The second season of Emmy-winning This Is Us premiered last night, and it went straight for the feels. We finally get some all-important clues about Jack’s death. We also get our first taste of the music for this season, where music supervisor Jennifer Pyken weaves together period sounds with modern songs to help guide viewers through the time-shifting drama.
Late last year the show came out of nowhere and nearly made it into Tunefind’s top ten shows of 2016 only a few episodes into the series, thanks to the intense emotional connection for viewers and the spot-on mix of music.
Season two doesn’t hold back. Episode 201 “A Father’s Advice” included Bon Iver’s trippy track “__45__” plus Patti Scialfa’s dreamy “Black Ladder.” But the big song of the night is during the final montage of the episode.
Damien Rice’s stripped down and delicate take on a U2 power ballad serves as a beautiful soundtrack for the heartbreaking series of scenes. Even though we’ve known what was coming for a while, it’s still wrenching to watch.
We got the chance to chat with Pyken, who shared what it’s like to work on the show, some of her favorite moments from Season 1, and how she puts it all together. Here are some highlights.
Jen: The true wonder of this series, beyond its commercial and creative success, is the freedom it provides me as a Music Supervisor – a freedom to take chances, and convey real feeling through music.
Jen: The sound of the show began to develop early on in the series. In the opening scene in the Pilot, we used “Death With Dignity” by Sufjan Stevens which help set a tone and spearhead our placement of indie artists.
Jen: We also used “Watch Me” by Labi Siffre which was a song released in the 70’s. I was able to track Labi down on Twitter to help get the song cleared.
Jen: Much of the story and revelations about the characters on This Is Us is unspooled retrospectively so we sometimes use song specifically from that era but not always. For instance, our two usages of “Blues Run The Game” Jackson C. Frank, the original version and we reprise it in the “Memphis” episode with Janileigh Cohen’s cover.
Jen: One of my favorite songs from the Soundtrack album is “We Can Always Come Back To This” which was written by our composer Sidd Khosla and Chris Pierce. It was written specifically for the episode where we reveal William’s backstory as a musician.
Jen: “We Can Always Come Back to This” ties thematically to both the episode and the series. In multiple scenes, both versions help tell William’s journey of derailment and ultimately, bittersweet triumph. Also, the Hannah Miller cover placed at the end of the episode brings us back to the present day.
〉Check out the full list of songs featured in This Is Us