ESPN The Underscore: Behind the custom music of ESPN
This month on The Underscore, we spoke with the ever-talented Tobin Esperance of iconic rock band, Papa Roach. Read on to learn about their story and what keeps them in the game.
What is your musical background and how would you describe the music you make?
I grew up in a musical family; my dad is a musician, his dad was a musician, my brothers are musicians, my mom worked in the music business for many years, so naturally I was exposed to all different types of music and picked it up at a young age. I would describe the music I make as modern alternative rock.
What’s the Papa Roach Story? How did the band get started?
Growing up in a small town, Vacaville, California, located between San Fransico and Sacramento, there wasn’t much to do, so I am grateful that I found some like-minded high school kids that wanted to get together and jam in a garage and experiment with music. This was in 1993, and by 1999 we had built a solid following up and down California. We got our first record deal and our first album came out the next year.
How did you first get started working with ESPN? What was your first project?
I first got started working with ESPN when I met Kevin Wilson (Creative Music Director at ESPN) years ago; he was a fan of Papa Roach and asked me if I did any writing outside of the band, so I started writing background music for lots of ESPN sports affiliated projects. Then he asked if I would be interested in writing for the UFC/ESPN theme song, and of course being a huge fan of MMA, I jumped at the opportunity and said, “HELL YEAH!’
Our most recent project with you was for UFC on ESPN. Can you tell us about your creative process for this project and how it differed from your usual musical endeavors?
This creative process wasn’t much different than how we normally approach writing music. It really helps that they were able to give me some examples of what they were looking for as a starting point, and one of them was our song, "Born for Greatness.” Naturally I just tried to go with the same type of vibe but go with something different musically.
Has your music connected to people and things in ways you did not imagine?
When our very first song, “Last Resort” came out, we realized how this song connected with so many people. People would come up to us, all over the world, all different types of people and tell us that this song had saved or changed their lives. Since that point, it has given us such a greater sense of purpose in writing songs and wanting to connect with people. The collaborations with WWE and Tony Hawk Pro Skater have just widened our audience, and we still have fans to this day that come up to us and tell us that they discovered us through those different entertainment outlets.
Any advice you would like to give to young ambitious composers, artists, athletes, etc.?
My advice would be to create a library of all of your ideas: organize them, categorize them, whether it be by BPMS or genre, or key of the song, name them, date them, so that you always have somewhere to pull from when you need. Learn how to network, make friends with like-minded people in the business and keep up your hustle.
Who is your favorite Combat personality and why do you connect with the sport so much?
My favorite UFC fighters right now would have to be Brandon Moreno and Khamzat Chimaev because they both seem like genuine good people that are dedicated to their fight game, but also have hilarious personalities without all of the trash talking and clout chasing type of stuff that we see all of the time. I admire the dedication and hard work it takes to get physically and mentally fit. So much more goes into being a fighter than just what we see when they perform. I identify with that aspect of the sport.
Do you have a favorite sports team? If so, who are they?
Hell yeah. I am a HUGE Niners fan. San Fransico 49ers baby, Bang Bang Niners Gang. Since the days of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice.
Do you have a favorite song or artist that inspires you? Who are your heroes?
My favorite artists are, Trent Reznor, Dr. Dre, Pharell Williams, Timbaland, John Frusciante, Prince, Michael Jackson, Nile Rogers, Perry Farrell, Bob Marley and Kanye West.
What do you have on the docket these days and where can our readers find you?
We just dropped a new album, Ego Trip, and are about to embark on a world tour supporting our new record. In the meantime, we will be writing more songs and collaborating with more artists. We are independent now and have our own record label, New Noize Records. We plan on releasing a new book and doing an acoustic storytelling tour later this year. We rescued a new puppy recently, so I plan on taking him out and chasing that little guy around.
Big thank you to Tobin and the Papa Roach crew for being a part of this month’s blog. Find us on Instagram, Twitter, and Spotify for more ESPN Music content.