The Amazon Prime Video limited series, Daisy Jones & the Six, based on the novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid, is a special project for anyone who loves music, whether it’s live or on record. It tells the story of a fictitious Pittsburgh band and their rise to fame in the ‘70s, as its singer Billy Dunne (played by Sam Claflin) is joined by Riley Keough’s Daisy Jones, a singer/songwriter in her own right, who brings so much more to the group dynamics.
The show includes a number of original songs that have been written either by Billy or Daisy or both, as it follows The Six on their rise to fame, and how that affects the relationship between the two dynamic front people. The show proved so popular that its soundtrack, with a new EP released concurrently with each episode of the mini-series, became just as beloved, adding further to the myth behind the Six.
The onus of putting this all together – from finding someone to write and produce those songs, but also getting someone to teach the actors how to perform them – went to Music Supervisor Frankie Pine and her Whirly Girl Music, which helped turn Daisy Jones and the Six into one of the most authentic looks at the music biz since Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous. It’s no surprise Pine was nominated for an Emmy in the “Outstanding Music Supervision” category, her first nomination after being nominated for many Guild of Music Supervisor Awards, winning one.
Below the Line spoke with Ms. Pine about the nitty-gritty of turning non-musical actors into one of the hottest bands of the year, as well as touched upon some of her other work this year in movies, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Book Club 2: The Next Chapter.
Below the Line: I know there’s a lot more to being a music supervisor than just picking cool songs for a movie’s soundtrack, especially for a project like this where you must have gotten involved very early on. What was your first step once you were hired?
Frankie Pine: I was very blessed that I was the very first person they hired on the show, and that doesn’t happen very often as a music supervisor. Usually, as a music supervisor, you’re kind of an afterthought. They’ll go, “Oh, shit, we kind of need a music supervisor, don’t you think? We have to clear this song,” or whatever. A lot of people equate that to that’s what we do. These producers, man, I gotta hand it to him.
I basically brought a list of music producers to be our executive music producer, and I worked with the producers on not only the scripts, but they wanted to talk to somebody who had done disco in the ’70s. It’s reaching out, just so that they can gain as much knowledge as writers as to what the subject matter is. They were really great about wanting to tell a very true story of the ’70s. I got hired in 2019, and I worked the entire year with the executive music producer. The scripts are now starting to come together, ’cause they didn’t even have scripts written at that point, and then, we started the casting process.
As a music supervisor, it was probably the most all-encompassing show I think I’ve ever done. Everything from the executive music producer to reading a script and going, “Yeah, that probably wouldn’t happen,” or “This is gonna be really difficult to shoot. What if we shot it like this instead?” And just songs that were written into the script, like, “Hey, can it be something else? This has been used 100 times,” or whatever the scenario was. And then I started band camp in January 2020, as the casting was coming together, and bringing all these actors together to form a band, teach them the music, just kind of hang out, lessons in the morning and a rehearsal practice in the afternoon. It was all day for five days.
BTL: I’m curious about your background in becoming a music supervisor. I’ve spoken to a few others and some of them have backgrounds as musicians, playing in bands, and others come from a background as lawyers or A&R types.
Pine: I’m a singer. I realized pretty early on that I wasn’t a good enough singer. I grew up in a musical family. My dad was a DJ, and managed a band, but he always still had that day job. It wasn’t like a job that took over his life. For me, all I ever said was I wanted to do something to promote music. Within the film and television world, I really get to do that. There are so many songs in Daisy Jones of artists that weren’t big artists, but they just got paid to be in Daisy Jones and the Six. One thing I loved about this process is really pushing the actor to work on music and to be a musician. They all took to it, and I thought that was really amazing.
BTL: You said there were no scripts written when you got involved, so did you read Taylor’s book and talk to Scott [Neustadter, one of the showrunners] to figure out the direction in which to go?
