A Q&A with Grammy-Winning Composer Lili Haydn

  1. Congratulations on your latest album release ‘More Love’ on Lakeshore Records,  your first solo album in 6 years! This is a very personal project for you- could you share a bit about the inspiration for this album and the concept behind it?

    I believe there is no problem in the world for which more love and understanding is not the answer. This is why the album is titled More Love and includes the title song of the same name.  I survived Covid this summer and it gave me the courage to sing a simple plaintive lyric like “more love, more light, darkness don’t stand a chance against us.”  The common theme that runs through the album is one of aspiration, evolution, and resolution to end the cycle of domination and try to be an expression of love.

    In addition to the few personal songs, this album is a compilation of some of the film music I’ve made lately, including a few pieces featured in the new Netflix documentary Strip Down Rise Up.  It’s also the sound of the films I’d like to be scoring.

  2. You recently scored the Netflix hit series, Ginny and Georgia. How did you approach scoring such an upbeat yet emotional show? What are your tips to navigate between comedy, drama, and mystery?

    It was a bit of trial and error finding the sound of this show, which beautifully dances between drama and comedy/kitch, which meant our themes had to have both darkness and light embedded in them. Once Ben Bromfield (my wonderful Co-composer) and I found the main themes and sonic palette, it was organic flowing with the arc and feel of the show.  Also, I was an actor growing up, so I relate dramatically to a scene, and it feels natural to flow freely between drama and comedy…just like in life.

  3. You also scored two powerful documentary features: Strip Down Rise Up (directed by Oscar-nominated Michele Ohayon) for Netflix, and Ruth: Justice Ginsberg in Her Own Words (directed by Oscar-winner Freida Mock) for STARZ. What made you excited about scoring these projects and what was it like to work with such acclaimed directors?

    I tend to score about half documentaries and half narrative features and really make no distinction between them. They’re all storytelling. This is the second film I’ve scored for Oscar winner Freida Lee Mock; the first being Anita, about iconic gender warrior Anita Hill.  Ruth Bader Ginsberg‘s story was perfectly told in the hit doc RBG and perfectly scored by my friend and mentor Miriam Cutler, so Freida was clear we needed to tell a more personal story which gave me permission to lead with emotion and a sense of triumph. This was my first time working with Oscar nominee Michele Ohayon, and Strip down Rise Up shares the profound transformation of a handful of women healing their trauma through movement and pole dancing. I got to score emotionally but also create pop songs and seductive dance tracks to counterbalance the heaviness and intimate vulnerability of the women’s stories. There were several songs that had to be replaced as well and I was thrilled to be able to collaborate with a couple of wonderful additional writer/producers for those, including my good friend Laura Escudé, Bryan Dych aka Clearside, and Najeeb Jones a.k.a. Godchild.

  4. Alongside your scoring career, you’re busy composing and performing in your solo alt-rock band, and your contemporary instrumental/world music band Opium Moon. How do you balance between these three passions and do they ever come together?

    Each of the projects feeds the others. I’ve gotten most of my jobs scoring from Filmmakers who like my solo albums, and especially on this new album I feel like my cinematic sensibility helped me create something more spacious and magical than just another alt rock record. I also call on my experience playing for other people when I’m scoring. Dialogue is like the lead singer and my job is to support my star.  Our group Opium Moon is “world music from another world“ and is a blessed collaboration with Santoor master Hamid Saeidi, bass wizard Itai Disraeli, and the brilliant MB Gordy on percussion.  We all work in film music, especially MB, so our music is also very cinematic and we hope that we will have the opportunity to score a film that is right for our exotic sounds.

    It can be a little bit overwhelming dealing with all these projects, but each one informs and enhances the other.

  5. Your career is full of highlights such as winning a Grammy and collaborating with the best musicians in the world. What are you most proud of?

    For me, achievements are a nice rite of passage, but the highlights are the times when I’ve felt the most in the flow, especially the thrill of taking a musical risk in the passion of inspiration and landing on my feet, whether on stage or in the studio working to picture… as long as I am exploring the unknown…

    Lili’s new album, More Love is now out on Lakeshore records.

    Interview by Nami Melumad

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