Emmy News: Music Nominees React


From the Mississippi Delta to monarchical Victorian England, this year’s crop of Emmy music nominees are a diverse group who share one thing in common: outstanding work that has been recognized in the eyes of their peers. MaxTheTrax reached out to nominees across a broad range of music functions, from composers to lyricists, music supervisors and technical directors, to share their thoughts on the recognition and the work. There is no doubt that the 69th Emmy Awards class of 2017 will go down in history as among the most talented ever among contributors of music for any media, but particularly to television.


Composer Jeff Russo Emmy-nominated for "Fargo"

Jeff Russo

“It’s always so amazing to be grouped with this caliber of music makers. The scores for miniseries this year were so great, that it’s unbelievable to me that the Fargo score has been nominated again. With that said, this season’s score is probably the nearest and dearest to my heart. It’s hard to pinpoint why, but I think it might be that I felt super connected to the characters and, I had less time to nitpick about the music, so I had to really rely on my emotional response to the story and the characters.”

—  Jeff Russo, composer,  Fargo, FX (Outstanding Music Composition For A Limited Series, Movie Or Special — Original Dramatic Score)

Career nominations: 3




Composer Patrick Jonsson

Patrick Jonsson

“It’s an honor to have been a small part of telling the story of The White Helmets, about volunteers who rescue civilians in the Syrian war. One of the first scenes the director showed me was one of the white helmets rescuing a baby from rubble following hours of searching. It’s harrowing to watch, but the overwhelming sense of joy and hope which the rescue workers take from it is hugely inspiring. I kept this sense of hope in mind as I was writing, and the ‘Miracle Baby’ theme eventually formed the backbone of the score. The White Helmets shows humanity at its best and I’m so glad the film is able to keep spreading the word about the selfless and heroic work.”

—  Patrick Jonsson, composer,  The White Helmets, Netflix (Outstanding Music Composition For A Limited Series, Movie Or Special — Original Dramatic Score)

Career nominations: 1




The bespectacled producer looks almost monkish with hands-folded in front of a splashy fine art painting of oranges and yellows.

T Bone Burnett
(Photo by Lester Cohen / Getty Images)

“I was happy to be along on this deep archaeological journey into the heart of American music. I learned a lot along the way about who we are and where we come from. Before the media and before the mass age.”

—  T Bone Burnett, producer/musician/songwriter,  American Epic, “The American Epic Sessions,” PBS  (Outstanding Music Direction)

Career nominations: 2








Ramin Djawadi

“What an honor to receive an Emmy nomination for West World this year! For a series that questions the differences of consciousness between robots and humans it was important for me to combine both organic and synthetic sounds, but most important was to create a sense of adventure and excitement.”

—  Ramin Djawadi, composer, Westworld, HBO (Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music)

Career nominations: 4







Christopher Willis in crisp white shirt, set off by black jacket and tie.

Christopher Willis

“From an early stage we had a sense of what Duck the Halls should sound like: a big, nostalgic homage to Christmas albums, movies and TV specials of yesteryear. But you can only have tinsel and baubles if you’ve got a sturdy tree to hang them on, and you can only have choirs and big bands and sleigh bells if you’ve got some great melodies for them to perform. I spent a long time thinking about Christmas songs and what makes them tick. There’s a magical logic to a great Christmas melody. You hear it and somehow you feel that you already know it and that it just instantly conjures up the sights and sounds of the season. Eventually we ended up with songs we were happy with and it’s a real thrill to see them going out into the world and getting this positive response. “

Christopher Willis, composer, Duck the Halls: A Mickey Mouse Christmas Special, The Disney Channel  (Outstanding Music & Lyrics)

Career nominations: 1




Composer Natalie Holt passionately plays the violin, her long dark hair cascading as if in a breeze

Natalie Holt

“We wanted to keep a modern feel to the soundtrack, as the show is about the youth and strength of Queen Victoria, a different side than the audience might expect. So the music is a mixture of grand orchestral cues coupled with modern minimal scoring. One theme, for example, was really focused around a timpani in a scene when Victoria was uncomfortable – a woman in a man’s world. I really enjoyed scoring the scene when Victoria enters Buckingham Palace for the first time and is swept around different rooms. It’s a big waltz, with a kind of giddy excitement and was one of the bigger orchestral cues in the show.”

— Natalie Holt, composer, Victoria, PBS  (Outstanding Music Composition For A Limited Series, Movie Or Special — Original Dramatic Score)

Career nominations: 1





Rael Jones poses with a motion blur effect that appears to make his head move from the left to right portion of the frame.

