When it came to The Leftovers' sound, series creator Damon Lindelof had specific direction for music supervisor Liza Richardson. "He encouraged me to go weird and deep and dark," Richardson tells WatchingTheLeftovers.com. Richardson oversaw the song selection for the series, a process she describes as "taking my interpretation of Damon's sensibility, reading the characters, and funneling that through what I think is cool musically." Coupled with Max Richter's score, Richardson's songs created a distinct sound, one that fans responded to all season. Of particular resonance was the Apocalyptica's cover of "Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica, which aired in the finale. Richardson was equally excited about the song: "It's Metallica! But it doesn't sound like Metallica," she exclaims. "That song is so deep."
Another deep track? "You're Not the One" by the Black Keys, which plays in "B.J. and the A.C." during the episode's cold open, scoring the creation of the plastic baby Jesus doll. "We explored a lot of baby Jesus songs for that scene. It was really fun with to experiment," says Richardson.
For any given scene, Richardson pitched a handful of songs, "It could be five, it could be 50," she explains. The episode's editor and Lindelof weighed in, a process that yielded rich coincidences. Case and point: "Angel of Death" by Slayer, which plays in "Guest" during the scene where Nora Durst hires the prostitute to shoot her. "I didn't even realize the character's name was Angel!" Richardson admits. "I gave 10 ideas that were all really hardcore, fast and loud metal. The editor, David Eisenberg, is awesome and picked that one. It just had the perfect lyrics."
Richardson also curates the music preferences of the show's characters. Kevin Garvey, for instance? "We tried different things, and eventually Kevin developed a sound," recalls Richardson. "He definitely seems to like the old Otis Redding-type stuff – that comes from Damon. Damon's a big Otis Redding fan." For Kevin's scenes, Richardson and her team searched for "authentic oldies," it was in one such independently-owned catalog that Richardson discovered "The Girl From King Marie" by Jody Reynolds, the song Kevin listens to during his run in "The Garveys at Their Best."
"We thought that song was weird," Richardson admits, "We were careful that everything we put into the show was super authentic and cool. Originally, we pitched that song for a cheaper, background spot. David Eisenberg loved it and put it in."
For Jill, Richardson opted for something more modern. In "Solace for Tired Feet," you hear her listening to "Moaning Lisa Smile" by Wolf Alice. "It was scripted as The Pixies," says Richardson. "Damon wrote that, thinking Jill's that cool that she'd be an expert on music and digging into the past. Ultimately, we just decided that she liked new music so this was floating her way."
Below, Richardson speaks to some of her other favorite songs from the series.
- "I was really excited about some of the music in the party in the pilot, especially "Stripe Rhythm" by Two Fingers.
- "The James Blake song [featured in the pilot] was legendary. Damon was really interested in continuing that sound through the series. We did some of that, but the selections ended up being more deep, vintage stuff."
- "There's an instrumental piece in the pilot called 'Sweet Love for Planet Earth' by the F**k Buttons that just works amazing."
- Richardson points to two songs over the credits that she was "insanely in love with." "I Must See Jesus For Myself" by Little Greenwood, which capped off "The B.J. and the A.C." as well as "All My Trials," by Odetta which plays at the end of "Cairo."