How do you create a score for a show like Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist— one that matches the series’ creativity without overshadowing its delightfully bombastic performances. We spoke with co-composer Bo Boddie to find out what all goes into his impressive music work on the series.
Read our complete interview with Bo Boddie below:
Awards Daily: I know you have a formula for the different scenes—you use acoustic drums for comedy sequences and strings and piano for more emotional moments. Can you tell me more about that?
Bo Boddie: There are two staples of the score that we use. As you said, action and comedy moments are using percussion, like an acoustic drum kit. Sort of as an action driver and something to keep things exciting. Rarely do we use any sort of tonal elements for those kinds of moments.
The emotional moments involve pads, like wine glasses. We have a sample instrument that we’ve built for that purpose. We also use piano and some other string elements. They all meld together into one textual thing that supports what’s happening— without getting too much in the way.
AD: Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist features musical numbers with big, iconic songs. How do you create a score that doesn’t overwhelm the performances and still adds to the scene and pushes the story forward?
BB: Well, that has a lot to do with what Austin [Winsberg], the show-runner, wanted. Initially, hearing about the project before we started working on it, that was the question— What was the score going to sound like? Was it going to emulate the songs that were chosen for the episode? Or would it be completely different and maintain itself as a sole entity — a consistent thread from episode to episode. And Austin was very much about having this consistent sound that underscored traumatic moments that weren’t using songs.
AD: How far in advance do you know which songs will be featured in an episode? Do you get a script? And does the choreography factor into the score? If there’s a big number with a lot of things going on, does that play into your decision as to how to scale back to score? How does the plot of a given episode impact that decision-making process?
BB: Interesting. To answer the first part of your question, we get scripts, so there is some foreknowledge about what the episode’s going to be. But a lot of what happens in the score is informed by early edits. There’s a big library of Zoey’s score that the editors can pull from while they’re working. As they’re putting their cuts together, they may have explored some ideas with a score already. When we get to a point where the picture is locked, we’ll have a meeting, a spotting session, and discuss what’s in there and whether it’s working—or whether it needs help or whether we need to write something new for the score and replace it. If there is a big song and dance number, and there’s an emotional interaction that’s being presented—In that case, we will have discussions about whether to place the score immediately after that and if we want to continue in that vein or do something that contrasts with it. It’s a case-by-case situation. Often score and songs aren’t budding out too closely with each other, so it’s hard to say if there’s a general rule of thumb or not. It’s usually just about what that particular scene or moment is going to require.
AD: What are your favorite moments from Zoey’s first season?
BB: Well, season one was special. It was the beginning of the pandemic, so there were all of those emotions. At the same time, as the show is unfolding, it gets darker.
I think the episode where Zoey’s father dies [Zoey’s Extraordinary Dad] was a big one for me. Just because there was a lot of heightened emotion in that episode. And there was a lot of emotion in the world as well. So, it was sort of comforting to sit here in the studio and work on some bigger emotional set-pieces than what’s in a typical Zoey episode.
AD: Now that you have an established palette, what was it like going into season two, tweaking it, and building upon Zoey’s score?
BB: You know, I’m working on it right now. I’d say, by-and-large, it is adhering to the palette that we’ve grown to love. We try to slowly introduce additional textural elements, especially in the emotional cues—trying to push those a little more and see if we can get some new colors out of them. New things will present themselves, and we’ll take it as they come.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC. Awards Daily has a number of interviews with the cast and crew of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. Read them all here.