Harvey Mason Jr. interview: ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’ executive music producer
Recording Academy President Harvey Mason Jr. is also the executive music producer for “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” recording multiple covers of established songs for each and every episode. While there wasn’t a huge change in production from Season 1 to Season 2, he explains in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby that he and the rest of the crew asked themselves a series of questions: “How are we gonna take it up another level? How are we gonna improve what we’re doing? How are we going to find new uses for the music and new ways to use the cast?” Watch the exclusive video interview above.
Now two seasons in, the industry veteran has helped establish a system that functions within the parameters of a fast-paced production schedule. Series creator Austin Winsberg comes up with the idea for a song to be performed in the episode; music supervisor Jen Ross then gets the song cleared; Mason and choreographer Mandy Moore discuss what the song needs to sound and feel like; Mason records a demo with his team; the cast comes into the studio and performs the song; they do a mix and send it to set; they look at it again in post-production to see if any tweaks are needed. Despite this regimented process, Mason notes that the song recording itself comes down to feeling, not vocal prowess. “We’re mostly concerned with not that all the technical things are perfect and all the intricacies are perfect but the emotion, the feeling and the heart comes out of those songs,” he states.
This season, Mason also co-wrote “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’s” first original song: “Crimson Love.” Zoey’s next-door neighbor Aiden performs the intentionally cringe-worthy alt-rock song as an ode to her, with lyrics that very obviously reference her red hair (“Next-door ginger,” “seeing red,” etc.). The idea to finally include an original song came from Winsberg and he co-wrote it with Mason and Lindsey Rosin. “The challenge is to make something that no one’s ever heard before sound like something they might have heard before or feel authentic or memorable or real to them,” notes Mason. The music producer is also hoping to craft more original songs in a potential third season.
Mason has been in the music business for decades so he has his fair share of experiences with artists and producers who sometimes have different motivations, as he explains, such as a credit or a check. What separates “Zoey’s” is that he and the crew are in it for the work itself. “We love it and we love being around each other,” admits Mason. “We love fighting for Austin’s vision and we love trying to please him and make him feel like we accomplished something great week after week after week.”