In True Detective‘s first season, music director T Bone Burnett helped elevate the show’s intense drama with an incredible mix of haunting, original roots-rock tunes and classic tracks by acts like Captain Beefheart. Burnett is back at it for season 2, which has relocated from the Louisiana bayou to the wilds of Los Angeles and stars Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams. EW caught up with the prolific producer to talk about the music and the top secret project ahead of it’s June 21 premiere on HBO.
Were you pumped to work on Season 2?
It’s exciting. The writing is really good and the acting is really good. And because they’re so good, it’s really inspiring to score. The music grows right out of the character. And the stronger the characters, the stronger the music.
How does this season’s setting affect the songs you write?
It’s very, very different. It’s not just Los Angeles — it’s California. It’s the desert. Last year, it was a swampy kind of vibe. This year, it’s an incredibly different landscape, and different colors. It’s barren and dangerous, more arid and electronic. [The music] sounds very electronic, but it’s just me and the guys playing instruments the way a machine would sound. There is original music that plays an important part in the story this season.
Were you listening to anything in particular for inspiration?
I like this guy Tipper. He’s a glitch-hop artist. And I like Haxan Cloak a lot. Those are a couple of good electronic artists.
Creator Nic Pizzolatto is notoriously tight-lipped. How would he explain what he wanted?
I read the script. Then we’d get together and talk about the scenes, and where the shifts are. He lets his intentions be known, but then he leaves us alone. He’s great at giving you a jumping-off place, from which to dive in.
Barely any details have leaked about the show. Do you have to write and record in total privacy?
Sort of! We kept everything real tight. But it wasn’t a bunker.
You worked with Lera Lynn and Rosanne Cash for the song featured in the trailer. What’s it called? And how does that song play into the new season?
It’s called “The Only Thing Worth Fighting For.” It hasn’t been fully released. I’d rather let that be revealed as the show plays out. But it’s an interesting axis to the show. There is original music that plays an important part in the story this season.
I feel like I’d be robbing you if I told you that. [Laughs]
How much of the new season have you seen?
I’ve seen half, and I’ve read all of it. It has really strong characters. It’s like a hard-boiled detective [novel]. The first read like a Faulkner novel. But this is more in the James M. Cain and Ross Macdonald kind of world. Nic is a very studied writer.
True Detective premieres on June 21 on HBO.