Journey was a monumental achievement in gaming when it came out ten years ago. It further put Thatgamecompany on the map with its awesome open world and gorgeous visuals. However, part of that success was also due to Austin Wintory, the composer for the game.
Not only did he produce a masterful soundtrack, but it actually made history by winning a Grammy, the first game of its kind to do so.
Now, ten years on, Wintory has returned with a new album, Traveler: A Journey Symphony, which he composed alongside the London Symphony Orchestra and London Voices Choir. Produced by T-65b Records, it’s a terrific listen. You can either check it out on Bandcamp or Distrokid.
To get a better idea of where his journey has taken him, we sat down with Wintory to talk all things Journey and Traveler!
First off, congrats on the ten year celebration. How does it feel to come full circle like this?
Thank you so much for chatting with me! Honestly, it’s mostly surreal that it’s somehow already been that long. Normally a decade feels “right” when you realize you’ve not thought about something or noticed it for a while, but Journey has been that gift that keeps on giving. At no point during the last 10 years has it ceased to be a constant presence in my life, whether that’s student composers asking about it, or it somehow is still giving me new professional opportunities. That makes the time even more bizarre!
How significant would you say that Journey has been to your career? Obviously you’ve worked on other games, but this one really stands out for a reason, doesn’t it?
It’s unlike anything else and very likely will be forever a kind of one-off. I have many successful friends who’ve never had the gift of something like Journey, and so I remain ever-grateful it happened even the one time, and not just the visibility boost for my career and all that. It’s mostly about how it’s impacted people. The profoundly beautiful and personal emails I get from people, still to this day every day is just amazing.
How blown was your mind when you initially won a Grammy for the soundtrack? Do you think it set a precedent for video game music to come?
Well, I think that must’ve been the fortune of a goatee-sporting, mirror-verse Austin because, alas, Journey lost the Grammy to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but to have been nominated (alongside Howard Shore, Hans Zimmer, and John Williams no less) was one of the most absolutely shocking events in my career to date. It seems to have set no precedent sadly, since it’s the only one ever nominated still. I don’t think that’s a good thing. There have been many worthy scores and each year the past decade I’ve crossed my fingers for some friend or colleague to join that, but so far none.
Tell us how this revisit of the soundtrack got started. Did you suggest the idea, or did someone come to you in regard to celebrating its anniversary?
Basically, it was a few things happening at once. I helped Darren Korb produce a record celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the founding of SuperGiant games (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwUw7L_gAoI), and that sort of got the ‘decade celebration’ idea planted in my head. On top of that, the London Symphony Orchestra had reached out a few years earlier hoping we might find a collaboration. So, as I sat around working on new projects in 2021, it dawned on me that Journey’s own 10th anniversary was about 6 months away and this could be a perfect chance to work with them. I called them up and they were immediately on board, so off we went!
How awesome was it to revisit this material again? Did it feel like you never left?
I’ve been lucky to constantly conduct this music live in concert, or otherwise facilitate orchestras, chamber groups, etc doing it on their own. So, it seems like I rarely would go more than a few weeks before having to dig up the sheet music and send it off to someone. So yeah, in many ways it’s stayed rather fresh, but oddly, it still somehow felt like visiting an old friend for the first time in ages. I don’t really understand how that could be true, but it definitely felt that way.
How great was it to work with the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Voices Choir?
They are superhuman. Truly among the greatest musicians on the planet, with a legacy in music and the recording arts quite unlike any other. It was beyond an honor.
Was there any real difficulty when it came to putting the soundtrack together, or did it all feel natural?
The difficulties arose from my own perfectionism and desire to somehow be faithful to the original, yet new enough to justify making a new recording. That balancing act was a big struggle. I worked on these pieces for months and really tore a lot of hair out over them!
Do you think we’ll be celebrating in another ten years with another take on the soundtrack? Or is it too soon to tell?
Oh, I doubt it. I don’t feel like I left anything on the table after this. Also, surely by then Journey will be a distant memory. I was sure it would be after 10 years and the only reason I did this album was that it still somehow seemed relevant to people, but another 10 years? It’s hard to imagine by then it won’t have slid to the bottom shelf. That would be amazing if not!
What are you working on nowadays? Or can you tell us?
You know the drill! Mostly I can’t talk about things, however I am working on a musical that I’m immensely excited about. Wildly unlike anything else I’ve ever done. It’s called Stray Gods and it’s a game(!) being produced by a new studio called Summerfall, co-founded by Liam Esler and Dragon Age superstar David Gaider. There will be a lot more to talk about on that one as we get closer to release, but it’s very possibly the most musically ambitions thing I’ve ever done.
Looking for more music gaming goodness? Check out Of Bird & Cage!