Pine: I usually start with researching the characters. The only way that I know that is by reading this other source, which was the book that Taylor had just done such an incredible job with. And then, diving in with Scott and Will [Graham] and Lauren [Levy Neustadter]. I want to get to know who these people are. I would make playlists of songs that would have inspired Billy or would have been something that Daisy would have listened to. Those were things that were super fun for me. Knowing that the Six is from the Midwest, I wanted to research those regional bands that never really got full play throughout the entire country, but had regional hits. I did tons of digging into that world and something that they would have been able to go see at a club, like going to see the Rolling Stones or something like that.
BTL: At a certain point, you have to have songs for this band, fairly early on I’d expect. Were you working on getting someone to write those songs even before getting the actors into band camp?
Pine: Blake Mills was our executive music producer; he was one of the cats on my list. They interviewed him, he played them a couple of songs that they fell in love with. That was what sold them on, “Hey, this is the guy for the job.” He then started breaking down the important songs that were in the book. We didn’t want to make him feel that you have to stick with these exact lyrics or these song titles or anything. We wanted [him] to have creative reign, but each of these songs need to say something about their relationship. We kind of got him going on that stuff, and there was a whole big demo process of him sending stuff to all of us. “Hey, what do you think of this? What do you think of that?” And then, finally, we got to the amount of songs that we needed.
BTL: I’m not sure I realized that Taylor’s book had song titles and lyrics as well?
Pine: Yes, she definitely did. One of the most important songs was “Honeycomb.” That was the quintessential song that brought them together, and ultimately was also the demise of them as well. I love that song for that reason. It’s just the connotation of “Look At Us Now,” which is our title of it. Those lyrics, they say so much about them, their past, the potential future, all of that.
BTL: Was that the first song Blake worked on?
Pine: He worked on this song for at least two years, and it was almost the last song that he wrote, third to last. The other two are “Let Me Down Easy” and “The River,” but “Honeycomb” took a really long time to find.
BTL: Riley’s family history aside, did any of the actors have musical ability? Could Sebastian play drums, or did any of them know how to play guitars or piano or anything?
Pine: Josh [Whitehouse], who plays Eddie, knew how to play guitar, so he had to be taught bass, which isn’t that far of a stretch. Will Harrison had actually played rhythm guitar, but we needed to teach him lead guitar. Seb [Chacon] knew how to play some drums, Suki [Waterhouse] did not know how to play piano. Riley did not know how to play piano or guitar, and didn’t even know if she could sing, to be honest with you. Sam, the same thing, did not know how to play guitar and did not know how to sing.
BTL: Going back to the actors and band camp, did you have musicians teaching them individually as well as about playing together? How did band camp work, especially after COVID hit, and you weren’t able to do it in person?
Pine: We started band camp in person in the beginning of 2020. I had hired a series of coaches – I had a guitar coach, that also taught bass. I hired a keyboard person, I hired a drum coach, vocal teachers. In the mornings, everybody would have a certain time slot of what their day looked like. We all had lunch together, and then after lunch, we would put them in a big rehearsal room, and let them play or try to play, let them learn how to play, let them turn around and look at each other like a band does, to create a bit of that camaraderie that bands just have from practicing together. That was one of the goals was to just make sure that they grooved and moved together as a band. That was the afternoon, and the mornings were teaching the notes and where your hands need to be and things like that.
They actually can play all the songs. They did a show for all of us, just before shooting. We did a live show, and they came up with their setlist. I let them do whatever they wanted to do. I said, “Is there anything you guys need?” And they’re like, “We need alcohol,” so Josh and I ran to the liquor store. We got everybody a shot of tequila and gave them a little bit of gumption to get up there and do what they needed to do. And they killed it; they did a great job.
BTL: I know Riley and Sam sing their own vocals, so were you able to do pre-records with them?
