Josh Greene is a graduate of the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, where he won multiple Downbeat Awards as a composer, arranger, and performer with the school’s legendary Jazz Ensembles. Perhaps best known as the host of TLC’s 10 Years Younger and the Discovery Channel’s Rally Round the House, he’s also an accomplished actor and singer with Broadway credits including RENT, Rock of Ages, and the original workshop cast of Spring Awakening. In demand as a musician, vocal coach and producer, he’s worked closely with a variety of artists including Julie Taymor, Mark Shaiman, Adam Lambert, Martin Short, Amy Adams, Evan Rachel Wood, Ryan Gosling and many more.
1. Please describe your basic setup. (Your technical setup as well as the physical space that you work in.)
I have a small recording studio built around a Pro Tools HDX rig, with a Kawai MP10 as my primary controller. I track vocals on a Neumann TLM-103 running through an Avalon VT-737sp pre, and run all my guitars direct into an Avid Omni. I work BACKWARDS compared to most arrangers, in that I record everything in Pro Tools, then send it over to Sibelius to clean up the notation. My current space is a walk-in closet. Not a joke. LA is expensive…
2. What is your process for brainstorming or inspiration-seeking as you start a new arrangement?
It depends on the job. If it’s an individual chart (a one-off) then I usually just sit down and go. Since I record everything first, I usually lay down some drums and a bass line then start building, shaping, removing, etc. It’s almost more like sculpting. One nice byproduct of recording first is that even the most difficult sounding vocal lines tend to sing rather easily, as I just make up harmonies on the fly — literally as I’m recording the vocals. I’m no heavyweight jazz cat, so they can’t be THAT hard to sing.
My approach changes a bit if I’m designing a full show. SInce each chart is designed as a specific puzzle piece in a larger picture, I almost always do a mockup of everything with the original recordings as sort of a blueprint for each arrangement. This includes cuts, mashups, tempo changes, key changes, and sometimes even reharmonization (again, all done in Pro Tools). Not only does this speed up the writing process for me, it also allows choreographers to get started before they have all the final charts/tracks. I always include a “script” of the entire show, so everyone knows what’s going on when and where. Little things do change when I sitdown to start arranging, but it’s a huge timesaver to have all the costume changes, traffic patterns, etc. built into everything BEFORE I start writing, as opposed to trying to make it all fit AFTER the fact.
3. What is your go-to snack and/or drink when arranging?
Coffee. Just coffee. I’m not a snacker.
4. What is one thing you wish you would have known when you started arranging?
How to buy Bitcoin in 2009.
5. What is your favorite shortcut or time-saving trick in your notation software?
This goes back to the way I approach arranging… Since everything is sequenced in Pro Tools, all I have to do is hit “send to Sibelius” and all the notes for all the parts populate themselves. It takes a few hours to clean everything up, but 99.5% of the “arranging” is already done by the time the notes magically show up on the page.
6. What is a favorite arrangement of yours?
I’ve written at least one show choir chart every year since I was a senior in high school (and most years, a lot more), so it’s hard to pick just one, but…
I’m gonna go with “Solitary Home” from Los Al’s “Great Expectations” show. Not only is it one of the most musically sophisticated charts I’ve ever written, but it took me almost a decade to convince a program to attempt it due to its constantly changing time signature and the ominous sound of the original recording (by a fantastic Norwegian band called Major Parkinson). Check out their version here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fe6Qx-TJgmc
When I reached out to these Norwegian rockers to ask permission to use the tune, they had no idea what show choir even was. They said yes, but wanted to hear my version before I released it in case they had any issues with it. Here’s what I sent them: https://showchoircharts.com/catalog/solitary-home/
They were pretty stoked — so much so that they jumped on a plane and flew to LA to see the kids perform. Then they extended their trip another week so they could watch a second time. Then they booked out a famous recording studio here in LA and brought all the kids in to record a NEW version of the song, which they went back to Norway and completed with an orchestra. Here’s that version: https://showchoircharts.com/catalog/solitary-home-redux/
They’ve since included SoundFX on other recordings, I’ve flown to Norway to attend the musical festival they headline every year, and we’ve all become good friends. I’m super proud of the chart, but credit the source material for all of the magic and inspiration. Good music is good music… Good storytelling is good storytelling… When the two go together it can be a really special thing.
7. How can people get ahold of you?
Head over to https://showchoircharts.com and check out the catalog. If you place an order directly from the site, you’ll immediately receive an email with links to download your Full and Accompaniment tracks, and if you order 2 or more charts you’ll receive a discount of up to 25%. Payment is not required (or even available) on the website due to licensing restrictions, so we handle that via check or credit card after the order is placed. If you have any questions, you can fill out the contact form there and I’ll reply ASAP!