Led Zeppelin’s growly lion and the soprano mistress of modern bluegrass hit the ground running on “Raise the Roof,” but with a soft step, moving through the tall grass of undulating rhythm, on the flickering “Quattro (World Drifts In)" — the Calexico cover — with a gossamer-spun joint vocal that never jumps one hair above Burnett’s calming, desert-inspired vibe.
But whether derived from folk and blues classicists, more recent writers (e.g., Calexico’s Joey Burns) or as new originals (Plant and Burnett’s co-write, “High and Lonesome”), both vocalists sound keen to outdo themselves while elevating their harmonies, literal and figurative, to new heights. With that, “Raise the Roof” is all instinct, dread and memory rolled in a ball of silt, skronk, malleted drums and yawning pedal steel – a Dust Bowl Super Bowl where two talky, dynamic, nuanced vocalists exhaust and exalt each other. Maybe the terrain between them here is too familiar, its temperature mostly at a steady boil, and not enough chances get taken.
Plant kicks up his heels on the not-so-mannish boy-like “Searching for My Love,” and the giddy “Can’t Let Go.” Think of the wild spirit that guided his 1984 project, “The Honeydrippers: Volume One,” covering R&B and doo-wop classics of yore. Plant takes that inspiration and reigns it in, make it less over-the-top on these “Raise the Roof” tracks. Plant, the vocalist, may stretch out, ruminate and roam over the fatalistic lyrics of Ola Belle Reed’s salty blue “You Led Me to the Wrong,” but his real zeal and prickle comes through when put through quicker paces. His vocals here are dryer and slyer, with Krauss pulling up the righteous rocking rear.
The quickly pit-pattering rhythm of “Trouble with My Lover” propels Krauss’s cattiest croon through the cool of Plant’s boyish blue harmonies and Marc Ribot’s watery baritone guitar lines. Ribot and Bill Frisell – his fellow atmospheric jazz-bo guitarist on “Raise the Roof” – act as nature’s elements, be it the fiery Santa Ana winds of “Go Your Way,” the azure liquid of “Trouble with My Lover” or the rainstormy bossa-rockabilly of “Can’t Let Go.”
While a little less grace and a little more grit could have benefitted their second pairing, Robert Plant and Allison Krauss’ “Raise the Roof” is nice and rough in all the right places.” /> Ending with a droning desert rocker such as Brenda Burns’ “Somebody Was Watching Over Me” gives the ensemble cast a chance to sizzle, a place where “my strength was put to the test, and my weakness put to rest,” as the song goes. While Jeff Taylor’s stride piano bounces behind them (as does a burly background vocal courtesy Lucinda Williams), Plant and Krauss slither between each other’s vocal phrases – not so much like seasoned boxers in a ring, but elegant fencers wielding the weapons in recherché swordplay.
For all of its familiarity, this fresh chat – no less profound than their initial exchange, 2007’s autumnal “Raising Sand” – is a more sublimely otherworldly one, something warm and friendly, but with a celestial chill that didn’t exist during their first long talk. Here, and maybe even more so than on Plant, Krauss and producer T Bone Burnett’s first work from 14 years ago, these earthen blues, country and folk ghost tales — sung as luscious love (and hate) songs — are gifted with unearthly atmospheres, and more than a hint of premonition to go with the joy of reunion. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ “Raise the Roof” is an intense conversation between two friends who’ve sat at this table before, hashing out the blues.
innovative drum and percussion curation being one of Burnett’s calling cards. Then Burnett and percussionist Jay Bellerose grab you with a stairstep’s pulse as menacing as Krauss’ threat. On "Raising Sand," Plant and Krauss showed off their mastery over the Everly Brothers ("Gone Gone Gone”) and Allen Toussaint (“Fortune Teller”), so repeating those same tricks again here, on “The Price of Love” and “Trouble with My Lover,” respectively, is another sip from the heady brew of harmony and inventive rhythm… Rather than use the Everlys’ familiar hiccup as the melodic hook to “Price of Love,” though, Krauss and her harmony partner use a descending chord’s suppler hum to lasso the listener.
