Arts & Entertainment, Music

Case Study: Writing a Theme Song

St. Vincent

Lesson time 12:02 min

Annie breaks down the film and the song “The Nowhere Inn” while in the recording studio. Hear how she created the theme song for her new film, from original concept to the effects she used in the studio.

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Topics include: Case Study: Writing a Theme Song


[00:00:00.21] - I cowrote and costarred in a movie called "The Nowhere Inn" with my best friend, Carrie Brownstein, who is an incredible artist in basically every discipline now. She's in a band called Sleater-Kinney, which is a really important band to a lot of people, very important to me as well. [00:00:15.46] She also starred in "Portlandia" with Fred Armisen. She's just, all around, truly one of most brilliant people I've ever met. We got to work together, and it was the most fun thing. [00:00:27.02] [MUSIC PLAYING] [00:00:30.34] In this chapter, I'm going to take you through the theme from "The Nowhere Inn" and peel it apart layer by layer, from the lyrics to the songwriting process and all the way through to some fun studio tricks and effects. [00:00:44.72] One of the things for the film was we wanted there to be a theme song that was kind of the culmination of the whole film, and that you would see us writing it along the way. So we got together, and we wrote this song in a day. [00:01:03.05] The original idea of the song is we were trying to think of a metaphor for this place that people can get to when they've become so consumed with their own identity and their own myth that they're in between a real person and their own creation. And we thought, well, that's kind of like The Nowhere Inn, like picturing this rundown desert motel where just lost souls kind of go to be in narcissism purgatory. The first part of the song, it's me talking to the driver as I'm on my way to The Nowhere Inn. [00:01:40.36] [MUSIC - [00:01:41.09] "THE NOWHERE INN" THEME SONG] [00:02:00.32] So all dialogue-- driver, do you mind? Just turn off the radio. We tried to use dustier sounds, right? Like things that felt dreamy and desert road sounds. When I think about desert sounds, I guess I think about almost like spaghetti Western, that kind of Morricone film score, where you can almost picture the cowboy coming out of the saloon doors with the woo-oo-oo, the whistle and the tumbleweed-- acoustic guitar with some Mellotron pads. And so we kind of-- [00:02:48.26] [MUSIC - "THE NOWHERE INN" THEME SONG] [00:02:48.73] (SINGING) Oh, pick up speed and sandwiches. Sip that bag of-- [00:02:53.38] When I say pick up speed and sandwiches-- [00:02:56.85] [MUSIC - "THE NOWHERE INN" THEME SONG] [00:02:58.51] (SINGING) Oh, pick up speed and sandwiches-- [00:03:02.22] --track actually speeds up 10 BPM. So we start it at 90. When we get to there, we needed it to have some urgency. So we added it. And I'm literally saying, let's pick up speed, and also some Adderall or whatever. Delightful. [00:03:16.53] [MUSIC - "THE NOWHERE INN" THEME SONG] [00:03:17.51] (SINGING) At The Nowhere Inn-- [00:03:18.97] I'm at The Nowhere Inn. [00:03:20.83] (SINGING) --wasted on . [00:03:24.74] So really just like-- [00:03:26.05] (SINGING) Here at The Nowhere Inn-- [00:03:28.22] --like a little bit like Brazilian-- again, trying to channel these things, just like Brazil...

About the Instructor

Under the stage name St. Vincent, Annie Clark has won Grammys while remaining fiercely innovative and true to herself. Now Annie is opening the door to her process to teach you how to explore your creativity. Learn how to record music, write songs, improve your guitar skills, and embrace your vulnerability. Let Annie guide you through the ups and downs of creating art so you can share what’s in your heart with the world.

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St. Vincent

Explore your creative process and embrace vulnerability with St. Vincent, the Grammy-winning, genre-defying artist and performer.

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