The music director opens up about Lera Lynn's role — and why the bar is the "beating heart of the show."

By Kevin O'Donnell
July 17, 2015 at 12:00 PM EDT
Lacey Terrell/HBO
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Is season 2 of True Detective finally turning a corner? Judging from last Sunday’s episode, which ended with an epic, bloody shoot-out, things are about to get way more insane in the industrial wasteland of Vinci, California.

One crucial element to heightening the drama: music director T Bone Burnett, who has been crafting the score for this season. He’s also been collaborating on music with Lera Lynn, the singer-guitarist who’s been performing her haunting tunes in the bar.

So what can viewers expect for the remaining episodes? And how will the music (and Lynn) figure into each episode? The prolific producer spills some secrets with EW.

Are you all wrapped up with scoring this season?

No! We’re still scoring the last episode. We’re on a much tighter schedule this year than last year. It’s busy. But It’s getting really good. The music is deepening.

How so?

Just as the characters grow richer, the music grows richer. It gets more complex.

One character who looks more intriguing is Jordan Semyon, Vince Vaughn’s girlfriend who is played by Kelly Reilly.

Wait until you see where she goes. It’s amazing. Every character gets really, really interesting.

What do you think of the episodes that have aired so far?

From the perspective of the score, last episode was the end of the first half of this story. It ended on a freeze frame. Now something else is coming.

Fans have been critical of the season’s slow start. What’s your reaction to the haters?

There will be a lot of that. I haven’t been reading everything. There’s so much!

What’s Lera Lynn‘s role in the show? How come she’s appearing in each episode?

She’s providing tone. And the words [she sings] are mystical. I don’t know exactly what [show creator] Nic Pizzolatto is doing, but he had short descriptions in the scripts. He was conjuring tone with his thoughts. For the song “My Least Favorite Life,” he wrote about a dead lover who comes back as a crow. Part of the show is — the heart of the show, I think — is all happening in that bar. That’s the beating heart of the show. It’ll become clearer. But to me, that bar is where True Detective happens. That’s the psychosphere. Something feels central about it.

Is Lera playing a character on the show?

We wrote a junkie singer who was way too good to be in this horrible dive. That is her gig.

So she’s not an apparition.

I don’t know. Maybe. All I can tell you is that it gets very emotional.

What’s the collaborative process been like between you two?

It’s pretty easy. I love to collaborate and work with other people’s ideas. For “Church in Ruins,” I had the line “You were a loner, you were alive among the walking dead. He was a liar who would not atone, still he went to your head.” I had that melody and verse and Lera finished it off from there. I was thinking of writers like John Fante or James M. Cain, who wrote The Postman Always Rings Twice.

Will she be featured in the remaining episodes?

She does a couple more, I think. She’s significant in there. But I’m working on it right now! I could be wrong. [Laughs]

The other music element–the more atmospheric score — is sometimes hard to hear. Will that change?

The first half, the music is very subliminal. Everything has to be incredibly gossamer. You can’t hit anything very hard. But something strange happens in the second half. The score asserts itself in a new way. I’m loving this whole world of electronic music right now. You get some killer vibe or some killer tone and you get it to a good place. The score is also mixing with the loud ambience of Los Angeles. We’re using a lot of found sounds. But it becomes fuller and more prominent.

What’d you think of that bonkers shoot-out scene?

When I first saw it, it was shocking. I enjoyed that it all came down at once. That’s how life is.

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Meet the singer behind the haunting music of True Detective season 2

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the title of “My Least Favorite Life.”

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