuse to use some of these ideas.

I remember the day I recorded “Godzilla” … and I had assembled my favorite metal band, Dethklok, to be the rhythm section and Serj Tankian from System of a Down came in and sang the lead vocals. And we covered my favorite Blue Öyster Cult song that was written by my hero, Buck Dharma. All of these people are on my record now. But when I finished that recording … and by the time I got home, I was sad. I pulled into the driveway and I had to wonder why I was so sad.

And then I realized that I had been in the professional scoring business for 20 years, and it took that long for a movie to come along that gave me the excuse to assemble those musicians and record a song like “Godzilla.” I thought, is it going to be another 20 years before I get to work with that band again, before I get to work with Serj Tankian again, and then the idea hit me then and there, what if I just wrote more songs? Would all those musicians still work with me? And that was in the summer of 2018, and it was about a year later I started doing The Singularity full time.

Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage)

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