It’s a nice touch having penultimate songs such as these point to each singer’s origin story. Plant’s serpent-and-vine-will-she-still-be-mine “High and Lonesome” – filled with the whirr of a bass accordion and an hypnotic Mellotron – benefits from the same cosmopolitan jazz-folk of Mitchell’s while also managing a foot in the crusty rock of his past. Such Zep-like self-expression comes before a solo Krauss’ most traditional country ballad on the album, “Going Where the Lonely Go,” from Merle Haggard and Dean Holloway.
That she pulls Plant’s harmonies along, deep into its gently jazzy winds, must have reminded the lemon squeezer of his love of Joni Mitchell and all things “Going to California.” Gorgeous. The churning-combine tone and slapped-face percussion on Bert Jansch’s “It Don’t Bother Me” sound hauntingly like Bowie’s “Lazarus.” Riff borrowing aside, such a somber ooze as Jansch’s eerie persistence gives Krauss’ cocky vocal phrasing a place to land. Something similar occurs to ardent accompaniment of Ribot’s banjo, and Stuart Duncan’s stringed mix of fiddle, mandolin and cello on “Last Kind Words Blues.” On a song penned by 1930s blues singer Geeshie Wiley, Krauss finds the eye of that quiet storm, and keys into its jazzier phrases, while never losing sight of its folksy blue grit.

We'll see what happens. If we're going to do it again, we should just do it and get after it.” From his lips to the godly odd couple's ears. “You know, Robert’s mentioned that he wants to do this again. So maybe this one will happen in just five or seven years or something,” he laughs, then corrects himself. Can lightning strike three times? Producer Burnett, for one, eager to keep the band together this time. They're hoping to be able to go on the road, but I would love to get in (back into Sound Emporium) as soon as we can. It would be fun just to do the next one as a straight-up rockin’ record, too, so I'm lobbying for that. “No, I feel this is the time to do it.
The generational difference (he’s 73; she’s 50) is apparent only once, when asked some of their initial impressions of each other’s music before joining forces. But she’s not even thinking of the Zeppelin original; Krauss really came to love the version Plant and Jimmy Page cut in their post-Zep years as a duo, on a 1994 live album that was also titled “No Quarter.” One song of his that Krauss cites as an all-time favorite is “No Quarter.” “That was great, yeah — that was a John Paul Jones moment,” Plant says, giving credit where credit is due.
The second was that such a seemingly niche project, delicately crafted with roots-virtuoso producer T Bone Burnett, not only went platinum but was honored with six Grammys — including two of the top categories, album of the year and record of the year.
There was a brief attempt to record a second album together in the late 2000s, but the wanderlust that made Plant interested in exploring American roots pushed him into panning for global gold. I wanted to hear that thing that I have no understanding of. “I wanted to stand on the Atlas Mountains. And I wanted to do something that didn’t have a structure, particularly. Plant provides a more elaborate travelogue of the road he’s been on between sand-raising and roof-raising. We were playing around Marrakech, and I was traveling down the Moroccan coast, because I needed somebody to knock me about musically. My sister, almost.” And I don’t know whether I learned anything from it — or just ate a lot of really good food — but then Alison and I were ready to get together.” The two of them sharing a bill with Willie Nelson in 2019, and Plant enjoying hanging with Krauss’ musicologist dad and her band, reminded him: “Oh. My other family. “I wanted to go back to North Africa,” he says. I wanted to hear the Berbers singing in the fields. So that’s the way it went: some time with [his group] the Band of Joy, and then off into the desert with my British mates [his other group, the Sensational Shape Shifters].
I had to have a moment”  — of self-embarrassment, he means. "I had to wear Katharine Hamnett silk jumpsuits and ballet shoes. “I had to get a new voice," he explains. Like, say, his early solo career, as something that represented some bumpy road blocks on the path to a peaceful present. To his later chagrin, a new wardrobe was involved in that, too.
