With the final episode of Waterloo Road airing tonight on the BBC, we have invited our music supervisor Amanda to take a look back and indulge us with her favourite selections from the second half of the last series.
Inner Ear continually has the absolute pleasure of working across a diverse range of productions and working with Headstrong Pictures on delivering the final series of BBC prime time show Waterloo Road has been no exception. Our role on the production was handling the music supervision aspect of the post-production. With the final episode airing tonight, I thought I’d look back fondly at some of the tracks that worked the best across the last half of the series.
Please note that due to the expiration of episodes on BBC iPlayer, I’ve simply linked to the tracks below rather than linking to the episodes but please do look back and check out the episodes again if you can.
On this half of series 10, we worked quite differently with the music on the show and the director working on these episodes had an extensive background in working with music in television so we had the job of setting up the tone of the series and trying some things out. I think Brian Grant (who also worked on Channel 4’s ‘As If’ and more recently, BBC’s ‘New Tricks’ following an extensive career as a music video director) done a great job at kicking things off, the opening sequence with Kylie for example – the way it opens the series, the energy it creates and how it pulls together all the characters in a montage sequence. However, this track from Chris James was a favourite of all of us in post-production i think and steals the show for me personally.
New characters Lorna and Kenzie come to a bit of a head during class and Kenzie is sent out – but Lorna is starting to figure her all out and this track underpins a beautiful moment between these two characters, signifying the beginning of Kenzie’s journey in this series.
In some cases, I will just source and provide tracks to the post-production team and sometimes I will work specifically and directly on a scene. In this instance, the director Brian had approached me looking for some contemporary but emotive music and really liked this artist – so much so, we see more tracks from Chris James/Stateless throughout the series.
This episode marks the exit of a popular character, Kevin Chalk, who has had some quite big story lines over series 9 and 10. I really enjoyed working on this storyline and although the bike chase sequence with Amazing Snakeheads that follows this (who i’ll be talking about a bit more later on) is a favourite, I’ve went with this track from Fink that we used in the scene prior. Kevin and Scott are about to start fighting in the corridor when Scott challenges him after school. The track isn’t particularly busy but it adds just enough tension to the scene, with gear changes along the way to highlight certain moments.
I really like the chord change in the track as Kenzie speaks to Justin, highlighting the growing relationship between the two characters. It can be difficult to find tracks that can work with those subtleties in a scene and at the same time, trying not to be too on the nose with how the music will function with the aims of the scene – as a music supervisor, it is important to ask yourself exactly what the music should be doing for the picture. I think this track successfully complements this change and heightens the drama in this scene without having to do too much.
Another great example of a track functioning across a change – this track is significant because of the several scenes/story lines it sets a tone/mood for. This track made its way onto the episode quite early on in the edit, thanks to editor Peter Williams (editor on the likes of Made in Chelsea, The Only Way Is Essex) who seen the potential in this Bonobo remix and using the phrases within the track to set the mood across these three scenes. I remember sitting down watching it for the first time in the edit suite and was blown away with how well it worked with the scene even though there are quite a few story lines coming together across this section of the show. Luckily everyone else in the music process felt the same.
The track first appears at the tail end of a scene where we are introduced to two new teachers at the school, Marco and Guy, who have already rubbed each other up the wrong way. From there, we see Sonia in a cubicle, isolated as she tries to come to terms with the possibility of breast cancer. Then we are back into the corridors where we are in Carrie’s world, where her arrival at Waterloo Road is proving to be a difficult transition for lots of reasons.
This episode from a music point of view is really interesting – the episode is by in large on location and features some explosive drama but the performances were so strong in these scenes that there is very little music, particularly across these key scenes as the drama was all there already.
Instead, my favourite track from this episode is right at the end with Carrie and Lenny and then Guy with George – Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me’. Its entirely different from what you are looking for musically in a drama – tension, anger, sadness. Instead, this track offers a lovely happy ending for both of these story lines which I love and it’s very much a topical track to go with – Sam Smith is arguably one of the biggest artists in the UK music industry at the moment, never mind the fact he racked up plenty of awards at the Grammy’s. Although the music should certainly serve the picture and add something to the scene, with a show like Waterloo Road that has a younger demographic, it’s nice to get an opportunity to use topical music that is relevant to the audience as well.
Interestingly, since we finished the show, this track came up against rights issues with Tom Petty so we were lucky to have been able to use it when we did too.
Part of the process this season for me in terms of my workflow was spending a lot of time with the scripts and getting into the heads of the characters and being aware of the development of a story line so you aren’t foreshadowing too much in your music choices. When reading the scripts, I knew I would enjoy working with Leo’s story line, exploring his character development and getting into his frame of mind when sourcing music.
Again, this was a selection made by the editor that I thought worked really well and an opportunity to use this up and coming London-based producer, Slugabed. Without being too dark, it gives the scene a slightly sinister edge as we really get inside Leo’s mind and how dependant he is on this virtual reality. The way it brings together the two scenes – from Sonia confronting him in Vaughan’s office to the Leo hiding in the toilet, we really get into the manic and desperate state Leo has ended up in.
Waterloo Road does try to be topical and relevant to its audience when exploring themes and I think looking at the impact technology has on our own personal development is particularly interesting.
Again, not specifically a cue I can take much credit for. This was editor Adam Masters (who has edited on most UK shows you could rhyme off – The Bill, Holby City, Casualty, Eastenders etc) who put this on here. I’m a huge Bonobo fan and I’m also a huge fan of Ninja Tune so I would provide the editors with a lot of his stuff but it’s not uncommon to hear Bonobo on TV as his music works really well as score.
