Emmy Award-winning Misha Segal is a composer, recording artist, songwriter and producer. A native of Israel, Misha’s mixture of jazz, rock and pop created No. 1 hits in his native country and caught the attention of the U.S. film and television industries, where he was soon scoring a host of shows. In addition, Misha’s classical compositions have been performed by the Israeli Philharmonic and the Israeli Chamber Ensemble.
Segal graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston, and then began to write and produce records for RCA, CBS, Vanguard, Mercury and others. He worked with such artists as Luther Vandross and Bob James. After moving from New York City to Los Angeles, he was signed to Motown as a composer/songwriter. He scored Berry Gordy’s “The Last Dragon” and wrote songs for Motown artists.
Among Misha’s accomplishments are an Emmy Award and Emmy nomination. He has created scores for major motion pictures such as “The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking,” the 1989 version of “Phantom of the Opera” and “Men of Respect,” along with dozens of little-remembered made-for-TV movies.
Misha’s first CD, “Zambooka” (Music Masters) features legendary artists Chick Corea, Freddy Hubbard and Mark Isham. Segal now records for PrimaVista Records, his own label. His first release on this label is called “Female.” It is a collection of romantic piano pieces dedicated to the memory of his mother, Elisabeth.
Bankrate: What are your latest projects?
Misha Segal: Well, there’s my CD, “Female.” Also, I just finished a score for the SciFi Channel, “Encrypt.” I started the score for a family-oriented film, “My Gardner,” starring someone who’s really big in the Latin market, Carlos Ponce.
Bankrate: Do you have to be in a certain mood to compose? Some artists like to be morose or in love or what-have-you when they create.
Misha Segal: Being a professional means that you can discipline yourself. A dentist doesn’t need inspiration to do a root canal, or else you would die. I put my professional hat on.
Bankrate: What expenses do you have as a composer?
Misha Segal: It used to mean that you had a good piano, scoring paper, a sharp pencil and an eraser, of course! Now, you really have to keep up to date with technology. I have to constantly purchase the latest programs to be competitive and to create new colors. I have at least 10 very expensive programs on my computer. I started learning about the computer very early on, but it wasn’t part of my training. If I had to start over again, I’d probably jump off the fourth floor of a building!
Bankrate: Tell me about the difference in pay between CDs and when you do scores for shows.
Misha Segal: They are very different worlds. With recordings, it’s relative to how famous you are. The more you sell, the more money you make. With movies, the production organization gives you a contract, royalties are paid on the back end.
Bankrate: Do you intend to be the sole performer of your compositions on “Female,” like Mozart did with his cadenzas, or do you hope that other performers take your pieces to another level, like Jascha Heifetz did with [movie composer] Erich Korngold’s works?
Misha Segal: The difference with my movie music, anyone’s free to pick up the score. But with “Female,” it’s a personal message. I am the best interpreter of the message. I had a couple of artists approach me, but I have a very personal connection with it. I composed it when my mother was ill with lung cancer, it made my mother feel good. Women seem to tear at the music.
Bankrate: What’s a typical day’s schedule for you?
Misha Segal: First thing is exercise, very important! The body complies with the mind. I always knew that; I read about chess players being in good shape. I wondered about their sitting at a board and needing to exercise. Next, a good breakfast. Then, I sit down and compose!
Bankrate: How did you decide to go to school in and emigrate to the U.S.?
Misha Segal: Naturally, I was very well known in Israel; I had No. 1 pop songs. I did all a person could do in one country. I grew up on jazz. It was natural to go where the biggest game is, the U.S. After school, I was immediately hired! My writing had changed. I could do an arrangement in two days now, not two weeks.
Bankrate: Do you teach?
Misha Segal: I taught off and on. I’m so busy. Maybe one day, I’ll take on a gifted one or two. I’m raising a 4-year-old girl.
Bankrate: Does the war situation in Israel affect your artistry, either inspiring you or hampering you?
Misha Segal: The situation has always troubled me, it’s ongoing. I can’t pay too much attention; all I can do is hope that some agreement can come to pass. It’s a nightmare.
Bankrate: You fly planes. Do you own or lease? For business or pleasure?
Misha Segal: It’s totally a hobby. I do it to get myself space. Flying in L.A., it’s like going to a different planet. It’s the perspective! I like looking at the little house, the little trees. I started getting my instrument rating, I have 26 hours. But now, I don’t even have time to go to the airport.
Bankrate: What charities are you involved with?
Misha Segal: Revlon; I gave a few hundred CDs for breast cancer. Also, at each hospital I play at, I contribute CDs. The music seems to go well with people who are going through illness.
Bankrate: Do you manage your own money?
Misha Segal: Well, not really. I have a business management organization. I met the head of the company at a party. We went back and forth for months. He was competent, loyal and honest. Of course, I talked to a lot of people. I took a look at his family. When a person has a great family, when the children are cultured and sane, that really demonstrates a lot to me. Anyone who can manage a family like that can manage money well.
Bankrate: Do you have any investments?
Misha Segal: I’m in the stock market, doing very well. I have a couple of companies, waiting for an IPO; they are in the entertainment industry. I have a house. I used to own an apartment in New York City, but I gave it up after my mother took ill.