Although she was born in San Francisco, Nathalie Bonin’s parents were Francophone Québécois. Although she spent her entire life in Québec, it seemed like going back to California was written in the stars. With the help of a SOCAN Foundation grant, and her mentor Michael Levine – composer, among other things, of the music for the Netflix series Sirens and the videogame Resident Evil – she got to experience the Game Developers Conference (GDC) during a one-week stay at the L.A. SOCAN House in 2016.
“I had a three-year plan in mind, I was tired of living in the cold six months out of every year, so I took a leap of faith,” says Bonin. Serene, she couldn’t be happier with her new life. “If I was a city, I’d be Santa Monica! I think my authenticity opened doors for me. I love challenges.” Which isn’t surprising, coming from someone so eager to experiment. Bonin is a demanding artist who’s able to clearly and objectively question herself.
An acoustic and electric violinist, she‘s toured extensively with the band Tocadéo. She accompanied Stevie Wonder the last time he played Montréal. She’s been suspended from the Jumbotron at Montréal’s Bell Centre, as part of an amazing aerial number in collaboration with Cirque Éloize, during the opening ceremony of the NHL All-Star Game in 2009. She was imperial in stature during a wild performance alongside Klô Pelgag at the 2018 ADISQ Gala, followed by an intimate duet with Michel Louvain. She’s played in concert with Marc Dupré, composed two seasons worth of music for Messmer’s Hyp-Gags on Z Télé, and wrote the theme song for the show Prière de ne pas envoyer de fleurs, hosted by Patrice L’Écuyer on ICI Radio-Canada. She’s participated in 75 episodes of the show Hommage à Joe Dassin and, last November, Bonin played in a jazz concerto at the Gesù alongside New York saxophonist and composer Quinsin Nachoff. As if all that wasn’t enough, her music was selected for a Fondation du Dr Julien fundraiser.
“In L.A., I can’t rehearse eight hours a day, my life is a marathon and I like it just the way it is,” says Bonin. “Most of the people I work with aren’t from L.A., they’re from elsewhere. They’re people who followed their dreams and set challenges for themselves, like mine. We each try to help each other out through that process. I’m not there to take someone else’s place. It’s not a competition.
“I’m now at peace with my desire to do a lot of things all at once.”
“Screen composing, film scores, are mostly about communicating an emotion,” she says. “Composing for a story I see, I’m inspired when I play in real time. I’ll watch the film several times, and then talk at length with the director to make sure that the characters are well supported by the music, in terms of quantity and tone. I’m at the service of the images. But I don’t play over the images; if people don’t realize that music has entered a scene, you’ve done a good job. I become a creator, but at the service of a work of art.”
She’s a member of the Grammy and Emmy academies, of the Society of Composers and Lyricists (SCL), of the Malibu Composers Club, which convenes once a week, and she won the highest distinction at the Live Score Film Festival for her work on The Devil’s Hour, a horror movie.
“Ten composers were paired with ten directors,” she says. “We didn’t know which horror film we were going to work on. It was no small feat, because I hate horror movies! I was grossed out by images of blood. I range from fully enthusiastic to completely panicked. That anxiety is always there: ‘Can I pull it off?’ I’m reassured to know that the big-name composers I work with feel the same uncertainty, even after working on hundreds of movies. You get there by impregnating yourself with a film’s atmosphere. At some point gridlock is broken, an idea pops out, there’s a click and everything falls into place. You need to trust yourself.”
Bonin has also composed 20 pieces for eight different albums of library music on Michael Levine’s label, MPATH. She often works at home, alone, tinkering with sounds and experimenting with the music software Logic. She also recently launched an album, Emotional Violin, chock full of dark tunes, under label CrimeSonics distributed by BMG Production Music.
On March 1st, she will fly to New York at the DIY Music Festival to give a workshop about the art of combining her business and artistic side to succeed in her career. And, after having realized a project of music for 3D phones, she plans on the composition of a musical work intended for virtual reality. In other words, 24 hours is hardly enough for a day in Bonin’s life. And she does all of it without an agent or manager.
“I battled with myself for a long time, wondering if I was too scattered with my countless projects,” she says. “But the truth is, as a musician, you can’t just be good at one thing. I’m now at peace with my desire to do a lot of things all at once.”