Meet the composer behind Australia’s best-loved TV shows

Queensland Conservatorium alumnus Joff Bush is the man behind the music on some of Australia’s best-loved TV shows, creating the soundtracks to series like Bluey and The Family Law.

His infectious theme song for Bluey has been viewed more than 100 million times, with thousands of Aussie families recreating the famous ‘Bluey Dance’ to his tunes, as part of the ABC’s popular ‘Bust a Bluey Move’ competition.

‘A dream gig’

Joff, who is currently pulling together a Bluey album, said the runaway success of the show had come as a surprise.

“It’s super exciting – you talk to anyone on the production, and none of us had any idea that it was going to be this big,” he said.

“I’m still just pretending it’s a little show that no-one will ever see, because otherwise it’s just too much pressure.

“I had someone ask me the other day what it was like to be part of a show that defined childhood!”

Homegrown success story

Joff writes half the Bluey soundtrack himself, and heads up a team of composers who undertake the mammoth task of providing music for the 52 episodes each season.

“Each episode has its own unique score and style, and the team behind Bluey are brilliant storytellers, I’m lucky to be part of this world they’ve created,” he said.

“We use a lot of live music in the show, and many of the musicians are actually old friends from the Con – people like Chris Pearson on bass and Youka Snell on violin, who I’ve been friends with since first year uni.

“There is still an assumption that you can’t carve out a creative career here in Brisbane – I think success stories like Bluey have proved that you can. We have really amazing talent here.”

A creative hub

Joff met Bluey executive producer Daley Pearson at Griffith University while they were both studying at the South Bank campus.

“Daley and I met at Griffith during a 48-hour film festival up at GFS, where students had two days to shoot a short film and I was roped in to providing the music,” he said.

“Student films don’t have a budget, so they are always hassling composers and musicians to help out, and I was always keen to get involved – it was all new and exciting.

“I ended up hanging out with a lot of people from Griffith Film School and the friendships I formed at uni definitely opened doors for me.

“The South Bank campus was a really creative little hub – everyone was making music, art and films.

“For the first time, I was surrounded by serious, interesting, ambitious people who loved the same things I did.”

Joff graduated from the Queensland Conservatorium with a Bachelor of Music in piano and composition, and said he was grateful for the flexibility that allowed him to find his true passion.

“At first I wanted to be a concert pianist, then I studied jazz, but a couple of years in, I realised I was spending all of my time writing music, so I switched to composition, and the Con was really helpful in finding a path that worked for me,” he said.

Telling a story

One of ASCAP’s ‘Composers to Watch’, Joff’s past television series work includes Bluey, The Strange Calls, The Strange Chores, Ronny Chieng : International Student, The Family Law, Australian Survivor, Dream Gardens and the Emmy award-winning Ludo productions #7 Days Later and Doodles.

Joff said he thrived on the collaborative aspect of film and TV composition.

“I see my job as helping tell a story,” he said.

“I sit down with the director or producer and get involved early on at the script stage.

“I’m inspired by the whole story and that determines the instruments, then I might develop a theme for a certain character or mood.

“My favourite aspect of this job is the collaboration – then it’s about locking myself in a room and producing the music.”

Standing out from the crowd

Joff describes his signature sound as “celebrating the imperfect”.

“My work is about finding those broken sounds, that are a little bit imperfect – I might record a certain theme on an old out of tune upright piano or a $50 guitar that hasn’t had the strings changed in 20 years,” he said.

So what’s next for the talented composer?

“The success of Bluey has already been great for my career – I wish I could do everything that has been offered to me,” he said.

“I’d love to do a period drama or a historical documentary.

“I’m also drawn to musicals, operas – anything with a story.”