EXCLUSIVE Interview with Nathan Barr and Lisbeth Scott!

September 9, 2009 by  

Nathan Barr and Lisbeth Scott True Blood Music take_me_home_shoot_4We here are recently had the honor and privilege to interview the talented Nathan Barr and Lisbeth Scott to discuss with them their latest video of the haunting and beautiful rendition of “Take Me Home“. Both Nathan and Lisbeth took the time to discussed with us in great detail the creative process that is involved in creating the beautiful scores that we experience each week on True Blood.  We were also treated to learn about about Lisbeth‘s “Hope is a Thing” project that she is currently involved with and its positive impact in music. First we want to congratulate you on winning the BMI awards this year for your work on True Blood. Were you surprised on the phenomenal response from the fans to your music?

Nathan: Definitely. I was very surprised and how closely the fans were listening. Some cues that I wrote for various scenes I never thought anyone would ever hear, those often times those are the ones people are most interested in learning more about. It’s been a really amazing experience. We’d be very interested in hearing some more about that.

Nathan: Well I can just give you one example, which is in one of the episodes in second season when Eric enters the basement where he’s holding Lafayette, a beat music when Eric opens the door from upstairs at Fangtasia and honestly when I saw it air I thought, “Wow that’s really loud no ones going to hear that” But then there were a few inquires into what that music was. It’s just nice to know that all that work that’s being done is really being noticed and appreciated by everyone. It’s great. Oh we definitely heard that music! We were all very curious about it too.
The fans have been waiting for the release of your album, can you tell us what we can expect to hear, what kind of music?

Nathan: Yeah it’s all season one, nothing from season two. It’s about 45 minutes of music total. I believe it’s about 22 to 24 tracks, and includes the Sonata to Eric which is what Eric is listening to the bath tub. It also has “Take Me Home“, the original version as it appeared in the “Pie Cry scene” in episode 6 in season one. And then everything else is just score based. There’s a lot of Bill and Sookie‘s theme on there. There’s a lot of Jason and Amy’s V trippy music. There’s Tara and her mom’s music. There’s some of the very first cues from the first episode. It’s a really nice assortment of all the various themes. That sounds good to us!

Nathan: I think I tried to pick everything based on what I thought was most listenable and based on what response we got from fans. So really you got some feedback and it s turning into a back and forth.

Nathan: Oh yea and that was nice. Can you tell us a little bit about the song that was featured in the music video that was just shot on Monday?

Nathan Barr True Blood MusicNathan: Sure I can. Actually, I can start and Lisbeth can finish. It was called “Take Me Home” and Lisbeth wrote the beautiful lyrics and she can tell you about her inspiration there. Basically when we watched Episode 6 there was this scene which had Sookie sitting at her table crying, finally letting go of all her grief for her Grandmother, where she eats her Grandmother’s Pie. In that scene they had put in something, I think, from “Oh Brother Where Art Thou’ and watching the scene, well it’s the ultimate kind of scene that a composer, musician looks for because obviously there aren’t going to be many sound effects when it’s just her at her kitchen table eating pie. So it’s a real wonderful moment to feature the music. So I asked Alan if he would let me take a stab at a song there. I sat down and wrote the melody on the cello and then scored the scene and then Lisbeth came in and she can tell you about her contribution.

Hi Lisbeth:

Lisbeth: Nathan told me that there was this wonderful opportunity for the song and as soon as I saw the scene and felt the whole emotion behind it I immediately started getting ideas for the lyrics. Nathan‘s melody was so clear in that direction anyway so, we wrote it. In an hour or two.

Nathan: Yes, pretty quickly. So tell them about your inspiration for the lyrics because they’re really beautiful.

