DeVoe Yates Interview: ‘Dickinson’ music supervisor
“It was about making that time relatable to modern times,” declares music supervisor DeVoe Yates about his work on the AppleTV+ gothic dramedy “Dickinson,” which explores the early life of famous poet Emily Dickinson. Watch our exclusive video interview with Yates above.
“Dickinson” stars Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld as the literary icon in the coming-of-age dramedy set in the 1850s with a contemporary edge. The series has many of the hallmarks of a lavish period piece – the stylized lensing, the intricate costumes, the ornate sets – but it is told in a more modernized way, with modern music and sensibilities that speaks to a younger, more hip audience.
“Before we started shooting I had made a mixtape for [showrunner] Alena [Smith], with songs that I thought would be fun for the themes and the characters,” Yates shares. His musical choices ended up being a critical element to how Smith would deliver this highly entertaining, boldly contemporary take on the classic poet’s early life.
Yates’ work includes a mix of well-worn classics and left-field oddities. Eclectic, current artists are the main focus of the show’s soundtrack, with songs delicately curated so as to illuminate a character’s motivation or to give the audience a way in to a particular scene. As a music supervisor, Yates agrees that it can be difficult to switch off in his daily life, as he is always cataloging songs for future use in his arsenal of tracks that he can deploy as his contribution to the telling a show’s story. “It’s almost to a fault,” he explains. “Everywhere you go you are listening to music, which is fun. You’re always trying to catch a song and keep it for later. There have been times where I’ve heard a song and couldn’t figure out what it was and then it was over and it was gone and I haven’t been able to find it again, which is frustrating.”