Ginny & Georgia Composer Breaks Down Season 2 Music
Composers Ben Bromfield and Lili Haydn discuss their work on Ginny & Georgia, including the second season musical Wellington.
Warning: Mild spoilers for Ginny & Georgia season 2
Netflix's "Ginny & Georgia" returns for a second season after a paradigm-shifting season finale, sure to make it difficult for its titular character to move forward. Dramatic, funny and thrilling, the second season of "Ginny & Georgia," from Sarah Lampert, looks poised to continue the successful first season. The show's tone and nuances of writing are beautifully delivered thanks to a top-notch cast led by Antonia Gentry (Ginnie Miller) and Brian Howey (Georgia Miller), who deliver with equal measure. Jokes and discussions about mental health and murder are handled with care and dexterity.
Another important aspect of Ginny & Georgia is its soundtrack, composed of Ben Bromfield and Lili Haydn. Bromfield was a jazz pianist and experienced television composer, while Haydn was a performer, record producer, songwriter and film composer. Together, they create a musical palette that perfectly complements the show's ups and downs and helps bring Ginny and Georgia's world to life. For season 2, Bromfield and Haydn even had to write a fictional musical called Wellington, which featured a lot in one episode.
Haydn and Bromfield in an interview with Screen Rant about creating The musical identity of the series, its influence on the show musical Wellington, and more.
Lili Haydn & Ben Bromfield on Ginny & Georgia Season 2
Screen Rant: Before we get into the details, I'd love to know how you worked together on this show and what your workflow and process was like.
Ben Bromfield: Lili and I had known each other because I had worked for a dear mentor and friend named Tree Adams. He played a gig, and Lili was there - she knew him - and she was invited on stage to play violin because she's such a badass. That's when we met, and we got to play together a little bit. Flash-forward a couple years, [and] My old friend Sarah Lampert, the creator of Ginny & Georgia, is making this show, and we were talking about the possibility of me being involved. She said, "You know, I really love a female voice, a female composer, to be involved in this." I called Lili and we stated meeting with them a little bit. I was fortunate enough to get to read the scripts right after the show was sold, before it was produced, and was absolutely blown away by the script for the pilot. Even from that phase, I had always wanted to use a female voice as a scoring instrument - a wordless female voice [singing] "oohs" and "ahhs", and stuff - and Lili is the queen of that. She has a beautiful voice, and as a singer and violinist, melody is her thing. And, [she's] a songwriter, so she was the perfect fit for the project. Lili Haydn: We both come from scoring a lot of projects, so I do more than play and sing, but I hadn't done a television show before. I had just done some additional composing for TV on Transparent, but mostly, I've done indie films. I was really happy to jump into TV with somebody who had spent a lot of time embracing the schedule, and Ben is just such an excellent collaborator. [He has an] amazing work ethic, and just knows how to make things happen. It's been really fun to bring our skill sets together, and it's been a really lucky chemistry, to be honest. Ben Bromfield: As far as our process goes, the first season was a little bit defined by the fact that we started working on the show right when the pandemic kicked off. [That] was very challenging, especially finding the tone of a new show, and getting into the same headspace with the creator and showrunner, Sarah and Deb. There was a lot of back and forth with us. Usually, we'll assign each cue individually for the first pass, and then we'll sort of do each other's notes, in a way. I might add synths to something that she has done, or I might write something and then send it to her and be like, "I'd love some vocals and violin on this, if you want to put your spin on it." The culmination of a lot of our music for the show ends up being in what we call a "live session" with Sarah and Deb, which is where we'll do a Zoom session with all of us, and we'll share our screen, and we'll be sending audio to them straight out of our music software. We'll sort of be pointing, and clicking, and changing things, and adding things, and sort of making little tweaks with them right there. That aspect of it is very collaborative. Lili Haydn: The fact that we're both improvisers really comes in handy. Ben Bromfield: Yeah, when you're sort of like, "Oh, yeah, let me fix that for you right now. How about this? How does this sound? Okay, you don't like that, let's try this." We're sort of pitching new ideas right in the room, and you have to be comfortable doing that, and comfortable with them.It has to be a safe space for everybody to throw out some ideas, and for them to be like, "I don't like that," which is well within their rights. They're very particular about how they want this show to sound, and really everything about it.
You go to many different places in this score. The Georgian theme is acoustic guitar, with pop, violin and vocals. How did you choose to bring all of this together?
