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NASHVILLE TAKES THE BATON, FOR SCHNUR

 

Steve Schnur is the man when it comes to putting music in major games, but the Electronic Arts Worldwide Music Head isn’t playing when he talks about Nashville being an international center of score recording—not just for games but also for film, TV and plenty more. Thanks to the city’s prodigious creative and technological resources, and soon to be assisted by new economic incentives (for which Schnur has been an outspoken advocate), Music City is drawing composers and orchestras that were formerly heading overseas for score recording. Still, Schnur probably wishes he could’ve played this game with some other publication.

Nashville is now a major worldwide center for film, TV and game-score recording. How did that come to pass?
When it comes to film, TV and game-score recording, the industry doesn’t realize the sheer volume of work that has been going to Eastern Europe; just Google “recording studios in Prague or Bratislava,” and your jaw will drop. Yet despite the economic lure of working overseas, I knew what had been unique about ’90s Nashville, when I first lived there, was still true, if not more so: The musician talent—beyond fiddles and guitars—was some of the best in the business. The recording facilities, including symphony-size studios, were second to none. And most of all, the right people—in every aspect of life—were always open to new ideas. Today, I’m proud to say that not only are we recording the bulk of EA’s scores here, but I’ve also helped drive the Governor’s new rebate bill. And as a member of the Recording Academy board, as well as co-chair of its Membership Committee, I’m hoping to bring more of Nashville’s orchestral musicians into the fold to help shape the future of the industry here.

The bottom line is that Nashville has become a world-class destination for orchestral recording of every kind for major game studios, independent features, big-budget movies, television networks and next-gen/streaming production studios like Netflix and Amazon. And this is just the beginning.

 

What are some examples of projects EA has scored there, and who composed them?
Among my favorite Nashville projects have been our score for Mass Effect: Andromeda with John Paesano, who’s also scored the Maze Runner films; our Junkie XL [Tom Holkenberg] theme music for Madden NFL 16; and music for our upcoming Madden 19: Longshot 2 from John Debney, whose film work includes The Jungle Book, The Greatest Showman and an Oscar-nominated score for The Passion of the Christ.

Right now, I’m also excited about the score we’re doing with Sarah Schachner, who’s best-known for her work on the Assassin’s Creed series, for our hugely anticipated 2019 open-world RPG franchise Anthem. The trailer featuring Muse is already past 3 million views in two weeks. And just last week, I brought Lorne Balfe and the legendary Hans Zimmer to town via ISDN to record music for FIFA 19. Hans and Lorne are now totally down with MoonPies.

 

Which high-profile TV and film projects that have been scored there? What is it about the scoring resources and environment of Nashville have proved so attractive?
Certainly, a huge turning point was 2017, when scores to three of the year’s Top 5-selling games were recorded in Nashville, including our own Madden 18: Longshot, which featured a great score by Jeff Russo, who scored the HBO miniseries The Night Of and was a founding member of the band Tonic. Since 2012, nearly 100 major projects have been scored here, including games like Metal Gear Solid V, Minecraft: Norse Mythology and several Call of Duty titles; movies such as The Last Witch Hunter, My Little Pony, Glass Castle and Madea Halloween; and TV projects that include Nashville, of course; Outlander, which I’m obsessed with; Curb Your Enthusiasm; John Debney and Bruce Boughton’s Emmy-nominated score for Texas Rising; and Jeff Russo’s Emmy-winning score for my favorite, Fargo. In fact, 100% of the A-list of composers who’ve come to Nashville—including Debney, Russo, Balfe, Zimmer, Bear McCreary, Steve Jablonsky, Heitor Pereira, Chris Lennertz, and Trevor Morris—continue to work here or have already made commitments to return.

None of this is happenstance; Nashville’s orchestral musicians are on par with the very best of Los Angeles or London. This truly is a “one-take” town. Ocean Way is one of the top recording facilities in the world, with a sound, space and tonality comparable to AIR Studios. Most of all, the meat-and-threes are still great—as are the vegan restaurants.

 

How do you anticipate the incentive the Governor implemented on July 1 for film, TV and game-score recording will affect the city and the business?
On July 1, Governor Bill Haslam put into effect a 25% rebate for all film, television and game-scoring costs. The projects don’t have to be filmed or produced in the state, and all musicians, hotels, studio, flights, engineers and associated costs are included. This now puts recording in Nashville on the same budgetary level as Eastern Europe, but with the professional quality of London or Los Angeles.

This is the game-changer. Every day, Nashville is proving that it can meet—and surpass —all financial and creative expectations. Now more than ever, this is the city where collaboration is embraced, artistry is encouraged and relationships matter. Nashville is not only still Music City, USA; it’s now easily one of the three most important live orchestral recording destinations in the world.

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