Thursday, April 15, 2010

Liz Phair Writes the Score for "In Plain Sight"

Liz Phair is a woman of many talents. In 1993, she garnered attention for her album, Exile in Guyville. Since then she has branched out acting, writing for magazines, and, in recent years, writing scores for TV shows. Her most recent gig is on the USA network series In Plain Sight, which airs on Wednesdays at 9:00 PM.

When we learned we’d be interviewing Liz, we turned to her Facebook fans to find out what they wanted to know. The multi-talented artist answered a few of their questions and one that we’d been dying to ask, about one of our favorite short-lived shows, Swingtown.

Q: Do you have any projects besides In Plain Sight in the works?

LIZ: I’m writing a new record and it’s interesting how scoring and writing facilitate each other. Scoring teaches me to pare down my melodic ideas and really focus on emotional shifts in music. That sort of enhances my ability to, when I write songs, put the right musical moments underneath the lyric… I think it’s actually improving my songwriting, although it complicates it in my mind.

It’s interesting… they both enhance each other.  I cannibalize, by the way, occasionally. 

Q: Could you tell us about the novel you’re writing?

LIZ:  Well, it’s so funny, it’s sitting right in front of me and I got an intervention from one of my scoring partners. I just sort of handed him like a chapter here and there and he really likes it but it’s taking me forever to finish. He literally staged an intervention. I’ll leave out the swear words but he’s like, “Just finish it. I’m so tired of hearing like, it’ll be done in eight weeks. Just finish it.” My hair is dirty, I’m in sweats, and when I’m not working on scoring I’m trying to finish this darn thing.

Q: Can you tell us anything about it?

LIZ: I don’t want to. I’m sorry.

Q: Okay, fair enough. Are you going on the road anytime soon?

LIZ:  I hope so. I really have just started to feel really like I want to get out there and play some more. I think maybe like end of summer, early fall, sounds nice to me. 

I’ve got some stuff going in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for an exhibit they’re doing on Midwestern artists and I’m actually going to send my most prized guitar, the one that was on the cover of Liz Phair. It’s like my main guitar, which is a huge sacrifice. That means it’s going to be gone for like at least a year or a year and a half. That’s a big step for me. That will be along with some handwritten lyrics and this fabulous black leather ball gown I had.

Q: We loved the show Swingtown and we were curious if there is a difference writing for a period piece like that than there is for writing for a show like In Plain Sight?

LIZ:  Well, I think it really comes down to the creators, the show creators and what they want. Of course, there is a difference. In Swingtown we definitely had some comic moments where we played up the old '70s Funkadelic, we had some fun with that. When it comes to actual character driven emotional cues I think it just depends on what sound they’re going for.

I wouldn’t say we '70s-ized most of the cues on Swingtown, I think most of the cues on Swingtown were character driven. Certain people had themes, depending on what was happening to them at that time, that’s how we tailored the cue. I think as a collective we have started to develop our own sound as well, which when they hire us we also bring to the table. For my part what I’ve noticed the most is that it’s about people; it’s about people interacting and helping you, the viewer, feel what they’re feeling. 

If there are three people in a scene, whose cue is it? Do you need to feel what Marshall is feeling in that moment? Do you need to feel what the witness is feeling? Does it switch halfway through? That is much more important than if it feels – and I think it always should be like stylized to the '70s, or if this is Albuquerque does it have to sound southwest? I think it’s much more important to have it ring true to the feelings on screen and what the characters are experiencing.

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