Nathan Barr Talks True Blood and Future Projects

August 27, 2010

Nathan BarrMany people work behind the scenes on HBO‘s True Blood adding in the sound effects, visual effects and music once the scenes have been filmed.  Composer Nathan Barr is responsible for the musical score that we hear each week on the show.  Nathan sat down with to talk about how he got his start in the industry, his work on True Blood and his upcoming projects.


Although Nathan loved music and movies as he was growing up, he did not start out in the industry as a composer.  His first job was as an assistant on the business side.  After responding to an ad where a prominent composer was looking for an assistant he ended up working for Hans Zimmer, who is now head of the film music division at DreamWorks.  He worked for Zimmer for 8 months and he describes the experience saying:

“The experience of working with someone like Zimmer inspired me to continue working as a composer when I finished my time with him.  When he told me that he thought I had a future as a composer, I knew I had to go for it.”

He started his career working on projects such as the wrestling documentary Beyond The Mat and From Dusk Til Dawn 3, however it was a meeting with horror director Eli Roth that really launched his career.  After the director saw Nathan’s DVD collection of horror movies, Roth knew he had found the right person to score the movie Cabin Fever.  The two have since worked together on a number of movies including both Hostel movies as well as the upcoming movie The Last Exorcism.


Currently Nathan works closely with Alan Ball and is in charge of the music we hear on True Blood.  Barr says that working with Alan has been a “dream” from the start.

“It was between me and a few other composers for ‘True Blood’ in the beginning.  We met with Alan and his team, and I pitched him my take on the score and how I thought the songs we picked at the end of the show should be what define the Southern style of the series, by finding songs that incorporate the blues or instruments like the harmonica.  This would then free up the score for the episode to complement the story being told each week. He really liked my approach, and from there I got hired.”

Nathan says that the first character theme song he wrote was the Bill/Sookie love theme because it was so central to the first season and he felt that if there was one song that had to really work it was that one. His method of writing is to use the music to enhance the cast’s performance not to outshine it.

“The ‘True Blood’ cast is so strong that when I score an episode, it’s less about helping make a scene work as it is more about the music gently supporting the characters and their stories.”


Barr’s next project is the documentary style horror film The Last Exorcism which is released in theatres August 27th.  Creating the score for this film was quite a bit different from his work on True Blood and he admits that he was very nervous going into this film.  Director Daniel Staam sent Barr a long email before filming began and told him he wanted the music to sound “warped”.  Barr immediately thought of the sound his guitar makes when it is tuning and used that as his focal point for the score.  Since the film was done documentary style, the score was more understated with effects made to jump out at you.

“The last thing you want to do with a movie score like this is to do too much too quickly so I had to let all those sounds build to something huge near the end.  I think what I created really lent itself to the creepy feeling of the movie.  I actually got creeped out watching it.”

With Season 3 of True Blood almost finished, Barr will tackle another “first” for him – a drama film.  He will be working on a film called The Ledge staring Liv Tyler and Terrence Howard.

Source: – Composer Nathan Barr Talks True Blood and The Last Exorcism

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