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Rusty Anderson Talks New Single Firefly, Paul McCartney’s Got Back Tour, & More



As someone who had a hand-drawn picture of Paul McCartney hanging on my wall when I was in third grade and watched every concert movie/CD I could get my hands on — Back in the U.S. and Good Evening, New York City currently resides in my car’s CD player — I was overjoyed when I got Rusty Anderson, McCartney’s lead guitarist on tour for the last two decades, to agree to an interview. Here’s someone who I grew up watching on my TV, now in my Zoom room. Rusty was so gracious with his time, sitting in the Zoom meeting for 40 minutes as I asked him questions I was “destined to remember” from my own early days.

On his own merit, Rusty is an accomplished guitarist and singer/songwriter. His new single, Firefly, is incredible and is available on all streaming platforms now. As a guitarist, he’s also recorded with the likes of Elton John, Regina Spektor, Willie Nelson, Carlos Santana, Lana Del Rey, The New Radicals, Miley Cyrus, Michael Buble, and Little Richard, as well as his own four-album catalog and of course, Paul McCartney among many more. Additionally, Rusty is working on new music that will be released soon and his entire catalog will soon be available on streaming platforms.

Thank you to Rusty for agreeing to this interview, for generously giving me your time, and for letting me nerd out about an intricacy in your Let it Be solo. Read on if you want to hear about the recording process of Firefly, the techniques he used on that track, reflecting on the Got Back Tour, guitar solos, and so much more.

Coastal House Media: Before I get into your single Firefly, which I love, I wanted to ask for your perspective since you’ve been around for a long time. How has the music industry with the promotion of new music changed? I’ve noticed with singles, for example, it’s not like people buy 45s anymore with B-sides. Can I get your thoughts on that?

Rusty Anderson: Oh, It’s a completely different universe. I’ve been playing music my whole life and involved in the business in some way most of my life and it’s completely changed. Especially seeing the invention of cell phones and the digital age and stuff, the old way fell off a cliff, basically. Now it’s all about promoting through digital means, like playlists and streaming and the way that the record companies [have] kind of finagled along with YouTube and Spotify and all that. It’s very much like they left the leverage of the artist out of the whole thing. And I could go on and on about that, it’s kind of dark. But we make the most of it, don’t we?

CHM: Your new single, Firefly, is a digital release that just came out earlier this summer, about a month ago. It is really great and was curious if there were any songs that inspired this because it reminded me of someone and I couldn’t recall who.

Anderson: Yeah, it’s a good question. I just wrote it on piano, actually, the melody and music, and it stuck with me. I listened back to it again a few weeks later and thought, “Yeah, that’s good,” and then a friend of mine, Ron Sexsmith, who’s a wonderful songwriter, and I said, “Hey man, you want to try writing some lyrics to this tune?” And he said sure. I always wanted to do something with him. So he wrote some lyrics and then I thought, “Oh, that’s not quite the right vibe. Maybe a little more positive,” [and] we sort of worked it over it ended up becoming Firefly.

I thought, “Now that’s cool,” but then I couldn’t stop imagining hearing Stewart Copeland playing the drums, so I asked him if he wanted to play, he goes, “Yeah, sure.” Then he put his drums on [the track] and it just came together in this really interesting way. And just to keep the craziness going, I invited my friend Chris Shaffer along to share the lead vocals with me. We literally each sang half of the song. I co-wrote and produced his record a while ago and always loved his voice, so I kind of had fun with the whole process, because it’s enjoyable working with other people sometimes, especially if it’s a really great cast of talent.

CHM: So then it is you singing on the track? Your voice is amazing.

Anderson: Thanks! Yeah, how I worked [that] was we sort of trade-off, I’m singing, [then] he’s singing, [then] I’m singing, [then] he’s singing the lead vocal. I then produced the track, playing the guitars, bass, keys, and editing drums. It’s a process, you know, putting music together — it doesn’t just happen. You can just play it live as a band, though that usually doesn’t happen as much anymore, especially since COVID and people have their own studios. But it’s all got its different allures, I guess, the different ways of recording.

CHM: So how do you get your friends to play on your track? Do you say something like, “Oh, if you do this for me, I’ll play on your next song,”?

Anderson: [It] just depends on your relationship with the musician. Sometimes people get paid, [and] sometimes it turns into favors and all that. As I said, I’ve been working with Stewart, we were in a band together years ago called Animal Logic, and I’ve been working with him on this new orchestral stuff and he played on my tune. I don’t know, it just all works out.

CHM: Towards the end of the song, the guitar kind of reminds me, of My Sweet Lord, do you know what I’m talking about?

Anderson: The very end?

CHM: Yeah.

Anderson: Oh, you know, there are different techniques that I try to create that don’t always sound like a guitar. There’s a harp-picking technique that I think I used, maybe you’re referring to that. I kind of enjoy coming up with something maybe a little unexpected guitar-wise, because the guitar, as an instrument, [is] just so beautiful whether it’s electric or acoustic. And on Firefly, I mixed all of it together. There’re some electric bits, acoustic bits, effectual bits, like that harp-picking technique, but I always love that, the ability to sort of put on different layers of guitars and try to maybe create some new combinations of things that listeners wouldn’t expect. That’s what I strive for.

CHM: How long did Firefly take to make?

Anderson: It took a while because [of] everything going back and forth to different people. Stewart [Copeland] lives in LA, but he is over in his studio and then Ron Sexsmith lives up in Canada, so there’s a lot of things done online [and] that always takes a while for someone to do it and then get it together and then send it to you.

“It’s almost better [to] release a song at a time…maybe I’ll release a few; I don’t know.”

– Rusty anderson

CHM: Are you guys like sharing Google Files back and forth?

Anderson: [laughs] Yeah, that seems to be the way these days. But then it’s a trip. When I tour with Paul [McCartney], it’s all on a schedule. Everybody’s on a leash and you’re there, you go to the shows in each city, you all get up together, you soundcheck together, you perform together, hang out together, and chat about the show afterward on the bus or fly together and it’s just such a different reality. And I feel really privileged to be able to have all those experiences and create music in those different ways.

CHM: Before getting into Paul and all of that, do you have a new album coming out in the future or anything like that planned?

