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Joe vs. Carole Music Supervisor Ann Kline on Why Southern Rock Roars Loudest on Eclectic Soundtrack

April 7, 2022 02:22 | By
Joe vs. Carole

Image via Peacock

The plethora of soundtrack selections in Joe vs. Carole, Peacock’s genre-bending limited series that takes place over multiple time periods, might intimidate most music supervisors — but not Ann Kline.

Kline enthusiastically embraced the task of selecting a wide range of tunes for the show, which benefited from her attention to detail — something instilled in her from her years of practicing law in the music department of the William Morris Agency before she segued into her career as a music supervisor with credits ranging from top dramas such as ER and The West Wing to comedies like The Goldbergs and The Last OG.

Kline worked closely with Joe vs. Carole creator and writer Etan Frankel to musically illustrate the myriad of emotions these complex characters experience without satirizing them or making them seem hokey. The series walks a fine line, as Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin are real people who have become mythic figures through the telling of their doomed tale.

Joe vs. Carole

Image via Peacock

Understandably, Kline is very protective of how the show’s music is perceived, almost like a tigress protecting her cubs. When a jest is put forth that some of the music can be described as ‘redneck rock,’  she quickly qualifies that ‘southern rock’ is the proper wording to define the time and place. Some of the southern rockers that are featured on the Joe vs. Carole soundtrack are The Marshall Tucker Band, The Allman Brothers Band, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Those iconic groups are joined by an eclectic group of artists, including Tom Jones, Simply Red, Maroon 5, Radiohead, Yo-Yo Ma with Bobby McFerrin, Katrina And The Waves, and Katy Perry, to name a few. There is even an obvious wink to animal-themed ditties like “Tiger” by Abba, “Roar” by Perry, “What’s New Pussycat” by Jones, and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” as sung by Kate McKinnon‘s Baskin.

Below the Line spoke with Kline about how she settled on her musical choices, which songs were deemed too expensive, and which songs were used in their place to achieve the same effect, as well as how she convinced certain artists to say “yes” to a story that has sparked heavy debate in the animal rights community.

Ann Kline

Image via Ann Kline

Below the Line: Take me through how the idea for a song comes to you when choosing music for a series?

Ann Kline: It really starts with talking with the executive producers of the show. The whole series is their vision. I’ve known Etan for a long time and have a very easy back and forth with him. I just met Alex [Katsnelson] on this project and he’s so easy to talk to, and because they’re both writers, they’re so good at describing what they’re looking for in a scene. For instance, in the scene where Carole is riding her bike through her sanctuary and we want to feel her unbridled happiness in her beautiful place, we chose “Walking On Sunshine” by Katrina And The Waves.

There were some songs that were campier for some of the Carole moments, like [hearing] “The Brakes” (Kurtis Blow) the first time we see her on the bike. She’s a really cool person and her heart is in the right place, so we didn’t want it to seem like we were making a joke. She’s happiest in her sanctuary and there’s nothing that makes her feel better than the animals. They were very specific.

BTL: What was your initial approach to choosing the different genres of music?

Kline: The music is very eclectic. Initially, they were going to keep it in-house and not use an outside supervisor. It ended up being so much more music-forward than they initially anticipated. When I came on, they [had] almost finished Episode 1, so I could see where they were going and how much fun they were having with the music. Their overall journey for the music was, ‘it’s taking place in the South and we like the southern rock vibe.’ So, [the music shifts] between the southern rock for the time and the place, and Esquivel! (quirky lounge music from the late-’50s/early-’60s), [which offers a] hipster, playful, flirty, and out-there feline feeling. I can’t take credit for that. It’s really Etan and Alex who came up with the vision [for the soundtrack] and it was just fun to follow [that] and play with it.

Then we used the big sort of camp/glam songs, whether it’s Tom Jones or Eddy Grant (“Killer On The Rampage”) or the French version of “These Boots,” even Katy Perry — big, anthemic, over-the-top, fun songs. The serious heartbreakers are more along the lines of indie rock like Radiohead (“My Iron Lung”) and The National (“Runaway”), and the opera and the classical [music] are well-known songs that raise emotions and make a giant statement, just like our characters do.

Joe vs. Carole

Image via Mark Taylor/Peacock

BTL: What were the monetary challenges of getting “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and “What’s New Pussycat?”

