You may not know W.G. “Snuffy” Walden by name, but you’d know him by ear. The Emmy-winning composer’s credits include 30-Something, The Wonder Years, The West Wing, Friday Night Lights and Nashville. The self-taught guitarist, who has toured with Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and others, accompanies vocalist Sara Niemietz at Jammin Java on Oct. 24.
Walk us through the process of writing a main title theme.
Usually the best ones come from organic material when I’m working on the score. You’re building a fabric, and usually you try to have all those threads in the main title. What I like to do is let the characters and the story bring something out of me, so I like to do it kind of in the process of writing the score for a show.
How would you describe the role the main title plays in setting the tone for a show?
It’s so important. When I was a kid, I used to hear the Andy Griffith theme [whistles theme], and I would run to the television. Back in the old days, the main title was so instrumental; we didn’t have cold openings. It signaled that it was time to get in this world and time to sit down with these people. And I think it’s very important to have a sonic signature, a sound that is unique to the show so it invites people in. I think on The West Wing, that particular piece people responded to so much. I’ve had people get married to it; I’ve had people get buried to it.
Did you have a special connection with Friday Night Lights, given that you grew up in Texas?
That show spoke to me so much, and the movie did, too. Peter Berg’s original movie I really loved. I grew up in East Texas, and everybody was a football freak there, even though the show was really not about football. It was a much deeper show than that. I had a real connection with it. Scoring that show came real easy, although the odd thing is that I never even went to the offices. The shows that I actually became friends with the actors really were 30-Something, The Wonder Years, The West Wing because most of the time what’s happening is I’m sitting here looking at a film, and I feel like I live with these people because I’m watching them so much, but they don’t know me from Adam.