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Arts and Culture News

J. Ralph: Ad Tune Master

One of the most famous television commercials scored by J. Ralph is an ad for the Volkswagen Beetle. Volkswagen asked J. Ralph to write music that would make people think that their television sets were broken.
Charles Mayer, NPR
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One of the most famous television commercials scored by J. Ralph is an ad for the Volkswagen Beetle. Volkswagen asked J. Ralph to write music that would make people think that their television sets were broken.
One of many unique instruments in J. Ralph's cavernous studio is this 60-inch gong. "Anything that makes sound, I find inspiration in," he says. "Whether it's raindrops, or crickets, or newspaper rustling, or drums, or gongs or anything."
Charles Mayer, NPR /
/
One of many unique instruments in J. Ralph's cavernous studio is this 60-inch gong. "Anything that makes sound, I find inspiration in," he says. "Whether it's raindrops, or crickets, or newspaper rustling, or drums, or gongs or anything."

Millions of people listen to J. Ralph's music, yet he's far from a household name. The 29-year-old musician's dreamy, hypnotic compositions have become a hit with advertisers, appearing in ads for Volkswagen, Nike and others.

J. Ralph -- whose given name is Josh -- has no formal musical training. He spent time working in hip hop studios and got a big record deal for his debut CD, which went nowhere.

Then an ad agency found one of his orchestral songs and licensed it. More ads followed. Among the most famous is one called "Big Day" for Volkswagen. It features a beautiful bride, her father, who frequently checks his watch, and a frantic young groom in a Jetta racing to the church. The ad debuted during the 2001 Super Bowl and ran for three years -- an eternity for a commercial.

J. Ralph's compositions, many of which have appeared in commercials, are collected on a new CD, The Illusionary Movements of Geraldine and Nazu.

"The commercials inadvertently pay for the orchestral album that no record label was interested in paying for," Ralph says.

He speaks with NPR's Melissa Block about his work and commercial success.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.