Anderson: Well, the way I’m sort of doing it, I released Firefly, and then I’ll release a few more songs. It seems like a good way to do it these days because sometimes if you release a whole album at once, it’s almost too much for the way the cycles of the media and online, Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, playlists, it all takes time to sort of work it through that system. It’s almost better [to] release a song at a time…maybe I’ll release a few; I don’t know. I haven’t really figured out exactly which song I’m releasing next, but especially over the pandemic, I had some time to create and start recording things and get tracks together. [I] tried to make the best use of that time possible. That and hanging out with my family, doing paperwork, yoga, and stuff like that.

CHM: You’ve had a lengthy career, being a studio musician as well, and you’ve worked with a wide range of artists. I was just looking at the list and there are some that I would not have expected. You’ve done music for Tim McGraw and Michael Bublé. I know that some of these albums were from, I don’t know, 10 or more years ago, but how did that process work? Were you sending the stuff that you recorded on your own to a producer? Or were you going to a studio?

Anderson: Well, a lot of the time I just go down to a recording studio and play. Sometimes it’s a big tracking date where everyone plays together. Then sometimes just overdubs. Like I played on Livin’ la Vida Loca for Ricky Martin. I’d already done some stuff with him at that time, along with a friend who I’d worked with named, Robi Draco Rosa, who was one of the writers on that song. He has his own band that I’ve played with and we’ve written songs together, etc. Anyway, He asked me to play guitar on a demo and brought it over to my home studio. There were a few key blank spots for guitar so I came up with the parts right then and there, also engineering. it was done in an hour or two — it was really quick. I didn’t really have a reverb unit at the time that I liked — I think my gear was somewhere else — so I thought, “Well, I won’t put any reverb on this, because obviously, it needs it, but I’m sure they will add it in the mix.” He goes, “Okay.”

So the record company called me and said, “Oh, by the way, they’re going to use that demo as the actual record.” I’m like, “Oh, okay, cool.” And then they call back, “Oh, by the way, it’s the first song on the record,” “Oh, by the way, it’s the single,” “Oh, by the way, it’s huge.” And then I’m in the health club working out on the treadmill or something, and I hear it in the background and I was just shocked because all of a sudden the guitar came on and there was no reverb, just bone-dry. And I thought, “Wow, they didn’t even put any on,” and in a way, I think it became the sound of that song — it became a thing, in a way, having more kind of a unique sound than if I would’ve put reverb on it. But it just kind of shocked me because these things are never as you expect, there’s always some element of surprise, you know?

And sometimes you go to a recording studio [where] there’s a whole band and you track the songs together.  And then I stick around and do some guitar overdubs. Or a lot of times, people will send me music and I’ll play on [top of] it. And I’ll do the same if I’m working on my stuff and send it out to other people and they’ll put some music in and send it back. Or sometimes we’ve cut songs together in a studio. Like on my first record. I have four records out, Firefly makes the fifth release, I believe, and the first one I did, Paul McCartney played on it and he sang background and played bass and even some guitar. We just showed up at the studio together, it was the whole Paul McCartney band: Abe [Laboriel Jr.], “Wix” [Paul Wickens], and Brian [Ray], and I was just so floored! It was such a privileged to work with those talented people and be able to pull everyone together. And David Kahne was producing; it was really magical.

We got the basic tracks together and then Paul calls me the next day and he says, “I really like that track that we did.” He says that this one section — he called [it] the “rescue bit — which was a section where I didn’t know what I was going to do, he says “It’d be really cool to put some other instrument in there,” maybe a flugelhorn or an oboe, or a flute, or something surprising. So then I called my friend who plays with Brian Wilson, named Proben Gregory, he plays like four different orchestral instruments, to overdub in the rescue bit. And sure enough, it had a unique sound that I never really would’ve thought of.

And that’s another fun thing about working with people, especially someone as incredibly talented as Paul McCartney. They may contribute unexpected ideas. Of the records I’ve released, they seem to get done in different ways, with different musicians, actually.

CHM: When I was looking you up on Apple Music, I only saw two albums. Is it because Rusty Anderson Afternoon is a separate category?

Anderson: Actually, I’m glad you asked that because I’m in the process of getting those back online. There was a section, [but] I took them down because I wasn’t happy with the business arrangement. I think two of them are under Rusty Anderson Afternoon, which really refers to a band vibe with my buddy Todd O’Keefe — he’s a very talented cat, too — the rest of them are simply as Rusty Anderson. But yeah, they’re going back up. And obviously, you can buy all this stuff on my website, if you are into CDs or downloads, but anyway, I took those down a while ago and I’m just putting them back up now. And you can catch the music [and] those videos on YouTube.

CHM: I would love to transition over to Paul if that’s okay. You’ve now toured for 20 years, I’ve been lucky enough to see you twice in 2015, and then this past year, How easy are these songs to play for you guys? It looks so effortless to you in particular.

Anderson: Well, it’s interesting because certain songs require more focus than others; or certain sections in songs. I mean, I’ve been playing guitar since I was a kid, so unless it’s some really intense jazz or classical bit or something, it doesn’t require a whole lot of focus to be able to play it. But there’s a thing called muscle memory, and once you rehearse a song and get it in your fingers and in your DNA and everything, it requires less thought. And it’s better if you don’t think too much.

And, you know, most of these are now classic songs, and so I’ve heard them for years. In fact, it’s so crazy because I remember when I first started playing with Paul, there was a time when we were playing a song and then it came time for the solo. And I was just kind of jamming along and I think I missed a couple [of] notes of the solo realizing that I was actually playing it because it almost feels like the songs play themselves, this music, you know? It’s really hard to explain.

CHM: That actually leads to a question that I had for you. You play a lot of the solos for Paul, some of them are just iconic and you stay close to the original, i.e. Maybe I’m Amazed, Something, My Love, but what did he tell you in regards to playing them? Did you have to stick to the original?  

Anderson: I think I’ve used my intuition on that. I am such a fan of Paul and The Beatles and his career and all that, [and] there are certain songs that you just can’t mess with the melodies, [they] are too strong. You could play something else, but it would just be disappointing and it doesn’t peak the moment, you know? You have this incredible vibe happening with everybody there, the big audience, and everyone’s on the same page. We’re all together, celebrating these incredible songs and I think it would be a big disservice to all of a sudden play some other melody instead of the one that’s there. But that’s not always the case. Let it Be, for example, is more of a modality or a style that’s being played as opposed to melodies that are really specific. So I’ll kind of just improvise that one and let it flow to different places it wants to go.

