INTERVIEW: Composer Kurt Farquhar Puts The Rhythm Into American Soul on BET

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Award-winning composer Kurt Farquhar brings 70s vibes to modern TV to score American Soul, a BET series that looks at the rise of Soul Train the long-lived music-dance television show. 

Soul Train ran for 35 years and featured some of the most amazing musical talents during its run. American Soul is c0-produced by Anthony Cornelius, the son of Soul Train’s creator and long-time host Don Cornelius. Of course, this is a dramatized version of it all, but it features musical stars just the same with the likes of Kelly Rowland playing Gladys Knight, Michelle Williams playing Diana Ross, and Wayne Brady playing Little Richard.

PopAxiom got on the dance floor with Kurt Farquhar to talk about making music for shows like Black Lightning and The Neighborhood and putting the rhythm into American Soul.

Symphony To Soul

Kurt began playing music “very, very young, around the age of four,” and his mother encouraged him to “play guitar.” However, Kurt, “Didn’t take to it.” Flash-forward, a few decades and Kurt, can now play 20 instruments, but “… I still can’t play guitar.”

“Oddly enough, I write for guitar really well. Just can’t play it though.”

Despite lacking the skills for the guitar, Kurt says, “I was very much a rock and roller when I was a kid. A lot of Hendrix and Jethro Tull.”

Kurt wrote his first symphony at age 12, so there was little doubt music would be his professional life. “I thought that the word composer was snooty. It took a few years of doing scores for TV shows before I called myself a composer. Other people are composers,” Kurt thought, “I look at James Newton Howard, one of my favorite composers ever, that’s a composer.”

While working in TV, Kurt also worked with musicians like the Pointer Sisters, Natalie Cole, and Lionel Richie. More gigs came in from both ends, and something had to give. Unsure which way to go, Kurt called his brother, writer Ralph Farquhar, who said, “What’s going to pay the bills?” Kurt quickly replied, “… the TV stuff.” Ralph hung up. ‘Nuff said.

Like the hero in a story destined to accept his place in the grand scheme, Kurt embraced the word composer. “To go from Sister, Sister, to Moesha, and King of Queens to Black Lightning, The Neighborhood, and American Soul … it’s pretty humbling at times.”

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About American Soul

American Soul premiered on BET on February 19th, 2019 and the network already renewed the series for a second season. “I’m from Chicago, so I have a personal connection with the show.”

American Soul is based on a legacy that’s rich with incredible music that appeared through the 30+ years of Soul Train. “The key to doing the show was for it to sound ‘retro’ but not ‘old.’”

Kurt’s score was going to live alongside classic hit songs plucked by Music Supervisor Ashley Neumeister and original songs written by Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds. “I wanted the score to feel like it was inhabiting the same world. Some of the mysterious or sinister scenes feel like a 70s cop show. I took that vibe from the 70s and made it slightly newer.”

“I’m proud of the sound. It’s not like anything else on TV.”

Soul Train started in Chicago, and American Soul begins as the show makes its move to Los Angeles and prominent national exposure. Kurt explains, “I wanted a lot of live musicians. So, I brought in a lot of really amazing Chicago musicians like guitarist Keith Henderson, Ray Fuller, and Daryl Jones.”

Wrapping Up

Kurt’s musical influences run the gamut of what’s out there. But he joyfully confesses, “I do love country western a little more than everything else. True story.”

What’s next? “I’m working on Games People Play on BET. It’s an exciting show. I also worked on a show premiering on Own [Oprah’s network] starring Michael White and Robin Givens.”

Thanks to Kurt Farquhar and Rhapsody PR for making this interview possible.

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By 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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