LITTLE VOICE Co-Creator on 'Writing a Love Letter to the Music of New York City' - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

LITTLE VOICE Co-Creator on ‘Writing a Love Letter to the Music of New York City’

July 9, 2020 by  

Little Voice interview

Colton Ryan and Brittany O’Grady in “Little Voice,” premiering July 10 on Apple TV+. Credit: Apple TV+

More than five years after collaborating on the Tony-nominated musical WAITRESS, Jessie Nelson and Sara Bareilles reunited for the absolutely charming Apple TV+ series LITTLE VOICE.

In the musical drama, a young aspiring singer, Bess (Brittany O’Grady), sets out to pursue her performing dreams, while balancing her increasingly complicated personal and family lives. (Though the show is called LITTLE VOICE, the name of Bareilles’ first major album, the show is not autobiographical.)

For Nelson, diving into her first television series brought a different layer of collaboration with co-creator Bareilles.

“Doing WAITRESS, we were both in service of the [film] screenplay that Adrienne Shelly had written; we really wanted to honor that and bring it to life as a musical,” Nelson explains of the book she wrote and Bareilles’ original music. “So we really had a road map that we were following. [In co-creating this,] we were completely off road. We had no roadmap, we just had to kind of unzip ourselves and really find what was important to us: what themes we wanted to explore, how we wanted to capture the city.”

What they landed on ended up falling close to home. “We really wanted to write a love letter to the music of New York,” Nelson says. “So that was kind of our guiding star through a lot of it. But it was a very different process; it was really challenging in that way and wonderful to create something from scratch.”

In crafting the nine-episode first season—the first three episodes bow on Friday, July 10—the writers also found their best balance in run-time (with episodes averaging about 30 minutes) and how much music to infuse into the show.

“I liked the 30-minute form because it felt like short stories, like little short stories and slices of Bess’ life,” Nelson says. “And fairly quickly, we just had an instinct that it would be one to two original songs per episode…that felt kind of organic. There’s one episode where [due to the storyline], there was no original music in that episode.”

“The songs came in different ways,” she continues. “Sometimes I would have an idea for what I wanted an episode to be about, and I would ask Sara to write a song that sort of spoke to the theme of the episode. And then other songs Sara had written a while ago. One song she’d even written 20 years ago, the [theme] song ‘Little Voice,’ she wrote for her original album, and they wouldn’t let her put it on it. So it existed for us in a little time capsule of who she was when she was 23. So that was a very organic process of seeing which songs fit in which episode and how we wanted to kind of tee them up.”

But, naturally, in a show with aspirations of success in the music industry as a storyline, the writers also debated how far they wanted to advance Bess’ career in the first season.

“There were many conversations about how far she would get,” Nelson acknowledges. “For our character, [when] we meet [her], she can’t even initially get through her own material on stage. So it was just getting over that hump. We didn’t want to rush the journey. Our experience was, for both of us as young artists, it didn’t happen overnight. There was always you know, three steps forward, five steps back, ten steps forward, one step back.”

“Sara initially performed her music as a young performer; it didn’t go over well,” she continues. “She hid her original material, even the song ‘Gravity,’ for years and sang covers. And then, gradually, it led to her own music. So we wanted to really authentically capture that. You know, I always say that the person who wrote ‘Brave’ didn’t pop out of the womb writing ‘Brave.’ That was a journey to get to that song.”

And that’s part of why Nelson is so excited for viewers to meet Bess. “They’re going to learn what it means to be brave,” she says. “It isn’t about an absence of fear, it’s about doing something even though you’re afraid. It’s about taking that and letting fear be your tailwind and not your headwind. I think it’s about watching a very courageous, heart-forward, hopeful character find her way through this rather cynical world.”

LITTLE VOICE, Series Premiere, Friday, July 10, Apple TV+


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