As the year comes to a close and movie critics look back at the films released in 2016, they are citing Manchester by the Sea as one of the best. The Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams vehicle has so far earned nominations for the Independent Spirit Awards and Golden Globes, and it has a very cool tie-in to the DFW music scene.
Two years ago, Jordan Richardson of Fort Worth band Son of Stan was contacted by the film's music supervisor, Linda Cohen, who had previously worked on No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood and Argo. She told him she was a fan of his work and asked him to contribute demos for a teenage garage band that is featured in the movie.
The 35-year-old has been writing, producing and recording since he was in college at TCU, where he played drums in the TCU jazz band as well as a Get-Up Kids/Foo Fighters-inspired band, Soviet Space. Since then he's worked with the bands Horses, Oliver Future, Ben Harper's Relentless7 and Son of Stan. In 2014, he won a Grammy for his work with Harper.
Without knowing too much about the project, Richardson agreed to produce the demos for actor Lucas Hedges' band in the film, called Stentorian. To do it, Richardson reflected on what his life was like playing in a garage band in high school and tried to imagine what kind of music teenagers today might make.
"The kid is a pretty cool kid in the film and he has relationships with girls and is super smart," Richardson says. "I knew a tiny bit about the characters, so I was like, 'Well, the kid probably likes the Pixies, Nirvana, Lou Reed,' you know, those quintessential things that a 16-, 17-year-old smart kid digs."
Richardson recorded all the parts for the songs and sent them in. The songs "I Gotta Run" and "Tell Me Why" were then learned by the actors playing in the fictional band, who were later filmed performing live for the movie.
"It's a very different thing," Richardson says about the process of songwriting for film versus writing for his original bands. "You're writing because you're part of the story. It has very little to do with what I want, but then again, I'm the person creating it, so it has to be something I want."
Richardson's radio-TV-film degree from TCU certainly came in handy for Manchester by the Sea. "I went to TCU to study screenwriting, so to be able to [contribute] in a small way to a narrative that's in a movie ... it's a really fun thing to do."
Manchester by the Sea also features another local song, "45 Revolutions Per Minute" by Oil Boom, which Richardson produced.
"It's really cool to be connected to this movie in a couple of different ways, especially knowing that people think it's really great," Richardson says. "Very little of why it's great has to do with me and my friends' involvement, but just knowing we got to add a little bit to the story in a direct way is a really rewarding feeling. If you're gonna try to write music not just for yourself, you hope that it can contribute to something worthwhile and has some integrity. "
Writing music for TV and film is not the main source of Richardson's income these days; he works full time as a musician and producer. But the work came at an appropriate time for him. "It keeps me busy from time to time and it seems to pop in when things are slow," he says. "It's funny how that stuff works."
Richardson has a pretty busy 2017 lined up already. He plans to tour and record with White Denim, a band he joined this past summer, record and produce bands at his Electric Barryland studio in Justin and possibly put out new Son of Stan material.
Manchester by the Sea is in theaters now.
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