We are thrilled to premiere the lyric video to “I Get It” performed by Kelly Rowland from Bad Hair (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)! The album was released last week via Lakeshore Records, coinciding with Justin Simien’s film premiere on Hulu! The song is by Justin Simien and Kelly Rowland and produced by the film’s composer, Kris Bowers. Watch the video below with song lyrics!
If you haven’t seen Bad Hair, stream it now on Hulu as part of your #Huluween celebration!
Join Alliance for Youth Action and And She Could Be Next on Thursday, September 24 as they host a virtual party and info session just for young voters. “We’ll answer your burning questions about how to cast your ballot in the middle of a global health pandemic, raring climate crises, and, oh, voter suppression! Join us as we walk through *exactly* how to make a vote plan and find your political home.”
And She Could Be Next, directed by Grace Lee and Marjan Safinia, produced by Jyoti Sarda, and executive produced by Ava DuVernay, tells the story of a defiant movement of women of color, transforming politics from the ground up.
Lakeshore Records will release the forthcoming voting rights companion album to the PBS docuseries And She Could Be Next, executive produced by Ava DuVernay, which chronicles the story of a defiant movement of women of color including Stacey Abrams, Lucy McBath, Rashida Tlaib, AOC, Nikema Williams, and more who are transforming American politics from the ground up.
Amanda Jones is a Los Angeles-based composer and songwriter. She made Primetime Emmy® history as the first African-American woman to be nominated for Outstanding Music Composition for a Documentary Series or Special (Original Dramatic Score) for her Apple TV+ ‘Maine’ episode of Home.
Jones previously worked on OWN’s anthology series Cherish the Day, produced by Ava DuVernay; BET’s Twenties, produced by Lena Waithe; HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show, produced by Robin Thede; and Shitty Boyfriends with executive producer Lisa Kudrow.
She is also the acclaimed frontwoman of the LA-based Indie rock band The Anti-Job. Jones holds a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, in music composition and studied both film scoring and orchestration at Berklee College of Music Online, Boston, Massachusetts.
We reached out to Jones to discuss her recent nomination and her advice for up-and-coming composers.
SSM: The Apple TV+ series Home is an architectural work of families living in some of the most innovative spaces. But more than that, it delves into the homeowners’ lives. Can you speak about your experiences with home and family and how they shaped your career today?
AJ: In my personal experience and upbringing, home and family are everything. Annual and cultural traditions that are centered around a family members’ home are special moments that are easily taken for granted and you really don’t realize how impactful they are in one’s own life until you’re getting married and building a family of your own. Career-wise my parents were always supportive but slightly skeptical of my pursuit of a career in music — their traditional values led me to initially pursue a more stable career path in the STEM field but ultimately my heart led to music.
SSM: What was the creative process like for you while scoring the ‘Maine’ episode for Home? What instruments did you use to create such beautiful sounds?
AJ: It all started with creative conversations with the Apple TV+ Music team and executive producers Doug Pray and Collin Orcutt. They really wanted me to lean into a songwriter sensibility and because of that we arrived at a score that was very much inspired by band instrumentation. The score incorporates my voice, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, piano, analog synths, drums and string players.
There are also two distinctive sonic universes – the Maine setting and Japan setting. At the onset of the project we really wanted to make sure there was a clear separation of sound between the two spaces. The Maine setting is more folk-inspired, with warm pads and softer drum and guitar arrangements while the Japan setting featured more angular and aggressive drum parts, and brighter guitar and synth tones.
SSM: You’re originally from Virginia but attended Vassar College for music in New York. While composing the ‘Maine’ episode, set in Spruce Head, Maine, was there anything from your time living in the upper East Coast that you drew from while creating the tone of the score?
AJ: The east coast / northeast hold a very special place in my heart. I was born in Columbia, Maryland, grew up in Virginia, we often visited my grandparents who lived in upstate New York (Binghamton, NY and Niagara Falls, NY) and we often enjoyed summers around Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The seasons are so special and Winter on the east coast is really a magical wonderland to behold – especially as a child.
I definitely tapped into those memories when approaching the wintry settings in the Maine episode of HOME, especially with the cue “A Day in the Life” which is an ode and lullaby really to the most beautiful wintry day spending quality time with family.
