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Nashville Expands Music Offerings to Movies, Video Games


In this Oct. 21, 2019, photo, conductor David Shipps, front left, directs the orchestra during the recording of a video game soundtrack in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Nashville Expands Music Offerings to Movies, Video Games
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Nashville, Tennessee is already known to many Americans as Music City. It is famous for country music in the United States and is home to many recording companies.

But recently, music recorded for video games, television shows and movies could earn Nashville a new name: Soundtrack City.

The city is known for very good studio musicians. They work mostly on recordings rather than live performances. Musicians in Nashville have helped to make the soundtracks for some of the most popular video games in the U.S. These include “Madden,” “FIFA,” “Call of Duty” and “Star Wars.”

Also, more production companies have been bringing their film and TV soundtrack recordings to Nashville, including Netflix, Showtime, Sony and Focus Features. A program the state of Tennessee established last year gives financial support to companies for doing business in the city.

“Nashville has become one of the two or three major places to record in the world for film, game and television,” Steve Schnur told the Associated Press. He is president of music for Electronic Arts, or EA, the video game company.

In the past, Schnur worked for MTV and music production companies such as Arista. He also worked as a music supervisor on films before joining EA.

“I’ve been preaching Nashville for…some time and initially it was met with a little cynicism,” he said. “Nashville? Don’t they make country records there?”

In this Oct. 21, 2019, photo, Nick Spezia works in the control room during the recording of a video game soundtrack in Nashville, Tenn.
In this Oct. 21, 2019, photo, Nick Spezia works in the control room during the recording of a video game soundtrack in Nashville, Tenn.


For a long time, EA recorded soundtracks for their games with orchestras, or large groups of musicians, in Los Angeles, London and Eastern Europe. That changed about seven years ago when Schnur came to Nashville to record music for a game called “Dragon Age Inquisition.”

“It was like the world’s greatest band,” Schnur said of the 60-member orchestra gathered for the recording. “It really supported what Nashville is: a collaborative place.”

Nashville musicians were both fast and skilled, he added. This proved true even on complex songs written by well-known composers such as Hans Zimmer, Lorne Balfe, Jeff Russo and John Debney.

“This is a first-take town,” said Schnur. “You go to Prague, you’re doing six or seven takes.”

Now, Schnur estimates 90 to 95 percent of EA’s soundtrack music gets recorded in Nashville, with the rest recorded in London.

The music of video games often is very important to the gameplay in creating both emotion and attachment to the storyline. Kris Bowers is the composer behind the award-winning film “Green Book.” He came to Ocean Way Nashville Recording Studios to record the soundtrack for “Madden NFL 20.”

“I think the music immediately connects you, especially when there are strong themes or these melodies that you can’t forget…You hear it and you’re immediately transported to your childhood,” Bowers said.

In this Oct. 21, 2019, photo, composer Gordy Haab, left, oversees the recording of his video game soundtrack with the help of Sam Smythe, center, in Nashville, Tenn.
In this Oct. 21, 2019, photo, composer Gordy Haab, left, oversees the recording of his video game soundtrack with the help of Sam Smythe, center, in Nashville, Tenn.


Bob Raines is executive director of the Tennessee Entertainment Commission. He noted that Tennessee has to compete with neighboring states like Georgia and Louisiana for film and TV production. And music production was what put Tennessee ahead of its competition.

Raines notes that the state has the highest concentration of musicians in the U.S. It is second in the country for concentration of sound engineers. About five years ago, Raines said they started seeing growth in the soundtrack industry, so the state started working on a program to bring in business.

In six months, they brought five new musical projects to Tennessee that likely would have gone to Eastern Europe, Raines said. The projects were with Netflix, Showtime Networks, Focus Features, Sony and EA.

“We have a legacy of music as a state…so it was easy to promote,” said Raines.

Steve Schnur said now the problem is not bringing projects to Nashville. It is finding the time and space to record them.

I’m ­Pete Musto.

Pete Musto adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

soundtrack(s) – n. the sounds and especially the music recorded for a movie

initiallyadv. happening at the beginning of something

cynicismn. beliefs that people are generally selfish and dishonest

collaborativeadj. involving or done by two or more people or groups working together to achieve or do something

composer(s) – n. a person who writes music

theme(s) – n. the main subject that is being discussed or described in a piece of writing or a movie

melodiesn. pleasing series of musical notes that form the main part of a song or piece of music

concentrationn. a large number of people in one place

legacyn. something that happened in the past or that comes from someone in the past

promotev. to make something more popular or well-known

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