Listen to the 'Joyful and Mournful, Romantic and Heartbroken' Title Track to 'Lady Bird' (Exclusive)
By John Boone
Nearly everything about Greta Gerwig's directorial debut, Lady Bird, is perfect, from the script (which she also wrote) to the casting (including Saoirse Ronan as the titular Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson and Laurie Metcalf as her lovingly exasperated mother) to the costumes, cinematography and music.
While Gerwig makes excellent use of Dave Matthews Band in the film, she also enlisted composer Jon Brion (responsible for such varied work as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Step Brothers) to craft the score, which she calls "joyful and mournful, romantic and heartbroken." Below, listen to the Lady Bird—Original Motion Picture Soundtrack:
"In Jon I found a musical soulmate," Gerwig writes in the album's liner notes. "His work is emotional and witty and old-fashioned and forward thinking all at once…I am so grateful for him and the music he made, and it is what allowed Lady Bird to soar."
ET spoke with Brion by phone and he said, "I think we just got on fairly well. I think it didn't take long to establish some conversational shorthand, just in talking about different things, about our feelings about different things. I think that, very quickly, we had a sense of what felt right, and we seemed to have just a general sense of agreement."
ET: How did you get involved in this project? What was Greta's original pitch to get you onboard?
Jon Brion: There wasn't a pitch. I think for the most part with composers, you just get the call, you know? In my case, I'll get an agent sending me a text going, "There's a movie for you to see. It's Greta Gerwig." And I'm like, Ah, I like her. I'll see that. But we didn't speak beforehand. I went to a screening and got a feeling from the movie. So, I just sent word that I liked it and within a day or so, we were on the phone with each other and shortly thereafter she came out to L.A. and we sat down and really, at that point, it's more a matter of feel. But it wasn't like she had to come and give a sales pitch. And I don't know if, in my line of work, that's even a particularly common thing.
So, there was a completed cut of the movie to see by the time you came on?
Yes. Composers, they're often let in very late in the game. They don't want us fraternizing with the locals too much. [Laughs]
You mentioned the shorthand you had with Greta. Where were the discussions you were having, like, both in terms of the score as a whole and individual pieces of music?
Often when any people who make stuff get together, half the time you spend talking about what you dislike in what you see, in what's currently being made. And not just in movies. It could be politics, it could be about music, it could be in human behavior. So, often, the discussions would be about any number of issues and at some point, you think, Oh, perhaps we should make some music! [Laughs] Or one of you gets an idea from the conversation that leads you to an area of the film. That was more how things worked. It wasn't so much, like, she came in with a given agenda that night, like, "Let's look at scene number five." And, "I'm thinking something like a polka that doesn't have clarinets." At least in our case, it wasn't really like that. Of course, every other director just comes in and asks for polka, and I try to talk them out of it. It's a very thorny process. [Laughs]
With the title track, "Lady Bird," in particular, what went into crafting this piece? What were you hoping that piece would say about Saoirse's character?
You know, what's funny about that one is that I saw a screening of the movie and the first night I could get to the studio, I started writing that piece. Greta and I hadn't even talked yet. I was just operating on my memory of the feeling I got from the movie. So, I wasn't writing to any specific piece of picture, and it doesn't always happen like that. But I left the screening with an emotional feeling and some kind of image in my head of what would be nice musically. The next night, I had the bulk of that, and I made a little sort of demo on my phone that I played for her on our first phone call. She seemed to feel like it did represent some of the central feeling, but, you know, if you asked me what I was thinking? It's such an odd issue with composing music, you can have intellectual ideas, but it really is just about, Are you representing some feeling that's inside you? Music is this bizarre, liquid, sort of full-sensory thing.
What was the feeling you were trying to capture?
To me, there is a theme in the film about being in a certain position in your own life that you know there's something better in the future, something that conforms more to your desires. But the immediate environment does not seem to be helping you get there. I think everybody at some point in their life has felt that. Or multiple points in their life! And I don't think it's confined to what we refer to as "coming of age tales." I don't think it's confined to being a teenager trying to move out the nest. That was the feeling I was left with. Although, also, I do think she very accurately represented that experience of being a teenager and wanting more. That's absolutely well-documented in the piece.
What did you ultimately hope your score would add to Greta's film?
I wanted to make sure that the audience had the same feeling that I had watching the first screening. I wanted to aid in people being able to see their own lives in the thing. If there was a conscious aim, that was it. Also, and I talked to [Greta] about this, you have all these silly boxes we put things in as people who watch movies and TV and listen to record, about whether something's an independent project or a big project. Is it big or is it little? I wanted to make sure that, emotionally, this thing could just sidestep all of that, that it could be seen as emotional.
Lady Bird is playing in theaters now and the soundtrack is available digitally on Nov. 17.