Interview: MTV’s Washington Heights Music Supervisor

Soundtrack had the opportunity to sit down with Ricki Askin for an insightful interview. Ricki recently  wrapped up music supervising the new MTV show Washington Heights and Soundtrack had a few question on the process and working on an episode with Grammy Nominated artist Miguel


ST:  How important is the music you choose for Washington Heights, and Why?

RA: Washington Heights is a neighborhood rich with culture and personality, so it is necessary that the show reflect at least some of that. The dynamic personalities within the show and, even more so, intense ambition each character displays needs to be supplemented with strong music choices. While there is no doubt the fiery nature of Reyna, for example, can come through on its own, the music helps paint a more complex picture of her as a sensitive, real young woman. Music is meant to take the drama of a show – for better or worse – to the next level.


ST: Do you music supervise the show based on the individual characters or the surrounding neighborhood of the show? Specifically the Washington Heights area of New York?

RA: I used a combination of both characters and setting. I was able to watch the pilot episode before I had to start pulling music and I also got to talk to JP and sit with the production team to hear what each of them had hoped for. That mixed with my own taste and desire to make music a big part of the show helped drive my selections.


ST:  Can you name a few new artists that you’ve discovered and placed in the show that you’re excited about?

RA: I came across so many amazing artists working on this show that I had never heard of before. Some of the artists in the show I’m most excited about are SL Jones, Sirah, Zola Jesus and Y Luv, to name just a few.


ST:  Do you think a music supervisor, not based in NY, could pull off the “sound” of the show? Meaning, there must be a “vibe” that you as the music supervisor is aware of because you’re based in NY – explain

RA: Yes, I think it’s important to be familiar with the neighborhood and all the flavors that make it unique. While I may not know the sound nearly as well as some of the cast members, I think it’s important to walk the line between the young, fresh sound of MTV and the urban, charismatic sound of the Heights.


ST:  How many hours of your day is dedicated to seeking music for this show or any show you’re involved with?

RA: There is endless talent out there and discovering music that is otherwise unknown is really the best part. The first few months of production, I would spend a few hours a day going through music trying to find the best and most relevant sounds and vocals. As production winds down, I have to stop myself from listening too much as I get anxious about missing placement opportunities with new music I come across. At some point you just have to be happy with your work and keep tabs on other good tunes for future opportunities.


ST: What was the highlight of working on this series?

RA: On top of just being able to discover dozens of new, kick-ass bands and artists, the highlight would have to be working with and witnessing Miguel guest music supervise the 6thepisode of Washington Heights (airing Wednesday, February 6th). I have been a huge fan of Miguel for years, so to be able to hear his opinion of the show and what music he felt best fit which each of the scenes was a surreal experience for a Music Supervisor. In a few short hours, he introduced me to several new artists I now have on my iPod and brought a whole new perspective and realness to series with his creative input.

++ Follow Ricki | @RAskForlt