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Interview with Kasey Truman/Chop Shop & Matt Mugford/Walt Disney Film Studio


On The Music Beat
The Ins and Outs of Music Placement in Movies and TV Series


Featuring: Kasey Truman
Music Supervisor, Chop Shop Music



Matt Mugford
Music Supervisor, Walt Disney Film Studio

By Frances and Harry Date - Song Matchmakers Network

Kasey Truman is the music supervisor for the television series Hart of Dixie, Suburgatory, and the upcoming Veronica Mars film, and also works on Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, Supernatural and Mad Men. Past shows include Private Practice, Chuck, Gossip Girl, Rescue Me, Off The Map, FlashForward, Numb3rs and Without a Trace. She recently supervised the indie film Sassy Pants and soccer documentary Pelada. Other Chop Shop film projects include a five film/soundtrack run with the Twilight Saga, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Warm Bodies, The Dilemma, Water For Elephants, Remember Me and New In Town. Kasey has been with Chop Shop since 2007, but got her start in music supervision working as a coordinator for Mary Ramos in 2004 (Be Cool, Freedom Writers, The Big White, Keith and I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer). She is a graduate of Duke University (Bachelor of Arts Psychology), where she was the captain of the Women's Soccer team. She also earned a Master's Degree in Sport Psychology from Cal-State Fullerton.

Matt Mugford is a Los Angeles based music supervisor who has worked on various film, TV, and advertising projects. Matt got his start at Chop Shop Music Supervision, working under acclaimed music supervisor, Alexandra Patsavas. During his time at Chop Shop he worked on TV shows, such as Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, Mad Men, Chuck, Supernatural, Scandal, Hart Of Dixie, and several others. He also contributed to films such as The Twilight Saga franchise, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, and The Dilemma. In 2012, Matt began at the Walt Disney Film Studio, within the Live Action Film Music Department. Currently he helps to oversee music in films across the Disney brand and contributes to their soundtracks. Recent projects include, Oz The Great And Powerful, Iron Man 3 Inspired By Soundtrack Album, and the upcoming Echo.

Today we're talking with Kasey Truman and Matt Mugford. They worked together at Chop Shop, a company run and owned by Alexandra Patsavas.

Since they worked together, we thought it would be interesting to interview them together.
As music supervisors at Chop Shop, they worked on the TV shows Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, Gossip Girl, Mad Men, Supernatural, Hart Of Dixie, Scandal, Suburgatory, and  Chuck, as well as the feature films The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, Perks Of Being a Wallflower, and Warm Bodies.  Kasey is currently with Chop Shop, and Matt is now with Walt Disney Film Studio.

1.    SMN: Kasey, at Chop Shop, do the music supervisors work as a team on the shows or do you work on individual shows?

KT: It’s both. We do work as a team and there are certain shows that we gravitate toward or that we work on more exclusively. But, eventually, when it all comes down to it, we’re all working as a team.

SMN: Meaning that if someone hears a song and they think it’s right for a particular show, they’ll just hand it off?

KT: Yeah, essentially. We have a very organized way to go about that, but we definitely share creative ideas.

SMN: Well that’s great to work as a team.

2.    SMN: Matt, when you were at Chop Shop how many shows were you typically looking for music for at the same time?

MM: It varied. Like Kasey was saying, we were all kind of working together on all the different projects that were coming through at Chop Shop, but there was definitely the ones that you kind of gravitate towards or that you become more responsible for over the course of a TV season. Chop Shop was full of lovely ladies, and I was one of the only guys at the time, so I kind of ended up gravitating toward the more male driven projects we were working on. So I spent some time working on shows like Chuck, Supernatural, and Mad Men, and those kinds of things. And, as the business kind of escalates, then you start working on everything: Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and all the other shows as well. So it’s not necessarily any amount of shows that you’re working on at one point. It’s kind of all of the above, and then there’s the few that you’re kind of focusing on maybe more exclusively.