Rael Jones

“Writing the score for Suite Française was relatively straightforward. It was a very supportive bunch of people to work with and the music came easily.  The hard bit was filming my brief cameo appearance as a hand double for the piano sections. I had to wear full nazi regalia throughout the hottest day of the year, sitting under lights for hours without air-con, whilst having my hands shaved and then fake-tanned to match my pasty complexion to that of Matthias Schoenaerts. It was somewhat traumatic.”

Rael Jones, music director, Suite Française, Lifetime (Outstanding Music Composition For A Limited Series, Movie Or Special — Original Dramatic Score)

Career nominations: 3






David Lai looks dapper in a dark plaid shirt, striped tie and charcoal-colored sport jacket.

David Lai
(Photo by Michael Wilhoite)

“When Joshua came back from Cuba after being sent by President Obama along with Dave Matthews, Usher, Smokey Robinson and a host of other amazing artists to foster dialogue through the arts with Cuban musicians, he recounted what an incredible experience it was. I suggested we invite the Chamber Orchestra of Havana, Carlos Varela and Aldo Gavilan to travel here to make their U.S. debut with Josh. Since I happened to be working with Live From Lincoln Center [producing music for Chinese pianist Lang Lang] I suggested a concert with Josh and these Cuban musicians. The LFLC team was very enthusiastic and found a way to do the special on very short notice. From figuring out repertoire and the configuration of musicians, including guest artists such as Dave Matthews, Larisa Martinez, Jorge Gomez and Yosvany Terry, to getting arrangements done and vetted for a very short rehearsal time here in NYC ― the first visit to the NYC ever for the Chamber Orchestra of Havana ― it was a bit of producing and directing on the edge. Many of these musicians had never worked with each other before so trying to anticipate challenges and put them in a position to succeed was the objective. I enjoyed very much drawing from my classical, jazz and Broadway MD chops to bring this show to fruition.”

David Lai, music director, Joshua Bell: Seasons Of Cuba (Live From Lincoln Center), PBS (Outstanding Music Direction)

Career nominations: 1



Gary Lionelli, square-jawed with short dark hair, wears a black zip-up pullover in front of signage.

Gary Lionelli

“It’s amazing to me how far O.J.: Made in America has come, with its Oscar win for best documentary film, and now multiple Emmy nominations. It’s still timely, and even more so with O.J. Simpson’s recent parole.  With the O.J. score, I tried to never patronize the viewer with the music. I also did not want the score to over-sensationalize the now-iconic events such as the infamous Bronco chase, as well as the broader historical events of the time, such as the Rodney King beating. That meant I usually chose to score the subtext of any given scene rather than what was literally happening on the screen — that is, scoring what was going on in the mind of the character rather than what he or she is doing. The music focused on the impact or consequence of an event rather than the literal action of the event. I had a 40-piece string section record the score at the Warner Bros. Eastwood Scoring Stage, and the incredible musicians here in town really brought the score to life.”

Gary Lionelli, composer, O.J.: Made in America, “Part 3,” ESPN  (Outstanding Music Composition For A Limited Series, Movie Or Special — Original Dramatic Score)

Career nominations: 1



In a light-gray sport jacket, blue shirt and black-framed glasses, Rickey Minor smiles for the camera.

Rickey Minor

“In this industry, and especially in the music field, just getting the job is a high achievement, not to mention getting a nomination. The number of qualified people who do what we do is very small compared to the number who aspire to do it. So taking a step back, arriving at this point of getting to work on these shows is incredible, then to be recognized by your peers is icing on the cake. That said, with five prior nominations, it would be great to win! I’m very proud of these two shows, and was really surprised they both got nominated, but I got incredible feedback on the Bee Gees special, so I thought let’s put that in. And for Taking the Stage, I was a producer as well as music director, so I was involved with every detail of that show and I think it’s up there with the best work I’ve ever done.  But the thing is, at this level, everybody’s doing their best work. Nobody’s phoning it in. The competition is tough. The morning the list was announced I called my mother and said, ‘Guess whose son got two Emmy nominations in the music director category?!’ And she said, ‘Who?’ [Laughing] So you just never know.”


Rickey Minor, producer, composer, music director, Taking the Stage: African American Music and Stories that Changed America, ABC, (Outstanding Music Direction) ;  Stayin’ Alive: A Grammy Salute to the Bee Gees, CBS (Outstanding Music Direction) ; (Outstanding Music Direction)

Career nominations: 7



Jonathan Kimmel, a burly bearded man, dances with a microphone in a jaunty sailor cap and dark blue suit jacket.

