Effective commercials provide their audiences an unexpected sense of emotion. It’s the job of Evert Almond to write music for commercials that do just that. Almond, a Brooklyn native, plays in the band Evil Arrows and writes music for the band Windsor Field. He also writes music for commercials and advertisements. In these, Almond, who currently lives in Saugerties with his wife and three children, works hard to set the tone and create a certain vibe.
How did you get into this line of work?
I started playing drums and I’ve been playing music my whole life. My dad was a drummer, and he taught me. I learned at an early age, say twelve or 13, that you need to write songs in order to make money in the music industry. So I taught myself how to play piano and guitar enough to write. You just need to really learn the basic triad chords to write. I’ve been writing ever since.
Before I really got into writing for a living, I was a session musician who would be hired to play drums. I was gigging five nights a week and working crazy hours. This guy I met at one of my gigs owned an ad agency. We got to talking, he wanted to hear my stuff, one thing led to the other and here I am.
One of my songs, Happy to Be That Way, was the song that really got me started, and it is what I use in my Ford ads. In the last five years, I’ve sort of cornered three companies that I write for. It’s been great. I write for Clinique, Réard and Ford. With Ford I work with their overseas market. I also do the Rolex ad for the U.S. Open every year. Before that, I wrote for whoever wanted to pay me.
What type of education or training do you have?
Well, I’ve been drumming since I was about two, or so I am told. I don’t remember learning it. I am not sure what I believe when it comes to this type of stuff. Is it natural, do you just have it? I don’t really know.
Of course, as I got older I took lessons and got better and studied. I took a lot of acting and worked with the arts and touring and working in that arena. I would say my dad’s influence and his immersing me in the Beatles and rock and roll really made a huge difference.
How does writing for ads work? Is it a traditional jingle as one might think of it?
Well for example with Clinique, I write a lot of music for their online content like Instagram, Facebook or whatever. I just submitted 64 30-second spots for them. They range from pop, jazz, classical or even electronic music.
It’s all over the place. They don’t seem like jingles, you wouldn’t even think you were listening to an ad. You could just be watching a lady with makeup walking down the street.
Jingles no longer sound like product pitches. You aren’t even going to hear the product’s name mentioned. It’s more like you are selling an emotion or a vibe. It sounds like a pop tune set to a scene. Most of them don’t even have lyrics.
How do you come up with your ideas?
I hear it in my head. I hear them in weird frequencies like white noise or the shower. When there is that constant sound I can sort of pull it all together. It’s rarely lyrics first, but sometimes I am inspired by a phrase. Maybe a few words together that sound cool, and I will put that to music. That isn’t usually how it works, but the lyrics-driven pieces are actually my most successful stuff.
That is what non-musicians, which the masses are, that is what they connect to. They connect to lyrics. That’s what makes a song, not necessarily a hit, but it’s what gets it in people.
When you are writing do you think about what you are selling?
Yes and no. It is really all about the vibe. If a restaurant has a good vibe, the food tastes better. If a song has a good vibe, it sounds better. It doesn’t need to be the best, it just needs to fit the vibe.
I can do that. I may not be the best songwriter or musician, but I know the vibe I am writing for. Do I think about what demographic I am selling the car to? No. I don’t even know what I would do with that. I don’t have that skill. They tell me what they want, they show me the video, and I add song to it. That’s not all the time, but it’s the bulk of the time.
Is there a secret sauce that makes something a hit?
You need that catchy melody or weird thing. There is a secret sauce that makes something a hit. I don’t know what it is, but when you write it you know it. If I write something sometimes I am, like, Yes, this is great! Sometimes I say “Nah, this is a track number nine on an album.” There is definitely something that makes it great.
How is your work-life balance?
When inspiration hits, I sort of have to drop everything and write. That’s when the magic happens. The recording I can fit in wherever. I can wait for my kids to be napping or at school to get that done. Once I record it and send it in, they can re-record it with studio people or go with my version. Either way is fine. They aren’t buying my performance, they are buying my songwriting.
What type of person makes a good songwriter?
Any songwriter that I know that is successful, in whatever way that may be, has to be emotional and down-to-earth. They have to be able to connect to people and get along with different types of people. I take a lot of my interactions with other people and put that into my work. They have to connect on an emotional level, not just intellectual. They need to be empathetic.
What do you think a common misconception about your work may be?
That it’s easy and that I don’t work for a living. This is my passion, so it doesn’t necessarily feel like work. I am not breaking my back doing what I do, but it is emotionally draining. At the end of the day, after being in a recording studio, I am tired. But it’s a different type of tired. I’m drained.
What makes for a good day on the job?
When I write something great and know it’s great. That feeling, which is so fleeting, is one of the best feelings.
Do you see yourself doing this ten years from now?
God willing, absolutely. That is why I try to work harder to make sure that everyone is super-happy. I gave Clinique about seven or eight more pieces than what they asked for, just to make sure they are happy.
Do you currently have anything you are working on?
Yes. My band Windsor Field has two EPs available now. One is “Steal the Crown” and the other is “Blahbity Blah Blah.” I also have a solo EP that will be out in April.
How’s the pay?
Great. We have everything we need and we are very lucky. I feel very fortunate.