American Soul is a BET series looking into the rise of Soul Train, the long-lived American dance program that thrived off of the music of the day and making the new show sound just right is music supervisor Ashley Neumeister.
Soul Train started in Chicago in the early 70s before making a move to Los Angeles and prominent national exposure. American Soul starts there and takes us through the life of the long-time host and the show’s creator, Don Cornelius. Artists like Kelly Rowland and Wayne Brady show playing legendary singers like Gladys Knight and Little Richard, and another multi-award winning artist wrote several original songs for the show’s characters who are aspiring entertainers.
PopAxiom caught Ashley between a spotting session and preparation for an awards show to talk about being a music supervisor and American Soul.
Something In Music
Ashley grew up in “… A really small a** town …” La Crescent, Minnesota. Population: 4,830 (as of 2010).
“My parents were big music lovers, so music was always a big part of my life.”
Growing up, Ashley listened to everything, but also learned “… piano,” and, “… sang in the choir.”
As she definitively puts it, “I just loved music.”
Musical passion took Ashley to “… Columbia College in Chicago to study Music Business. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I wanted to do something in music.”
Ashley focused on being a record producer, but near the end of her time at Columbia, she felt “this isn’t what I really want to do.”
Ashley joined a new program at the school in Music Supervision. “I quickly realized that was what I wanted to do.”
Being A Music Supervisor
Ashely’s been busy in the business for more than a decade now. What’s changed over that time? “There’s no such thing as a production season anymore.”
We’re in a world of non-stop movies, network TV, premium cable, video games, and streaming. “We’re working all year round.”
The job of a music supervisor like many jobs in film and creative projects “… changes depending on the project.”
What does Ashley do? “In addition to finding music for scenes, it’s about getting the rights to use the songs, which is incredibly time-consuming.”
“You’d think it [getting rights] would be a lot easier, but it’s challenging.” More on that later.
Ashley adds about her role as music supervisor that she will, “Reach out to the people. Negotiate fees. Stay within budget.”
But it doesn’t end there. Or start there. It’s whatever needs to get done. “Sometimes, we help hire composers and provide support with that process. I would manage on-camera performances too. Getting the talent to make that happen.”
Ashley also needs to clear songs, a process that goes through phases, deliver audio to the stage for live performances, and getting it to the music editor. “It’s a lot of little things that you have to manage and be aware of.”
About American Soul
For American Soul, Ashley had to do pretty much all the above. The process included some legendary talent. “The three main characters of the show are an aspiring group. We had five original songs written by Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds.”
During the process of creating those songs, Ashley, “… had to make sure the lyrics make sense with the script.”
Soul Train featured an incredible amount of music in its 35-year history. American Soul has original songs, plus a brilliant score from Kurt Farquhar, but also, “We re-recorded 25 cover songs; early 70s R&B hits. That involves a lot of things.”
On rare occasions, Ashley notes, “… writers will write in song titles. I will see that and let them know if it’s possible or not.”
“Most of the time, editors cut in songs because editors love to edit to cut to music. I try to give them the music ahead of time. For American Soul, I gave the editors a bunch of different folders for stuff that could work bar scenes … diner scenes … that way they’re pulling from a folder of stuff that we can use.”
The role of a music supervisor comes with many hats, which makes it challenging which, in turn, makes it fun for the people who love to do it. The first challenge Ashley mentioned before — song rights. “One of the biggest challenges really is who owns music. Who are the writers and publishers of a lot of music and finding that contact information.”
The legal rigamarole is real. “There are a lot of songs that are in conflict, and no one knows who really owns it.”
The second biggest challenge? “… Deadlines. TV moves fast.”
If you could work on a remake of a favorite film, what would it be? “Footloose.”
When it comes to what kind of music she likes, Ashley puts it simply, “I listen to everything.”
What’s she listening to lately? “I work on a lot of shows that use R&B and soul music, so I’ve been listening to a lot of that. One of my favorite artists is Jacob Banks. I’ve used a few of his songs in my shows. I also love Masego; also a soul singer who plays saxophone, and does a lot of really cool collaborations.”
Ashley’s work continues on “… Games People Play” on BET. Also coming up is “Ambitions on Own.”
Thanks to Ashley Neumeister and Rhapsody PR
for making this interview possible.
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