Jonathan Kimmel

“Justin Moore was such a good sport about singing and gave it that authentic country sound. He took on the challenge with no shame,” says Jonathan Kimmel of his unconventional Emmy tune: the ballad of a man whose mishap with shower seating got him “stuck in another kind of Ikea ball pit.” “[Show writer] Gary Greenberg did most of the lyrics, I wrote the music,” says Kimmel of his new country classic.” Kimmel, the director of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, has classical voice training and a lifelong love of Broadway, which makes for frequent music collaborations. “In this case, Gary saw the news story about Claus Jorstadt,” (yes, it really happened!) “It was a nice surprise to get nominated, because we weren’t writing with awards in mind, and I’m honored to raise awareness for this issue on behalf of all Norwegian men who shower sitting down.”

Jonathan Kimmel, composer, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, “The Ballad of Claus Jorstadt (Devil Stool)” ABC (Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics)

Career nominations: 1




Composer Rupert Gregson-Williams looking casual in a gray t-shirt with steel-colored button-up on top.

Rupert Gregson-Williams
(Photo: Benjamin Ealovega)

“Composing for The Crown, especially the episode ‘Hyde Park Corner,’ is a really exciting challenge for me. The political upheaval felt throughout the world at the time, the mourning of a young woman who becomes instantly ‘the crown,’ and leaves Elizabeth Windsor behind for good – these are epic stories which were a joy to work with.

Rupert Gregson-Williams, composer, The Crown, Netflix (Outstanding Music Composition for a Series, Original Dramatic Score)

Career nominations: 2







Nora Felder stands in front of a graffiti art wall

Nora Felder
(Photo: Farinoush Mostaghimi)

“Wow!!!!  I feel like I’ve entered a parallel universe! Such fantastic news to be included in this historical Emmy first  that  acknowledges music supervisors as the music warriors that we are. Stranger Things is a huge phenomenon,  and its a honor to be a part of the casting process of  one of the show’s main characters:  The Music! “

Nora Felder, music supervisor, Stranger Things, Chapter Two: The Weirdo On Maple Street,” Netflix (Outstanding Music Supervision)

Career nominations: 1







Lorne Balfe, his wavy gray hair swept back, in a navy blue Ralph Lauren Polo pullover with a plaid shirt beneath.

Lorne Balfe

“Einstein changed the world, but he managed to find time for music. He played the violin, using it as a way to relax and think through his theories.  Since that is incorporated into the show, it was an interesting aspect,” says Balfe, who shares his main title theme nomination with Hans Zimmer, and handles ongoing series duties for the score. Balfe describes as rewarding the experience of “collaborating with Hans on the theme.  Hans and I had a long nurturing period to come up with the appropriate main title theme and the musical voice of the show. And it is always a pleasure working with director Ron Howard. He is open to experimentation, which is true to the spirit of the show.” That adventurousness freed Balfe, on a weekly basis, to “play with the orchestral sounds, incorporating electronics. It’s  not a traditional period score.”

Lorne Balfe, composer, Genius, National Geographic (Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music)

Career nominations: 1



Zach Cowie sits in front of a wall of records, holding a vinyl LP with the an image of a face on it in front of his own face, becoming one with the music.

Zach Cowie

“All I can think of is how many people that need to be thanked. A sampling — Alan [Yang] and Aziz [Ansari], for creating a show that puts such emphasis on music; my co-supervisor Kerri Drootin; the insanely talented cast and crew; Netflix and NBCUniversal, for letting us all flex; all the music supervisors (nominated or not) who have worked so hard to establish supervision as an artform;  the musicians who made the music; and every friend/mentor/fellow-DJ/record collector/co-worker who has done so much to fill me with enough music knowledge to get this job done!”

Zach Cowie, music supervisor, Master Of None, “Amarsi Un Po,” Netflix  (Outstanding Music Supervision)

Career nominations: 1






Composer Martin Phipps at the mixing board

Martin Phipps

“I’m proud of this title music as I think it grabs you by ‘the royals’ and makes you pay attention to the powerful complex woman that is Victoria,” says U.K.-based composer Martin Phipps,  nominated in the main title theme and composition for a limited series categories for his classic-yet-courant music for PBS’s royal drama Victoria. “I pitched the idea of a strong vocal ‘Hallelujah’ to the showrunner Daisy Goodwin early on in the process. She was initially worried it would be too modern and not Downton Abbey enough, but got right behind it when she saw how it embodied the main character of her novel and the series on which it is based.”

— Martin Phipps, composer, Victoria, PBS   (Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music; Outstanding Music Composition For A Limited Series, Movie Or Special — Original Dramatic Score)

Career nominations: 5




Bernard MacMahon with windblown shoulder-length hair looks up into a cobalt blue sky

Bernard MacMahon

“I have always loved America. As a boy, growing up in London, I remember watching the planes flying out of Heathrow, wondering if they were going to the U.S. and wishing I was on one. American Epic is our tribute to America – its innovation, musical talent, rich culture and freedom of speech. Recording music on the very first electrical recording equipment from the 1920s was a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience what our forefathers did 90 years ago. Then to have Elton John, Nas, Willie Nelson, Mere Haggard, Jack White, the Alabama Shakes and many other great artists all recording this music live, using that pulley-driven lathe system, was inspiring for me, and I imagine rather terrifying for them! I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on this film. This wonderful nomination is a tribute to all the extraordinary talent that made The American Epic Sessions possible.”

