Fall TV Preview

Nashville Music EP Buddy Miller Talks Season 2 Tunes, Rayna Songs Vs. Juliette Jams and More

CONNIE BRITTONIf youuuu didn’t know better, you probably wouldn’t realize there’s a new maestro behind the music of Nashville‘s second season (bowing Sept. 25 at 10/9c).

And that’s just how the ABC drama’s recently promoted executive music producer Buddy Miller wants it.

Miller, a Grammy-winning record producer and songwriter, has been involved with the country-music series from its inception — he even presided over Claire Bowen and Sam Palladio’s first crack at Scarlett and Gunnar’s inaugural duet. So when music-biz legend T Bone Burnett decided to step down after the Season 1 finale, Miller had an easy transition to his new role.

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“After T Bone came in to executive-music-produce, I would produce the bulk of the songs with him,” Miller tells TVLine. Of the roughly 100 tracks laid down for the drama’s freshman run, he adds, Burnett “produced some on his own, I did a few on my own. And there were a few outside producers, too.”

What that means: Miller knows Rayna & Co. right down to their bass lines — and he’s got no intention of changing the show’s signature sound. “The standard was set last year for using really great songs,” he says. “We’re trying to continue that.”

Read on for Miller’s insight into Nashville‘s song-selection process, which mixes up-and-comers’ cuts with country classics, and his thoughts on which Music City newbie has “just a beautiful voice.”

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TVLINE | Your music has been used on other TV shows, and you’ve done soundtrack work before, but when did Nashville become a regular gig for you?
Last year, when T Bone stepped in to oversee the music. T Bone is married to Callie [Khouri, Nashville‘s creator]. I’d worked with T Bone, playing guitar on several records he produced. And actually I was on tour with him on the Robert Plant/Allison Krauss tour. That’s how I met Callie.

TVLINE | Can you walk me through the song-selection process? Does it start with the script? Or do you go to Callie and say, “I have a great song, let’s see where we can work it in?” 
Frankie Pine the music supervisor, myself, [showrunner] Dee Johnson, [EP] Steve Buchanan and Callie — when great songs come our way, we’ll just get excited about it and send it to the other person and say, “Hey, listen to this.” It may not apply to what we’re doing right now, but if it’s a great song, we’ll hold it and keep it in our memory bank and wait until, “Oh, this song can fit this scene.” Sometimes you get a script and you can see where the songs lie.

TVLINE | Is it ever a matter of – to make things very basic – “Juliette needs to sing a sad song in this episode,” and you commission one?
We haven’t commissioned songs, but last year, I’d call up a lot of friends – I’d call up Lucinda Williams and Gillian Welch and Patty Griffin, Sarah Buxton and Kate York. T Bone called up Elvis Costello – we just kind of called people we know who are great writers, and we’d get songs from them.

TVLINE | Let’s go back to the pilot for a moment. There was a lot of great music in it, but the breakout song was Scarlett and Gunnar’s cover of “If I Didn’t Know Better.” Did you have an inkling that the tune would be so popular?
I knew it was something special. I produced that track and was there when Scarlett and Gunnar – Sam [Palladio] and Clare [Bowen] – met. I was really concerned. It’s a difficult song to sing. John Paul White from The Civil Wars wrote it, and he has a range that goes beyond my hearing. Especially for a guy, he sings really high. I was concerned because I thought, “Well, we’ve got these folks coming in and they’re actors, they’re not singers primarily, and this is a difficult song to sing.”

So I went to their hotel the day that they got in – I was there actually when they met – and found a room to go in, a little conference room. I brought a guitar and sat down for a couple of minutes and they sang, and I was completely blown away. They were great. I knew there was a real chemistry between them, in their singing, and that came through in the studio, too. So yeah, I knew it was something really special when it was happening. We were all – Callie and everybody that was in there while they were singing – getting goosebumps. We knew it was pretty special.

TVLINE | In Season 2, are Scarlett and Gunnar going to have more duets? They haven’t sung together in a while.
I hope so. [Laughs] All I can say for sure is that they will be singing together again.

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TVLINE | You are a busy guy. You put out your own album last year (Buddy and Jim with Jim Lauderdale) –- how are you fitting Nashville in?
It remains to be seen how I’m doing it. [Laughs] I do a lot of songwriting. I sing on a lot of folks’ [albums], Miranda Lambert’s record. I sing and play and produce… I just like doing it. Hopefully I pull it off.

TVLINE | You’ve got a few new actors joining the show this season. For instance, Chaley Rose, who plays Scarlett’s friend Zoe: How would you describe her sound?
It’s deep. She’s got a lot of depth to draw from. Just a beautiful voice. And restrained, in a good way. She doesn’t oversing. She’s just got a lot of heart, and I think it’s going to come through.

TVLINE | Do you go to open-mic nights, like Watty does in the pilot?
Well… it’s remarkable in that every day someone new and great is moving [to Nashville], and word gets around pretty fast. I’ll hear folks every once in a while, but I also know a lot of great writers in town, and producers, and I play on records. A lot of my friends are session players, too. I’ll just ask them, “What have you heard that’s good?” That’ll start the song-collecting process.

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    • Muriel says:

      Silly me.. Was suppose to write the following but pressed send by accident: I love the music on the show but I don’t like the discrepancy between let’s say a song being played in a bar and the obvious studio sound that you hear…

  1. nguber says:

    Reblogged this on iwatch2much and commented:
    The music on Nashville is one of the best parts of that show. I actually both the music that was on every single episode. Soooo good. I love that the show has turned a lot of people on to country music.

  2. Drew says:

    Hoping for less auto-tune in season 2. If the music is supposed to he live and raw, it should sound like it.

    • CMG says:

      First, studio processing is not the same thing as auto-tune. I didn’t hear any obvious auto-tuning in songs on the show last year. (That doesn’t mean it wasn’t used, but if it was, it was tastefully used with restraint). Yes, the songs on the show are clearly studio processed, i.e. they added low-pass/high-pass filters, reverb, background vocals, etc. but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with any of that. The lead vocals on the show still sound like the people singing them, and not some gratingly robotic computer creation.

      People (often younger people) these days are often are convinced auto-tune has been applied to songs even when it isn’t, partially because they’ve become so accustomed to hearing it. I’ve heard kids accuse songs from the 70’s and 80’s of auto-tune — a technology they didn’t even have at the time!

    • Nashvegas says:

      Agreed. Many of the songs were painful to listen to because of the autotune.

  3. Lauren says:

    I loved the music in season one (especially the Scarlett and Gunnar duets) so I hope it stays great.

  4. ishthemish says:

    An admitted non-country music fan, those songs plucked at my heart strings. From Gunnar and Scarlett’s initial collaboration to the girls’ cover of the Lumineers music truly is the language of the soul. My compliments to chef.

  5. Emgee says:

    I had the privilege of seeing Charles Esten perform at the Grand Ole Opry last Saturday night (along with Jonathan Jackson as well). Charles Esten played two songs which he co-wrote, one of which, called “Scars,” he said “[we] wrote for our good and troubled friend Deacon,” and the song was absolutely amazing. I REALLY hope that when he said that that he meant that it will be used in the show, because it is absolutely phenomenal.

  6. Rita says:

    I heard Nashville was going to be cancelled next year!! Please tell me it’s not so! It’s my favorite show ever!