Soundtrack City: How Nashville is awash in film, game scores

NASHVILLE, Tennesse (AP) — Nashville is already known as Music City, but a new wave of music being recorded there for video games, TV shows and movies could earn it a new title as Soundtrack City.

The city has a reputation for high quality studio musicians that can play just about any genre, including country, pop, rock, gospel and more. Nashville musicians have also been behind the soundtracks for some of the biggest video game franchises including Madden, FIFA, Call of Duty and Star Wars.

And more production companies have been bringing their film and TV soundtrack recordings to Nashville, including Netflix, Showtime, Sony and Focus Features, thanks in part to an incentive programme enacted into law last year.

“Nashville has become one of the two or three major places to record in the world for film, game and television,” said President of Music Steve Schnur at Electronic Arts (EA) the popular video game company.

Schnur’s background includes working at MTV and record labels such as Arista and also working as a music supervisor on films prior to joining EA. He’s been a sort of Pied Piper for soundtrack recording in Nashville. “I’ve been preaching Nashville for quite some time and initially it was met with a little cynicism,” he said. “Nashville? Don’t they make country records there?”

Nick Spezia works in the control room during the recording of a video game soundtrack in Nashville, Tennesse. PHOTOS: AP
Conductor David Shipps directs the orchestra during the recording of a video game soundtrack in Nashville, Tennesse

For a long time, EA recorded soundtracks for their games with orchestras in Los Angeles, London and eastern Europe. That changed about seven years ago when Schnur came to Nashville to record music for a trailer for a game called Dragon’s Age Inquisition.

“It was like the world’s greatest band,” Schnur said of the 60-member orchestra assembled for the recording. “It really supported what Nashville is: a collaborative place.”

Even more so, Nashville’s musicians were both fast and accurate, even on complicated scores written by acclaimed composers such as Hans Zimmer, Lorne Balfe, Jeff Russo and John Debney.

“This is a first-take town,” said Schnur. “You go to Prague, you’re doing six or seven takes.”

Now, Schnur estimates 90 to 95 per cent of EA’s scores are being recorded in Nashville, with the rest recorded in London.