INTERVIEW: Composer Bo Boddie Bolsters Emotions In NBC’s Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is a unique musical-comedy airing on NBC and Peacock about a software developer who can hear people’s innermost thoughts in the form of songs, and between the musical numbers is the work of composer Bo Boddie.

Jane Levy (Don’t Breathe, Evil Dead) stars as Zoey Clark, who discovers the incredible ability to translate others’ emotions into song. This remarkable power develops from an MRI happening during an earthquake that downloads a library of music into Zoey’s brain. Zoey’s newfound power leads to revelations from the people around her that create hilarious and heartwarming entertainment.

PopAxiom and composer Bo Boddie spoke about the road to becoming a composer for a hit network television, 80s music, and making music for Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.

Connection

“I started taking piano lessons when I was five; classical piano,” Bo begins his story. “I studied that through college.”

Bo’s parents were fans of music. “I started discovering music for myself when I got a stereo tape deck for Christmas one year. I got to pick what I wanted to listen to. My parents were predominantly classical music fans. So, I spent a lot of time sitting in my room listening to music.”

Bo spent time in choirs but at the age of 12 “started learning guitar. “That was the first real instrument that I felt was my own. I could not only perform music that people had written but that I could make my music. That opened up a lot of doors to me in the world of writing and improvisation.”

“In college, I continued to study music though I wasn’t a music major,” the art history graduate says. Bo’s musical education continued with hands-on experience: “I played in a lot of bands.”

As much as he loved music, Bo says, “I didn’t think that I was going to have a music career. I moved to NYC after college and worked at Citibank for a while. It took about a year of that before I realized I needed to be involved in music in some way.”

Bo returned to school. “I went to graduate school at NYU and got a music degree. I started working in the studio business as I was interested in producing records, engineering, and mixing. At that time, pre-YouTube, on the cusp of the information age, and the only way of learning that was in the studio.”

“I went through an internship and assistant-ship and that process,” he says. “I did that professionally until about 2010, but I had a kid and wanted to spend more time at home.”

“I’d written some music for a VH1 documentary; library music stuff. So, I moved out to LA, where I had to start over. I utilized every connection I had to write more music for pictures.”

Bo wasn’t the only one moving to LA at that time. “It happens a friend of mine moved out to LA at the same time, composer Craig Wedren. His career was exploding, and he needed help. I started working with him, writing music for pretty much everything that came through the door. That’s how I got into it.”

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About Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist

Bo’s involvement with Zoey was the next step in his partnership with Wedren. “Craig called me up one day and asked me if I wanted to do it.”

Bo and Wedren took the reigns from previous composers Mateo Messina and Gabriel Mann, who worked on the first four of now eighteen episodes. “It’s a great project to be working on, especially during the pandemic. It’s such an emotional show. It was a comfort to be able to work on it at that time.”

“Our showrunner, [creator] Austin Winsberg had a very specific idea about what kind of scoring he wanted,” he says. “We pretty much adhered to that.”

Bo’s work on the show flows between “The song and dance numbers” in the series. Bo says those “are the wild splashes of musical color.”

“There’s action and comedy style cues that are used; acoustic percussion principally,” he says about the sonic world bringing the comedy, drama, and surrealism together. “Different drum kits and hand percussion. The more emotional scenes use a lot of strings, synthesizers, and piano.”

Bo explains the interplay going on behind-the-scenes between the layers of music. “The score is there to help out what’s happening on the screen without getting in the way. It bolsters whatever emotion is happening on the screen but does its best not to guide it.”

Process

Bo’s work as a composer dives headfirst into a genre of any kind. “Broadly speaking, there’s motifs and instruments that you would use specifically for horror versus comedy.”

“I find that in a lot of mainstream comedy,” he explains, “there’s always a call for a lot of different genres. So, it’s great to be flexible in your ability to accomplish different projects.”

Bo’s working on a horror film, a genre he says, “there’s always a lot of give and take on how ‘horror-like’ it should be.”

Bo composes music at all times. “I do a lot of thinking about it when I’m not doing it. Once you have the picture up in front of you, for myself, that helps a lot.”

“When I see what’s happening on screen and see the emotion, the performance, the narrative,” he says, “then I can find it. That tells me what I should be doing.”

“Once you get past that first step, you can build from there. You start to know what it is.”

Wrapping Up

“My early DNA would be Bach and Mozart,” he says about the artists who make up his creative DNA. “The stuff that you learn as a young kid. That stuff informs you, and you constantly rediscover the genius in that work.”

“I love Van Halen,” he laughs after going from classical composers to bombastic rock. “I was a guitar player, so any kind of classic rock like Led Zeppelin and all that stuff. I loved 80s pop music. It was the music of my youth and something that I still adore.”

Bo recalls the early scores that caught his attention. “The first music for picture that I noticed other than John Williams … Star Wars and Indiana Jones and that sort of thing was 80s television. Knight Rider and Miami Vice with Jan Hammer. Harold Faltermeyer, who did Fletch. Those synthesizer scores from the 80s, I love those. I’m a huge fan of Wendy Carlos.”

“Glow represented the opportunity to play in that era,” he says. “It was a show firmly with its feet in that era. It was a fun post-modern look at the 80s.”

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is available on NBC’s streaming service, Peacock. So, what’s next for Bo? “Over the summer, I worked on a comedy called Lady in the Manor. It was co-written and co-directed by Christian Long and Justin Long. I’m working on a horror movie now.”

Is Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist on your watch list?

Thanks to Bo Boddie and Impact24 PR
for making this interview possible.

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Ruben Diaz
Writer, film-fanatic, geek, gamer, info junkie & consummate Devil's advocate who has been fascinated by Earth since 1976. Classically trained in the ways of the future.

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