Kline: They were very expensive, and all the montage songs were expensive, whether they were The Allman Brothers or Tom Jones, so we knew where the big money was going. Also, there are so many great independent southern rock bands like Natural Child (“Baby”) that we chose instead, or The Crutch (“Keep on Risin”) that were totally affordable [and] have the same vibe, and let the audience know that direction we’re going.

For the big operatic moments, we would use something in the public domain like “Ode To Joy” and “Ave Maria,” although the Yo-Yo Ma recording that we used is expensive, the publishing is public domain. That’s where we chose to save money so that we could afford Abba and Katy Perry and Tom Jones. There were some big moments that temped The Stones or Bowie that worked great and beautifully, but we just couldn’t afford to do everything.

When Joe takes the stage at his trial, we did have the “No More Mr. Nice Guy” (Alice Cooper) moment. We knew we needed to spend a little more money to get the audience to know these characters even more. It could be fun and camp, but we could achieve those goals in a less expensive way. I think we would’ve gone crazier if we had all the money in the world, but having budget constraints really helps you be more creative.

Joe vs. Carole

Image via Peacock

BTL: How did you get some of the more high-profile artists to say “yes” to lending their music to this story?

Kline: When we request a song, I’m very specific about how it’s used, why we want we want to use it, and why it’s right for the scene. If somebody wants to see the scene, if we can, we send it to them. We don’t want anybody to be surprised when they see their song in a scene, [so] whether it’s sex or drugs or violence, we get it all out there — ‘here’s the song for the scene, we think it works beautifully, and we hope you do, too.’

Etan and Alex understood if somebody didn’t want to be part of the project. We know they’ve seen the documentary and maybe listened to the podcast. For sure, there were times [we had to] convince them that this is a story from the point of view of [how] they’re trying to save the animals. We didn’t want people to be uncomfortable with their music being used in something. Some of the classic artists might have been more nervous about southern rock being seen as ‘redneck rock.’ There are no songs that make fun of the characters, and I think they saw that these characters are genuine.

There were times that we used songs to introduce characters [when] some people said “no” because they didn’t want their song to be a shortcut to, ‘hey, it’s a bad guy.’ Some people were animal activists and just didn’t want to be involved. Even though they knew what Carole was going for, they didn’t want to be involved with something that could be perceived as glorifying somebody who was hurting animals. As sweet as Joe’s intentions may have been, we know what happens. Although it is campy, they all came from a place of loving animals. We understood that, but for the most part, people were happy to be involved.

Joe vs. Carole

Image via Peacock

BTL: What scenes are you most proud of in terms of the music matching the emotion onscreen?

Kline: There’s a really big moment when [Joe’s husband] Travis dies and those moments where you see him unraveling. He is the one character who never makes it to the other side. Joe falls, but he’s still famous, and Carole falls but she comes back to become a better person. But Travis is a real tragedy and Nat [Wolff] did such a beautiful job of portraying it. The music worked great. I think it was Etan who chose The National song “Runaway” that plays at the end of the episode. Just before that, when we play the Radiohead song “My Iron Lung,” which is what plays all through Travis’ demise, where you see him lost and getting high and wandering around the zoo. I thought the song really captured his unhappiness and worthlessness. I [think] that was my favorite because it was heartbreaking. We were all so happy they agreed to let us use the song. I thought the “Ave Maria” moment in the trial was beautiful. I have to give incredible props to our music editor Jen Nash, who crafted it so perfectly [for] the scene. I would say those are my two favorite moments in the series.

Joe vs. Carole

Image via Mark Taylor/Peacock

BTL: Why did you choose Simply Red’s “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” and Chris De Burgh’s “Lady In Red” for the dancing scenes between Howard and Carole Baskin?

Kline: They made sense for these characters. They’re so romantic. They’re songs that make you smile, like guilty pleasure songs. We played around a lot with the songs for both of those scenes. Etan and Alex were like, ‘these are the ones.’ Even though they have that ’70s or ’80s grooviness about them, I can picture both of those characters turning up the car stereo any time those songs came on.

BTL: The diversity of the music really does work and it would make for a great soundtrack.

Kline: I love that you said that, and I agree. It’s such a different time for soundtracks. We put out all the information so that fans could find it. I hope that Peacock or fans will host a Spotify playlist for it. It was a really, really fun project from top to bottom. Everyone was so cool. I loved how they scripted it. It really showed the characters in a much more personal way and really got to the heart and soul of who they are. I was so excited to see what they were going for and I was just all-in. It was a really wonderful experience.

Joe vs. Carole

Image via Peacock