Passenger Profile:
Tracey and Vance Marino

by Kenny Kerner

    Taxi Success Tracey and Vance Marino
Successful TAXI members
Tracey and Vance Marino (aka TV Marino)

Here’s something new: We’re are speaking with both Tracey and Vance Marino—also known as TV Marino. This team has been writing together for almost 20 years and they are still going strong. Now, with two Pro Tools studios, there’s just no stopping these TAXI members. Here’s their story:

How long have you been a writing team and who does what in the team?
TM: We met in 1995, and since almost the night we met, we’ve been a team. We just sort of clicked because we have different musical strengths and weaknesses.  I love melodies.  Vance likes coming up with different chords and patterns.  I like starting with nothing.  Vance doesn’t like the blank page.  I enjoy thinking of titles.  He’s a master at doing research.  But it actually took us several years to figure out the most productive way to work together.  We used to sit in our studio and literally stare at each other until we got an idea.  It was painful!

VM: About four years ago, we were able to purchase another Pro Tools studio and that changed everything.

TM: Now we have two “Composer Caves.”  We’re both a little geeky because we share a love of computers and software, in addition to writing music.

VM: Having two studios was the key to our success.  Tracey usually comes up with the idea, runs it past me, lays down some tracks, and we both start developing it.  I usually finish it because I like the editing process.  But, we’ve both been able to completely start and finish a song on our own.  We always joke we’re like Lennon & McCartney – but without the bank account – because we have a similar process as they had.  It wouldn’t be the same without each other’s input, even if it’s for one of us to say, “No, that doesn’t work.” Or, “That’s a great idea.”  It really helps to have feedback throughout the writing process.

What was it that made you guys first decide to collaborate?
VM: When we first met, Tracey was really into recording and I was into performing.  I didn’t like being in a studio.  At that time, it was all analog and you had to play everything straight through, perfectly.  But now, through the magic of the digital age, it’s much easier to edit, and you can do some amazing things musically, even if you’re not an incredible player.  In fact, being too flashy can get in the way sometimes.  Keeping it simple and tasteful is a challenge.
What instruments do each of you play and are you schooled or self-taught?
VM: We both took music theory in college but neither of us has a music degree. 

TM: I play keyboards – anything with black and white keys.  I was classically trained on piano as a kid, but my teachers would get frustrated when I’d play “by ear” or make up notes on Mozart pieces because the music didn’t sound right to me!  One teacher encouraged me to compose, so I wrote my first classical piece when I was eight.

VM: I took guitar lessons and also play bass, drums, ukulele, and just about anything with strings.  We also both sing.  I learned a lot about arranging from playing in orchestra and bands in Hawaii.

What made you join TAXI?
TM: Michael Laskow came to a San Diego Songwriters Guild meeting in 1993 and I joined.  I was a member on and off for several years, but I never submitted anything because I never felt ready! 

VM: We’ve been continuous members since 2001, and we’ve gone to the Road Rally since then, too.  At first, we started out writing jazz and New Age music, which is funny because we haven’t written in those genres since then.  But around 2004, we started writing instrumentals for all different genres for the film and TV listings.

How did TAXI help your careers?
VM: Without a doubt, going to the TAXI Road Rally every year has been the most helpful for our careers.

TM: Definitely. Every year, we attend dozens of other music conventions and seminars all over the United States, and the Rally is absolutely the best deal for the education and contacts you make. Also, TAXI has been a life-changing experience because we had no idea what a production music library was when we started, and now we’ve been fortunate to write music for some of the top music libraries in the world.

VM: And because of TAXI, we always had a purpose to write something and to build up our catalog, even if the song didn’t get forwarded.  It also got us used to writing on a deadline, which is extremely important in this business.  We’ve heard stories about A-list composers who never worked again because they missed one crucial deadline.  To date, we’ve never missed a deadline.

When did you first determine you could be successful in the music industry?
VM: It’s been a lot of baby steps for us. We were so grateful when we got our first TAXI forward.  And we celebrated when we got our first TAXI deal, TV placement, film placement, work-for-hire check, BMI statement, etc.  Every Friday, we go to lunch and toast the week’s victories, no matter how small.  That kept us going for many years, and we still do it. 

Do you remember the very first song you wrote together? What was it and, honestly, was it good?
TM: We wrote our first song, “Hanging On To Nothing,” about a month after we met in 1995, and we even performed it in a few singer-songwriter showcases. It was okay – it had a hooky chorus.

VM: In fact, I used the chords for inspiration on an instrumental track we did about a year ago.

