If Wonder Woman were a music supervisor, she very well might be Ann Kline. Ann started out as a lawyer working at the William Morris Agency, but stepped into music supervision, when a music supervisor friend from law school needed some help and reached out to Ann. From humble beginnings, helping with whatever was needed at the time, she soon realized that she loved working on the music side of things. She started getting some projects of her own and did a TV pilot for John Wells that went very well. She started working for him full time on Third Watch and E.R. and the rest, as they say, is history! Ann is currently working on seven shows, including Aquarius, Shameless, The Goldbergs, Animal Kingdom, and The Magicians.
Shameless doesn’t have a dedicated composer, is that right?
That’s true. Every now and then, we do have a composer doing an episode. Mark Mothersbaugh did one, Mike McCready from Pearl Jam did one. So it’s weird, but the songs actually end up playing as score.
Is there an overriding theme for the music on Shameless?
The first few seasons, I feel like the music was very guitar-driven indie rock, it was messy and rebellious. The way John Wells described it was “it sounds like something that somebody made in their garage”. Nothing was ever super-produced because it was sort of the nature of that family. They were rebels, they did things their own way, and they were messy, but somehow it worked. Then, it might have been in Season 5, was sort of the downward spiral of the Fiona character, so the music became a little bit more electronic. It worked better for her. But I think every year as the kids grow up, the music evolves a little bit. The sort of more indie, unknown, up-and-coming artists is definitely the general sound of the show. I think a lot of that is just because, you know, something well-known would sort of pull you out of thinking of it as score.
Right. Pull you out of the scene?
Yeah. One of the other reasons why John really liked this way of working with music is because there’s so much tragedy in this family, but they really don’t wallow in their pity. Since these songs weren’t written for these scenes, it seems to help that happen, so that you don’t end up feeling manipulated by the music. It’s more like taking you through this crazy ride.
Yeah! It’s probably one of the craziest shows that I’ve ever seen.
Probably the craziest show I’ve ever worked on.
How did the The High Strung’s “The Luck You Got” become the theme song for the show?
When I first started working on the show, I reached out to a few indie labels and publishers that I thought would work well for the show. Because our music budget was tiny and still is, we wanted to find companies that we would be able to use a lot of their music, so that would warrant lower fees. One of the companies we were speaking to at the time was Bug Music (now part of BMG). The creative and licensing team there really got the show and sent a bunch of music. We went back and forth on different theme songs a lot. I really loved “The Luck You Got” and so did some other people on the show, but there was another song that was in high contention, though we ended up not getting that. Everybody felt “It’s for the best, this is the best song for the show”. I still love it and I’m so glad it worked out. It was really Mara Schwartz who was at Bug Music at the time that sent the song and said, “It’s perfect for the show!” She was right!
How do you feel being a lawyer helps you as a music supervisor?
It’s been such a long time since I’ve practiced law. But in the beginning, I definitely thought it’s kind of crazy that people do this job without any kind of entertainment law education. Just because in negotiating the quotes, there’s a lot of legalese. It can be confusing, especially if you’re dealing with indie bands and maybe they don’t know what it means either. So, it helps me in explaining it to them.
That makes sense. You’re also working on The Goldbergs. It seems like it is 180° from Shameless.
Well, they’re both crazy families!
Every episode of The Goldbergs is Adam Goldberg’s brainchild and the writers’. Adam usually knows exactly what song he wants in that montage and he might switch it throughout the process, but it is very rare that I get to do a lot of creative on that. It’s a lot more to do with fill-ins and just helping the workflow happen and finding songs for the other scenes that are maybe less important, like they’re at a party and we need some other 80s songs.
What about when the character Barry raps on the show?
Oh my gosh, well, a lot of times the writers will write the lyrics. Michael Wandmacher is the composer on the show and he is so mind-blowingly good at his job. He writes and arranges the music for all these productions and it’s ridiculous because he does it so quickly and so brilliantly. So that’s all the writers and Michael and the actors who sing and perform them.
What challenges do you face as a music supervisor?
Every show and every episode is sort of… it’s all a beast. Sometimes it’s the budget that’s your problem. Sometimes it’s time that’s your problem. Sometimes it’s… because music goes in last, you’re trying to fix a problem from production that no one's happy with. There’s all different kinds of problem all the time. I’m always blown away by the new mess of problems. It just depends.
Sounds like there’s never a dull moment! Speaking of which, is there any special moment or placement where the music changed everything for that scene or that show?
I feel like that happens a few times a year and it’s such a glorious moment. Because of the pace of TV, you’re just on to the next episode. for a few years, ER would do these episodes in Africa…This one episode was brilliant on its own. It was a really heartfelt, intense episode, and when we were working on it in post, we were temping with some of the Black Hawk Down score with Baaba Maal singing on it. John Wells said, “It works so well, it’s so nice to have the score with all of the voice, but it would be cool if we could do something like that”. It’s in Western Africa and so we ended up having Youssou N’Dour do vocals on top of the score our composer wrote. It felt really special and different and I think it added a very unique element to what we were doing. You can’t even imagine trying to deal with getting music from Darfur. This was before high-speed internet was over there. There was one graphic designer shop in the city and Youssou would send his assistant there with the music and they’d try to upload it and it would never work and the connection would get cut. They seriously went to the airport with some CDs and said like “Is anybody flying to America? Anywhere in America? Anywhere in Europe?!” But anyway, it did end up coming through eventually, but it was terrifying.
Wow! You are currently working on seven shows. What do you do to unwind in your free time?
It sounds so corny but I hang out with my family. We’ll go to concerts and stuff together, but most of it is not revolving around music. We love traveling and skiing and just hanging out.
That’s not corny at all! What was the last concert you went to?
Well, I went to -- and it’s gonna sound crazy because it was crazy amazing – a friend lives right up from The Hollywood Bowl. From his backyard, you have an amazing view of The Bowl. He had had some people over to watch the Sting and Peter Gabriel concert.
Oh wow. That sounds incredible! Being a music supervisor, your mind is opened up to so many kinds of music, right?
Yes. It’s great and terrible. I really feel like Lucy working on the chocolate factory. It’s like too much of a good thing, it’s driving me crazy.
Interviewer | Paul Goldowitz
Research, Editing, Copy | Paul Goldowitz
Extending gratitude to Ann Kline.