One of my early discussions with Kays was about source music. Although it was clear to me that certain types of music fit some scenes, there was also a lot of leeway in what to choose. Kays helped narrow the selection criteria. For example, we agreed that there be country music playing in the gun shop scene. When I told him I preferred a female singer there, he said, “Look for a female Hank Williams,” so I did.
I scoured the Internet looking for Texan female country singers with a perfect, polished voice and style. I finally found her—Kayla Ray. I loved her from the start. I sent a sample to Kays and he was equally impressed. But how to find her? I sent an email to her website contact form, to which there was no response.
As I waited to hear from Kayla, I tried to figure out how could I narrow the huge number of musicians down to those who’d be interested in trading inclusion in the movie for use of their music. In a huge stroke of good fortune, the answer was provided by our drone pilot.
Sparky Sorenson, drone pilot extraordinaire (about whom more later), used to be a country music artist. As a result, he was familiar with a wide range of Texas bands and solo artists. He offered to send out an email to his contacts asking for interested people to send me some of their audio files. The response was amazing. I had dozens and dozens of wonderful musicians to choose from, all of whom were interested in the trade I’d offered.
But Kayla Ray was not among them. I asked Sparky to try to locate her, so he did. And she said, “Yes.” I was overjoyed! I decided to push my luck and ask if I could use two of her songs, not knowing where the other would fit, but knowing I would find a place because I liked her so much. She agreed.
Then I began my review of the musicians who’d emailed me per Sparky’s request. I tried to match songs and instrumentals to individual scenes in my mind, and then would email Kays my suggestions. In some cases it was easy. The opening notes of Shaun Outen’s Señoritas and Tequila were an instant match to the bar scene with one of the villains. In other cases, I agonized and took weeks to decide which song would fit where. And, ultimately, there were some source-music needs for which I had no musicians yet.
One example was the scene in the apartment of the detective who was from Hawai’i. From the 13 years I’d lived on Kaua’i, I knew there were some fabulous ukulele players and I really wanted to showcase ukulele music, which can be so much more complex than the simple chords most people associate with it. So I returned to the Internet to look for just the right instrumental.
The first one I found was ideal, but the musician had the lackadaisical attitude of “I’ll do it tomorrow” that used to drive me crazy when I lived in Hawai’i. It would take him days to answer an email. I decided to keep looking.
The second musician I found was a young man who was willing for me to use his music, but told me that I had to go through his dad, who would handle everything. That turned out to be great because his father was business-minded and we soon had agreement to use two of Andrew Molina’s instrumentals.
One of the most unusual pieces we used as source music was by Fredrick Chopin. Kays came up with the idea for it in the art gallery scene. He arranged it and it suits the scene very well.
The final example of source music that required more time than I’d expected was the song for the taco shop. Kays suggested we get an upbeat, Mariachi sort of song. When I kept running into obstacles finding someone local and who could speak English, I finally asked one of our Spanish-speaking cast members for help. He sent me some songs from a couple of his friends and one was perfect.
Selecting the source music took many, many hours of work that was mostly fun. The parts that were not so enjoyable was preparing a template for the License Agreement, sending it to my attorney for comment, getting it signed by everyone, and obtaining information about royalties. Through it all, I was lucky to have an interested and helpful partner, Kays.
I’ve already told you a bit about my preoccupation with the music for RIK. I had listened to a huge amount of music and had made some selections of pieces I’d like in the movie. And I wanted to write the lyrics for the theme song, for which I would need a composer.
In August, I emailed a few composers whose music I’d found on the Internet and liked, to ask what their prices would be to use their work. The composer I’d tentatively chosen as my favorite wanted $800 per minute of music, which was out the realm of my budget, so I began to look at less expensive licensed music. But I kept running into the problem of congruity. I didn’t want the music to be choppy; there needed to be a thread of similarity throughout, with dramatic differences restricted to source music—the music that would be coming from radios or over speakers in bars and restaurants. I decided to take a closer look at composers who’d sent in emails asking to do RIK’s score.
I focused on two composers whose music I liked and asked if they’d read the script and send me a sample of what they envisioned. Also, I asked a very talented musician friend of mine to help me evaluate the music they sent in. Even though either of them would have been acceptable, I was not truly happy and put off the decision repeatedly. Then a new option presented itself.
Zubi had a friend who is a composer in LA, Kays Al-Atrakchi. He sent me some samples that I liked. Unbeknownst to me, Zubi also shared them with Roger and Angel, who took the initiative to call Kays before I was ready for such a step. I called Zubi and told him that, as music supervisor, I was still in the process of evaluating Kays’ work and that no one else was to become engaged in the decision.
I then got a call from Angel, who was shocked that I had taken on the role of music supervisor. Admittedly, I’d never conveyed my intent to him. He and Zubi had apparently thought that they would select a composer, who would then be responsible for all music—composed as well as source. I told him two things: I alone would select the composer and I would select all source music. This was not only something I wanted to do, but also we couldn’t afford to pay someone else to find free source music, as it would be very time-consuming.
When I finally called Kays, I was delighted with his take on the script and his proposed direction for music. I liked his professionalism, his experience, and his attitude. Although his price was higher than I’d intended to spend—well above the other front-runner—I chose him. Never once was I sorry and repeatedly I was glad.
All of my life I have paid close attention to music, including movie music. I love how pieces like “Lara’s Theme” can convey the romance and spirit of a film like Dr. Zhivago, or the soundtrack to The Shining can set one on edge with a sort of psychological disorientation. I knew that selecting the music for RIK would be one of the joys of making the film.
Right after I’d made the decision to film RIK, I began listening to music to select tracks that I liked as examples, and possibly for use. I broke my list into two—one for themes that would go well with key characters, and another for specific scenes. I spent scores of hours exploring all sorts of recording artists online. I made long lists of singers, bands, and songs. Also, I listened to lots of movie scores, old and new. I searched for a trendy song with the lyrics that would be a good theme.
The more I searched for music that would fit RIK, the more I became convinced that I should do something original. I decided that the ideal would be to hire a composer for RIK, and have him set to music lyrics I would write. So I began to scribble a bit about what I wanted. Everything didn’t come together, however, until one day when I went to have an MRI of my brain.
I was in the waiting room, filled with trepidation about having my body slid into a metal tube. I am enormously claustrophobic and I was afraid I would panic and ruin the MRI.
To calm myself down, I started thinking about music for the film and I got an idea. I would keep my eyes closed when they slid me in and keep them closed to diminish my awareness of being enclosed. And I would write the lyrics for the movie’s theme song!
Each time I would finish a verse, I would memorize it and mentally recite the whole thing from the top. It took a lot of concentration, but the ploy worked well. I came out not only having been still throughout the MRI, but with the following lyrics composed and memorized. At the time, I called it Chris’ Song. The lyrics were later refined, shortened, and adjusted to go with the music, but this was the basis.
Babe you took me down
Didn't know anyone could
Now I've got it bad
Didn't know it'd feel so good
Don't know where we're goin'
Guess I don't really care
All that matters to me
Is that I want you there
You seem so remote
Not really here with me
You’re on another plane
Like you’re floating free
I can feel your heat
And think I have your here
But I look into your eyes
And then I start to fear
You are on a path
I think will sink your soul
Will you take my hand
And let us become whole
I revel in your touch
Your voice, your smile, your mind
I’m taken by your mystery
The answer I can’t find.
Fate can mark a life
So time’s cleaved into two
Everything’s ‘fore and after
The day that I met you.
Can you see your way
To give me what I'll give you
My soul, my heart, my me
I just want us to be two.