“You serve the project;” A conversation with Yellowstone’s Music Supervisor

Andrea von Foerster is the music supervisor on the hit television show Yellowstone, and a number of other Taylor Sheridan projects. Through her role on Yellowstone in particular, she has played an important role in exposing people to the music of this community. Saddle Mountain Post recently spoke with the person many know as Avon.

SMP: First, tell us about the job of a music supervisor. What does it entail?

Avon: The role of the music supervisor varies from project to project but it is always about helping to create the sonic landscape of the project, to find and clear songs that fit the creative aesthetic as well as the budget, and also to cover any on-camera performances. Basically, anytime there’s anything to do with music you get into the weeds.

SMP: You’ve had an incredible career in film and television, working on projects like Air, (500) Days Of Summer, M3GAN, Welcome To Wrexham. What’s it like working with Taylor Sheridan?

Avon: I love being part of the Taylor-verse. I love working with Taylor Sheridan. I really like his writing. I like the characters. The casting is amazing. I’m really proud to be a part of the team. It’s an honor to be here and I always want to make sure we get the best of the best. My favorite thing about Taylor is that he really loves music. He goes to see live music all the time.

SMP: How do certain songs end up on the show?

Taylor and I have conversations, and we have the same tastes, which is great. Sometimes I’ll hear something and say ‘oh my god you have to hear this,’ or he’ll do the same thing. We’ll send each other videos from concerts we’re at. He just sent me a video from a Tyler Childers show. On his shows, typically I’m reading the scripts and then working with post and the editors to put things in. And then if it works well in the scene we’ll keep it, and if it doesn’t, we’ll change it.

SMP: What’s it like on Yellowstone specifically?

Avon: There’s a narrow lane of music that we use, Red Dirt country and Americana, so it’s always about finding the new people in that lane to keep it fresh. It’s fun finding newer people all the time. We very often find people who are not signed to a label, publisher, agent or manager.

SMP: That must be rewarding.

Avon: Taylor and I both love to be a part of people’s stories, and to be able to give anybody a leg up. He’s creating these amazing shows, and I always say he creates the playground that I get to put some of the toys on with him, so it’s really great to be able to see people rise, like Lainey Wilson, Zach Bryan, Whiskey Myers, Shane Smith and The Saints.

Also, newer people can be part of the show’s fabric. A new song doesn’t take you out of the moment because it’s not a song you already have your own memories tied to. You’re experiencing the show and that song in the same moment and it’s all one thing, versus a known song you already have your own experiences attached to, so in this case we get to make it our own.

SMP: You must be constantly listening to music.

Avon: I never stop. I always want to know more, and it’s fun to me. I just went to Stagecoach and met a lot of people and that was a lot of fun. We’ve used Vincent Neil Emerson before, but I’d never met him, so I got to meet him and his wife. We’ve used Charley Crockett. I just got to meet him and his fiancé. I met Charles Wesley Godwin. I got to hear Drayton Farley and his new stuff that I hadn’t heard yet.

SMP: When thinking about a needle drop, and finding the perfect song for a scene, is the trick to match the emotion of the scene?

Avon: Yeah, and a lot of it’s intuitive. A project, whether it’s a movie or a show, is a living, breathing thing. You understand the project, you serve the project, and the project is the star. It tells you what it wants. It’s about finding music with the right energy, the right tempo, the right vibe. You ask yourself things like, is it too in the way? If the scene has a lot of dialogue, the lyrics of the song can’t be too on the nose, they can’t be saying the same thing as what’s on the screen because then it takes you out of the scene. But you want to get the overall vibe of it. A lot of it is, does it feel right when you watch the song to the scene?

There’s a lot of psychology that goes into visual storytelling. How do you want people to feel in this scene? So for me, knowing your characters and knowing what they would or wouldn’t do, or how they would respond in any given emotional moment informs everything you do with music. Because if you have something that’s inauthentic to your character, people will smell a rat, and immediately they check out. They’re invested in these characters like they’re people they know, so if you do something that throws that off, you can lose your audience for that character.

SMP: You work across musical genres. With Yellowstone, what have you learned about this revival of traditional country music?

Avon: It’s a small community and everybody kind of knows everybody. Also, everyone is so nice. It’s a pleasure dealing with everybody. Most genres aren’t this tight knit. Also, I appreciate and can relate to the lack of interest in glamour. Everyone just wants to keep their heads down, do the work, and enjoy the music.

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