Starting the Next 100 Years on a High Note
Updated: Apr 23
By Kelley Lefmann | Photos by Manny Espinoza
Why would a talented composer in high demand trade the musical mecca of Los Angeles for the sleepy shores of Carmelby- the-Sea? A chance vacation was all it took for Mark Governor to consider a change of key. “I didn’t know what my mission was at the time,” he explains, “I just knew I was supposed to be here and improve the music culture of the area.” And so he moved, faster than a change of the radio dial.
One might recognize his work from The Hobbit, or the YouTube sensation, “Jellyfish Jam” (from SpongeBob Square Pants). To date, Governor has composed for 22 feature films and 50 television series. Although his professional accomplishments are vast, he doesn’t consider them work. “This is my playground,” he notes with a look that is part wistful, part mischievous. “There is a transformation happening in music on the Monterey Peninsula,” he adds, “and I want to ignite the talent that is here.”
He reflects back to his first gig, with filmmaker Roger Corman. “It was a lot like camp, in that you grew with your peers,” taking on one fun project after another. Early on, Governor developed a unique style that incorporated his classical training with rock influences, which was a contrast to the heavy use of synthesizers during the 1980s. That same creativity got him noticed by Paramount Pictures while he was writing a score for a science fiction film. He was then hired to compose for Pet Sematary 2. This pivotal moment in Governor’s career gave him prominence and license to expand his creative canvas.
Today, with business partner Greg Ahn of Folktale Winery, Governor runs Talking Animals Music, offering resources to artists who may not otherwise be able to explore a unique project.
Visiting artists who perform in the Barrel Room stay in the chateau at Folktale, where they can relax, find inspiration, compose, and record in a unique setting—an experience unlike traditional recording studios. “That puts the Monterey Peninsula on the map for musicians.” He notes the swell of energy and local talent reminiscent of those who founded Carmel-by-the-Sea as an artists’ colony over 100 years ago. “Culture is part of our heritage,” he says, remarking that sometimes good business is less about commerce and more about innovation:
Since relocating to Carmel, Governor has produced 30 concerts at Folktale Winery. This includes his popular “Under the Influence” series, which features local artists paying tribute to rock and soul legends. He tapped some talent from the series to perform his hybrid film score of jazz, pop, rock, and orchestral music for The Unknown, a 1927 MGM silent film shot in Pebble Beach that debuted at the 2017 Carmel International Film Festival.
“Music changes people,” he says. “We’re on the cusp of a cultural Renaissance.” Like the rising tide from which he derives daily inspiration, “it’s happening, and you can’t stop it.”