Lisbeth: Well, let’s see, several different things, the whole idea behind it was the concept of going home and are we at home with ourselves and are we at home with each other. And the concept of when we pass on to another place we’re actually going home to the original place that we came from. And what brings us there, is it love? Is it our concept of love? Is it our concept of God or spirit? Our concept of ourselves in the world. So to me what started happening was that there were images that kept playing in my head as I was watching the scene and hearing Nathan‘s music so I just started putting together those images and the lyrics just came out of that. Very nice and the lyrics are very touching to me personally so…

Lisbeth: Good, I’m glad. That’s what I wanted. When and where will the music video be available?

Lisbeth: The video will be available September 1st and we are busy editing it right now and we had a real beautiful, wonderful day shooting on Monday and I think it’s going to be quite extraordinary and it also features a new remix of the song which is fun too.

Nathan: The word is that it’s going to be on my site on and If people want to see the video they’re going to have to go to my site or Lisbeth‘s site. What was the most challenging aspect in creating the video?

Nathan Barr True Blood Music and Lisbeth Scott take_me_home_shoot_3Lisbeth: Probably recording a new version of the song. We had no idea what it would sound like. And filming a video all in 10 hours, that was …people looked at us cross eyed when we said we were going to do that, but I knew it would work and it did. Everyone was very focused and organized and it just couldn’t have gone smoother. It was a great day. Originally when we did the first version of the song, and Nathan feel free to add anything, we had a particular instrumentation in mind and when we played it, it didn’t work right. So at that point we all looked at each other and said “Okay now what do we do?”

Nathan: I had brought another instrument with me in the car, so I just ran out the car, got it, came in and played and all of the sudden everything came together. It was a Harmonium. Oh, I don’t think I know what that is?

Nathan: It’s an Indian instrument and it’s like an organ that you pump with your hands. You use your left hands to pump the bellows which passes the air over the reeds and then you play with your right hand on the key board.

So does it have kind of a bag pipey effect or….

Nathan: Yeah, yeah kind of .

Lisbeth: It’s very meditative and it really fills the space. It’s like a drum sound almost That sounds wonderful.

Lisbeth: Yeah it’s really cool. The next thing we would like to ask is we know you have an extensive knowledge in various exotic instruments as you just mentioned the human bone trumpet. And…what is a dismantled piano?

Nathan: People have been playing the inside of the piano by putting paper clips or wood or different things on the strings or banging the strings or plucking the strings. People have been doing that for years. But I have a Steinway Grand Piano and I didn’t want to get in there with hammers or anything. I thought I’d leave it nice the way it is. So I bought an upright piano from the man that restored my Steinway and then I said is there any way we could cut it in half so all I have is the harp? That’s the inside of the instrument with all the strings. So he literally took a band saw and chopped the thing in half and got rid of all the keys. At that point it was really like a big harp and I can get in there with a hammer and bang on it or pluck it and it has a really nice sound. It’s an easier way to make those sounds than to do it with a piano that still has the keys.

Nathan Barr True Blood Music And you said also you have a glass harmonica on your site. Is that sort of like Tibetan singing bowls?

Nathan: Yes, it’s similar. Tibetan singing bowls, as you probably know, are not glass they are some sort of metal or something.

Lisbeth: They are metal or crystal.

Nathan: And basically a glass harmonica was an instrument invented by Benjamin Franklin during his lifetime. As a matter of fact he says it was his favorite invention of all the inventions he created in his lifetime. And it’s basically the concept of if you run your finger along the rim of a wine glass it makes a tone. He thought that was such a beautiful, beautiful sound and that it was a little bit awkward to play because you had to get different size wine glasses and then set them on the table and then move around the table with your hand in order to play them. He had the idea, because he obviously noticed the bigger the wine glass the lower the pitch, so he just had glass blown into certain pitches like on a key board and then he nested them inside each other and put them on a rod and turned them on their side and put a wheel on it and you just peddle it. In his days peddle it, now it’s a quiet motor. So all those glasses spin together and then that way it’s laid out like a key board and you just play. You just touch your finger to the Glass and that makes the sound. So because they are all linked together do they also harmonize even if you’re only playing one of the glasses?