— Bernard MacMahon, writer/producer/director,  American Epic, “The American Epic Sessions,” PBS  (Outstanding Music Direction)    Career nominations: 1

Allison McGourty touches index finger to a tall metal wall of music archives, looking upward

Allison McGourty



“When I read the Emmy nomination list I couldn’t believe it. I had to show it to the our editor Dan Gitlin to double check that I had read it correctly. Bernard and Dan’s directing and editing respectively make the film look seamless, disguising the sheer amount of work put into the musical arrangements and song selections. These were really a challenge because, after all, this film was an experiment and things could have gone wrong at any moment. In fact, they sometimes did! It’s a testament to the brilliance of all the music directors, the engineer Nick Bergh, and the incredible musicians who all gave the performance of their lives that we captured ‘lighting in a bottle’.’”

— Allison McGourty, writer/producer,  American Epic, “The American Epic Sessions,” PBS



Composer Jeremy Turner conducting with baton and a big smile

Jeremy Turner
(Photo: Enrique Chavez)


“I was out for a jog on the trail that morning, and when I got back to my car there was a congratulatory text from my wife with a photo of her and our newborn, both smiling. I began working on Five Came Back just before the holidays, with very little runway left in the schedule so it was a real race. But the finish line for me was recording the score at Warner Bros. and having friends fly in from all over to be a part of the orchestra. That was truly special.”

— Jeremy Turner, composer,  Five Came Back, “The Price Of Victory,” Netflix   (Outstanding Music Composition For A Limited Series, Movie Or Special — Original Dramatic Score)

Career nominations: 1





Bespectacled composer Jeff Beal capture in a moment of contemplation.

Jeff Beal

“Any day when I learn that I come in second place to Tina Fey in anything is a good day!,” said Beal when informed that Fey alone among music contenders has more career  Emmy noms, with 40. “This past year I’ve been traveling around the world conducting my House Of Cards in concert program.   Seeing how far around the globe this music and our show have gone in the hearts of fans has been a real joy.  After five seasons, the fact that my score is recognized by the my peers in the music branch Emmy voters is fantastic, and a true honor.”

— Jeff Beal, composer, House of Cards, Netflix   (Outstanding Music Composition For A Series — Original Dramatic Score)

Career nominations: 17

Wins: 4





Thomas Golubić gives a wry sidelong glance

Thomas Golubić

“I am sure that all my East Coast friends would be horrified to read this, but when I first got the news I was sitting, eyes closed, on my balcony in Silverlake, my girlfriend Stacy and I deep in meditation with my dog Eddie curled between us.  We had just done some pretty vigorous yoga and TRX; the Emmy nominations was the furthest thing from my mind.  Then my publicist, Chandler Poling, called. It sounds so horribly Hollywood, but that was how I got the good news.

This the first year for an Emmy category for my profession, which reminds me of the wonderful collective effort this nomination represents. My team at SuperMusicVision all worked on Better Call Saul, and each of us made some heroic contribution. I am thankful every day for the time we’ve had to work together on both Breaking Bad and [spin-off] Better Call Saul. I am also reminded of how lucky I am to be in the community of music supervisors, and the talent of not just my fellow nominees, but our collective work as professionals.  The Television Academy very generously brought us into their fold and through Michael Levine and Rickey Minor’s support and encouragement this award has become a wonderful vehicle for celebrating the work of music supervisors everywhere.”

Thomas Golubić, music supervisor, Better Call Saul, AMC   (Outstanding Music Supervision)    Career nominations: 1



Dramatic image of bearded Michael Stein, outfitted in a black shirt, with his blonde hair pulled back in a pony-tail, has hard light streaming in from the left, obliterating detail on that side of his face.

Michael Stein
(Photo: Alex Kacha)

Moody image of Kyle Dixon in dress shirt and dark jacket.

Kyle Dixon
(Photo: Alex Kacha)

“I was on the way to the dentist when I heard the news,” remarks Kyle Dixon., “glad I wasn’t already in the chair or I would have missed the call!.”

— Kyle Dixon, composer, Stranger Things, Netflix   (Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music)

Career nominations: 1

“We’re thrilled to be nominated!” adds Michael Stein.  “It’s a great feeling to be included alongside so many other great composers.  It is an honor and a treat.  Cheers!”

— Michael Stein, composer, Stranger Things, Netflix   (Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music)

Career nominations: 1



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