My personal favorite rendition of Rusty’s solo on Let it Be.

[Then with] something like, well, Something, the song [laughs], [which] has such an incredible solo in it and is one of my favorite [George] Harrison moments whether it’s guitar or vocal. It’s just such a brilliant bit that he came up with and I really didn’t want to do that any disservice. And I’ll put my “English” on it and maybe spin the phrasing a little bit differently, but the basic substance of the notes I think are sometimes really important and sometimes not as much and I think this song [Something] spells it out.

CHM: Shifting gears to some rapid-fire questions, I know you guys alternated between New and Queenie Eye on this past tour [the Got Back Tour], do you prefer one over the other in terms of playing?

Anderson: No, I mean, they’re really different songs. I’d say New is a little easier to play; Queenie Eye has a strange guitar tuning with a slide and takes a little more focus, but I really enjoy the rhythm of that song and it’s got a cool chorus, I dig it.

New is really cool, too. I mean, it’s sort of “pop-y,” but in this sort of way that Paul almost seemed to have invented. It’s hard to explain. But that’s a cool arrangement, too. A lot of the horn parts and the guitar play together, it’s really weird. It sounds like it flows as a band, but if you just isolated the guitar part in New, you’d be surprised.

CHM: I think that the last time you guys were on the road before COVID, in the second or third slot, you guys would play Hi, Hi, Hi, generally speaking, and now you guys play Junior’s Farm. I’m glad to have gotten to hear both live, but do you have a preference between either of those?

Anderson: I like Junior’s Farm, it’s cool. It was a radio hit back in the day and I was very young, so it has a certain amount of awesomeness that stands the test of time quite well. Hi, Hi, Hi was also a hit back in the day, and that’s cool, too. It’s a little bit more kind of a straight-up, sort of “boogie-blues” vibe. Which is cool, but not as special as Junior’s Farm to me.

But, that’s the thing about a setlist. If you had like a thousand people putting setlists together, you’d have a thousand different setlists because everyone’s got their own perspective, that’s the beauty of music. People hear into things, they have their own interpretations, whether it’s a piece of art, a song, a painting, or a book, people interpret it. And that interpretation is what bonds people together. And it’s “loosey-goosey,” it’s an individual experience for everybody. And that’s the beauty of art and that’s the beauty of music; you could have like, the musicians’ Hall of Fame or Rolling Stone’s greatest songs of all time, but they’re all just opinions.

CHM: Do you have a favorite opener that you guys did? I know you guys used to do Eight Days a Week, Save Us, or Hello, Goodbye, and now, Can’t Buy Me Love. What’s your favorite way to kick off a concert?

Anderson: Eight Days a Week was cool or A Hard Day’s Night. I enjoy them all, actually.

CHM: Are there any songs that you guys used to play more that, you kind of miss? I’m mad that you guys started playing Jet right after Syracuse, I just missed it.

Anderson: We played it [Jet] at soundcheck one day and I said, “Paul, we should maybe put Jet in the set.” He goes, “Yeah, I think you’re right.” I don’t always insert my opinion, but every once in a while, I will. And that ended up in a few of the sets and I always enjoy playing that song [Jet] just because it’s such an unusual track and it’s [got] a lot of the elements Paul does so well together in one song and I love the way the band plays it — it’s just got this energy to it. It always feels exciting.”

CHM: Do you have any songs in particular — besides Jet — that you miss playing or wish you could play more?

Anderson: I was glad we started playing She Came in Through the Bathroom Window. On this last tour, we did a section from Abbey Road that Paul, had never played — that was really cool. It had [a portion of] You Never Give Me Your Money, except for [a portion missing from] the very beginning of it. It’s hard to categorize when you take a song out a little bit out of context from Abbey Road, but it was on the second side — [part of] that whole medley thing.

Too Many People was always fun. [There’s] just such an incredible wealth of amazing songs, they’re sort of timeless and awesome to play [and] keep coming back to them.

CHM: Are there any songs you haven’t played with Paul from his catalog or The Beatles’ catalog that you’d like to play? I know you said that you don’t like to insert your opinion on the setlist too much, but if you did…

Well, I have a few times. I sort of pushed Helter Skelter back in the day and he [Paul McCartney] wasn’t sure. And then we finally played it and it went over like gangbusters. So it ended up in the set. I’d love to do The Back Seat of My Car. We sort of rehearsed it, but never ended up doing it. Or Little Lamb Dragonfly, [which] we never rehearsed. I don’t know, there’s been a few that got suggested by people that we never quite ended up putting in the set, or sometimes they get in the set and then we do it for a tour or two and then never play it again.

CHM: You said Paul was a little skeptical about Helter Skelter, was that just because of the controversy or because of the arrangement of the song? Or maybe the way the crowd might receive it?

Anderson: Oh, I think it was the controversial aspect of it back in the day, but that’s all gone. I mean, why should a song be connected to some psycho just because they liked it? There are a million Beatles fans and Paul McCartney fans around the world and everyone has their favorite songs and their connection to the songs, so I don’t know — I thought it was a little silly.

CHM: Do you remember playing Helter Skelter in Boston a few years back with Rob Gronkowski on stage? I recently came across this video, have you seen the YouTube video? Because the way you’re looking at Gronkowski is hilarious; you’re looking at him like he’s something out of this world.

Anderson: I mean, he is! He’s a very tall, giant athlete and obviously incredibly talented and it’s just the energy he was putting out and the sort of scope of it on stage was like something to behold.

CHM: To begin closing out, I wanted to talk about The End, the song you guys always end on whether it’s following the “Abbey Road medley” or the “Sgt. Peppers reprise.” Of course, during The End, you guys always have that little jam and I love that moment where you guys are just having fun — it looks like you’re just in the garage, jamming out together. I don’t hear every single concert, but I know that there are a couple of bits there that you have to play from the original track, but how structured is this jam?

Anderson: We don’t have to do anything. I mean, there are certain licks that are really cool that we sort of want to throw in because they’re so good, and then at a certain point, we [are] just doing whatever.

CHM: I could be wrong, but Paul usually ends it right with the little riff that ends the solo on the original track, right?