Nathan: Exactly, absolutely. You have to touch them but it’s really laid out grammatically like a piano so you can play up to 10 note chords if you want. Wow, I bet you that sounds beautiful!

Nathan: It does. You can actually hear it. I use it in Season One in the scene where we first flash back and see Sookie with her brother at the picnic with her parents and they realize she has a special power. If you listen in that scene there’s an Air Monica along with the piano so it does show up intermittently within the show. Does every character have a different style of music when you’re doing True Blood or is it influenced by the type of scene?

Nathan: Yeah, definitely. You’re right on it. It’s definitely based on the character. Alan and I didn’t even have to talk about it. We just knew when watching the pilot that we needed something really special musically for Bill and Sookie, for their love scene. So Bill and Sookie have that love theme, and then Sookie has a listening theme: which is a piano. So whenever she’s listening, or most of the time she’s listening, there’s a piano pattern that plays.

Nathan Barr True Blood This is when she’s listening to voices in her head?

Nathan: Yes Mind reading, yup. And Bill has that low Cello lament feel that we played the first time when Sookie goes over to the Rattray’s trailer and sees all the damage and destruction and realizes the power of Bill. And that plays there so I would say Bill and Sookie‘s theme are two of the most predominate themes through both seasons. But then Eric has a theme, Lafayette has a theme, Tara and her mom have a theme. It’s absolutely very dramatically based. Even Maryann while she doesn’t have a theme per se she definitely has a sound. I have this toy saltry like a harp and whenever you hear that, it’s Maryann on camera So it sounds to me like you’re assigning instruments to each character?

Nathan: In some cases it’s instruments and in some cases there’s a lot of overlap because the heart of the score is really cello and guitar. There are certainly several characters that get scores that are performed on those instruments but then there are also instruments assigned to certain characters. Like Jason and Amy whenever they are tripping on V that’s a petal steel guitar and a Bone guitar together.. And going back to the song “Take Me Home“…you mentioned that you did a remix of that song. Can you tell us more about that? How it was remixed?

Lisbeth: Well let’s see… there was three mixes of that song. There was Nathan’s original version that we did that appeared in the show. And that was the one that Nathan did with the Cello and guitar and voice. And then there was an acapella version that I did right after that because I loved the song so much. That was just released straight to itunes. And when we got together to do the video a whole new version came up because we brought in the drummer, Quinn, to play with us so it’s a beautiful original sounding very unique drum that Quinn made plus a couple that he didn’t, a harmonium and then Nathan‘s playing Cello in a beautiful melodic way but also a cicadas. And then there’s the voice on top of that. So it starts out with a beautiful Cello Solo and it builds from there. And it’s quite different and quite beautiful. It’s got really a very uplifting, joyous feel to it whereas the original was more haunting.

tmh40-ec-clip And for the score, did you already have a score written up before you did the video or did you have to work on that for the video?

Lisbeth: I think there was nothing written up…

Nathan: Yes we had nothing written up.

Lisbeth: Yeah, nothing at all. We didn’t even know what we were going to do. That was the was the fun part and the scary part. We just went into the studio with instruments and we played and it came out great. So that comes to my next questions when it comes to the process for developing songs for True Blood, is it a collaboration between the producers, the writers, the directors, developed months before the scene is shot or do they present to you the scripts and leave the creation of the music up to you?

Nathan: Song wise, I know that Alan has said before in his interviews, that he encourages writers to pick out music while they’re actually writing the episode to help set the musical tone of the show and so each show, episode wise, is the name of a song that then appears somewhere in the episode. I think that’s a real cool and unique thing that Alan has done. Other than that, usually we’ll watch the actual episode and see the scene and then write something for it. Then, for example, I wrote Sancto Erico that song when Eric is in the bath tub that was written after the scene was shot. When they shot it they weren’t listening to anything, it was just silent and so I wrote something that sounded kind of strange and foreign because Eric comes from this far away place and this world and then I also had to write something that was weird sounding because in that scene Bill looks and I think he says “What are you listening to?” And so that implied to me that it was something that had to be a little bit foreign to Bill‘s ears. So that’s why that song has a unique key flavor to it. So, song wise, that’s what happens. Score wise, 99 percent of the time they give me the locked episode and then I write, score to the locked episode. So I actually, I never write a note, nothing without having the scene right in front if me. I’m watching the scene and I just play along with the scene with an instrument and then I just start layering other instruments until it feels like it’s done. And what do you mean by a locked episode?

