Composer Nathan Barr made Emmy history recently as the first composer to receive a double nomination in a main title category–Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music–for his work on Hemlock Grove and The Americans. Now he’s working on the second seasons of both shows in addition to the seventh season of HBO’s True Blood.
Barr has been a composer for the past 15 years. An odd-instrument collector, he has well over 100. The newest addition: a theater organ that spent the past 75 years on a Twentieth Century Fox scoring stage and was used in The Sound of Music, Home Alone and Star Trek.
“My entire approach to composing is through being a musician,” he says. “Writing on different instruments causes me to think differently, because writing a chord progression on the piano might come about differently from writing on guitar.”
His unique instrument collection has come in handy in his backlog of film projects as well, which include multiple horror films by director Eli Roth.
“Working with Eli Roth on Cabin Fever and then Hostel I and II and some others, those are exciting, because we speak a common language as far as that genre goes. Eli is not afraid to let music be a huge part of the story. Oftentimes a lot of the work we do as composers can go unnoticed because it’s mixed so low.”
Barr’s primary objective in his work is storytelling, which goes hand in hand with the resurgence of television series driven by strong storylines, like Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones.
“I think shows like True Blood, The Americans, these are really thoughtful, intelligent shows with a wide audience, and that gives my music the biggest shot at being heard and the opportunity to be part of something huge.”