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Features February 22, 2022

Bluey composer Joff Bush on the doors the global hit series is opening

Senior Journalist, B2B
Bluey composer Joff Bush on the doors the global hit series is opening
Joff Bush

Brisbane-based composer Joff Bush already has a hectic schedule.

If he’s not coming up with music for each episode of Bluey, he’s doing the soundtracks for shows such as Australian Survivor, The Family Law and Are You Tougher Than Your Ancestors?

The global success of the ABC TV children’s show which launched in 2018 – it screens abroad on Disney and the BBC – has led to invitations to work on international projects.

But the 36-year old laments that he’s had to turn down most of it because of Bluey’s workload.

One thing he’s certain he wants to do is to take the soundtrack music on tour.

“You’re part of something that is loved and you look at the numbers for the album and you know it’s doing well.

“But you seldom see first-hand the interaction you get from a live show.

“When you do, it’s a really emotional moment for me.”

Doing the Bluey play was one such moment.

“I’d worked crazy hours finishing the 50 minutes of music for it.

“Just to witness the excitement of all these young kids and everyone knowing the characters, I was absolutely speechless.”

In the same way that the show itself counts wrestlers and gruff politicians as fans, the music has attracted heavy metal guitarists and rappers as well as jazz and classical players.

“These are people I’m blown away by. They get to the series through their kids, I guess.

“They ask what synthesiser I used or the time signature on an opening, which of course I’m happy to share.”

Bluey’s music is mostly jazz-inspired, has attitude and clarity in its tonality, and seems to sound distinctive to overseas ears.

The 17-track Bluey The Album has had its own success.

In Australia, it became the first children’s album to ever top the ARIA Albums Chart.

In the US it peaked at #5 on the Billboard Kid Albums Chart.

Expect more music offers to come after the rescheduled 2021 Screen Music Awards announced this morning that Bluey won two gongs – Best Soundtrack Album and Best Music For Children’s Programming.

Bush plans to finish off work on the album’s sequel in autumn after completing commitments on the show’s third season.

A soundtrack album allows him to stretch out the music, some of which only last 40 seconds, and to correct some lost moments from tight weekly deadlines.

“Some things get rushed or we don’t get the players we want.

“Admittedly, sometimes the magic comes from that quick brush stroke, of trouble shooting to find ways because you can’t get what you want, and you don’t want to lose that.

“But with the album we can bring in a horn or strings section, or some of my favourite musicians.

“It’s a lot more involved I would say than most soundtrack albums are.

“They’re really detailed and we try and make them albums in their own right.”

Bush met Bluey executive producer Daley Pearson at Griffith University in Queensland.

They were both in their late teens and involved in making “dorky student films with no budgets”.

He graduated from the Queensland Conservatorium with a Bachelor of Music in piano and composition.

He initially wanted to be a concert pianist, but his tutor noticed he seemed to be spending more time with film students.

So Bush switched to jazz and composing, studying film scoring as a postgraduate.

The idea of Bluey started out as a minute-long pilot and one line that it was going to be about a family of blue heelers based mainly on writer Joe Brumm’s family.

“It gave me a wide sound palette. I have very fond memories of those early episodes because you’re just discovering different things as you would in any new relationship,” he says.

“I’d have a white board, and I’d write down key phrases like ‘familiar homely vibe’ so I’d use a cheap guitar.

“The team discusses each episode for hours, I spend more time on seven minutes of Bluey than an hour of TV, talking about the mythology and psychology of what these kids are exploring.

“We want it to be around an imaginative play where the kids are quite bright, but it also gives them permission to dance silly or fall over.”


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