Nathan: Locked Episode means that a picture has been signed off by Alan, HBO, everyone says picture wise this is the show, this is how it’s going to be aired. So you’re just adding sound at that point?

Nathan: Yes, I’m just adding music at that point and there’s the sound department that is adding sound affects where needed and Gary Calamar, the music supervisor, is then adding songs for the interior of Merlotte‘s or if the character is listening to a song. So the public type of music

Nathan: Exactly

Nathan Barr True Blood Music and Alan Ball Director and What do you think is the most challenging aspect of producing songs for TB?

Nathan: I don’t know if it’s challenging, it’s completely organic, Alan is such a generous person with his people. He really allows everyone leeway. He casts so well. Everyone in the show is cast so well whether it’s on the post production side with the music people or the actors that at that point you’re just letting them do their thing. He just sort of reigns them in here and there and gives them guidance and gets exactly what it is that’s right for the show. Challenging wise, this has been such a dream show it’s rarely challenging. It’s been really such a joy to work on. We’re all really in the same page creatively and when someone like Lisbeth comes in and writes lyrics, I don’t think you would say that is challenging.

Lisbeth: No I think the attitude and the feeling of the whole show that Nathan‘s describing extends to anyone who works on it because it’s really joyous and easy and organic to me any time I sing on the show with Nathan it’s always very easy and floes quite nicely.

It’s really got to be one of the greatest shows on television to work on and I think anyone who’s worked on it agrees, It all trickles down from Alan I think. He has brought these amazing people together who are lovely people to work with who are all really talented. It’s just pretty rare to have it to the extent we have it on TB. I mean it’s just like a joy. Well it’s a joy for us to watch and listen to as well. So I heard Lisbeth say that doing the lyrics is organic too. Lisbeth have you done just the one song then?

Lisbeth: I haven’t written lyrics but I have sang on the “Sancto Erico” song that Nathan has mentioned a few times and I have sung quite a bit on the various scenes that Nathan wants to use my voice on.

Nathan: Actually if you guys listened to Episode 9 which just aired, the final scene with Godric on the roof top.. Oh yes the best scene yet this season…

Nathan: I agree I actually have got to say I think that’s my favorite scene in both seasons I just love that, I just cry every time…. Well it doesn’t make me cry like the Pie scene but it’s close.

Nathan: Yes it’s close, but that scene has Lisbeth singing in it at the end of if you watch it. Good vocals. No lyrics, but just the melody. It just added such a beautiful, beautiful delicateness to Godric in that scene.

Nathan Barr and Lisbeth Scott True Blood Music Oh yeah that whole scene is so well put together and the music was definitely a huge part of it in evincing the emotions I think

Nathan: Well thank you. Both of you have worked on writing scores for various film projects. Is there a difference for creating scores for large movie productions verses a smaller show like TB?

Nathan: You want to talk about that Lisbeth?

Lisbeth: I’ll let you talk more about it but I’ll say my answer first, and you’ll probably agree with me. In general there’s much more time on a film. But I’ll let Nathan answer because he’s spent so much time in both worlds.