"But we're in the same room now." Replies Plant: You were doing that while I was lying under a Banyan tree somewhere in India, going, 'Wow, man, that was strong,'" he half-kids.
On the first record, she was always pushing for it to be dark and slower: ‘Intensity doesn’t have anything to do with tempo.’ And it leaves you a lot of space in the slower tempos for the darkness, you know?” But why did Krauss, seen by so many as an angel of light, want to use this teaming to emphasize the dark side? “I couldn’t hazard a guess,” Burnett chuckles, being someone who's just fine with a woman maintaining a little mystery. She’s brilliant. Says Burnett: “They very much make all the decisions between them. But I think Robert would say too … she’s a very strong woman, and we both have great respect for her.
I used to play it over and over again, saying, ‘Look, people know me out there.’ The fact that a luminary like Alison would be singing a song about my torrid love affairs … And you did the outro ad lib as well.” Plant confesses, “I couldn’t believe that anybody could take my [solo] songwriting seriously, so I was just amazed.
She replies, “My brother and I loved when that song came out on MTV. We thought it was the most incredible thing.”
Not that I created, but that spawned this thing. So many groups formed [that were] ‘coming from the land of the ice and snow,’” he says, again invoking the lyrics of the much-imitated “Immigrant Song.” “I went, geez, that was just one journey from Iceland to England, and me being a student of history and all that. Goodbye John Bonham, and it’s gone.” So many people have used that group as a sort of springboard to kill the very essence of what it was. So I tried to get the hell out of it. “I went from being quite radically impromptu and experimental — or just very fortunate to be keeping such incredibly creative company in Led Zeppelin; Page and I were playing in India with small orchestras, with the aid of George Harrison and Ravi Shankar in Bombay — to then find out, almost at the end of it all, that I was basically responsible for so much crap. “I’d become a cliché, you see,” he says. And the further I went to try to get out of it, the more people went, ‘Come back and give us some more of that!’ Which was horrible, because once it’s gone, it’s gone. And then, to look around and think: I’m responsible for so much rubbish!
19, there will be a sequel: “Raise the Roof,” again produced by Burnett, with the studio, record company and several key musicians from the first round all revisited. On this mostly covers project, they even dip back into two of the catalogs explored on “Raising Sand”: those of the Everly Brothers and Allen Toussaint. The other wildly eclectic songs range from “Can’t Let Go,” originally popularized by Lucinda Williams, to an 18-year-old song by the indie-rock group Calexico; from an under-remembered Merle Haggard classic to a nearly century-old tune by a blues singer who only ever cut six tracks and left no surviving photographs. On Nov. With drummer Jay Bellerose and guitarist Marc Ribot returning as band members, and new additions such as jazz great Bill Frisell and Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo, the album sounds warm, mystical and at times slightly foreboding, like an old friend you’re glad to see again who’s still a little mysterious. He’s about to get another shot at a surplus. In many ways, it feels like same time, next year, but 14 years later.
Plant, of course, knew of Krauss’ prowess as a renowned fiddler who’d gone multiplatinum crossing over into pop in the ’90s. “But when I heard her singing ‘Big Log,’ I was so flattered. But the track he brings up is Alison and her brother Viktor’s 2004 version of his 1983 modest solo hit “Big Log.” “Alison’s bluegrass world is tantalizing and really beautiful,” he says. It was on your brother’s record, wasn’t it?”
badly. He knew he had to move on when Zeppelin broke up circa 1980, but which path yet untaken remained a question mark; he courted MTV while trying not to sound anything like what he’d left behind, as others swept in to fill that hard-rock void … For Plant, “Raising the Roof” is the latest soul-satisfying chapter in a career reclamation that he says began around 1992.
We couldn't do anything but sit there and work on harmony — me and however many tens of thousands of bluegrass people all sat around and dreamed about the past and felt like they lived in the wrong era." We weren't cool. Harmony singing "is all we did, you know. We didn't go to prom. Krauss tries to almost apologetically explain why she's so gifted at harmony: because of the strict regiments of the genre that brought her to the dance.
