VERSED: The ASCAP Podcast / Ep. 3 - Nicholas Britell
December 19, 2019
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Nicholas Britell is the Academy Award-nominated composer whose music has graced such films as If Beale Street Could Talk and Best Picture Oscar winners Moonlight and 12 Years a Slave, as well as Vice, The Big Short and others. He recently won an Emmy for his theme to HBO’s critically-acclaimed series Succession and his music can be heard in the new Netflix film The King. He opens up about his educational and professional development, working with some of today’s most provocative film directors such as Barry Jenkins, Adam McKay and Steve McQueen, and what success means - and sounds like - to him. ALSO: ASCAP VP of Membership Nicole George-Middleton discusses ASCAP’s support for women in music and offers some “Sound Advice” on the importance of working out songwriting splits early in the creative process with your co-writers.
EP. 3 FEATURED INTERVIEW: NICHOLAS BRITELL
Academy Award-nominated composer and pianist Nicholas Britell is known for his critically acclaimed scores on feature films with close collaborators, Academy-Award winners Barry Jenkins and Adam McKay. His most recent work includes the score for Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) for which he received his second Academy Award nomination as well as a BAFTA and Critics Choice nomination, and was awarded Best Original Score by numerous critics’ groups, including LA, Boston, Chicago and Washington DC Film Critics Association, New York Film Critics Online and the Online Film Critics Association. In 2018, he also wrote the score for McKay’s Vice, starring Christian Bale, which went on to receive eight Academy Award nominations.
In 2016, Britell was responsible for the world-renowned score for Best Picture winner Moonlight, written and directed by Jenkins. Britell received his first Academy Award, Golden Globe and Critics Choice nominations for Moonlight as well as the 2016 Hollywood Music in Media Award for Best Original Score (Dramatic Feature). The year prior, he wrote the score for McKay’s much-nominated The Big Short, based on Michael Lewis’s best-selling book.
Britell’s music featured in Steve McQueen’s Best Picture winning 12 Years A Slave, for which he composed and arranged the on-camera music, including the violin performances, spiritual songs, work songs, and dances. He went on to work with McQueen on McQueen’s art installation Caribs' Leap, which featured as part of the “Master of Light – Robby Müller” retrospective at the Eye film museum in Amsterdam. Other original film score credits include Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton’s Battle of the Sexes, for which he also wrote and produced original song, “If I Dare” with singer Sara Bareilles; Natalie Portman’s A Tale of Love and Darkness; Adam Leon’s Gimme the Loot (winner of the 2012 SXSW Grand Jury Prize); Leon’s Tramps; Gary Ross’ Free State of Jones and Jack Pettibone Riccobono’s documentary The Seventh Fire.
For television, Britell scored McKay and Jesse Armstrong's critically-acclaimed HBO series Succession, for which he won the 2019 Emmy for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme as well as the 2018 Hollywood Music in Media Award for Best Original Score (TV Show/Limited Series). He recently finished the highly-anticipated second season of Succession. Upcoming projects include writing the score for Amazon’s Underground Railroad series, directed and adapted by Barry Jenkins from Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for Fiction winning novel of the same name. Britell is also working on a HBO pilot with McKay, based on Jeff Pearlman’s non-fiction book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s and Benjamin Millepied’s feature debut Carmen, a re-imagining of one of the world’s most celebrated operas.
In October 2017, Britell was awarded the “Discovery of the Year” Award at the World Soundtrack Awards in Ghent, Belgium, as well as the Distinguished Composer Award from the Middleburg Film Festival. In May 2019, Britell was awarded - with music supervisor Gabe Hilfer - the first-ever ASCAP Harmony Award celebrating outstanding collaborative achievement between composers and music supervisors.
As a lawyer by trade and a devoted music lover at heart, Nicole George-Middleton is currently taking on a role that puts all of her diverse talents and experience to use. As Senior Vice President of Membership at ASCAP, a membership association of more than 775,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers, Nicole is responsible for the oversight and daily operational management of ASCAP's Rhythm and Soul Membership department on a worldwide basis. The fact that running the Rhythm and Soul department requires both a strong business mind - knowledge of intellectual property law and the rights of music creators - as well as a personal touch - networking with ASCAP members and promoting their careers - suits Nicole’s smarts and savvy, as well as her charismatic personality, very well.