News Column

Milford composer John Pagliano scores Wortown Films' 'Dead Giveaway'

August 19, 2013

YellowBrix

"When your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme."

OK, it's a quote from Jiminy Cricket, but if anyone has followed that sage observation and never given up on a dream, it's composer John Pagliano.

"I never wanted to make millions or be famous; I just wanted people to hear my music," says the 56-year-old Pagliano in the studio of his Milford home.

And he may just be on the verge, after scoring the Wortown Films' independent thriller "Dead Giveaway," which will be released next month in the filmmakers' hometown of Worcester, Mass.

"Music is my life. That's all I want to do. I'm 56 now, and it's still all I want to do," he says. "Again, it's not to make millions. It's to see your name in those parentheses as the composer, to see the recognition that people hear your stuff."

It's been a long journey for Pagliano, who works as a construction supervisor for Commercial Construction in New Haven, a journey that's had its ups and downs and disappointments, but he's on a high right now, because he's confident scoring films will open other doors.

Pagliano writes what he calls "pretty music," what some would call New Age, but ranges over several musical genres: folky, adult contemporary, the kind of sound you hear in some of the great soundtracks, such as James Robinson's majestic "Dances with Wolves" score or even a John Williams score.

It always goes back to that age-old question, why them and why not me?

"I've always been told my music was special," he says, pointing out what he calls the special little "pings" that up the drama on a track from the film playing in the background that literally causes goose bumps.

He got this gig through a connection with actor Ray Hryb, his boss' nephew, who knew Ben Allotti, who founded Wortown Films in 2010 with Yusaf Harris. This is their first production, which will have a sneak peek Sept. 29 at The Raven in Worcester (www.wortownfilms.com).

"I sent him my music. He's a very nice guy. I met him in a coffee shop in Massachusetts, and it was so right. We talked, shook hands and signed a contract. He said he loved what I do and explained what he wanted ... "

What they wanted was a signature sound "kind of like 'Jaws' or 'Thriller,' that when you hear it, you think of the movie right away," says Pagliano.

They also forced Pagliano out of his comfort zone for music for a strip-club scene, which combines raunchy guitar riffs with a kind of heavy metal techno dance vibe, using drums, guitar and organ. The other pieces of the 25 or so minutes of music will play over the opening, the credits and in several other scenes, perhaps even the one in which he has a cameo.

Pagliano was encouraged to write when he was 16 and playing piano, trumpet, some guitar in gigs all over Norwalk in a band with Junior Rivera, what he calls "the greatest time of my life. He was like a second father to me. He took me under his wing, took care of me," which eased his own parents' concern about their teenager playing with 20somethings.

Years later, after Pagliano married, they got together and talked of doing a CD, as Rivera was always encouraging Pagliano to write. It never happened. Rivera was killed in a motorcycle accident in California in 1995, but the news didn't reach Pagliano for months.

He tears up recounting the story, saying, "This is 2013, and I still can't talk about it."

His music came to a halt while he grieved, but after a year, with his wife's urging, the songs poured out, notably "Gone Away to Yesterday," a piano solo with Denise Albanese on vocals, which he wrote for Rivera.

Pagliano has labored in the trenches of the music industry. He has a fan base from his affiliation with Tate Music Group in Oklahoma, which distributes his CDs through tatemusicgroup.com, but doesn't have much of a marketing budget. He saves money now by producing, mixing, laying down tracks at home with his Triton Studio keyboard as his band, under the auspices of his own JenLor Studios, using his daughter's photography for the artwork.

"My music's been on radio, I've been interviewed, I've been out there," says Pagliano, whose "Gone Away to Yesterday" is available on iTunes.

But he feels that because he has a production company affiliation and now a film credit, he will be able to send his music to stars who own production companies, such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Danny DeVito, Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock.

"I've quit many times," he says. "What's going to say I've made it? To see my name on the credits is one. Or having someone out there, some famous person, a celebrity, Bette Midler, Josh Groban, want to do one of my songs. That's when I'll know I've made it. I'll make it with indie films. I know I will.

" ... I'm happy I've gotten as far as I have. I want to see it get to the next level. I want to have directors, producers, singers call me ... The music industry is starving for new people. They just have to let the old guy in."

Contact Donna Doherty at 203-789-5672.

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