The popular Disney+ series High School Musical: The Musical The Series, created by Tim Federle, made waves for its storylines, its incredibly talented cast, and for its soundtrack in the four seasons that it ran. For anyone looking to learn more about the series and the talented songwriters who helped to make it a hit, we have an exclusive interview with Doug Rockwell and Tova Litvin, an Emmy-nominated songwriting and music production team who worked on the song “Born to Be Brave” with Olivia Rodrigo on the show. We talked to Doug and Tova about how they first met and got into songwriting, their various opportunities in Los Angeles, and more, brought to you by Young Entertainment Exclusive!
Because the full series has already been released on Disney+, if you are planning on reading this interview and have not watched the series, this article will actively avoid any spoilers regarding it. For those planning to watch before reading this article, we highly recommend watching it first. And now, onto this interview and its refresher.
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series first premiered in 2019 and was inspired by the popular High School Musical film series. The show is set in a fictionalized version of East High School, the same highschool as the one in the films, and first follows a group of teenagers who participate in a staging of High School Musical: The Musical as their school production. The show, which starred Olivia Rodrigo, Joshua Bassett, Matt Cornett, Sofia Wylie, Julia Lester, and more, showcases a different musical in each of the next three seasons while also exploring the lives of the characters as they navigate high school, friendships, and love interests.
The show’s fourth and final season premiered on Disney+ in August 2023 and the series has been nominated for numerous awards for its soundtrack. Doug and Tova were able to work with the actors and show through winning the opportunity for the song “Born to Be Brave” and from there got to write for every season. Doug said it has been a dream come true working with his wife on various projects as they both understand the industry and have a mutual passion for what they do.
We first asked Doug and Tova how they got into songwriting. Doug said he knew it was what he wanted to do at a young age and he originally started out in a band, but realized life on the road was difficult and then shifted to writing songs for other artists. Tova said she had a similar path and fell in love with writing songs for others in different genres. Doug said he first met Tova in Los Angeles at a songwriting party.
What was it like working with Joshua Bassett on Speak Out? What type of input was he able to give? And was there anything that you learned about your own writing/singing while working with Joshua?
Writing with Josh is always fun cause he’s a really solid writer. For Speak Out, we were on a Zoom session, and tossing ideas around based on the brief we got for the scene. We had to make the song seem really organic and natural in the moment, but still apply to what both Ricky and E.J. were going through on the show. (Josh & Matt Cornett’s characters.) It’s also our job as writers to make sure that even though the song is for a specific scene, it’s universal and can be relatable to the audience, no matter what they’re going through in their own lives.
We asked Doug and Tova how they first started working together and they said their first team opportunity was writing a song called “Born Ready” with Dove Cameron for Marvel Rising. From there they were able to expand and explore other opportunities in television and film. Doug and Tova have also written the breakout song “Flesh and Bone” from Zombies 2, worked on Disney’s live action musical Sneakerella,, and also wrote and produced music for Kenny Ortega’s Julie and the Phantoms on Netflix. Their song “The Other Side of Hollywood” was nominated for Outstanding Original Song for the Daytime Emmy Awards. They are currently developing an original musical, and an original musical feature film.
We asked Doug and Tova about writing for High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and they said it wasn’t difficult to get into the brains of high schoolers to write for the show, as they were able to touch on their own experiences they had in school. Doug said he could tell from the beginning just how talented the cast was and how great it was to see them continue on past the series to do great things, from being nominated for Tonys and Grammys to starring in other films and series.
When asked about what advice they would give to aspiring songwriters, both Doug and Tova said that if you are obsessed with your passion or art, that will help you through any rejections you may face and lead to success.
Thank you, Doug and Tova for your time and for speaking with YEM! Make sure to follow them on Instagram at @dougrockwell (Doug Rockwell (@dougrockwell) • Instagram photos and videos) @tovaonmars (T O V A (@tovaonmars) • Instagram photos and videos). Please also watch the interview below, where we ask them more questions about working with the cast, and more! While you’re there, be sure to like, comment, and subscribe to our channel for the latest news in young entertainment!