Mason Daring graduated cum laude as a music major in 1971 from Amherst College. He grabbed his first guitar in the 7th grade and had his first band, The Squires, in the 8th grade.
At Amherst, his first band was called Things That Go Bump in The Night and his final college band, Daring, Jones, Southworth and McNeer, signed with Columbia Records shortly after graduation. Record company shenanigans put the kibosh on that contract, and he began a decade as a folk singer. Much of that was with singer Jeannie Stahl, as – what else? – Daring and Stahl. They became a mainstay of the folk scene in the ’70s. Their song and album Marblehead Morning was a hit on regional radio and the duo became a fixture at Cambridge’s Passim folk club.
Their newest album, 40, celebrates 40 years of musical collaboration. The CD reflects their interest in a broad range of styles, from classic songs of the ‘30s and ‘40s to contemporary folk and country and originals. Their group Passim All-Stars, which includes Bill Staines, Billy Novick, Guy Van Duser and Stuart Schulman, still play semi-regular reunion gigs.
Mason also graduated from Suffolk Law School in 1976 and was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1977. After working as a legal analyst for Arthur D. Little Consultants and maintaining a private practice in entertainment law, he worked for Aydelott Associates as a film editor, eventually directing TV commercials. At that time, he was still performing and recording with Jeanie Stahl and began producing records for singer/songwriters Bill Staines and David Mallet.
Mason was legal counsel for John Sayles when the legendary director began his first film, The Return of the Secaucus Seven (1980), and Sayles made an offer for him to write the score for the film. The budget was $700 and the film became a landmark of independent cinema. For Sayles’ next film, Lianna, Mason turned down the legal work but eagerly accepted the job as composer. He has gone on to compose all the scores for Sayles’ films, from The Brother from Another Planet (1984) to Go for Sisters (2013). In addition to his successful full-time composing career, he continues to maintain his membership in the Massachusetts bar.
Mason‘s own label, Daring Records (a sub-label of Rounder Records), is an outlet for his film scores and the early recordings with Jeanie Stahl. It also includes Stahl’s solo recordings and an expanding library of film scores with instrumental titles from his favorite collaborators, Butch Thompson, Billy Novick and Duke Levine.
His full orchestral scores include:
The Old Curiosity Shop (2007)
The Great War (2007)
A Separate Peace (2004) (Peter Yates for Showtime)
True Confessions – (2002, piano based score)
Where the Heart Is (2000)
Music of The Heart (1999)
The Opposite of Sex (1998)
Eight Men Out (1988)
Smaller rock/pop scores include:
Say It Isn’t So (2001)
Wallace: Settin’ The Woods On Fire (2000)
Cold Around the Heart (1997)
His small ensemble productions for 17 John Sayles films include:
Silver City (2004)
Secret of Roan Inish (2004)
Sunshine State (2002)
Passion Fish (1992)
Men with Guns (1997)
Lone Star (1996)
City of Hope (1991)
Baby, it’s You (1983)
Daring has produced for many other feature films, TV movies and documentaries. He composed the themes to the long-running PBS series Nova and Frontline along with occasional episodic network TV and has produced numerous songs and featured instrumentals used as source material in films. He was nominated for a primetime Emmy for the Disney film Bailey’s Mistake and has won several other lesser awards. Many of his over 75 musical credits are listed here and his full credits are listed on IMDB.
“My favorite films were done with the likes of John Sayles, Wes Craven, Tony Goldwyn, and Peter Yates,” he says. “I was lucky enough to produce the last sessions with Ruth Brown for Honeydripper. I love the memory of producing Rita Moreno for three songs for Casas de los Babys.”
Mason now splits his time between Marblehead, where he has lived for decades, on a horse farm in Pawlet, Vermont and in Savannah, Georgia. He is an avid golfer and fly fisherman, and collects and drives classic cars and motorcycles.
(by Tim Jackson)
Published on January 31, 2023