Plant finally found his new voice, in Marrakech and other far-flung climes … but also in Austin and Nashville. Country was not part of his upbringing like the blues was, but it’s filtered into his music over time, most especially so in this bifurcated collaboration with Krauss, whom he counts as a primary teacher catching him up on the vast library of Americana he missed out on back in the day.
“You can have it shipped,” she offers.
“I just hope people hear it. But,” he concludes more brightly, “I’m sure that if they hear this, they’ll realize that there’s people still alive in it, that we’re still alive inside the vinyl, chirping away like a couple of little bluebirds.”” /> These days you find out that people you know very well have made records that you didn’t know about. The game has changed so much. “Who would say that it makes any difference whether it sticks or not, so long as we get it the way we want it?” he says.
While he figures out the details of his return transport — and while they ponder whether a tour can safely be mounted in the lingering COVID climate — Plant isn’t worried about earning armloads of Grammys again with “Raise the Roof.” He’s frankly anxious about the word getting out at all.
Krauss puts it in less hygienic terms. And so I think why this really works and sounds so different is because he doesn't change who he is. And that's part of why that's so magical, because he's always on the edge, and it's a beautiful thing. “ Her challenge, she feels, is to take her formality and “match what he's doing in that spontaneity.” If someone's going to play a teeny little thing different in the studio, he's going to sing it differently. Plant "is so free with everything that he sings. And I don't change who I am. I've come from a school of very regimented singing, because if there was a (harmonizing bluegrass) trio, someone's going to get mad at you if you switch it up; that trio wants consistency.
“The captain can sit on it while he’s sailing it across! “Yeah, just like that,” Plant decides. ‘Head east!’”
And yet, Plant says, “I team up with a remarkable young lady, and people just keep throwing them at me. “I’d never seen a Grammy before!” he exclaims as he recalls the trophies he and Krauss piled up (one for a single in 2008, then a five-Grammy sweep in 2009). I don’t know why I didn’t stick around a bit longer, actually. So I thought that was really quite cute. How about that?” Led Zeppelin fans can insert a bitter laugh here: The group received a nod for best new artist in 1970 and then, infamously, didn’t get another until 2014, 35 years after Zeppelin’s breakup, when they won their first non-honorary Grammy, for a live album. “It’s true. I could have had loads now — could’ve been giving them to family members.”
“Yes, I’ve seen pictures of you,” he says. Plant laughs. I needed some strength around me, and I didn’t have it. “But how do you think I feel? I could sing, I could write, but I was almost writing for somebody I didn’t know … called me.” I just wanted to get the hell out of there. I wore paisley jumpers on ‘Top of the Pops’! I was young enough to actually make a break for it, to see if I could get past the perimeter fence, but I kept falling into the quagmire more and more.
(“I always think Alison really is the leader of this outfit,” Burnett says in a separate interview.) More coffee and she’d be off.” Krauss provides a nearly nonstop laugh track during some of her musical partner’s digressions — and occasionally shoots a look to a visitor that says, can you believe this guy? Plant proves more the hilarious raconteur of the two in the next hour-plus, although, he promises: “If you think I’m nuts, you wait until she kicks in. No assumptions should be made about who’s more alpha in this pack. — but in the breaks between the comedy, she can cut to the quick with a precise statement that says in 150 words what Plant might get around to in an eloquently footnoted, highly entertaining thousand.
“And who would believe our familiarity with each other now?” Plant finishes, adding (in a joking reference to one of his iconic, and often parodied, Zeppelin lyrics), “You must’ve thought, ‘Who is this Martian who came from the land of the ice and snow?’”