Nathan: Working on a show of this quality is so great because it’s not network television obviously, it’s cable and there’s huge difference between schedule in cable television shows and network television shows. Network Television shows, I have a lot of friends who write for a lot of great shows and they have literally 3 days to compose and record 30, 40, 50, 60 minutes of music. It’s just so hard to do . With HBO’s “True Blood”, the season usually starts out where we have as much as 2 to 3 weeks to turn around an episode and then in the end I think the tightest I had was like a week. That’s really, really cushy especially since the most music I’ve ever had in a episode of True Blood is 35 minutes. The least I ever had was about 12 minutes. So, that’s one of the big differences between features and TV. The other big difference, which is actually one of the real wonderful things about working for a TV show, with movies you have 90 minutes to say everything you’re ever going to say about those characters in a musical way and in TV the arc of the characters is often one or two seasons so it really forces you to try and come up with new variations of the music and grow with the characters throughout the seasons as their characters do. That’s a big difference. That’s probably the biggest difference between TV and features, just the amount of time you spend with the characters and therefore the music you write for them. When you say you grow with the characters are you talking about the tonal changes in the music you present for them or are there other ways to resolve it?

Nathan: Yeah there are other ways too, part of it is just, practically speaking, the amount of time we spend with Bill and Sookie in True Blood in Season one and season two. It is substantial. If I just took the first cue I ever wrote when he says, “Take your hair clip out.” which is the first time we hear Bill and Sookie’s theme, if I just literally played that cue over and over every time we see Bill and Sookie together, people would be ready to shoot themselves. I think the way you avoid that is by changing the keys, changing the instruments a little bit, and I even introduced in the last episode of season 2, I introduce a sort of subtle variation of Bill and Sookie’s theme since they’re going to new places in their relationship and that changes it up a little bit. True Blood fans get a chance to see you do some acting in a cameo for episode 6. How was that, to do the acting instead of just being behind the scenes?

Nathan Barr True Blood Music ActingNathan: Well first of all, I would never call what I do acting. I just sat there and played the piano and it was really fun to be there on the set. I actually experience the show like all the fans do: on my television set in my studio when I’m writing. So it was surreal and it was nice to cross that line and actually go to the set. Alexander Skarsgard was there and Anna Paquin was there. It was cool to be a part of that and see what it’s all about and it was fun. Although I have no aspirations to do that, it’s so hard so that’s as far as I think I’ll go. Well I’m sure all of the actors think what you do is extremely hard too.

Nathan: Yeah I guess. So I guess both of you guys are fans of the show and each one of you, what is your favorite episode or character from the show?

Lisbeth: That’s easy. Sookie, definitely, because I just can relate to so many different aspects of her personality and her extreme sensitivity in life. I’ve always been very sensitive in many different ways and it’s so wonderful the way her character is cemented in a way that you understand the inner workings these gifts that she was born with and what it does to her and how it effects her approach towards life and towards other people, she’s definitely the one. Do you have a favorite episode?

Lisbeth: Let’s see, Nathan will tell you that it’s a little bit challenging for me to watch any one episode all the way through, although I do, because I’m so squeamish. I spoke to someone from a fan site who said, I am too, every time the blood scenes come on I have to close my eyes. Yeah I have a friend that always watches it on, On Demand because she can only handle so much at one time

Lisbeth: I know, the way they do it is so perfect and so beautiful. Let’s see, really liked the episode where Godric’s on the roof top. So far has been my favorite because it just reached a level of emotion that really got to me and I thought the writing was beautiful and the whole art was beautiful. That touched a lot of people.

Nathan: Oh yeah it so did. I think, for me, it would be really hard to point at a single character and say that’s my favorite character but I have so many favorite moments in the show. Therefore these would be among my favorite characters and again Eric and Sookie and Godric on the rooftop, I love anything with Lafayette. Nelson is just amazing and, I know and you guys probably know this, that in the book his character is gone pretty quickly and I remember people on the show saying when we saw this guy act there is no way this character is going anywhere any time soon. He’s got to stick around.

Nathan Barr True Blood Oh I think we, the fans, would have rioted had he actually been the one in the car.