Anderson: That’s the cue that we’re ending it, people recognize it.

CHM: I know that I keep saying “last question,” but this truly is my last question for you. Do you remember the Syracuse concert? During Live and Let Die, the fireworks were going off, but were they especially loud during this show? Because I was further back and it seemed loud and Paul’s reaction definitely gave the impression that it was louder than usual.

Anderson: I don’t remember, man. I mean, I know that one night they’re loud, next night, they’re super loud, next night, they might be quieter. They’re usually about the same volume, but every once in a while there’s some acoustic element or they have different laws in different states and different countries or different venues. I think the Hard Rock [stadium] had its own laws there.

CHM: So do you wear the in-ear monitors on stage? Perhaps that quiets the pyro noise...

Anderson: I’ve been messing with that. I kind of mostly have been using in-ear filters, which, in theory, filter out everything equally, so it’s like a master volume turning it down, but it doesn’t really work that way because you get more bass than you do high-end. Like, if you stick cotton in your ears, it kind of goes [vocalizes muffled sound]. So it’s like halfway between hearing normal and a little bit [like with] cotton. But that’s usually what works best for me on stage because it’s a very different thing to perform than it is to listen in the audience because you’re not hearing a mix like everyone else hears. You’re hearing what you need to hear to be able to perform.

Firefly is available to stream now on all digital platforms.


Andrew is an entertainment journalist and film "critic" who has written for the likes of Above the Line, Below the Line, Collider, Film Focus Online, /Film and The Hollywood Handle among others. Leader of the Kaitlyn Dever Fanclub.

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Ginny & Georgia Composers Lili Haydn and Ben Bromfield Talk About Their ‘Eclectic’ and ‘Sensitive’ Score

Season 2 of ‘Ginny & Georgia’ is streaming on Netflix now.



From the opening scene of the second season of Ginny & Georgia, I was welcomed with an amazing musical score by Lili Haydn and Ben Bromfield. Whilst this show is not generally my cup of tea, the music was just so interesting. How does “Welcome Back Bitches” nail such a modern sound akin to LCD Soundsystem’s “oh baby”? How do they manage to shift between that tone and more of a somber, piano-driven number like “Not a Murderer” or the Americana guitars on “Childs Play (Hunter’s Song)”? 

I had the pleasure of speaking to both Lili Haydn and Ben Bromfield about their latest work. We talked all about their fantastic score, but more importantly, we began by talking about cats. Yes, you read that right. 

Be sure to check out the second season of Ginny & Georgia on Netflix now, and you can hear Lili Haydn’s latest single, “Woman Life Freedom,” here. 

Coastal House Media: I have a sort of fun question for each of you to start. Ben, I’ll start with you, I was looking at your website and I saw a picture of a cat on your website, so I was curious, what’s their name and age? 

Ben Bromfield: You know, we have a couple of cats in my family, so that’s Cammy. She’s now, I think 14 or 15. She’s going strong. She’s heavily medicated at this point, but she’s a sweet, happy cat. We’ve got another named Oscar who has rapidly gone from being a kitten to a pretty chunky guy. And then we’ve got our dog Jones, who is the light of my life. 

Lili Haydn: [laughs] Well, the fact that you’re showing us pictures of your cats — you’re speaking my language because I am obsessed with my cats and I have the best cat treat in the world. And my kitten is gonna rear her head, and both cats are rapidly approaching. Both of them are circling the den [laughs]. 

You gotta get your cats this [shows package to the camera] — they’re chicken breast tenders. They’re really good for them and they go crazy for them.

CHM: Since you’re both cat people then can I ask you guys each, what’s your favorite thing about having a cat? 

Haydn: Kissing them. Kissing cats is like my favorite thing to do in the world, I think more than anything else, to be honest.

CHM: Even more so than playing the violin?

Haydn: More than anything in the world. 

Bromfield: I’m always amazed by how smart they are. There’s this thing called a puzzle box. I don’t know if you’ve heard of that, but it’s more of a dog thing where like you put a treat inside a cardboard box, and then you just leave the dog [to] go for it. And then they rip it apart and it’s fine.

I made one and Oscar just absolutely hijacked it. But my other cat, Cammy, does this thing, and I love old cats because they have so much character at this point, but when you pick her up, she wraps her arms around your neck and we call her a koala-cat and she just sort of like hangs on to you and it’s the sweetest thing. She really is the sweetest cat. 

CHM: Aw, that’s adorable. Well, both of you guys have adorable cats. Lily, I was listening to your cover recently of “Kashmir,” I found it on YouTube, and I was just curious cause I know that you also opened for Robert Plant and Jimmy Page a few years back. I don’t know when that was recorded in relevance to that, but did they ever hear your cover of that song, and what were their reactions? 

Haydn: I don’t know if Jimmy Page heard it, but Robert said he loved it. And I got their blessing before I did it because they’re real artists. I mean like they’re not just some pop sensation, as you know, and they’re not just legends that have let their golden days pass them by. They’re people that seek out new music that excites them. That’s why they were open to having somebody like me open for them. They really are curious and I wanted to honor the seriousness with which they approached their music when I covered it. So getting their blessing was really important.

CHM: Well, it’s an amazing cover, and you guys are both real artists as well. I don’t know if you guys have worked on any other projects together, but how were you guys paired up for Ginny & Georgia?

Bromfield: I’m gonna start this [and then] I’m gonna throw it to Lily this time. My career in scoring started in a typical way where I was a composer’s assistant before I was a composer, and I got to work on a bunch of shows and I got to know the process really well. And the majority of that work was done for this guy, Tree Adams, who’s a dear friend and mentor — I call him my sensei. Tree is a great TV and film composer, and I [have] worked for him for five years now. He plays with his band sometimes and they were playing a gig [and] I came out to support him and sit in a little bit on keys. Lili was also there because she had her own relationship with Tree.

Haydn: I used to play violin and sing for him a lot, and then I actually reached out to him when I was trying to pitch on a show that I thought that I was right for. But I knew I wouldn’t get taken seriously as a television composer having not done TV before without somebody who was a veteran, so I reached out to him and he was generous enough to say he would pitch with me. We didn’t get that show, but he kept me in mind so that when Ben, who I actually did get to meet and jam with at Tree’s gig, when Ben reached out to Tree for recommendations for a woman composer for this show to pitch, Tree recommended me and then we had remembered that we played together. It all kind of happened very quickly. And I was actually on my way to India for a performance and I was emailing and putting my reel together at the airport, and to this day we still communicate on WhatsApp because most of our initial conversations were done internationally.