Krauss and Plant clearly have much not in common, but one attribute they share may help to explain why the idiosyncratic “Raising Sand” became a phenomenon — and, equally, why there was absolutely no hurry to capitalize on it with a follow-up: Neither performer feels much compulsion to stick with what brought ’em to the dance. Both already have thick skins, so resisting pressure for a “Raising Sand 2’” until real inspiration slowly returned was kind of a cinch. They’ve both dealt with audiences who felt betrayed by the artists’ career choices — Krauss, when she moved on from string-band music into sophisticated, and fiddle-free, pop balladry (although you can still hear her bust out the bluegrass on tour with her band Union Station); Plant as a man disinclined to look back, particularly when it comes to any talk of a Zeppelin reunion beyond their one-off in 2007.
Krauss laughs, then inquires seriously: "How is it wrong?"
"I recognize some of the sentiment of it, but … I was there, and to see a group of people try to bring some perspective to it now is very odd. "I just don't know," he says, amid some long pauses. I'm not sure it's not just too vast to be solarized and polarized like that." It's clear he'd rather be talking about something else. Clearly, Plant can wax quite eloquent when his old band arises in the course of conversation, but the documentary about the group that premiered at film festivals this fall, "Becoming Led Zeppelin," is the one subject brought up that leaves him at a loss for words.
• • •
It's just that one was north of Mississippi and one was in Mississippi." And he is the same way. Says Krauss, "I come from the Carter family and Jimmie Rogers and that blue-collar music that I love so much that then found its way into bluegrass. It's like the same things.
I'm quite frightened of it all, to be honest." "Because you say, 'Well, yeah, that's very nice, you know, Robert — but perhaps you want to do this.' And then she gives me some kind of upside-down bit of vocal, and I go, 'Ah, I can't even imagine how that works against that absolutely pure, magnificent, feminine, Alison Krauss voice. Because I want to do things where I'm not really properly equipped for it. She teaches me a lot, which is great. I've got to jump through a hoop, get over a fence, come back round and stand on my head. I make a hash of it, but somebody can mop it up.
He pauses and lets out a long sigh. “We didn’t have Cracker Barrel.”
If you’re Krauss, who long held the mark for most Grammys by a female artist (her 27 were finally surpassed this year when Beyoncé moved up to 28), that kind of statuary accumulation is just another day at the office. But if you’re Plant, well …
So the first big surprise about “Raising Sand” — the 2007 collaborative effort by the erstwhile Led Zeppelin frontman and the bluegrass-turned-pop singer and violinist — was that it got made at all. It was supposed to be a lark, the joint album by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, and certainly not a cash-in or an awards play.
“She’s much more rehearsed and he’s more improvisational; she’s much more clean and he’s dirty.” “She’s much more pristine, so I think her goal is to get it to a certain level of excellence that you don’t really aspire to in the blues. And Robert is the other way: He’s loose like the blues,” Burnett says.
“We tried to match your phrasing exactly,” Krauss recalls.
“It makes it more exotic, especially now. And this journey to get to this point, in this room, was a long one. So to maintain inspiration and have some idea of an endgame has been very odd.” “I think you’re right, yeah,” says Plant, agreeing that the wait was hardly as interminable for them as it was for fans (or, probably, the record company). Not the 14 years or whatever it is [since ‘Raising Sand’]; you should do it again when you know that all your ducks are in the right row. … As with so many artists, and so many of us no matter what walk of life we tread, it’s a hell of a game.
Burnett has some ideas about how the pair’s complementary qualities work. “Raising the Roof,” its celebrative title notwithstanding, does go dark, especially when the two are, say, turning the Everly Brothers’ “The Price of Love” into the dreamier warning shot about the dangers of romance that it always threatened to be.
Krauss adds: “Through the years we were always sending songs back and forth, saying, ‘Oh, this would be a good one.’ … [But] I try not to do anything that I don’t feel inspired to do — to stay away from anything contrived. And sometimes that’s years and years and years between records.” (She doesn’t mean just Plant-Krauss albums; she’s released only two of her own in the past 15 years.) “I just want to do it at the right time, or things don’t last for you and don’t keep growing in your mind.”