Originally this scene with Abdul breaking into his fathers shop wasn’t intercut with Dale at the start line of his time trial but I think the music works really well across both and creates a bit of a music montage here. The music isn’t too on the nose – instead it taps into a more internal emotion within these characters, a sort of sadness that Abdul doesn’t feel like he belongs and with Dale, that he needs cycling to feel that he belongs, that he has a purpose. The way the track instrumentation lines up with the performance like Abdul throwing the rock at the glass door when the bass of the track comes in – considering all these elements is key to making a music selection work for a scene.
On a side note, another favourite moment in this episode comes at about 31 minutes into the episode – Carrie, Lenny and Lisa are heading to a prelim exam and Lenny is trying to get out of it to go see Dale’s time trial instead. The performance here by Caitlin Gillespie who plays Lisa is second to none, definitely one of my favourite characters, “It’s a twin thing”. There is some excellent, young talent in the show – It’ll be exciting to see what they all get up to next!
Scott Fairchild winding people up in the corridors again – this time it’s Justin he’s decided to rub up the wrong way and a rare moment in this series, Justin slips back into his bad behaviour for a brief moment and the red mist takes over.
We had tried a few things here and even with this selection, we just didn’t know how loaded the music should be. I usually try and suggest around 5 options each time I approach a specific scene rather than sourcing music for an episode, or following up on a request by the editor or director. We weren’t entirely sure about this one at first, but by bringing down the duration for the use on this track, I think it effectively highlights that knee jerk reaction when Justin retaliates.
The performances here from both Max Bowden, who plays Justin, and Andrew Still, who plays Scott are excellent, so you wouldn’t really want to overload that or take away from it by laying music across the whole thing. The way the cue bounces into action when Justin flips I think supplements the tension in this scene without drowning it out perfectly, especially when we are getting into the mindset of Justin and Scott – Justin has been undergoing anger management and Scott is all about winding people up, but definitely wants to get under Justin’s skin here.
I have to admit that when I was preparing for this series and reading through the scripts, I was looking forward to working musically with new character, Dale, mainly because he had such strong emotions in his scenes and therefore musically I could be a bit bolder with my suggestions. Also due to the nature of the production being shot in Scotland, I am always keen to try and get Scottish music onto the show. I hadn’t heard about The Amazing Snakeheads until their album ‘Amphetamine Ballads’ came out on Domino and we got sent the promo through – I fell in love with the record instantly. (Subsequently I discovered that one of our freelancers, Andy Brown, edited a music video for them and that they recorded the album in a studio in the same lane our offices are – such a small world out there!)
From day one, I’d been passing around that album to everyone because I knew it had a place somewhere on the show and when we got to this block of episodes, I spoke to the editor David Fisher (who has edited on Holby City and Mr Selfridge) quite a lot about music because unlike a lot of other editors, he hadn’t worked on the show before. We talked a lot about Dale’s story lines and I said to him, I think the Amazing Snakehead’s stuff would be great for his scenes because of the wild, uncompromising guitar riffs, dark undertones and the energy in some of the tracks.
I came back into the edit a week or two later to this fantastic opening scene with ‘The Bullfighter’ – My favourite Snakehead’s track and I don’t think we could’ve found something more fitting. Stylistically, we were pushing for shorter music cues in these episodes other wise I’d have had the track run right through to Dale getting into his room but the tone it sets up for the rest of the episode and the suspense it adds to this scene is just fantastic.
Apart from maybe that opening of episode 8, I think may well be my favourite Waterloo Road cue ever from our time working on the show – I can’t take this all the credit for this one either though haha.
The process of selecting music on the show is much more of a compromise between everyone involved in the post-production process, and although sometimes i’ll be approached to look at a specific scene or a specific cue, in some instances and particularly early on in the process, I’ll provide music I think works with a theme or a character or pass on music directly from labels and publishers. As you can imagine, we spent more time on the music of these episodes than most of the others, because obviously we all wanted the show to go out on such a high.
Although you have to be objective in your approach to sourcing and selecting music, I’m not too far off the demographic of the show and would often throw in albums I was really enjoying too. I’m a big fan of Explosions In The Sky so when I seen our editor Nikki McChristie (who edited for River City) and director Steve Hughes (who has worked on various BBC productions including Doctors, Holby City and Doctor Who) had put this on, I knew this was one that would stay and really gives the penultimate episode such a cliff hanger. If i’m home, I’ll often watch the episodes as they air and I’d been excited to see this one again. The build up with the strings, simmering tension and then the guitar riff coming in just as Sonia scurries away really makes this scene – I was following twitter as it went out and everyone was so shocked at Rob/scared for Sonia – exactly what we were trying to do with this.
I have deliberately avoided selecting a track from the finale, don’t want to give anything away. All I can say is it’s a wonderful ending to such a long running show.
Waterloo Road became a huge part of my life across my time there and although I wasn’t much of a part of the production process, I know that the show meant a lot to those who worked there and I learned so much having worked on such a large show. Having a production such as Waterloo Road in Scotland is so important to the industry here, where some of the most experienced professionals are working alongside newcomers on a national broadcast television network – a really special opportunity and we are so happy to have been a part of that.
The final episode of Waterloo Road broadcasts Monday 9 March on BBC 3 at 20:30pm and BBC 1 at 23:10pm (in Scotland only, 23:15 for rest of the UK) with further repeats on BBC 1 and will also be available on iPlayer immediately after the BBC 3 transmission for 30 days.
Amanda leads on Inner Ear’s music supervision work. We source, select and sequence soundtrack music for TV, film, games and digital media productions. As well as finding the right tune for the moment, we also handle the copyright clearance administration to take the stress and hassle out of using music. Having been immersed in it since we launched Radio Magnetic in 2001, we love working with music and we’re not daunted by complicated copyright admin either. Get in touch to discuss the use of music in your project.