Nathan: Exactly, he’s just so amazing. And I really loved Jason and Amy, those moments. I really thought, as dysfunctional as that relationship was, I thought it was such a touching story about two people trying to relate. They were both just so clueless in their own way but they found some way to connect. That was fun to write to. Then Hoyt and Jessica too, I love their characters and how they interact. There are so many great characters. Which leads to my next question, which is sort of like a fun question to ask, if you could play an ongoing role in TB what type of character would you be?

Nathan: You mean what specific character? No, I mean like what type: a vampire, a shape-shifter or a werewolf, a human?

Nathan: Without even thinking about it I would be a shape-shifter.

Lisbeth: I was going to say the same thing.

Nathan: I just think when Sam, becomes an Owl and flies away, or when he becomes a dog and he’s running through the woods, all that stuff just seems really amazingly magical and cool. Lisbeth can you talk about your fund raising effort on “Hope is a Thing“?

Lisbeth: Sure, I am releasing a new project on October 20th that’s a solo project. After we did the video, Nathan, I was thinking it would be fun to put this new version of “Take Me Home” on it. But it’s a project I’ve been working on for 2 years and I’m very excited about. It’s a solo project, it lives in the pop world but it has some classical and some world influences on it. I really want to give it a huge launch to the world because I feel really strongly about the music. I have been releasing for several years on my own label and so what I’ve done for this project is set up a donation part, it’s called “Hope is a Thing” and I’m basically reaching out to my fans and to my community. Promoting this album in a way that a big label would but to help me do it as a solo artist on my own. There are very many different gifts and perks and rewards that people get for donating because I am so thankful. I was just telling Nathan, I just sent out a very small email this morning and I’ve already got a bunch of responses and donations so it’s really exciting. People get free CD’s and free downloads and homes concerts and free tickets to my shows and free tickets to celebrity appearances that I do. It’s really an exciting, grass roots, way of unifying the artist and the fan base and I’m really excited about it. Tell everyone to check out!

Of course a portion of the proceeds go to this wonderful organization that I’ve been working with recently called “Education for Music”. Their main offices are in Los Angeles and New York, they bring music instruction to underprivileged children. And the wonderful thing about the way they do it is that they don’t just provide an after school program that some kids can’t go to because of sports or other obligations. They go into the actual classrooms and provide a very consistent weekly class for the entire term for all the students so it’s a very unusual program. It’s very powerful and a huge success with the students that they have reached. I know Nathan would probably agree with me, music has just given me my life in a way that nothing else has. It’s really exciting for me give that possibility to other children who are perhaps in challenging situations right now.

Lisbeth Scott True Blood So aside from the donations, are you also working with them in other ways?

Lisbeth: Yes, I’m doing some concert appearances and some lectures for them about my work on other films that I have worked on like Drac and Narnia and Munich. I’ve created a whole presentation that demonstrates to children, what is the scene like without music, or without a vocal, how does the vocal changes it or how does a song change the scene and I’ve done many of these presentations and it’s so fun and it’s always a surprise. I mean imagine TB without the music. So it’s really fun to the children’s eyes in that way to this entire world that they know nothing about. Do you twitter and if so do you want the fans to know who you are?

Nathan: Yes, we just started one! It’s composerbarr. Add me!

Lisbeth: I do twitter a bit, my Twitter name is Lisbethscott What about Facebook or myspace?

Nathan: I’m on MySpace and I’m happy to share with anyone.

Lisbeth: I have those as well and I have a Facebook fan page, and a YouTube page with all the latest videos. Please check them out! I think that’s it….and thank you!

Nathan: It’s so exciting to be a part of a show with fans that truly love the show and care, it’s our pleasure.

UPDATE: There will be a live signing at Dark Delicacies book store in Burbank from 1pm – 3pm with both Nathan and Lisbeth! Check out the link below!


Nathan Barr’s Website

Lisbeth Scott’s Website

Nathan’s Myspace Page

Lisbeth’s YouTube Page

Hope is a Thing

Dark Delicacies

(Photo credits: Nathan Barr and Lisbeth Scott)

Transcriptions: Cyrenna