• • •
Which raises the question: Why did it take Plant and Krauss 14 years of being besieged with pleas for a follow-up to come through with one? “But it’s a stock question, and it doesn’t exist in my world.” Endeavors will be made to get an answer nonetheless. “The question you ask is one that everybody asks,” Plant says, batting away its inevitability.
Even I had a moment,” says Krauss, possibly remembering some bad hair days in her 35-year career. “Everyone had to have a moment.
But we didn't have that great thing of Charlie Rich when he came into his own after the rockabilly time, or George Jones doing the most incredible singing…" It was either that or some schmooze, sugarcoated, hardly palatable music. Radio has always been just a little bit left of diabolical in the U.K., so it was considered rather deprecating to actually even consider country music as an idiom. Nothing really registered outside of a New Musical Express top 20, because radio was waiting to pass over this whole rock ‘n’ roll, country-and-Western, rockabilly thing: 'It'll be gone soon and we can get back to Dickie Valentine and Jack Jones.' As art-college kids, doing the whole Bohemian/beatnik thing, we lent towards this exotic Delta music. Two German promoters brought Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and people like that all around Europe, and they were greeted with hushed tones and venerated beyond all belief. Explains Plant: "In England, we never really got a fair expose of the beautiful music that Alison's made me aware of. That was our childhood.
I mean, I know how I can hear myself singing underneath, alongside, behind, to the left of what Allison's doing. "Because it's setting me a task for which I'm not very well equipped. But invariably, it's wrong." "When she takes the lead, I tremble," Plant says, as counterpoint.
I’ve just got to take apart one of those rocking chairs" — the ones spread across Cracker Barrel's front porches nationwide — "and put it in my suitcase.” This comment sends Krauss into hysterics, as Plant exults, “But I do now!
Krauss, meanwhile, has grabbed a cup of what she says is remarkably delicious studio coffee and curls up in her gray sweater in a chair in the library-like green room, as if warming herself after coming in from the cold. Not for the first or last time, they’re both right. Plant, longish-haired and trim, has come into the studio in a plain T-shirt. These two contemporary music legends are as much opposites in what they’re wearing today as they are in their sing¬ing styles. Which one of them is appropriately dressed for the weather? On this hot Nashville day, Plant and Krauss are settled in the lounge of Sound Emporium, opened by Sun Records cohort Cowboy Jack Clement in a residential neighborhood in 1969, a year after Led Zeppelin was founded and two years before Krauss was born. Krauss, being a local, may just be aware of the high likelihood that any room in the South this time of year could be overly air-conditioned. Plant, having just jetted in from a considerably cooler Worcester, England, is ready to bask in the humidity (with a trip to the city’s favorite record store, Grimey’s, in the cards for the afternoon).

Zeppelin is not the only musical act popping up more than once. Ward and the Acid also recur. Did you just like those artists and songs, or were there deeper thematic ties? M.
On that one, we worked with the label and publisher for about a year and half. And then I lost the f—ing track. The whole concept of stairs in “Café de Flore” comes from “Stairway to Heaven,” because she is buying her stairway to heaven. I was destroyed!… Because Vanessa Paradis’ character is living in the highest part of Paris, where you have to climb stairs all the time; she's a poor Parisian with a Down Syndrome kid, and every day she brings him to a special school on the Left Bank, and the class is on the third floor where she has to climb more stairs. I wasn’t pissed — I was devastated. I grew up with this f—ing song and it gave me wings to fly and to imagine and to come up with this story, and they refuse? That song belonged to me, too! I go, why would a fellow artist do this to another fellow artist that uses his work to inspire? It's just sharing, and it's using art to try to tell stories that can touch the heart. I wanted to quit. I was like: How could they? Them we harassed Robert Plant when he came to Montréal, and he said no to our faces, live — with no explanation. I had written “Café de Flore” with “Stairway to Heaven” in mind. Anyway…
There is solo piano and some more traditional music on the soundtrack, too.
