Jeff Russo Q&A: ‘Fargo’ composer

“I basically started again from scratch,” reveals composer Jeff Russo as we chat via webcam (watch above) about his work on the second season of “Fargo.” Inspired by the 1996 Coen brothers film, the sophomore edition of this FX anthology about crime in the Midwest is a complete reset. “It was all new characters, all new story, all new actors, all new everything, except for the geographical location,” Russo reveals. “So I think that the main idea was, let’s just try something totally different, something totally new.”

Russo earned his first Emmy nomination for his work on the first season, so expectations were high. “In season one, I think that really the whole show was living in the shadow of the movie,” he admits. “As we move past that, there’s still that specter, but it’s sort of like now we’re living in our own shadow.” He adds, “So it was interesting in terms of having to write all new themes, but to still sort of stay in that world, and then what could we bring musically that was something new?”

He admits to being helped by the show’s 1979 setting. “I tried to incorporate the way a score might sound then,” he explains. “In the recording techniques and in the compositional techniques that were used back then.” This extended to the choice of instruments as well. “There are a couple of cues that have this very progressive rock sounding, arpeggiated synthesizer, and that comes directly from the fact that we’re in 1979 and it was right at the heyday of synthesis being incorporated into popular music.”

In the end, Russo is grateful having good material from which to work. “I’m just influenced by the narrative,” he says. “I’m influenced by these rich, deep, dark characters, which is why I take so much time in trying to write themes prior to seeing picture, just based on the scripts. The characters and the stories are so well written, it’s almost easy to write music to these really wonderful scripts. As I see picture, it starts to develop even more.”

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UPLOADED Jul 14, 2016 5:57 pm