SSM: You’ve worked with some amazing composers, including Hans Zimmer, Henry Jackman and John Powell. Is there a person that has specifically inspired you throughout your career?
AJ: I’d be remiss to not include a few folks! My classical guitar instructor Terry Champlin at Vassar College was such a guiding light and incredible teacher. In addition to classical guitar he also taught me how to record music which was a priceless tool. There’s also composer Michael A. Levine who I worked with around the same time as Hans Zimmer, Henry Jackman and John Powell. I learned so much from working in all of their studios.
Michael was especially helpful with growing my instrument library, introducing me to the Television Academy and we would have very candid conversations about how Hollywood “works” – definitely a groundbreaking and eye-opening experience.
AJ: Michael Abels founded the Composers Diversity Collective and I’m a co-founder along with a handful of other incredible composers. The organization exists to eliminate the entertainment industry’s challenge to find culturally diverse music creators, music supervisors, sound engineers and musicians, to increase our own awareness of each other, and to dispel misconceptions about the stylistic range of any minority composer.
We’re an organization of music creators who are achieving a workplace environment in the entertainment industry as diverse as our society. We offer a variety of memberships that accommodate everyone
SSM: You have worked with some great voices in entertainment from Lena Waithe on Twenties, Ava DuVernay on Cherish the Day to Amanda Krieg Thomas on Twenties! What importance do you think forging a supportive community of women in the composing world holds?
AJ: Having a supportive community of women in the composing world makes ALL the difference. In general having more women in the room (recording studios, editing bays, sound stages) it just feels so much more natural. Those spaces feel more inclusive. Groups like the Alliance of Women Composers have done so much for creating opportunities and spaces for female composers to thrive.
The composing world is a male-dominated field so it’s nice to have forums where women can feel safe while building relationships, and asking certain questions ranging from hardware, equipment, gear, music workflow to motherhood, managing stress and keeping a balanced family life.
SSM: You stated in previous interviews that activism and mentorship are important with guiding the next generation of composers. What advice do you have for up-and-coming women composers?
AJ: I think first and foremost, learn your craft. Hone your skill-set whether it’s with classes or putting it into practice and make sure you know how to create a beautiful cue! Also make sure you know how to use your equipment (DAW, VSTs, hardware, software, any instruments, etc). Then see if you can work with or shadow (internships / mentorships) some of the best composers.
Don’t feel bashful about reaching out to your favorite composers and seeing if they have positions available in their studio. Alongside all of this you should be continuously reaching out to any friends, creatives, up-and-coming directors, producers, etc to see if they need a composer for their next project and then finally keep updating your website, socials, visual and audio composer reels with your latest and greatest work.
SSM: What’s coming up next for you?
AJ: There’s lots in the pipeline I’d love to share — but the most recent is the limited series “Love in the Time of Corona” from Freeform which is now streaming on HULU.
Acclaimed composer and singer/songwriter Kathryn Bostic has spent her career creating compelling scores for some of the most lauded projects of stage and screen. Recently, she composed the music for Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, for which she earned a 2020 Primetime Emmy® nomination for Outstanding Music Composition.
Bostic previously scored Ava DuVernay’s 2012 Sundance-winner Middle of Nowhere, Justin Simien’s award-winning movie Dear White People and Chinonye Chukwu’s 2019 Sundance Grand Jury-winner Clemency.
She was the first African-American woman to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences® and served as vice president of the Alliance for Women Film Composers from 2016 to 2018.
We reached out to Bostic to discuss her recent Emmy nomination and the role musicians play in today’s ever-changing world!
SSM: I want to congratulate you on your 2020 Emmy nomination for Toni Morrison: The Pieces I am! For the film, you performed your Oscar 2020 Shortlist original song ‘High Above the Water.’ For the film Clemency, you performed your original song ’Slow Train.’ What importance do you put on including an original song when creating a score? Is it something that you go into the project thinking about or does it develop naturally?