So we just threw it together. We had a sense that we would work well together because we had jammed and Tree felt like we would, and we both work on the same platform, same program — Pro Tools — and we pitched and it just came together.

But I have to say [about] our chemistry, you never really know how you’re ultimately gonna work together with somebody in a pressure situation. And it’s just been magical [and] very lucky collaboration because we complement each other’s skillsets. While we’re both very fluid improvisers, and that has allowed us to create some music that neither of us would’ve created on our own. 

CHM: Ben, you’ll answer for Lilly and vice versa. What is it about the other person’s style that attracted you to them and what did you think that they brought to the table with this score?

Bromfield: Great question. There’s a lot of things I could say about this, but I will just say [that] this is not the first time I’ve done a co-composer thing with somebody, and I think that in general, one of the things I like about it is that you get to learn from the other person. Now Lili has a very different way of thinking about music to me than me and I feel like I’ve just learned a lot from working with her about that mindset. I’m going to simplify it a bit and call it “quality over quantity,” which is great as somebody who has more experience spending a lot of time on less minutes of music than me because come from having to score and doing so much music so fast. There’s a sense where it’s not that it’s not quality, it’s just that you can’t really focus on anything [for] too long. 

So I think from collaborating with Lili, as somebody who has done those deep dives into music, even if we don’t always have time to do that for Ginny & Georgia —  because it’s a TV show — I think that I’ve gotten a lot out of that influence from her, which is something that I feel like you either need to find within yourself or you need to get inspired by somebody else.

And just to round that out, I’m now doing for the first time in my career of about 12 years or so, I’m creating music as art or not for score. I’m writing [and] releasing albums and creating music that’s just for people to listen to and I don’t feel like I would be as comfortable doing that now if it wasn’t for the influence of working with somebody who has so much experience doing that.

A still from Ginny & Georgia. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

Haydn: Oh, that’s nice — thanks! I think it’s relevant to just say what our specific backgrounds are. I come from playing classical music as a kid and growing up with that, but I also started making records when I was 20 — and I’ve made a bunch of them. I started scoring and being a part of other people’s teams as a player and singer, so I didn’t have experience in television. But I think that the production skills [of] record making has been [useful], and there’s a melodicism that I come to the table with as a violinist and singer.

But what Ben brings to the table, first of all, just his incredible virtuosity as a player and composer. He’s a really smart problem-solver and also has an incredible work ethic — [he] just knows how to get shit done. And his experience as a consummate composer’s assistant, as a person who just knows how [to] get from A to Z just expertly, and politically, I’ve learned a lot from him in that way in terms of how I approach things more as an artist and I will sometimes speak my mind when it’s not necessarily the best political move [smiles], so I’ve learned to [say] like, “Hey, Ben, are you cool with it if I say ‘x, y [and] z’?” and he’ll say, “Why don’t you just dial that back a little” [laughs]. 

But just on a musical tip, I think he’s just so fluid. He’s got a can-do attitude so that there’s nothing that can’t be done. And so it’s like the sky’s the limit and we can do anything together. It’s really fun. 

Bromfield: I will just say that your “squeaky wheel-ness,” while that maybe at one point I thought was a liability, has also been a good influence on me because now I’m a little bit of a “squeaky-ier wheel.” Sometimes I have a tendency to be a little quiet and let things just go along. Now I’m a little more comfortable just generally asking for stuff, because if people say, no, it’s not the worst thing, and so being a squeaky wheel can be sometimes good, I think, being somebody who just says what they feel. I think I could use a little more of that. And so that’s also been a good influence. Thank you, Lili [laughs].

CHM: I’m gonna put you guys on the spot again — I don’t know who wants to take this first, but I like to ask composers this question because you guys know the work better than anybody, but if you had to describe your score in three or fewer words, what would they be? 

Haydn: I’ll start with one word; I don’t wanna do all three, I wanna pick some wisely — quality over quantity [laughs] — eclectic

Bromfield: I thought of that too — [that’s the] first thing I thought of. I’m trying to think if I can think of another one. Eclectic; see, that one makes it hard because I could say another one, but it only applies to some of the music, right? Is it weird for me to say female? I mean, I think that the female aspect of the show is an important thing in the music as well. Sometimes [it’s] signified by Lilly’s voice, the way we use it in the score. I dunno, it’s hard [laughs]. 

Haydn: I think about the role of feminism or the female gaze in the show — most of the creative team are women — and they wanted a female composer to be a part of it. I don’t think of myself as a woman composer — although I am on the board of the Alliance for Women Film Composers — but I think that what is relevant about that is that because this show is very much from a woman’s perspective, being a woman, I pick up on subtle emotional threads. 

In college, I had an eating disorder [so] I know what that looks like and they’re dropping subtle hints in the show. So there are moments [that] I’m attuned to, certain dramatic moments that I might not be if I hadn’t lived it, and that allows me to have a sensitivity to certain things that allows me to bring a little bit more sensitivity in the music to that moment. I think maybe the word is sensitive as opposed to female. But it’s really about being sensitive to the female gaze.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with that concept of the female gaze, but so much of what we’ve been inundated with in our Western culture has been from a male perspective. So when you get something that’s done from a female perspective, it’s a different lens and they call that the female gaze.

Another word that I’m gonna steal this from Sarah Lampert. I think she once described “Georgia’s Theme,” which is the first or maybe the second track of our Season One soundtrack, is used throughout the show and it’s represented in the season two soundtrack with some sort of remixed versions. Anyway. Sarah once described that piece as sardonic — and I really like that. I don’t know if that applies to all the music, but I think it’s a great word. And I think that there’s a sardonic element to this show that is winking at you a little bit, and I like to think that our music is helping with that and has some of that same quality. So we can say eclectic, sensitive and sardonic.

Bromfield: I like those three. 

A still from Ginny & Georgia. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

CHM: There are parts where, to me, your score sounded more modern, like in the first episode — I think it might be even the first time your score comes in — and then there are other times where it’s more of a traditional, orchestral sound. I want to focus on that opening modern track and ask about composing that specific track because to me that sounded so unique. 

