We love it when we meet fans of our shows and soundtracks IRL. We met MTV/Soundtrack superfan, Jessie Morris, at a Years & Years show in NYC and became instant bffs. She’s often making & listening to playlists or making O.C. (the tv show) references, which we love. You can find her on a balanced junk food diet dishing delicious indie, pop and electronic music discoveries since 2011 over at MostlyJunkFood.com. She’s also on Twitter @jessielmorris.
Bringing Music To The Real World: An Interview with Music Supervisor Colleen Curlin
by Jessie Morris
“You can’t hear that song and not think of that moment.”
As a music lover and a soundtrack obsessor ever since Alexandra Patsavas welcomed me to The O.C. (bitch!) with Phantom Planet, Rooney and Death Cab For Cutie, my affection for music and TV transformed into an interchangeable passion. As the pinnacle of reality TV, The Real World holds a permanent position in the realm of pop culture. As a fan, I watched Amaya fall in love with Colin on Real World: Hawaii and every season since with the show carrying an enduring memory threaded throughout the entirety of my own growing up.
MTV’s programming extends deeper into the reality genre it gave birth to back in 1992 and the network has found new ways to showcase music talent. MTV’s integration of music and TV provides new meaning to the network’s acronym. What was once the Music Television network could more appropriately be called the Music AND Television network as it continues to connect the two spheres across all of its programming.That connection is even more evident in this season of Real World: Skeletons. From being one of the first to place several of MTV Artist To Watch Ryn Weaver’s songs from her debut EP Promises to the instant gratification of listing the artist and song at the bottom of the screen as it plays, this season of Real World: Skeletons provided a more exciting music platform than ever before.
I caught up with the season’s music supervisor Colleen Curlin to talk Real World, Ryn Weaver, romance and more:
JESSIE: Why did you get into music supervision?
COLLEEN: That’s a great question! I grew up loving soundtracks. I was always finding the soundtracks for the movies that I loved. When I was much, much older, I realized it was a job and that somebody was responsible for picking the songs specifically for the movies. So, I was at a label for a while before getting the opportunity to work at Bunim-Murray and work in music supervision. I’ve been here for about three years now.
J: How has it changed the way you listen to music?
C: Completely. And it changed the way I watch television and film. I definitely feel like I am a little more critical, but I also feel that I’m a lot more inspired by the choices that supervisors and directors are making to put in their films to make it sound different and elevate the picture to really tell a story in a different way.
J: Are there any favorite shows, movies or music moments you have?
C: A ton! Most recently, I really liked the Guardians Of The Galaxy Soundtrack. I read a story that the director himself actually wrote the songs into the script so it was a very integrated music moment which was very cool. I LOVE the Empire Records Soundtrack probably the most.
J: SO CLASSIC. (REMINDER: Damn the man, save the empire and the date because Rex Manning Day is April 8th).
C: And as far as specific movie moments…I’ll always sort of love the Lou Reed “Perfect Day” moment in Trainspotting. It’s kind of dark, but it sticks out in my head as something that wasn’t the most traditional choice. You can’t hear that song and not think of that moment.
J: How long have you been working on MTV shows and specifically, how long have you been working on The Real World?
C: This is my second season. I did last season with Real World: Explosion and then this season with Real World: Skeletons. So it’s been probably just over a year. But it was very exciting to work on a new sort of format with the new twists that are being added in. And we sort of helped formulate the way the show was going to look and sound as it’s been a little different. Not just because of the twists but with new elements like breaking the fourth wall, using a lot less music and some new transitions. So that has all been really fun to be a part of that.
J: I love how MTV broke the fourth wall! I love every time we get to see the camera guys because it just feels even more like we’re there.
C: Totally, yes! It’s definitely makes it more fun for the editors because we’re not cutting around them so much. But, there’s so much reality TV now that I think it’s kind of cheeky and fun to show the whole process behind [The Real World], especially for the audience in giving context to what the cast is going through as their living their lives under this microscope.
J: How do you usually discover new music? Do you have a favorite way?
C: I am on the internet all day, every day like many people these days! I get sent a lot of music. I’m really fortunate that a lot of people either have my email or share my email and I get sent a lot of music that way. I listen to the radio – which I know isn’t really discovering new music – but it helps me find artists that I wouldn’t normally listen to for my own personal listening that might work well for The Real World or other MTV shows. I don’t have a favorite blog per se, but I do listen to TheNewPacific.com’s playlist every week and I find a lot of new stuff there that always takes me down wormholes on the internet. And some I get from recommendations. That’s the best part of working in this industry: you’re friends with people who love music just as much you do and everyone is always sharing what they just found which is always exciting.
J: What catches your attention when you receive a new submission?
C: It’s kind of overall feeling. It needs to sort of match the sound of the show. Lyrically, I like to listen for things that might hit any of the scenes. Like with Skeletons, we were dealing a lot with people’s pasts and secrets and confronting demons. So, I listened for those themes and then I also listened for the sound of the song. What I really liked about the Ryn Weaver placements that we did this season is that her music sounds happy but if you listen to the lyrics, she’s singing about heartbreak. So it’s a nice mix because we can score a scene with a song you wouldn’t normally think fits, but lyrically it matches and takes the scene in a new direction that will make you feel something different than you normally would.
J: TV and Film have always had a relationship with music and enabled people to discover new music in new ways. MTV takes music discovery one step further by instantaneously listing the artist and song in a show at the bottom of the screen as it plays. How important do you feel it is for the artists that MTV make that information so accessible?