Lili Haydn: It has to do a lot with their character backgrounds. I mean, Georgia comes from the Deep South. We wanted to use some acoustic instruments that kind of represented that, but also her badassery. She's tough; she's not going to take no for an answer. There's that, but there's also this sinister playfulness that she has, which was also really fun. That's my personal aesthetic; I love that kind of thing. I often think of this show as sort of a cross between Gilmore Girls and Dexter. I was friends with the guy who scored Dexter, and there was a nice, playful, sinister thing that was slightly classically influenced. The show is a really eclectic blend of influences, but what's so masterful about what they do is that it doesn't feel like a hodgepodge. One of the things that I feel happiest about what we've managed to achieve together is that we've managed to speak to all those influences without it feeling disassociated, [and] still having a sound of show. We do have these pop and folk elements, but also, when you get to episode eight, we scored the entire episode in the style of a musical that we wrote for the show. That is very much a Bridgerton-esque, Victorian, classically-influenced kind of language. Ben Bromfield: The only other thing I wanted to say about the eclectic sound of show is that it's a lot influenced by the creator's and showrunner's musical tastes. We were bugging them to share their Spotify playlists that they listened to while they were writing in the off-season, so we could get some ideas and start putting those through the Ginny & Georgia filter. Lili and I got together a few times and created some sort of thematic tracks that ended up being used multiple times in the season 2 score in various forms. Their actual musical taste is a lot of the pop influence, I think.
There are also many licensed songs on the show. Knowing the moments when you're likely to get into a hit song after the cue is over, is figuring out how to write your score anytime a challenge?
Lili Haydn: Whenever you have to deal with needle drops, you decide, "Am I going to dovetail into that with beats, and the same key, and elements that are inspired by that song?" Or, do you juxtapose it so that song really has impact when it comes in. That's really just a moment-by-moment kind of thing, and then you discuss that in the spotting session. Having produced a bunch of records, I kind of know what the elements are that are going into the pop songs that they're digging, so we can use all those elements at as part of our palette as well. Ben Bromfield: There are certain times in the show where we have to really go into pop music mode. Lili will basically go into a cave, and stay up all night - because she's produced records and comes from the recording industry originally - putting that spin on it. [That happens] when we really have to beat a pop song or match a really amazing pop song, because you don't always get to do that with every score cue, and you don't always need to do that. Different genres of music require different things for production. A lot of more classically-oriented score, it's more about the writing, and the players, and the recording quality, and then other types of music, it's like, just really intense production. So, if you're trying to match a pop song that has that really intense production, you have to find it in yourself to give that cue the same type of treatment.
You wrote the original song for the musical in the show. How did it get into the world of musical theater?
Lili Haydn: I loved it. Personally, I think [it's a great] blend of both of our backgrounds - Ben's musical theater and improvisational piano background, and my background as a violinist and singer-songwriter. [You take] those elements together, you shake it all up, and it turns into a musical. It really was like the chemistry of all of that really just lent itself to these complex and inspired musical theater songs that I just am over the moon about. Bem Bromfield: We had a ball with it. I'm originally a jazz pianist, but I used to joke that musical theater is following me around. Being a jazz pianist, there are certain elements that really lend themselves to accompaniment; just being able to be on your feet and move with people. I also used to work with kids' musical theater, and they skip a bar, and you've got to be right there with them. And, I was a music director at Second City, improvising musicals with people. Actors would improvise on stage, [and] we would improvise songs together. When it's time to actually write a musical, sit down and write it, I have a lot of this background to draw from. Nobody's ever asked me to do it until now, so that was really enjoyable for me - particularly the way we did the opening number. That's just peak musical theater, those big opening numbers with a bunch of characters singing over each other in counterpoint, and characters bustling across the stage, and stuff like that. It was real nice to have that homework assignment, [and] to finally get to pull in all of those past influences, and synthesize it into something that is fully that. And something that is going to be seen by so many people, and going to be such a big part of the show itself. The musical kind of underscores the episode, which is a very pivotal episode. It plays as a B plot in the episode. Lili Haydn: And also throughout the season.
Do you have to write songs that serve not only the musical, but the journey of the characters who sing them?
