By Jessica Pace
Grammy-nominated musician Jeff Russo has composed scores for three major projects recently; the 50 Cent-produced Starz drama Power, feature film thriller The Surface starring Sean Astin and the much-hyped FX television series Fargo, for which Russo wrote for a 45-piece orchestra.
Russo says composing for episodic television can sometimes become formulaic, but less so when writing for film. His favorite project to date is his work on Fargo, which he described as a 10-hour segmented movie.
“It has really enabled me to write the kind of music I enjoy,” says Russo, “which is very cinematic and is meaningful to the narrative. I come from a songwriting background, so writing lyrics is very meaningful emotionally. With this kind of picture, the music is meaningful to the screen.”
The music for Fargo is lush and cinematic, he says; “I’m using big strings and woodwinds, and it has that very sweeping feel to it. When we started, the show's creator said the two things that are important are making it cold and lonesome.”
According to Russo the most difficult aspect of scoring the series was balancing ties to the original film and simultaneously developing an individual identity.
“The hardest and most important part was to create our own identity without abandoning the identity of the world we’re in, which is based on the movie even–– though the show’s characters are different. That world is the same. It’s a very fine road to walk down, trying to have our own thing, our own voice and not abandon that.”
Russo has also worked on several other films and television series including Charlie’s Angels, Weeds, Smash, Crossing Jordan and What About Brian. In addition to his work as a composer, he is the lead guitarist and co-songwriter of Grammy-nominated rock band Tonic.