Haydn: Is that the “Welcome Back Bitches”? 

CHM: Yes.

Haydn: Well that’s fun because we often divvy up the work, but there are times when we get in a room and just play and fun things happen. And that [“Welcome Back Bitches”] was one of those instances where we were in the room, playing with keyboards like two kids in a sandbox, really. So I’m glad you like that one. 

I think what makes it unique is that we employ a lot of the pop elements of the song licenses that they use because we wanna keep the energy. It’s a modern show, so we need that aesthetic, but we also need to employ the kind of dark, more emotional elements and we also need to employ some of the more traditional scoring techniques. So this [“Welcome Back Bitches”], it’s [a] blend of all those things that turn into this kind of really interesting stew of sorts. And also the way that I use my voice, — without lyrics — I think also lends itself to having a sense of a pop hook without it actually being that, and then it becomes more like an instrument.

So I think it’s the eclecticism that helps it be unique and uniquely suited for this show, which is its own eclectic blend of influences. And what I love about the show and what I’m also really proud of with our score is how with all of its eclecticism, it’s cohesive. It could very easily be a hodgepodge of, okay, and now we’re gonna do this, and now we’re gonna do that, but it really feels cohesive and there really is a sound of show, which to me, doesn’t sound like other shows. even though obviously, we’re not creating in a vacuum and there are obviously other influences. But, to me, it sounds like our show, and the more television and film I consume, the more I can hear when somebody’s borrowing from another. 

I don’t know if you know what temp music is, but where they put in a temporary piece of music to sort of mark the spot where they want music. a lot of times in television I know exactly what they temp with because it sounds like that show or that sounds like that, and to hear those elements, it doesn’t come together as cohesively. And I feel really happy about what we’ve created.

Bromfield: It really is like [an] instrumental song — it’s [in] a song form. When we get together, we like to make music like that for the show. You know, we did that one before season two, and then we sent it to them. We wrote it together as a thematic track to be used in season two, and then we all found a place for it together. And I think a lot of the stuff we did in that session was similar — it’s kind of like its own genre of pop music. It’s pop music-influenced and it’s song-influenced, but the fact that it centers around Lili’s voice doing more of “ooh” [vocalizes notes] thing, I think is part of what makes it unique in the pop music world.

CHM: You just mentioned that when you guys jammed together and made that song on keyboards. I know a lot of songs sprout from the keyboard or piano, but were there any unique instruments you guys used throughout this score at all?

Haydn: Actually, the keyboard we used on that song is a fancy new keyboard that I just got — it’s a Hydrosynth, which is a really fun synthesizer. Ben has a lot of great synthesizers and he’s like “Keyboard Guy,” but I had been lusting after this keyboard for a couple of years and somebody had told me like, “You have to get this.” And it has this ribbon controller where you can do this portamento thing; you can slide from really low to really high and it gets that kind of weird, like your stomach is turning inside out kind of vibe, which I love [laughs]. That was the keyboard on this track. 

We also incorporate rock and roll stuff. We have some different instruments [I] play a lot of my string instruments and we do a lot of sound design as well. For some of the modern influences we pulled in a programmer friend of mine who works with Kesha and Kanye West and like some big pop artists [because] we wanted to have authentic beats. So we used a couple of those beats in the show. 

There’s like an instrument in the upper register that’s sort of going and that’s like [volcalizes]… I forget what it’s called…

Haydn: Ribbon Controller. 

Bromfield: Yeah. And then you can also hear it in the piece called “George’s Theme (Dark).” It’s happening with the bass in that one [and]  it’s a very cool effect. And each time you get a synthesizer like that, they all have their individual quirks, and that’s one really cool quirk of the Hydrosynth. And other than the fact that the sounds and the effects on it are really cool, the Ribbon Controller is really neat and it’s a fun way to do that — not every synth can do that.

Haydn: It’s modeled after a classic synth from the seventies called the [Yamaha] CS-80, which I had the pleasure of working with on my first album, and then sound design where you’re basically messing [around when] you’re creating sounds, you’re recording yourself doing this kind of stuff and tapping on your face and scratching things.

[In] episode eight, where we did the musical, the episode [is] mostly in the style of the musical, which was sort of classical music-influenced. I got out my violin and started doing all my little classical tricks. But one of the cues was influenced by my cat, actually, who’s not going to meow on cue, unfortunately, but she does meow [on cue] a little bit. She’s kept her little “Pixar kitten meow,” and you can hear that in one of the cues. I just did a little reel on my Instagram if you wanna hear it. It’s on the soundtrack also called “Max and Bracia Backstage” — please check it out. 

A still from Ginny & Georgia. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

CHM: Since you both live in LA that makes it a bit easier — I know some co-composers I’ve spoken to were in separate areas of the world, so that made it a little harder — but I was curious what the day-to-day kind of thing looks like. Were you guys always working together or were you guys, you know, separately and then collaborating over Google Drives and stuff like that?

Bromfield: [Are] you familiar with the [concept of a] spotting session? [It’s] the meeting that we have with the showrunners, so when we first watched the show down and we figure out all the cues and we might use this one thing, or this might be a licensed song or whatever, and then we’ll figure out how much music we need to write and what scene.

So from there, Lili and I will typically divide it up and we’ll each take a first pass separately in our own studios. Also, I should mention, we started working on this show right when the pandemic broke out. So season one, we didn’t get together at all—  

Haydn: We had one session together! 

Bromfield: Before COVID, yeah. 

Haydn: It was like pre-COVID and then before our next session, he said, “You know, I don’t think we should be in the same room anymore [laughs]; we probably should isolate.” So, yeah, we only had one session, but that one session was very fruitful. 

Bromfield: Yeah, we got our company cue out of that session that gets used all the time and reused all over the score. But yeah, we generally work in different places, but also it’s funny to mention that we work at different times. Lilli is a total night owl, and I’m typically — if things are going right — up at 7:30 trying to work out and then start my day and in bed by like 11 or 12, she’s working all night. And so that sort of signifies our yin and yang-ness that we have. I think with our creative approaches as well. 

