Careers: Composer/sound designer Charlie White
Issue: November/December 2020

Careers: Composer/sound designer Charlie White

I am a 26 year old composer and sound designer working with Squeak E. Clean Studios from their Sydney studio. Over my career, I’ve composed music for feature films, shorts, animations and clients that include the brands Google, HP and Ford, and companies such as Buck and Wieden + Kennedy, along with others. As an experimental sound designer, I use analog and digital synthesis to create unique sonic palettes for brands.

Growing up in Sydney, my parents were always supportive, and encouraged my brothers and I when we were learning instruments. Our car trips were filled with a range of music, from Ray Charles to hard rock to classical. We were always surrounded by and engaged with it in some way. At the age of eight, I began learning piano, which instilled some early intrigue in me. From there, I picked up the saxophone briefly, and then fell in love with the guitar around age 12. 

As a teenager, I explored improvisation on the piano, started singing and began writing my own songs on guitar — cringe-worthy lyrics and all. It wasn’t long before I became interested in music scoring for film, and started working on friends’ short films towards the end of high school. 

After doing some travel and living in Melbourne for a year, I was accepted into the renowned Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS) for their Advanced Diploma in Music Scoring for the Screen. Whilst there, I was taught by the likes of Christopher Gordon (Master and Commander, Mao’s Last Dancer) and Martin Armiger, who very sadly passed away recently.

I got a big opportunity to move upwards in the industry towards the end of my coursework, when Nylon Studios offered me the role of studio assistant. It was a very exciting time and I wanted to soak up everything I could possibly learn from the inspiring people around me. This meant sitting in on composer sessions, learning the ropes of sound design, and managing the studio behind the scenes. I composed on my own time over the course of the first four years there, and after a while I started competing on jobs and winning some. If one of the engineers was away, I would fill in for them, and as it became more regular, I began running client sessions for global brands.

When Nylon Studios and Squeak E. Clean merged to become Squeak E. Clean Studios, I was officially promoted to the role of composer and sound designer. Since July 2019, it has been an incredibly busy time! The merger has brought in even more work from the United States, which has opened up a plethora of opportunities.

As a composer, I am highly versatile, writing across a range of genres, including electronic, orchestral, rock, pop and hip hop. Some recent highlights include composing the music for the launch campaign of Ford Bronco (featuring Bryan Cranston as voiceover), a campaign for HP (USA) and a re-record/remix of Rhythm of Life for SEAT Ateca (Europe). 

A specialization of mine is blurring the lines between sound and music. I’m particularly interested in motion graphics and have worked with some great clients, including the animation studio Buck, and brands Kia Sorento and Val Morgan. For those jobs I really utilized techniques of sound design enmeshed with composition. It always creates an interesting effect and can be a really creative way to work. 

The tools I use daily include Logic Pro for composing and Pro Tools for sound design. My go to plug-ins include East West, Serum, Omnisphere, Komplete, and a range of mixing plug-ins from Izotope, FabFilter and Waves. My analog synths include a Korg MS20 and a Minilogue. I find the Minilogue surprisingly good for getting rich pad sounds and I’ve used it in a number of compositions for brands. I have a number of guitars, including a Les Paul, Stratocaster and a couple of bass guitars. My go-to bass guitar for producing pop music is the Hofner Violin bass with flat wound strings. It brings a lot of vibe.

My biggest achievement during this wild year that is 2020 was creative directing the audio production of the Audible Original true crime podcast King of Sting. It was a monster of a job, with a run time of five-and-a-half hours. I was in charge of composing the theme music, original score, sound design, editing, directing the narration and mixing. It was months of full-time work, but it spectacularly led to the arrest of the subject matter, Australian conman Peter Foster. It also ranked in the top five non-fiction podcasts on Audible in the US, Australia and the UK.

Outside of my time at Squeak E. Clean Studios, I write, record and produce my own music under the moniker Patches Paradise, a solo project sitting in the colorful world of indie-pop. I’ve played in a bunch of bands and toured around Australia sharing stages with the likes of Pnau and Vera Blue. 

I’m excited for what 2021 has in store and to keep making great work in this crazy, cool industry. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy!