The Music of Exchange and the Legend of Prince Valiant

If your childhood was awesome, like mine was, you remember The Legend of Prince Valiant.  It aired in the early 1990s and it was about a gallant young hero and some mates of his who train to join the Knights of the Round Table. However, what I remember most about it is the theme song!  It’s one of those songs that just stays in your head. Back in the 1990s, you could not just hop onto Google to find out who sang it, but when you remember it in 2015, you can, and that’s just what I did.  The song is called Where the Truth Lies, and it was performed by a band called Exchange. (Steve Sexton and Gerald O’Brien)

Here is that unforgettable rousing song.


I was so stoked when Steve and Gerald agreed to answer my questions! Sometimes I can hardly believe I am actually talking to people who helped make that time of my life so great.

I’m a little obsessed with pop culture and I have this theory that a theme song and how good it is impacts on the success of the show. Take Who’s the Boss (Brand New Life) and Three’s Company (Come and Knock on Our Door)- you just have to hear the name of the show to hear the song going through your head.  The same is true of The Legend of Prince Valiant!  Your website says In 1988, Gerald O’Brien and fellow friend/keyboardist Steve Sexton, teamed up to form the instrumental duo “EXCHANGE’, as they both shared a mutual interest in Instrumental music as well as TV and Film scoring. How did you both get into music and how did Exchange come about?  Is there any particular meaning in the name Exchange?

Steve Sexton
Steve Sexton

Steve: My first group was an R & B/Jazz funk band that I joined when I got out of school, and Gerald was in a very cool original band called Nightwinds that I actually went and saw when I was in school, I thought they were amazing.

Years later I was playing in a band called the Lincolns, and Gerald was involved with a rock band called Surrender and they were looking for a 2nd keyboard player to work with Gerald. I still remember the whole band coming in to watch me play …… I met them after my set was over and knew right away I wanted to join.

It was after our stint with Surrender that we decided to try something on our own, and the fact that Gerald at the time lived in L.A. and I lived in Toronto, the name Exchange was thrown around because it seemed to exemplify the process and our working relationship, in the sense that we were “exchanging” ideas, just the two of us, whether it was in person, on the phone or over the internet ….. but it has always worked and the name seemed to stick. I might add that we were first called “Soho”, but found out later that the name had already been taken.

 What roots do you guys come from?

Steve: I come from more of a Jazz/Funk background, but always had an interest in the progressive rock/instrumental bands like Yes, Peter Gabriel, Genesis, King Crimson, Jeff Beck, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Gentle Giant, etc ….. but over the years have had a great attraction to film scores.

 

Gerald O'Brien
Gerald O’Brien

Gerald: My background was more Pop/Rock. I was originally a guitar player, but at age 12, decided that I really liked piano, so I started studying classical piano. It was a rather late start but I dove in and loved it. Then when I first heard Genesis, Jethro Tull, Yes, Gentle Giant and ELP, I saw that they were combining classical/Jazz influence with Rock and I thought, this is amazing. So my whole  taste in music took a major change. That led to forming a Prog Rock band in Canada called Nightwinds. I also started paying a lot more attention to Film Score music and grew very attracted to that as well. So when Steve & I met a few years later, we instantly hit it off, both as friends and with a similar musical background.

What was it that particularly appealed to you about TV and film scoring?

Steve: To me I’ve liked the idea of the importance music has in helping set the tone and the mood of a particular scene …… it’s remarkable the effect music has, and how the absence of music can affect a scene. There’s a lot of freedom instrumentally to enhance the viewers perspective of experiencing a movie when not dealing with any lyrical content with the music, but also a challenge because it can’t interfere or overshadow the dialogue ….. in time you really learn how amazing a lot of these film composers are when you are in there doing it yourself. But Gerald and I being instrumental artists, it seems like it would be a natural progression into scoring music for film and TV.

Gerald: I echo what Steve says here. Especially the freedom to go wherever a particular scene takes you visually. Both Steve & I are songwriters as well, so when you are working with lyrics, there are way more constrictions and for the most part, you have to really simplify the music, as the lyric is more dominant. I have just always felt that instrumental music has much more expression and depth, and to hear a great piece of music behind a great movie or show, it’s a wonderful experience.

 Were there any musicians / films / or TV shows that inspired you to get into TV and film scoring?

Steve: My big influences are Rachel Portman, Thomas Newman, Alexandre Desplat, Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard.

 Gerald: For TV, I would have to say Mike Post. For film, John Williams, Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard, Thomas Newman, Angelo Badalamenti, and lately I love what Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have been doing. The musicians that influenced me the most were generally keyboard players, Tony Banks, Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson, being the top ones

 How did the opportunity come up to do the Legend of Prince Valiant song?

Steve: That’s an interesting story. The producer that gave us a shot at doing that series was a man named David CorbetExchange pic 1t. I met him in the early 80s in Toronto when I was hired to come into a recording session and help out with the session as an arranger and player. David and I hit it off, and then after the session, I never saw him again for over a decade. He in the mean time went off to South Korea to get involved with various projects involving animation, and always kept in touch with me over the years. He was always a fan of Exchange, so at one point he let us know of an opportunity to submit some ideas for this upcoming series he was working on, I believe there were seven composers that submitted ideas. Gerald was living in LA at the time, and I had a week long gig in Las Vegas, so Gerald literally brought a mini-recording studio to Las Vegas and we set it up in my suite. We were on a dead-line, so when I wasn’t performing at night, Gerald and I worked on ideas during the day and we were lucky enough to eventually get the job.

 Did you write Where the Truth Lies specifically for the show or was it a song you’d already done?

Steve: It was written specifically for the show, with the help of Marc Jordan.

 You’re an instrumental team, but there’s lyrics on that. How was the decision made to work with Marc Jordan on that?

Steve: Gerald and I have always been a big fan of Marc, we’ve both worked with him separately as song writers, and always thought that he would always be our number one choice as a vocalist if we ever decided to incorporate vocals into our music ….. always loved his voice and his style of writing.

 The Legend of Prince Valiant is about honour, bravery, courage, leadership… actually I’m facing some challenges in my own life right now, and the song itself is reminding me to be brave, that we can survive against all odds. It’s very inspiring. Do you believe we have enough true heroes in the world today?

Steve: There’s never a shortage of heroes in our lives, it would take too long to list everyone that I think qualify today as heroes …… but certainly Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai come to mind, these people have made a difference and have changed the lives of millions ……

Gerald: Again, I agree with Steve. I would also add Maya Angelou and Martin Luther King.

 Do you still / or have you done any other work with the very talented Marc Jordan and Amy Sky?

Steve: Marc and Amy are also friends of ours, so we keep in touch, and have used the both of them on some of our other albums.

Exchange pic 2My blog is inspired by the actor John Ritter who stated in a 1970s interview that he wanted to be remembered as someone who tweaked the golden thread of humanity that connects us all across generations, races, genders. All artists, actors, musicians have the ability to do that and you certainly do. Is touching people something you like to achieve with your music – or what makes you ‘tick’ so to speak with your music?

Steve: Well, I think for me, I am doing something I truly love to do, and the process of creating music jointly with Gerald makes the whole experience all the more rewarding. We’re very much in synch with each other, and creatively I think we help each other raise the bar so to speak to a higher level ….. that doesn’t always happen when co-writing with other writers. You have to be compatible on so many levels for it to work, and I think Gerald and I have that chemistry.

 Gerald: I think that any creative art form, whether it’s acting, poetry, music, etc, can be very inspiring and sometimes healing to people. For me, if what I contribute through music can touch or help or move one person on this earth, then that is very rewarding. I really write to inspire. As a fan of music, I know how it feels when a certain song or score touches me, it is unbelievable. Artists like Peter Gabriel, Elton John, Bob Dylan have been able to do that very well.

 I’m interested in the process of recording  for TV and film. You’ve done a lot of work for TV and film according to your website: Exchange also wrote music for “Phantom 2040”, (featuring Mark Hamill and Deborah Harry), along with orchestrated theme music for Fox Sports and the Tour de France for CBS. In addition, they have also had their music featured on the Ryder Cup, Baywatch, NFL Super Bowl, the World Series, ABC’s Wide World of Sports, the US Open, the Masters, the Olympics, 20/20, the David Letterman Show, and many more. Could you describe the process of doing this kind of work?

Steve: It seems to vary depending on the project ….. many of those shows used tracks from our existing CDs whereas Prince Valiant, the Fox theme, the Tour de France, and the Phantom were written specifically those shows.

 Steve’s extensive career has had him working alongside such artists as Celine Dion, Bryan Adams, Michael Bublé, Anne Murray, and top orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops Philharmonic orchestra and worked with John Williams. Please tell me more about these experiences.

Steve: Both Gerald and I have always continued our own careers outside of the Exchange project; for me I have been lucky to work with the people above you just mentioned, that’s been my primary career outside of Exchange ….. I feel very lucky and very fortunate to have worked with these people ….. and on the other hand Gerald has had an amazing writing career for such artists as Hall and Oates, Amanda Marshall, Manhattan Transfer, Martina Exchange pic 3McBride ….. truly amazing ….. so we’ve both been very fortunate to sustain long careers doing what we love and also keeping Exchange alive.

 You took a long break before you came back with your album “Eleven Eleven” in 2012. Why the hiatus and what inspired you to come back?

Steve: The music scene has changed drastically over the years with the onset and popularity of the internet. When we started out, our genre of music was very popular, and we were very pouplar on the radio stations that featured that music ….. but people’s tastes change, and Gerald and I were very busy and involved with our other careers. But at some point we realized there was still a big interest in us, that never seemed to let up ….. so as a consequence we recorded “Eleven Eleven” and it seems to have breathed new life into our career as we are currently about to sign a new deal out of L.A.

 Gerald: Plus, it gives Steve & I a good excuse to hang out more. Especially that he is in Canada and I am in the US, so we don’t get to see each other as much as we used to. Now that we are back to doing more Exchange music, it has been great.

 You’ve had long and versatile careers in the music industry, spanning a range of genres and mediums. Your careers are both so vast it’s difficult to pick out any one highlight. Is there any one specific moment that stands out for you as a favourite? And could you describe what it was like?


President BushSteve:
Meeting and working with Gerald has been one of the best things that has happened to me in my musical career; from a selfish point of view it has allowed me to create music that I personally love, which is definitely a highlight ..… but ….. I’ve been lucky to have worked with John Williams and was invited to meet President Bush (senior); I guess those two stand out.

Gerald: I too, would have to say that Exchange and working with Steve has been the most rewarding. When you work with, or for other people or projects, you are part of it all, but generally it is someone else’s project. And that’s great, but you are really there to do a job. Whereas with Exchange, we have no boss, so to speak, and we do whatever we please, with zero restrictions. It doesn’t get any better than that. I have had many great highlights in my career and some of them would be working with people who I either liked, idolized or just respected. A few of them would be Daryl Hall, Rick Springfield, Billy F. Gibbons, Larry Fast and Thomas Dolby.

 I see in your gallery pics with guys like Rick Springfield and Michael McDonald, among many other legends.  How have you been involved with them?

Steve: I met Rick through Gerald …… Rick is a personal friend of Geralds.

 Gerald: A lot of our gallery photos are with people who are either friends or who we have worked with in some capacity.

 What’s on the cards now for Exchange?

Steve: What has come out of all this is a new deal in the works from a company based out of LA which Gerald and I are very excited about. This company seems to embrace what’s happening in music today, so it’s exciting to be a part of something new.

 Gerald: We will more than likely be focusing on a lot more TV music over the next while, along with releasing more Exchange CDs or EPs. We have talked about doing some, ‘theme based’ CD’s as well, where the whole CD pertains to a particular style or mood. If we had an opportunity to score an entire Film, that would be amazing

 I’ve seen you described as creators of atmospheric music. Would you say that was a good description – and can you elaborate? Would you place yourselves into any kind of ‘genre’?

Steve: That’s a tough one for me, Gerald might have a better answer. For lack of categories we’ve often been described stylistically anywhere from jazz to pop. But, progressive instrumental might be suitable.

 Gerald: When we started out, we were certainly New Age, as that was a genre at that time, that described our music best. Nowadays, the Genre platform is all over the place and it’s hard to really catagorize our style. Certainly, Progressive Instrumental, as Steve mentioned would say it best.

 Where can fans purchase your music?

Steve: The best place to purchase music now is from our website – www.themusicofexchange.com

 Is there anything else you’d like to chat about?

Steve: People can learn and see a lot more of us by visiting our website above …… or can learn more about us individually by visiting our personal websites:

www.geraldobrienmusic.com

www.stevesexton.com

 Gerald: There is one thing that people have asked us over the years, and that is about touring live. Back in the early 90s, we had discussed it, but with our professional schedules at that time, it was difficult to commit to forming a touring band. Plus, our music was so layered and complex, that it would have been tough to pull it off live. Today, we have better means to make that all work. The real answer to that question I guess is, Yes, we would love to play live and take Exchange on the road, but only if it made sense and there were the type of venues that supported our type of music. Who knows what the future holds

I think once our next CD comes out and we get things moving with the new company in Los Angeles, there will be a lot more to talk about.

 

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