DeVotchKa’s Nick Urata breathes musical life into the film ‘Paddington’

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Photo: Nick Urata of DeVotchKa
DeVotchKa singer and guitarist Nick Urata scored several movies over the past decade, including the 2015 film "Paddington."


In Hollywood, however, he’s scored several films over the past decade, including “Little Miss Sunshine,” “Crazy Stupid Love,” and “Ruby Sparks.”

Most recently, Urata wrote music for the film “Paddington,” which opened Jan. 16.

The movie adapts the classic children’s story about a bear in a hat who turns up in a London railway station with a “Please look after this bear” sign around his neck. The bear is also equipped with a marmalade sandwich -- in case of emergency.

The film called for a wide range of musical cues to explain Paddington’s emotions. There are touching moments as Paddington gets to the Browns, the family that looks after him, as well as slapstick scenes, like one in which he learns to use indoor plumbing:

Urata -- who returns to Denver on Valentine’s Day for a show with DeVotchKa -- spoke with Elaine Grant of Colorado Matters about his work on “Paddington,” his childhood memories of the story, and how writing a film score is different from working with a rock band.

Interview highlights:

On how the emotional parts of “Paddington” made him eager to work on the score:

It moved me right from the start and I think that’s where the best music comes from. On the surface it might seem like a silly story but it is very moving and it goes deep. And it’s sentimental. And it deals with love, and loss, and adoption, and family and home. Those are, as a composer, themes you dream about.

On the difference between writing for a band like DeVotchKa and scoring a film:

When you’re writing for a band you bounce it off your fellow musicians and they’ll say, ‘Oh I like that; maybe we should try this,’ and you move on. But oftentimes when you’re writing a score you’ve got to get 10 or 15 other people to agree that it’s the right thing. So you may write something that you think is -- and I’ve had this happen: ‘This is the best thing I’ve ever written and I’m going to be remember forever for this’ -- and it’ll end up on the cutting room floor because an associate producer didn’t think so.

Check out Urata’s soundtrack for “Paddington.” You’ll need a Spotify account, which is free, to listen: