Jeff Russo: the music behind the TV shows

jeff russo

“Fargo”, “The Returned”, “Tut” or “Power” are some of the TV shows in which you can hear the music of the composer Jeff Russo. He usually writes the music when the series is done: he reads the script to know what is going to happen in the story and has a good idea of what the music will sound.

Jeff also received an Emmy nomination for his music on “Fargo”, work that changed his career. And soon we will be able to hear his creation again on season 2.

In a conversation with The Outsider Argentina, Jeff spoke about the process of composing music for TV, the difference between working on TV and being on a band, and in which other shows we can hear his music.

How did you start composing music for TV?

I had always been interested in writing for picture. I had played on a couple of scores, and when my band went on a hiatus, I went to work for a very good friend, Wendy Melvoin of the duo Wendy and Lisa. I started by just sitting and watching them work…Then I started assisting them in the studio…One day, I was writing cues…  It was a pretty incredible time.

What is the process of composing music for TV? Do you know about the story, the characters or about a particular moment? Or do they adapt your music to the scene?

I usually write all of the music once the picture is locked. I have read the script so I already know what’s going to happen, and have a pretty good idea of what I’d like the music to sound like. Then, I will spot the episode with the producers, and we’ll decide where music should go and what it should do. Occasionally bits that have been previously written will work their way into a cut.

How did it feel like to receive an Emmy nomination for your work on “Fargo”? What did it mean working on “Fargo” for your career?

It felt great! Totally unexpected, but really fantastic. Working on “Fargo” has really changed a lot for me, it has opened many doors that weren’t previously open!

You’ve recently composed music for “The Returned”, how have you worked with that?

That was really fun. I collaborated with the incredible Zoe Keating. She is a fantastic cellist and composer. We sent files back and forth to one another for tweaking…It was a really great experience.

What can you tell us about the music we are going to hear in the upcoming shows such as “Tut”, “Fargo” season 2 and “Power”?

Hmmm… All very different.  “Tut” is a modern take on classic action score with a bit of an ethnic twist.  “Fargo” season 2 is some of the same feel and some totally different…more horns and drums and Synths! But still the live orchestra as well.  “Power” season 2 is some new themes and some new feels but still in the same vibe as season 1.

You’ve composed the music of many shows, which one was your favorite? Why?

“Fargo” is my favorite. Working for the first time with a large orchestra for television has been the reason. It allowed me to think of the score in a totally different way than I had before.

How is the difference between working for TV and being in a band? How does it influence in the music?

Well, working in a band or as an artist is really just about answering to yourself. With working in Film and TV, there are many people to answer to. There is a narrative built in to follow, not just the lyrics or story of the song.  Most of all the schedule is much different. Working in the band, I’m never racing against the clock.

Samantha Schuster