C: I think it’s huge. I think it’s a really great opportunity for fans to build their story. Especially for some of the younger artists that we’re working with; it all sort of helps with everything that they’re doing with online, radio and touring. It’s such a big marketplace out there that really anything we can do to add to their story — especially on a show that people are watching and really into. It gives you that information immediately and then MTV links the audience directly to their artist page where the listener can find out more about the band or more music. It really provides instant access to learn more and discover something themselves for when they turn around and go to school or go to their friends and say “Hey, did you hear Ryn Weaver on The Real World last night? The song was really cool! You should check it out.” From there, it just starts to spread like wildfire which is the name of the game when you’re launching your career as a musician.
J: Completely! Going deeper into the topic, how did you go about choosing Ryn Weaver as the featured artist for this season of The Real World?
C: This is the first time I’ve done something like this where we used multiple songs by the same artist to use for music across a whole story arc like we did this season with Tony and Madison, our two lovebird characters of the season. They went through a lot of highs and lows over the course of the season so it was perfect music for the story. I had heard “OctaHate” when it first came out and immediately thought it was going to be a big hit. And when I heard the rest of the [Promises] EP, it was great and it was fresh. I knew people at Interscope [Records] and I knew they were really excited about her so it was pretty perfect timing with when the show was airing and when she was going to be started to tour and promote the EP. I really like to work with marketing that’s already in place for an artist because that is a positive thing for everyone. So a combination of those factors made her a perfect fit. We were one of the first to use “OctaHate” which was extremely exciting and she’s onto a huge spring plane as she heads into SXSW and Coachella. So it’s all contributing to that overall story and worked really well.
J: You have featured Ryn Weaver throughout this Real World: Skeletons season. Specifically, you’ve intertwined her songs as an integral soundtrack to Madison and Tony’s turbulent romance. Do you think that kind of consistency is important to this season’s storytelling?
C: I think it is. I don’t think you have to use the same artist or the same music or even the same genre to tell a story. I think what’s exciting about The Real World is we use a lot of different genres throughout. The show definitely has an overall sound, but it’s exciting for us to use artists from different worlds to create this story. I did like the use of Ryn Weaver’s music to tell the Tony, Madison story because it gave us an opportunity to use her music to tell this one story completely start to finish. It’s really kind of Tony’s story to be honest because we used it when [Tony and Madison] first hooked up and when he said bye to his [second skeleton and ex-girlfriend] Alyssa which opens up his heart to Madison. Then when Madison gave him the ultimatum, it was really Tony coming around to make a commitment to her. So I loved being able to use Ryn’s music to tell that story all the way through. It provided a really nice thread with her voice and her music and added something special to the story.
J: My favorite music moment this season was seeing Madison stand up to Tony and declare that she was putting herself first during their talk on the patio soundtracked to Ryn Weaver’s “Stay Low.” What was your favorite music and can you tell me a little bit about why?
C: I really like that moment as well! Another one of my favorites is when she opens up to Tony for the first time about her addiction in Episode 2. It’s a great song by Canopy Climbers called “Souvenir.” For being really early on in the season and her opening up and telling her about this huge moment of her life, the song was really beautiful and the lyrics take us through the transition about being really open and going somewhere with somebody. That made it work really well for both for them because they connected on that addiction of Tony’s dad and Madison and serving to set up the rest of the season between the two of them. The audience knows they have this crazy connection but they’re caught in this crazy situation, especially when Tony’s exes show up. It becomes a moment of “HOW in the world are they going to weather this storm!” And you’re rooting for them, you’re rooting against them sometimes, but you always know they’ve shared this really big moment between them in the very beginning. By the end once we see that they’re still together, it’s this huge moment of “YES they made it!”
I definitely have a few other favorite music moments. Definitely all of the Ryn Weaver placements with “OctaHate,” “Promises” and “Stay Low.” I really like when the girls go out and get crazy to that Chuckie song “B*tches Be Like.” I also love the Galantis song we use in the first episode called “Runaway” because it was our big song last season [of The Real World] too so it was fun to kick off the season with the montage of seeing the whole city and have that be such a great music moment.
J: What is the greatest joy you get from your job?
C: It’s definitely bringing an artist that’s been hustling for a really long time and get their music heard. I get so many excited emails from artists saying “it was so cool to see my song set to picture on TV.” Even when it’s an instrumental piece, I’ve gotten just the most grateful emails from artists that people may not have ever heard of and may not ever hear of otherwise. It’s great when it’s a big artist and there’s a lot of publicity and promotion around them, but it’s also great to find those hidden gems where the music is just really special. I feel that way about Canopy Climbers. We used a lot of their songs over the course of the season too. We used their song “Blindfold” when Bruno and Carla have their big fight in episode 12. They’re a small band and they’ve been working for a long time and I really could have used every single song of theirs. Each song is so beautiful and so special. They’re definitely one of my favorite discoveries from this season.
J: I’m going to check them out after this! So my last question is a personal one. I’m like you in that I always loved music and I later realized that music supervision can be a career and is absolutely my dream job. So I have to ask, what’s the best advice you can give for someone that wants to be doing what you’re doing as a music supervisor?
C: My story is kind of unique in that I worked other facets of the music industry and networked with people and other music supervisors that I wanted to work with. Networking is definitely a big part of it. But my best advice would be to find the kind of shows and films that you want to work with and then find the people that are making them and try to connect with those people. I am also really lucky to have friends making TV and films on their own which is a really great opportunity to cut your teeth on how to set music to picture. Music videos are also an amazing way to do that. Definitely hard work and putting yourself in situations where you’re going to meet people in production, directors, musicians and other creative people that you are going to be working with on a regular basis. Also, it’s important to have a voice, have a good ear and always keeping an ear to the ground. It’s a fun, hard-working combination of all those things!
Stream + follow this playlist of Colleen’s favorite songs from the season:
Other favorites were SPRLOV SNDTRK, Prides, & Wes Period, but their songs aren’t available on spotify yet 🙁