Lili Haydn: It was a secondary consideration, but we knew that they were going to be playing underneath pivotal character or development moments, and I love juxtapositions. We know that somebody is going to break up at some point, so [in] the love song, when you're saying "I'd throw it all the way to be totally in love," while somebody's breaking up, that tugs at your heartstrings. So, that's fun. We also had our points of reference for the direction. They mentioned Into the Woods, which is a musical that Ben had actually music directed in high school. Then, a really cool way that we produced these songs, is that when you're music directing in high school, you have to pick instruments that people actually can play. We ended up with a little bit of an unorthodox ensemble. Ben Bromfield: Because I'm an old friend of the creator, and I actually went to high school with her, and everybody writes what they know, there's a lot of references to our high school in the show. [That's] been really fun for me, and gave me this little meta-assignment: in the orchestration phase for the pit band of the musical, [I got] to draw literally from the instrumentation of the pit band I used in my high school production of Into the Woods. It's not completely unorthodox; it's, like, two violins, a cello, flute, clarinet, trumpet, French horn, and piano. You would normally not have that brass unless you had more strings, for example, [but] it's a pit band. It's not an orchestra. It's the kind of thing where the score asks for a bunch of instruments that you're just not going to have, and so you just have to figure it out. [It's] this really specific sound of high school doing Broadway.
Did you ever work with the actors on their musical performances?
Lili Haydn: That was a fun thing. We wrote the songs before they shot, so then we had to get with the cast, and produce them, and decide on keys, and tempos, and what was going to work before they actually did it. Sara Waisglass class, who plays Max, has a background in musical theater, but the other characters didn't. Working with them was an absolute delight, but it was [also] more of a learning experience. The nice thing about having made records since I was 19 is that I got to use all of my skills as a music producer, and everything I learned as an artist coming up, to give them the benefit of that experience when we were in the studio. The pep talks, the voice lessons, and just producing the sessions. We did it remotely, and that was really fun. It was almost even therapeutic to be able to go back to my younger self and say, "Yeah, you can do it!" Ben Bromfield: Lili's being a tad modest. She really took these actors under her wing. There was one in particular [that was] transformative. You heard them sing at the beginning, and then you heard the way it ended up, and it's [amazing]. Lili really mentored this person, and it made a huge difference. Everybody was absolutely floored with what we got in the end, and we're all very, very, very thrilled and very proud of all the actors and singers. They were fantastic to work with.
You mentioned Into the Woods, but have you seen any other musicals in your life? When you write songs for the show's musical, mind?
Lili Haydn: West Side Story for me. "A Boy Like That" was definitely a point of reference. And I love Danny Elfman, and I thought Nightmare Before Christmas would be a really good thing to reference in terms of the arrangements, and the way we put things together, especially for the duet. Ben Bromfield: Right after the meeting where we first talked about [the musical], before any music was written, I had to stain a door. I did some housework, and I did like a deep, deep musical theater dive. [It was] hours and hours of just letting YouTube play one after the next, and [I] got this broad swath of musicals that were more about that older sort of genre - Victorian, maybe medieval. I remember it got into Something Rotten at one point, which is a show that I had not heard of, and have not seen. [Now,] I would love to; there is a hysterical opening number to that show. And Into The Woods is not only a musical I music directed, it's also my favorite musical. I can go back to it at various points in my life, and it just hits me differently and always just completely destroys me. Certain songs in it [really resonate], and then there's just the sheer craft of things like "The Witch's Rap" in the opening. For the villain song in the musical within Ginny & Georgia, which is titled Wellington, Bernadette Peters doing the witch in Into the Woods is very clear inspiration. Lili has a great story about how that song came to be. Lili Haydn: They requested a villain song - the evil old witch and the ingénue - but I wasn't sure where a witch fits into the Jane Austen vibe, or Bridgerton. Somehow, I remembered what my grandmother's evil older sister's last words to me were. She leaned in with her shaky hand and she said, "Marriage is a dungeon." And I thought, "That's our song." So, I threw in a bunch of the negative thinking and insults people have given me over the years, and came up with this kind of Kurt Vile-type approach. Ben and I just threw it together, and it just magically turned into this really fun song, "Marriage is a Dungeon." The inspiration was definitely Into the Woods, Bernadette Peters, but it was also my grandmother's evil older sister. I made sure that like when she (the actress, Sara Waisglass) was doing it, she would shake her finger, and she had the gravel on "marriage is a dungeon!" We're thrilled.
About Ginny & Georgia Season 2
How do you live knowing your mother is a murderer? That's what Ginny has to figure out. Armed with the new realization that her stepfather Kenny did not die of natural causes, Ginny must now face the fact that not only did Georgia kill, but she killed to protect Ginny. Georgia, on the other hand, would rather the past be the past since she still has a wedding to plan! But the interesting thing about Georgia's past is that it's never buried for long...
Check out our other Ginny and Georgia Season 2 interviews here:
Next: Ginny and Georgia: The Show Properly Represents LGBTQ+ 7 Ways^Ginny and Georgia Season 2 premieres January 5 on Netflix.