Did you grow up as a fan? Why go all-in with Zeppelin on this project?
— she's not a music person, but she's going to travel with an iPhone that belongs to someone else who is. Camille is learning to discover this other person through music. Then I went, that’s it! I thought that was a beautiful device, and that she would play music alone as she is investigating, trying to heal. And I gave this kid an eclectic musical taste. I have two sons, and at 16 they were into Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, David Bowie and a lot of British rock. So it travels from generation to generation. And that person is the 16-year-old kid from the rehab center, Alice (Sydney Sweeney). Just before I started to shoot, I was trying to figure out Camille’s music library, and I couldn't. It made total sense for this kid to be a Zeppelin fan, just like my kids.
Alan (Henry Czerny) is a rich audiophile with an amazing sound system, and I loved giving him this old-school Hollywood romantic score, whether it's French and coming from Michel Legrand (“Les Moulins De Mon Coeur”) or coming from “A Place in the Sun,” the George Stevens film. Well, at one point that was in the series, with Alan playing the (“Place in the Sun”) track, but I took it out of the series because I wanted to use it in the main title sequence instead [which differs from episode to episode].
Going into “Sharp Objects,” having that Zeppelin-related trauma in your past, were you thinking, what if we get to the end only to have Robert Plant say no again?
Ward and Hurray for the Riff Raff — amid a soundtrack that includes everything from LCD Soundsystem and the War on Drugs to Perry Como and Engelbert Humperdinck. Vallée also spoke about some of his other recurring music choices — including the electronic music quartet the Acid, and the roots-based indie rockers M.
Page and Plant may not be the types to send effusive telegrams. Have you hear anything from them about your use of their music since the show premiered?
There was something beautiful and simple about this guitar, the voice and what he says [in “There’s a Key”]: “So I'm losing my marbles, one marble at a time, it's true,” and “I’m conquering an ocean, one wave at a time.” Through Alice, Camille relates to this intelligence of connecting to poetic lyrics, and to Hurray for the Riff Raff’s lyrics, too [in “Small Town Heroes,” which describes a single female protagonist with "a no-good mom" and a drug problem who "wanted love… but she just couldn't get enough"]. Sometimes I pick a song for the lyrics. That came from giving Alice a very wide musical taste. The Acid was for the vibe and the electronic, modern thing, and the dangerous, mysterious core quality of one of their tracks, “Tumbling Lights,” that became a recurrent theme from episode 1 till the end. Ward. That was the case with M.
We ad-libbed this beautiful moment and said, “Why don't you (Scanlen) play ’Dear Mama’ and go to your mother and hug her and dance with her?” It's using the lyrics to tell your mom that you love her – and in this context, it’s pretty crazy, since she’s being physically, mentally and emotionally abused by her mother. Amma is talking to herself, using music in a similar way to Camille, but in her own fashion. But there is unconditional love from children to their parents even in abused situations. Since this mother relationship is so singular and powerful, in a sharp and dangerous way, it made sense to see this young girl, Amma (Eliza Scanlen), connecting to these songs, more than Camille. We soon found about a hundred of them. And it wasn't written. At one point I asked Sue [Jacobs, music supervisor] to hear every single song that has the word "mother’ or "mama." I knew “I Love You Mama” from Snoop Dogg and “Dear Mama” from 2Pac and “Motherless Children” (heard via the Steve Miller Band’s rendition).
The HBO series “Sharp Objects” benefits from one hell of a blunt object: the hammer of the gods that is Led Zeppelin, whose music recurs throughout all eight episodes. Getting a four-fer from Robert Plant and Jimmy Page was especially sweet after he was denied even one song for an earlier film, as he relates in an interview with Variety. Director Jean-Marc Vallée (“Big Little Lies,” “Wild”) scored a coup by licensing four Zeppelin tracks for the Amy Adams-led mystery tale, which he considered an essential component, even though “Led Zeppelin II” played zero part of Gillian Flynn’s source novel.
