Modern Love premiered on Amazon’s Prime Video on October 18th and quickly rose up Tunefind’s most popular songs chart. While several songs made the chart last week, the top spot goes to a poignant and poetic original song by composer Gary Clark featuring the haunting voice of Nerina Pallot.
Following a pivotal moment between Michael (Andy Garcia) and Julie (Catherine Keener) toward the end of the second episode, the evocative lyrics echo the nostalgia and heartache on screen. “I let my heart fly above the high wire, but we came spinning down. Do you remember when the circus came to town?” The delicate vocals and lyrics clearly struck a chord with viewers.
An anthology series based on the New York Times column of the same name, Modern Love features multiple original songs created specifically for the series. There was a gap of about a week between when episodes were available on Prime Video and when the soundtrack album was released the following Friday. Fans on Tunefind immediately started the detective work to sort out details for those mystery songs, including this completely new track penned by Modern Love executive music producer Gary Clark.
British singer/songwriter Pallot gave Tunefind a behind-the-song story of how she got involved in this project.
“Imagine one of your favorite songwriters calls you and asks you to sing one of his finest songs and then you sing that song and it weirdly feels like singing your own song because subconsciously you have been trying to write like him the whole time,” Pallot shared with Tunefind. “And then the song sees the light of day in a beautifully made TV show with one of your secret crushes (Andy Garcia STILL has it) and then your own fans hear it and fall in love with it too. Yes. That just happened. (Gary sings it beautifully by the way, but lucky for me a female voice was wanted…)”
Scottish musician and Modern Love executive music producer Gary Clark wrote ‘Circus’ for the specific episode, where a journalist (Keener) interviews the founder of a dating app (played by Dev Patel) and their two separate tales of lost love intersect. Drawing on influences from Randy Newman and Tom Waits, Clark told Tunefind about the delicate balance of writing a song for this scene.
“Way back at the early editing stage I was sent a rough picture cut by editor Andy Marcus and a note suggesting where the song might go,” recalls Clark. “It was so beautiful and the film was already saying so much, I didn’t want to screw it up by writing something ‘about’ what we were seeing or feeling. I came up with ‘Circus’ as a kind of abstract parallel.”
Clark created a demo that was cut to picture and stayed that way for a few months. When executive producer and showrunner John Carney and Clark came back to finish the episode, they felt like a female vocal would resonate more with the narrator of the story, which was the Catherine Keener character. Gary Clark, along with his wife and Modern Love music supervisor Alison Clark, brainstormed the idea of Nerina Pallot singing the song.
“Nerina’s Stay Lucky album had been pretty much glued to our turntable at home for about a year. We nervously reached out and sent her the song,” shared Clark. “Amazingly, a couple days later she sent back a live iPhone demo. It was so lo fi, and delicate, and broken and just unbelievably perfect. I sent it straight over to John Carney, who equally, loved it.”
“We arranged for Nerina to fly up only a few days later and cut it for real in my studio. It was meant to be. And the incredible reaction we’re receiving from the Modern Love audience backs that up. I couldn’t wish for a more perfect version,” says Clark.
Pallot has released numerous albums and over a dozen EPs since 2001. The self-taught pianist wrote her first song when she was 13. She later learned guitar, followed by studying violin and opera at boarding school. The London-based singer/songwriter shared with The Telegraph that her music career inspiration began when she saw Kate Bush perform ‘This Woman’s Work’ on television series, Wogan. “I remember watching her and being transfixed and understanding that was what I wanted to do. I also understood it wasn’t just about performing. I had to write songs and get under the skin of the music.” After touring and making music over the last 8 years, Pallot’s most recent album Stay Lucky was released in 2017 and made the U.K. Top 100 chart.
Gary Clark is a music industry veteran, perhaps best known as the frontman for the 1980s pop band Danny Wilson, mid-90s rock band King L and a member of alt-rock band Transister. Since the mid-90s, Clark has focused on songwriting and producing. He’s co-written and produced countless chart-toppers with Demi Lovato, Natalie Imbruglia, Gin Wigmore, Liz Phair, Little Hours, The Veronicas and many more. He’s also working on the upcoming stage musical adaptation of Nanny McPhee, directed by Emma Thompson.
Modern Love marks Clark’s latest collaboration with John Carney, having composed and performed with Carney for the film Sing Street in 2016. The two teamed up to create Modern Love’s theme song, ‘Setting Sail,’ and the series finale end credits song, ‘The Lost and Found.’ Serving as bookends for the series, the opening theme helps provide a through line to link the different stories of the anthology, while ‘The Lost and Found’ brings the various stories to a poignant conclusion. These tracks and others from Modern Love have also claimed spots on Tunefind’s trending music chart for last week.
Avid fans of the series soundtrack may have already discovered the bonus content for each episode, via the X-Ray feature in Prime Video. These brief vignettes feature behind-the-music interviews with Clark, Carney, and others who were involved in the musical vision of Modern Love.
〉Listen now: Circus by Nerina Pallot
〉More music by Nerina Pallot
〉Full list of songs featured in the Modern Love soundtrack