What has TAXI taught you about the real music industry?
TM: One thing TAXI taught us: There are a lot of disappointments in this business.  You can’t count on anything or anyone – at any time.  It’s tough to find people who “get you” and your music. But, you move on, learn from the mistakes, and it’s important to keep a positive attitude, no matter what happens.

VM: That’s actually why we go to the TAXI Road Rally every year.  We get a dose of inspiration from the mentors, teachers, and fellow TAXI members we see there each year.  Honestly, they keep us motivated.  We’ve made life-long friends through TAXI who are helpful and encouraging.  And we keep in touch with them all the time.  We’ve even started collaborating with our TAXI friends because we know and trust each other now. We always hear the “real music industry” is based on relationships, and that is very true.

TM: Another thing TAXI has taught us is that you have to keep current with your music; otherwise, you’ll hear the dreaded “d” word: “this music sounds ‘dated’!” 

VM: To write music for film and TV, you need to watch films and TV shows! If you want to write hit songs, you need to know who and what’s happening on the Billboard charts. Why does the music sound contemporary?  We do a lot of listening and analyzing.

Briefly describe your first TAXI Road Rally.
TM: Well, let’s just say we looked like two giant wallflowers.  It was intimidating because we didn’t know anyone, and we had no idea how to get started in the music business.  We didn’t even have a studio.  Everyone around us looked like they knew what they were doing and seemed to have credits.

VM: It was totally overwhelming!  There were so many choices.  So, the next year, we thought it would be a good idea to just focus on something specific.  One year, we took basic recording classes.  The next year, we learned about production music libraries; the next year, we learned about the business and contracts; the next year, how to network, and so on.  This past Rally, we went to panels and took classes on lyric writing from Pat Pattison, Jason Blume, Robin Frederick, Ralph Murphy, because we’re focusing more on that now.

What was your biggest career accomplishment to date?

TM: Getting a placement in the Miley Cyrus film The Last Song blew us away.  It was amazing to see our names listed in the end credits.  And getting music on The Voice last year was cool.

VM: Writing music for the last season of The Oprah Winfrey Show and for the Dr. Oz Show was a dream come true for us.  But now, several times during the week, we’ll turn on the TV and hear a cue we wrote.  It just happened a few minutes ago on the show Pawn Stars, seriously!

TM: Actually, getting over our shyness was a huge accomplishment.  We’re known as the networkers, but it took a lot of work.  Now, we spend about half our time writing music; about a quarter of the time doing administrative work and research; and roughly the last quarter of our time networking, which means going to various events, meeting people, then following up with emails, thank-you notes, etc.  It has really paid off. 

VM: In February, we brought a well-known Music Supervisor and spouse (who’s the head of music for a major TV production company) to an Oscar party.  It was surreal!  We never would’ve imagined having those types of connections and opportunities when we started.

What are your goals for the remainder of 2013?

TM: We decided to get back into songwriting again.  Last June, we went to Nashville with a group of 16 TAXI members for a Composer Camp.  We had a great time.  But hanging around that town made us really miss writing songs instead of just composing instrumentals! We decided to concentrate on learning more about the craft of songwriting this year.

VM: Ironically, while on that trip in June, we just happened to stop by the NSAI (Nashville Songwriters Association International) headquarters on the way to the airport.  Tracey had been a member since 1993. An hour later, we had somehow volunteerd ourselves to be the coordinators for the NSAI San Diego Chapter.

TM: Yeah, what we’re we thinking?

VM:  But we think of it as a way to give back to other songwriters and composers in our community because we know how long it can take – and how hard it can be – to get anywhere in the music business. It’s been a lot of work, but very rewarding.  In fact, we’ll be going to Nashville for the third time in 10 months.

TM: You really have to make things happen in this business.  You can’t sit around and wait.  One of the best pieces of advice we ever got was to “immerse yourself” in the music business.  Other advice was: Meet people, especially face-to-face.  Go to events.  Learn new skills.  Keep up with technology. Do your research. Understand the business. Be professional and respectful of people’s time. Have fun. And never give up.

VM: The late-great John Braheny also gave us great advice.  We got to know him by going to the TAXI Rally each year.  Several years ago, we were frustrated and just about to give up, so we scheduled a private consultation with him at his house. His advice was: “Don’t be so precious with your music.”  It was tough to hear, but he was spot on.  After he said that, we came home, started to “write, submit, and forget,” and it changed our lives.


Name: Tracey and Vance Marino (aka TV Marino)

San Diego, CA


Full-time composers and songwriters

Year Joined TAXI: (Originally 1993) Continuously since 2001

Download Song: Race To The Finish

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