KB: It happened organically and was a “gift” because I don’t assume that, because I’m writing the score for a film, I also will be writing songs for it as well. In both films I was asked to write the songs to maintain the tone and sonic palette that I had created in the score. There are some of my vocal textures in both scores so the songwriting and performing was an extension of that.
SSM: You spoke in a previous interview about the director and producer, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, and editor, Johanna Giebelhaus, giving you free rein with creating the score. Can you speak about the level of importance this type of trust goes into the creative process for composers?
KB: Trust is extremely important because it frees up inhibitions that might obstruct the flow of the collaborative process. Ultimately the director needs to feel assured that they are going to get a score that will be effective and powerful to further enhance and define their film. This requires a lot of trust and communication because the process can be full of a lot of twists and turns before the right tone and sound for the film are developed.
So there has to be a trust in this unfolding and sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to find this, so trust is imperative. We found the tone immediately with the Toni Morrison film because we were all operating on a very high level of reverence, openness and divination in the amazing energy field of Toni Morrison! I mean, she is a force so all you have to do is tap into that and you strike gold!
SSM: How much of that freedom lent to crafting an organic score for this documentary?
KB: The entire score and song were crafted from that place of freedom. Once the director and producers saw and heard how my sketches and themes were simpatico with what they needed, they trusted the unfolding of that and gave me a lot of room to experience and create this. The music “wrote itself” as a result.
SSM: You grew up in a musical home. Is there a specific moment that made you decide to craft a career in composing?
KB: Music was and is always about storytelling and for me the way in which it made me feel growing up and experiencing this in my home while my mother practiced piano and composed had an impact on me on a sensory level. I don’t know that I ever actually formalized my appreciation for writing music by calling it “composing”, I just always enjoyed the places listening to music and writing music would take me. So I think it was a natural fit that I compose and perform music.
SSM: I’ve heard you speak about the importance of authenticity. How do you remain true to yourself as a woman working in a male-dominated field?
KB: I’ve always focused on the craft, the gift of being able to create music. My authenticity is in that creativity and that’s what resonates with people I collaborate with. I am starting to see more women composers and more racial diversity in hiring but there’s still a long way to go.
The talent and resources are certainly available. The perception and action have to shift to reflect a much more truthful and universal outreach that reflects ALL people, not just recycle constructed narratives that maintain the status quo.
SSM: You have been the recipient of many honors, including the Sundance Fellowship for Film Scoring, BMI Conducting Fellowship, Sundance/Skywalker Documentary Film Scoring and hosted Masterclasses for Columbia University and the Chicago Film Office. What importance do you place on seasoned composers sharing their knowledge to burgeoning students of film scoring?
KB: I think it’s really important to share what I can that may inspire someone to stay the course with whatever they are passionate about. That’s essentially what I’ve been doing as a film composer , a singer, a creator of music. I think it’s important to share with students that everyone’s path is different insofar as how they achieve success in their career, and that life is not linear, it is an unfolding of experiences and choices.
So there’s a practical overview I like to share as well as a philosophical one. When I was a student it was invaluable to hear from successful musicians and composers who were on the leading edge of their craft as well as down to earth, who had the same vulnerability as I might have and hear how they worked through these moments.
SSM: Recently, you wrote and performed ‘Safely Home,’ which is a beautiful song of encouragement and hope. What part do you think musicians play with healing during times of uncertainty?
KB: Thank you, I wrote that song when I needed to feel that way, so that song “wrote itself” as well. Music touches people and the emotional connection is visceral and powerful. You can hear a piece of music and not know or understand the language it’s being performed in or the instruments that are playing but you can be moved in ways that can immediately change and heal your mind and mood.
Musicians are the ambassadors of the heart and soul. What an incredible gift!! It truly is a universal language. Music has been and continues to be a great teacher and force in my life.
Ava Duvernay’s When They See Us Limited Series on Netflix is one of the most awarded shows of 2019, winning 23 awards including two EMMYs®, a Critic’s Choice, and the recent Peabody Awards® win! For Composer Kris Bowers, he won Best Original Score at the Hollywood Music In Media Awards and received an EMMY®, Black Reel, and Society of Composers & Lyricists award nominations for his composition. In the same year, Kris was nonimated Television Composer of the Year at the World Soundtrack Awards!