Pine: It was a combination. We had pre-records for everything. Some of the stuff that is really hard to do are those moments when they’re songwriting, or when he’s sitting with Camilla, and Camilla is like, “I need you to play this song for me,” and that was “Silver Nail.” That stuff was just done live. There was just some straight playback, and then, there was a combo. All the microphones were always hot, no matter what. I would take parts of their live vocal and mix it in with the pre-record, just to get those natural breaths in those moments, like in particular, when she’s so blown out of her head, she ends up falling over the drumset and gets bloody. Those are things that I can’t recreate in post. I have to have something that I can steal from to give me that realistic quality. I think there were so many things that we would steal from. I remember showing Riley that scene, because we were going to have her re-sing something later. I showed it to her, and she looked at me and goes, “You’re sneaky.” And I go, “Yes, I am.” [laughs]
BTL: I already spoke to the mixers, Lindsey Alvarez and Mathew Waters [stay tuned for that interview], but I wish I spoke to you first, because now I have more questions for them about how much of the live vocals they snuck in.
Pine: The guy you should talk to is Mike Poole. He did all the music pre-mixes, so everything got delivered to the stage in a pre-mix way, just so that he can hone in on those live moments and really help the sync aspect of things. If the microphone is not completely on the face, and it’s off here, he’s the one that moved it off the microphone. I think those things really add to the believability of the band, and it’s super important to me to feel like I am really listening to them live.
BTL: For he actual album that’s out, I was looking at the credits and the roster of musicians on there, and it’s kind of insane. Everyone from Roger Manning, who played with Beck, and bassist Pino Palatino, who is a legend. I knew that the actors learned to play but I wasn’t sure if they actually recorded any of the music for the album themselves.
Pine: The actors actually recorded their version of “Have Love, Will Travel.” We put them in the recording studio, and that was complete first-off. They just played it so well, they were so good at it. And I was like, “Come on. We have to give them something here. Let’s record them doing this.” They got to record that, but all the rest of the stuff is them either playing along to those famous musicians and sneaking in certain sonic things that add to the live aspect of things.
BTL: As the show goes along, they get more famous and we see them on SNL, and then their return to Pittsburgh, and of course, that huge show in Chicago. Is that just movie or TV magic in terms of getting them to play in those places?
Pine: That’s not my job, thankfully, but I can tell you that there weren’t really more than probably 100 extras in the crowd. So much of it is VFX, but when you hear them screaming, and getting super excited about the band coming out or coming back for an encore, [Producer] Mandy Price did a fantastic job at making me feel like I was there in that room, watching this band, and I was always in the crowd screaming and cheering, too.
BTL: It’s also such a different thing from playing a small club to playing those big spaces, even with just 100 extras. How did you get the actors ready for that?
Pine: There wasn’t much of a difference in the size of our extras that we had hired. They knew what their job was, and my goal was that “as long as you don’t have to look at your hands, you can really perform and really sell the fact that you’re a super-famous 1970s rock band.” They did it; they knew when they had to pour it on.
BTL: You also did Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret?, another period piece
Pine: It was all happening at the same time, Are You There God with Daisy at the same time, so as I was listening to ’70s music, I’d be like, “This is the Margaret pile, this is the Daisy pile.” I love ’70s music. Besides ’40s music, ’70s would be next for me. The deals were so different. With Are You There, God, most of the music had more of an innocent quality to it, as opposed to a balls to the wall type of thing.
BTL: I read that you also worked on the Book Club sequel, so were you involved with the four main actresses singing a song in the end credits? I was curious how that came together.
Pine: I was! Mary [Steenburgen] wrote the song with Troy Verges and Caitlyn Smith, who I know from my Nashville days. Mary had a really clear idea of who wanted to sing what and got them into the studio. It was a really good fun little kitschy thing to do for them. Now, they can say they’ve recorded a song, on top of all that amazing acting they’ve done their whole careers.
The entire Daisy Jones and the Six limited series can be streamed via Prime Video. Check back soon for our interview with two of the sound mixers for the show.