True Blood’s Gary Calamar has to be my all time favorite Music Supervisor. I was privileged to get an “exclusive” interview with Gary for the Vault and to meet him last summer here in California. I also listen to his radio show on KCRW every week and because of him and his musical choices, my musical interests have been reinvented.
True Blood is so beautifully augmented by the songs that Gary chooses, and this is illustrated by the Grammy nominations he has received for both Season 1 and 2 soundtracks.
Below is part of a recent “profile” interview with Gary by Rollogrady.com that is certainly worth a read.
Gary Calamar hails from the Bronx, NY, and grew up a constant presence in local record stores. When he moved to LA in the early 80s, he got himself behind the counter, managing stores and nourishing the flourishing culture of the record store. In April 2010, he released the book “Record Store Days,” inspired by both his life and tastes as a consumer and connoisseur of vinyl.
Calamar is of course much more than a consumer and author. A KCRW volunteer and DJ since the mid ‘90s, Gary hosts “The Open Road,” a Sunday night show on the station that not only showcases emerging music, but looks deeply into the roots of Rock, Country, Jazz, Blues, and Soul.
In 1998, Calamar got his break into the world of music supervision, placing music with Marq Roswell for the movie, Slums of Beverly Hills and in 1999, again with Roswell, for Varsity Blues; this latter soundtrack earned him a gold record. His work with partner Thomas Golubic on Six Feet Under (HBO) became strongly influential, making a case for placing indie music in television. Gary went on to found Go Music with Alyson Vidoli. He currently places music on True Blood (HBO), House (Fox), and Dexter (Showtime), and was recently nominated for a Grammy for the True Blood II Soundtrack.
In all aspects of the music business, Gary Calamar’s focus is broad and considerate; he remains abreast of all new movements and grounded in the history that makes them compelling, meaningful, and fun.
R&G: Can you tell me how you got your start on Six Feet Under?
Gary: I had been dabbling in the music supervision world. I had done a couple of projects –Varsity Blues and Slums of Beverly Hills – with Marq Roswell. Then Thomas [Golubic] and I became friends. We met at KCRW and decided to team up on projects and become a partnership. Thomas had actually heard about this new show – Six Feet Under – through, I think, an assistant editor friend of his. We went after it. We met with them. They seemed to have met with many people, but I think they liked that we were sort of up-and-coming and they liked our KCRW connection. Thank goodness: We got the gig. We met with Alan Ball and Alan Poole and got the job.
R&G: What’s your day-to-day job entail? Can you take me through the music selection process? Use True Blood as an example.
Gary: Well, we get the scripts early on. We just started a few scripts for the new season: Season 4. True Blood is kind of unique in that each episode is named after one of the songs in the show; generally when we get a script, the writer has already titled the episode after a song that he or she wants to see in the show and that ties into the theme of the script. The song may or may not end up in the final show. Sometimes it will and sometimes we’ll find out the song just doesn’t work or for various reasons it won’t make it into the final cut. There have been times when we’ve had to change the title of the episode because of this fun little thing that we do with the titles. We read the script, take some notes, and then really get down to the nitty gritty when we see a rough cut of the show. They’ll send a rough cut to my office and I’ll look at it and again take some notes or make mental notes. Then we go in for a spotting session, where I will sit and watch the show with Alan Ball, the creator, and usually the writer of the episode, the music editor, the editor, and various producers. The composer, Nathan Barr, is there. We go through the show scene by scene and decide what we’re going to do musically: whether it’s going to be scored, which Nathan will take care of, or whether it’ll be a song, and I pick the song. What’s the vibe that Alan is looking for? I’ll weigh in and give my opinion. Everyone will throw in their two cents and then I go back to my office and start putting ideas together. I’ll creatively have an idea of what I think is hopefully going to work and I’ll sit down with the picture, showing the picture on the screen, trying different songs, and I’ll try to narrow it down to three to five songs or so, and then I’ll work with the music editor to cut them into the scenes. Then we’ll go back and show them to Alan and he’ll make the final decision.
R&G: There is a theme of violence and of course blood in several of the shows you supervise. Have you become an expert in this genre?
Gary: [Laughs] Yeah, I guess. I certainly know a lot more about it than I did. It’s not that I have a special love for blood and vampires and things like that. I kind of take whatever interesting project comes my way. I’ve definitely learned more about the music from the South and Louisiana for True Blood, and at the same time, for Dexter, I’ve learned a lot about music from Cuba. We use a lot of Cuban music in the show and Cuban-sounding music. Whatever show I’m working on definitely opens up a new door of research for me. That’s always a fun ride.
Click here to read the rest of this interview at the source.