We didn’t have to do this much with season two. Season one was, I think, a bit more hectic, mostly because of COVID, [and] if we got something that we had to turn around [or] we got notes back at the last minute, she [Lili] probably was gonna be up anyway, so that that kind of works. There’s obviously all sorts of stuff going on in the morning and I’m willing to do that. 

So we work in different places, [and] we sometimes work at different times, but we do work on the same pieces of music because we send stuff back and forth to each other. We’re both working in Pro Tools as Lili mentioned, and we’re on Dropbox. We don’t share any videos on Dropbox because we’re all very careful with that. But what we do is we’re sending a Pro Tool testing back and forth, forth, and we’re adding stuff to each other’s cues. Typically, we’ll both try and complete a cue as much as we can on our own and then send it to the other person to add stuff. And then they might send it back. And then a lot of the time with the music before it gets approved, we end up having a live session over Zoom with the creators. 

This is a thing that I’m usually driving at this point — it’s usually on my rig. We’re all in on this session and I’m sharing the screen and Lili and I are solving problems in real time. It’s challenging but very fun and we make great music that way. 

A still from Ginny & Georgia. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

Haydn: But it would not be possible if Ben weren’t such a rockstar on the technical side of it as well. Without each of our skillset sets, this would not be possible. It’s a unique show to the show’s credit, the show creator Sarah Lampert, has a vision and also Debra [J. Fisher], her partner, both have a vision. But Sarah, in particular, has an exacting nature and she doesn’t stop until she gets exactly what she wants. I have the same exact kind of OCD as her [laughs] — that’s why I step out often because like I don’t stop until I’ve exhausted every possibility and however long it takes. 

It can be challenging because we know that we’re not gonna be settling for anything less than something that is magical. And the funny thing is, we’ll be watching — I don’t know if you have this experience, Ben — we watched it, my husband and I, and cues that are you can barely hear, they’re almost subliminal [and] like, yeah, that took us a week.

Bromfield: I can relate to that, sure [smiles].

Haydn: We do wanna just talk about the musical before we all part ways, of course. The musical was really important this season and it’s really kind of a subplot [that is]  mirroring and representing character evolution and character development and the relationships that are in the plot. 

Ben and I have different backgrounds that allowed us to do that. Ben’s musical theater background and my songwriting background, as a recording artist, and the confluence of that really just lent itself to something that we’re both really proud of. 

The second season of Ginny & Georgia is streaming on Netflix. 

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Florian Zeller Talks The Son and the Interesting Way Hugh Jackman Landed His Part | Interview

Father, Son… Mother? Florian Zeller discusses his new film, ‘The Son.’



In my family, a good metric to measure how good a film was is how quickly me or my dad — the physical media buyers in the family — purchase it when it hits shelves months after its theatrical run. If we liked the film, the time ranges usually vary between immidetly upon release, wait a few months in hopes of Target or Best Buy putting it on sale, or the classic “wait until Black Friday” strategy (if it’s Criterion, we wait until July or November). But as our collections have grown and wallets have emptied, buying new releases — no matter how much we loved them — upon release is a rarity.

The one to buck the trend was The Father, Florian Zeller‘s first film adaptation out of the trilogy of his plays — The Mother, The Father and The Son. While I enjoyed it personally, the film hit way too close to home with my own grandmother who had dementia similar to Anthony Hopkins‘ character. That grandmother was my father’s mother, and despite my own belief that it’d hit even closer to home, he enjoyed it and made an effort to buy it once it went on sale.

All of that is to say, The Father is held in such high regard in my family. The Son will hold a special place in my heart as the casting of Vanessa Kirby was one of the first news pieces I wrote for the first outlet I interned at, so it feels like this film has come full circle for me. That’s why it was such an honor to speak with Zeller ahead of the nationwide release of The Son. I picked his brain on adapting his stageplays for the big screen while also finding out the interesting way Jackman landed his role. Oh, and I finally got clarification on the continuity of Hopkins’ characters in The Father and The Son (which has bothered me since seeing The Son).

Coastal House Media: I just wanted to start by talking about how out of your plays/films that I’ve seen, they’ve talked about such human emotions and situations. For example, The Father was very relatable for me because my grandmother had dementia towards the end of her life and it was hard to watch as a result, but it felt so real. So I was just curious if your plays/films are born out of experiences that are personal to you.

Florian Zeller: I would say yes. I don’t know how it could be something else than personal, but it doesn’t mean that these [are] my stories, you know? It means that [these are] emotions that I’m familiar with — territories that I’m no stranger to. When I did The Father — as you said, it’s about dementia — I knew a bit [about] what it was to go through this kind of process and to be in a position when you want to help someone and you cannot do it because I [was] raised by my grandmother and she got dementia when I was 15 or something. But when I was writing the script, I was not really thinking about her; I was thinking about emotions that I knew, and for The Son [as well]. 

The Son is about [a] father trying to help his teenage son going through depression. And again, it’s coming from a personal place, but I very quickly realized that so many people are concerned by this kind of situation, so many people have experience as [a] father or as [a] mother, you know when you are in a position where you do not know what to do anymore to help your son or your daughter or anyone else, and it was the reason why I wanted to make a film. I mean, it’s not enough to want to tell your own story to make a film, it’s because you wanna share emotions and you feel like you could be relevant for everyone to share these emotions. 

CHM: And from a more technical standpoint, I’m curious about what it’s like for you to get to adapt your plays. Of course, you have more space to work and you can show more than just what you’re limited to on a stage, so do you ever feel like with either The Father and/or The Son that your plays get to be even more realized or explored through that medium? 

A still from The Son. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Zeller: No. Just to shoot a play is not very challenging and it’s not very meaningful, so you have to find a way to find a cinematic language that would add something, you know? And for The Father, the conviction started like that, whereas the idea that [something] on-screen could be done that couldn’t be done on stage. And it was about trying to create this very subjective experience for the audience, to really experience what it could mean to lose your own bearings and as if you were in the main character’s brain, somehow.

And for The Son, I also felt that there was a reason to do it on screen, but it was a completely different strategy and it was not about trying to put you in the main character’s brain. My intention was to tell that story from the parent’s perspective — those who are around someone who is suffering and they do not know [what] to do to help. They have questions that they have no answers [for]. They are trying to open the door to help, but they have no keys, in a way. And because I really wanted for the audience to experience this feeling of being important because I know that there [is] so much shame and so much guilt and so much ignorance on this topic that I really wanted to raise these questions and to open a conversation — and my way to do that was to make that film. 