I tried with “Café de Flore” and it didn't work out for the rights, and I was wondering when there would be another good opportunity. I did, and I have always been trying to do something with Zeppelin, since it's been so much part of my life, and because I'm always trying to put music in the center of the lives of the characters. When Amy invited me to do this with her, the more I read the book, I went, “Oh my God, I think if we can make ‘Sharp Objects’ and make it from beginning to end a Zeppelin sound, this will be it.” Because of the character, Camille.
Is that why Zeppelin made a good fit? Camille is out of control in some ways.
That maybe doesn’t require much explaining, since Patricia Clarkson’s character looms over everything. You have a lot of “mother” songs in the series, too.
She doesn't take care of herself. With Camille, you don’t know how old she is, but let's say she's mid-thirties, and she’s a journalist, an intellectual. There’s something sexy about the tracks that we chose, in the slowness of “What Is and What Should Never Be” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby.” And when it explodes and makes a lot of noise; this is the nature of rock and roll, to make it loud and tell the establishment and your parents, “F— off, I'm doing it my own way.’ That suited Camille pretty well. With Zeppelin, there was something that fit both characters. She has a rock and roll attitude. She's doing it her own way, not only with the scars and how she harms herself, but the way she lives and works, and she’s single.
It’s been reported that you tried to get “Stairway to Heaven” for “Café de Flore” and Jimmy Page said yes but Robert Plant said no. What happened there?
When all eight episodes will be out, I’ll see if Sue will call the publisher and the label, or see if we heard from them first. They’re tough to read. We invited them to the premiere, but Plant was touring and the two others weren’t in the States. Not yet. I’m curious.” />
One of the big reveals comes when Camille, in an episode 3 flashback, discovers the band sharing earbuds with a fellow patient in rehab…
We went for four tracks, and we sold the idea to them that they will be the sound of this series, so of course that was something special and different. Well, we made sure that it wasn’t the end. I was ready to go to another rock band if Zeppelin wouldn't work. I didn't do that with “Café de Flore,” but I should have. And there's beauty in the darkness of the story, because Camille is a beautiful soul who just doesn't know how to love. But I was hoping that it would, because it was perfect for this dark story. So we had the news pretty soon in the process, but I had a back-up plan. … We sent the script and very specific descriptions of how we're using their music, and the in-scape element coming from Alice. And it worked.
That may be a spoiler. Exactly, and that's why “In the Evening” is there. For the Zeppelin fans it may be a torture, or at least a tease, not to hear more of “In the Evening,” but I wanted to save some of it for the last episode. And it's like it was meant to be in a film and be score music — almost a horror or suspense film score.
There’s an ingenuity to the character picking up these tastes from someone else, because sometimes it feels like every leading character in a film or TV series just happens to have the same super-cool tastes that a music supervisor would have.
In “Café de Flore,” I was following a DJ. But “Sharp Objects” was trickier. Normally in prep, I find the tracks and I give them to the actors and I go, this is what you'll play throughout, and I play music on the set. It's easy when the main character is the one. I mean, I always try to aim for the main character, but it happened also with Jake Gyllenhaal’s character in “Demolition." He wasn’t a music person, but his wife was, and a kid that he meets was, also. It was just at the last minute that it happened with Alice and Camille. But in “Wild,” (the Reese Witherspoon/Cheryl Strayed character) was music-oriented, so that was an easy one. Exactly.
Zeppelin was loud and brash and rebellious and over-the-top, but also with an inherent sense of mystery — and this is a mystery show…
That's the song Alice uses to introduce Camille to how she does an in-scape — she escapes, but within, with music; that's how she gets out of the rehab center. And then “Thank You” is such a beautiful, almost epic song. She's showing Camille how to use music, when Camille will use later on to do some in-scape, too. When this 16-year-old girl plays that to her new roommate, using her fingers to close her eyes, there's something romantic about the way we used the music, almost like they're having an affair, although we’ll discover that they're not and it's not about that at all. It’s about connecting to music, and how you use music in your life to heal or to love.