This is Us already has a supersized cast, but the soundtrack to the hit NBC show could be considered to be another character. In a new interview posted on the This Is Us YouTube page, the show’s composer Siddhartha Khosla talked about the original song he wrote for the music-filled episode “Memphis.” When he was asked to co-write a “Motown”-style tune for young William’s (Jermel Nakia) band, Khosla said he was given no other direction from showrunners, except the following.
“Just write the greatest song of all time.”
The result was the original song by Sidd Khosla and Chris Pierce, titled “We Can Always Come Back to This.” The song was first heard in a flashback to a younger William’s days in Memphis when he was in his cousin Ricky’s (Brian Tyree Henry) cover band, and later when Randall (Sterling K. Brown) calmed his father down in his final moments and as part of a montage after the character’s death.
In an interview posted by TV Line, Khosla said the This Is Us scripts made it easy for him to find inspiration for the original piece.
“[Creator] Dan Fogelman had just written into the script that there would be an original song,” the This Is Us composer told TV Line. “But when you have material that good, it just inspires you.”
This Is Us executive producer Glenn Ficarra said it was important for the song to feel authentic.
“It had to feel like a real soul song,” the This is Us EP said. “And it also had to be a good song, so you believe that they’re actually going someplace as a band. And Sidd just knocked it out of the park. Beautiful song. Chris [Pierce], who played guitar in the band, co-wrote the song. And Brian Tyree Henry, who came in to play Ricky, actually sang it live there on the set.”
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Of course, This Is Us fans can turn to the earliest episodes of the show for even more inspiring music. One of the most memorable songs featured on the show is Jackson C. Frank’s “Blues Run the Game.” The 1965 song first appeared in a flashback scene in the episode “Kyle” when William first met Randall’s mother, Laurel, on a city bus, and later in the montage scene that sees Jack and Rebecca (Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore) deciding to change their son’s name to Randall. It’s played twice again in “Memphis” as William reflects on his life during the road trip with his biological son, including a cover version by Janileigh Cohen.
Siddhartha Khosla told Entertainment Tonight that he knew from the beginning that the music on the show had to be special. The This Is Us composer, who was a classmate of Fogelman’s at the University of Pennsylvania more than two decades ago, said the show pulled at his heartstrings from the beginning, making it easy to find inspiration for a soundtrack to accompany each episode.
“We discovered that the music needed to evoke the feeling of the show and I discovered that relying on simple instrumentation, like acoustic guitar, even playing percussion and drum-type textures on my acoustic guitar, using my cellos and my voice as part of the score, felt like the right thing to do,” the This Is Us music man said.
“It’s important to not necessarily score what’s happening in the scene, but to look at why the characters are doing what they’re doing, what motivates them to have the conversation they’re having and why they’re in the position they’re in. You’re scoring something larger.”
Diehard This Is Us fans may recall that early on, the Pearson clan members each had their own musical themes, but now, larger thematic pieces are used for supersized montages. Khosla said the change was made for the second half of the season now that viewers are more familiar with each character and also because the later episodes “hit a different kind of nerve” with some “highly cathartic moments that the characters are experiencing.”
Khosla points to the emotional scene in the episode “Three Sentences,” when Kate (Chrissy Metz) experiences a breakthrough moment during a class at a weight loss camp as she reflects on her father’s death when she was a teenager. The This Is Us composer revealed he purposely stayed away from stereotypical “yoga kind of music.”
“The scene starts off with them hitting their sticks in an arrhythmic pattern and I started playing my acoustic guitar to that rhythm. There was something transcendental, meditative about it,” Khosla told ET. “It became this organic thing that really came from the emotion that I imagined her feeling, remembering her father’s funeral.”
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The This Is Us songwriter also admitted that many tears have fallen on his piano and his guitar strings as he worked on the musical arrangements for the show.
One of the most recent This Is Us storylines involves Pearson mama, Rebecca, and her singing career. In the episode “Jack Pearson’s Son,” Mandy Moore’s sexy duet of Etta James’ “Bring It On Home To Me” and impending five-city tour with ex-boyfriend Ben (Sam Trammell) sparked an argument between the Pearson parents. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, actor Sam Trammell admitted that while he does really play the piano, he was nervous about singing with seasoned veteran Moore, whose debut hit, “Candy,” was recorded when she was just a teen.
“I had never sung before,” Trammell told THR.
“And then I felt like, ‘Oh, man. I would be singing with Mandy Moore’… [Executive producer] Ken Olin called me and asked if I wanted to just give it a shot. And if I sucked then they would just dub my voice… So I took some singing lessons and discovered that if you have a good singing coach you can kind of sing, or work on it. Then I met the composer and we figured out a harmonizing thing that I could do in the song and I went into the booth with Mandy and recorded it.”
Of course, while some of the music on This Is Us is new, and some of the music is old but new to viewers, the show has sampled plenty of recognizable songs, too. Early on, fans hit Google to try to remember the name of the song that played after Jack and Rebecca’s fight in the show’s second episode, “The Big Three.” Answer: The 1969 Blind Faith song, “Can’t Find My Way Home.”
Other familiar songs featured on This Is Us include Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” Madonna’s “Borderline,” Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet,” Ringo Starr’s “Photograph,” and the 1970s Andrew Gold hit, “Lonely Boy.” Plenty of Cat Stevens is peppered within the soundtrack, too, with the Season 1 finale episode is even named after Stevens’ 1970 classic, “Moonshadow.”
This Is Us airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC. You can find more information on all of the songs on the This Is Us soundtrack on Tunefind.
Take a look at the video below to see This Is Us composer Siddhartha Khosla talking about the music on the show.
[Featured Image by Mark Davis/Getty Images]