CHM: I haven’t seen the play version of The Son, but I was curious because The Father, the film, felt like a play because most of it takes place in Anthony Hopkins’ character’s apartment whereas The Son jumps a little bit in scale. A lot of it still takes place in Peter [Hugh Jackman]’s apartment, but was this jump in scale similar to the play at all?

Zeller: I mean, it [was a] decision, but every story requires something different. When you started thinking about adapting a play into a film, the first advice you get is always to try to write new scenes outdoors to go as far as possible from the stage and most of the time, it’s probably good advice. But this is not what I did in The Father, because I really wanted to use the set as an abstract lab where you would be lost as an audience. 

And if I had written a single scene outdoors, it would’ve broken this convention. So it had nothing to do with theatre, it has to do with cinema [and] the idea of being in an apartment and to use the apartment as a way to tell the story of being lost. And for The Son, I wanted to have something more straightforward, very linear and as simple as possible and try [not] to do a gimmick about that topic (depression) but to try to dare to be very simple in order to reflect my approach, which was to try to face this pain without shying away and also without trying to explain it or without trying to justify it. That’s the difficult and slightly uncomfortable thing about it. 

There is no simple explanation about why sometimes you are in pain, and it takes a lot of courage to accept [that] there is no meaning, no justification when you’re going through such a pain [and] you need someone or something to blame for because it’s unfair when you see that it looks so easy for everybody and for you, everything is so difficult.

A behind-the-scenes still from The Son. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

And in [this] story (The Son), this is divorce. The characters are talking a lot about the divorce and Nicholas [feels as though] this is because my parents got divorced and the father feels so guilty that he feels maybe [it’s] all my fault. But that’s not my perspective. To me, there [are] so many layers, psychological, but also chemical, biological reasons why you can feel in pain. So it was not to try to simplify things to say [that] because of divorce, it could lead to this situation. 

It would make no sense, for example, to blame anyone for having a heart issue or stomach issue — and I think it’s the same for mental [health] issues. It makes no sense to blame anyone for experiencing this pain. And the more we could see mental health issues as we see physical issues, meaning without guilt, the more we could help people to go through these kinds of situations.

CHM: You have a lot of established names and a younger actor as well in The Son — can you talk to me about the casting process for this film? 

Zeller: Yeah, the casting process started with Anthony Hopkins. We did The Father together and it was such an emotional experience, to do a film together, [that] I really wanted to see him again. Also, just after The Father, there was COVID and so we hadn’t seen each other for two years or something, and so when I finished the script, he was the very first one who read it and he told me, “Okay, I really want to be part of it.”

A still from The Son. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

And I was really happy about it because I do adore him and also, so many people came to me after The Father saying, “Is he okay?” as if he was going through dementia. And I was like, “Yeah, he is. He is in great shape. He’s just an extraordinary actor,” so it was funny for us to do the exact opposite because in The Son he’s so cruel. He is not losing the situation, he’s controlling the situation so well. 

And then I’m starting [to] dream about the cast and that’s all I knew about it. It was Anthony involved and that’s it. And I received that letter from Hugh Jackman. This is unconventional, but this is how it happened: He knew the play, The Son, he knew that I was working on the adaptation [and] he knew The Father. And so he wrote this letter to me saying, “If you’re already in conversation with someone, please forget my letter. But if you’re not, I would love to have 10 minutes to let you know why I should be the one to do this part.”

And of course, when you receive this kind of letter, you wanna meet that person because it’s really something special for an actor to be brave and honest enough and humble enough to do this. And when we met, we talked a lot about many things, but it’s not something he said; it’s more something I felt about who he is. The fact that he was not trying to be this actor looking for a part, or he was not detracted by the performance that could be done here, it was just a man, you know? And I felt that he was as a father and as connected to that issue that he knew what it was about. He knew these emotions and that it would be the opportunity for us, through the camera, to allow himself to be himself and to try to reach something that was truthful and honest. And that’s something very difficult to do, I think, for an actor. And I was really impressed during the shooting to see him daring [and] exploring all the time the true emotions that he has in himself. And I think that’s why, in my opinion, his performance is so honest. 

CHM: I’m running low on time with you, but this question has been bothering me since I saw the film, so I gotta ask you of all people given that this is your baby. So I had heard that The Son is a “prequel” to The Father, but this confused me with Anthony Hopkins’ characters. I know in The Son he’s in America, but I think in The Father, he’s in England. Can you just explain the continuity to me?

A still from The Son. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Zeller: To me it’s not a prequel. [They’re] not the same characters. It’s the same actor, but you’re right — One is American [and] one is British, so it’s already different. And what [is] meaningful to me is that to have similar stories that are not [with] the same characters, not the same stories, but somehow they are connected, you know? The themes and something [is] connected in between these stories, and so as a viewer, you have to question the connections, the conversation almost between these pieces, and I like what it brings to the table, meaning that as a viewer you have room to question the meaning of this.

For example, as a viewer, I remember that I really loved this Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski, who did the [Three Colours] Red, White and Blue and it’s three different stories. They have nothing to do with each other, but it’s just you trying to understand the layers, the conversations, and that’s it. Nothing more. [They’re] different stories. 

CHM: My last question for you is: Are you going to adapt The Mother and would Anthony Hopkins be a part of that? 

Zeller: I dunno. I really don’t know [laughs]. We did The Mother in New York, on stage, right with Isabella Huppert, and she’s one of the greatest actresses — I love her very much. But I don’t know. I don’t know yet. 

The Son was released for an awards-qualifying limited run on November 25 and will be released nationwide on January 20.

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Sarah Booth Talks Three Pines | Interview



If you are a fan of investigative crime dramas, then look no further than Amazon Prime’s latest show Three Pines based upon the books of Louise Penny. We follow Chief Inspector Gamache investigating various cases across this small town in remote Quebec, unraveling Three Pines hidden past.

I sat down with Sarah Booth (Law and Order, Star Trek: Discovery) to talk about her character Yvette Nichol in the series Three Pines and how she became involved within this project as well as a possible teaser as what is to come in the rest of series 1.

Make sure to check out Three Pines streaming now on Amazon Prime with weekly episodes.

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