SMN: And I know that Chop Shop has an enormous amount of TV shows to handle. So that must be fun.

MM: Yes. It’s very fun and very fast paced.  

3.    SMN: Kasey, how many TV “seasons” are there in a year and  how many episodes are in a typical season?

KT:  Well, you have, for example, Grey’s Anatomy: we just finished Season 9, but I think it’s easy to divide it into the fall and the spring. That’s kind of how it works. The shows generally start airing September/early October, depending on the network. And then we’re finished up to the first of December. That’s when a lot of the Christmas programming starts. And then we’re pretty quiet January up to mid-February, and then our shows kick in again. Then we have our season finale, usually in May. In the summer, at least for the shows we’re a part of, we no longer have summer shows. Mad Men used to actually be a summer show for us, but that show schedule has shifted through the years. Rescue Me as well, which was a while ago. But that was a summer show for us. So now we really do just have the true fall/spring lineup.

4.    SMN: Matt, when at Chop Shop, when did you begin to select music for a show for each season?

MM: The music searching process is year-round. We’re always looking for the music that will fit within the shows and projects we’re working on. So that kind of process is always going on. As far as actually selecting--like when you start really getting down to the editors, producers, directors, making the final decisions on songs for a certain episode or a certain project--if the TV season is starting in the fall, maybe towards the end of the summer you start pitching different song ideas.

What happens a lot of times is early on in the season, you will be selecting way in advance, and then you kind of catch up to production, and it becomes a little bit more frantic and last minute. And that’s when the real fun happens, I guess. But it’s kind of ongoing. I think for Kasey and I both, we’re always listening to music. Every time we get a submission, whether we’re in the middle of a TV season or if I’m in the middle of a film, we’re considering it for any opportunity that’s going to be coming our way in the future.

5.    SMN: That makes a lot of sense, which leads me to my question for Kasey. How many episodes are you ahead of airing when selecting music for an episode?

KT: I would say we have about a two to three week, max, turnaround.

SMN: That’s pretty tight. That’s got to be really tight for the amount of shows you’re working on.

KT: Yes. And turnaround means that from when we get a list to when it could potentially air. Air dates do shift, so that time can be extended a bit, but what’s important for us is when the episode is actually finished mixing, which means everything becomes final; after the mix, you’re stuck with what it is. So that turnaround from the music list to when it mixes is usually, I would say, two weeks. And then, usually, you can add a couple days onto that for when it’s going to air.

SMN: And how many shows would you be working with at the same time that you have that two week deadline?

KT: Seven to ten, as a company.

SMN: Wow. Interesting.

KT: It just depends. There are some times when we have seven shows, and there have been times when all of our shows are going all at once, and there is that turnaround.

6.    SMN: Very fast paced. Crazy.  Matt, do you have a mental checklist that you use when considering a song for a scene? What questions do you ask yourself to decide if it’s right?

MM: I think everybody listens to music in a little bit of a different way, which is something that is very interesting to me. But, for me, when I’m listening to a song and trying to consider if it’s good for a scene or a certain project that I’m working on, I tend to listen to the vibe of the song a little more. That’s the first thing that sticks out for me, the vibe, and maybe the arrangement or what the song sounds like, as opposed to listening more for the content or lyric. For me that kind of comes a little bit later. I’m always looking for stuff that will fit and create some sort of emotion; happy, sad, it doesn’t really matter. You get songs that come through and you kind of know instantly, “This is a great song. What kind of scene would it work for?” So it kind of works in many different ways, but, for me, it’s always kind of listening for, “What is the real vibe of this song? What does it sound like? What does it make you feel?” And then you kind of go from there.

SMN: If you found a song where the verses didn’t fit, but the chorus was right on, would you at one point just use the chorus of a song?

MM: Yeah, sometimes. I think there are always ways to maneuver around certain things. In most cases you’re not using the full song anyway, so there’s definitely different sections that you can pass on, whether you’re working with a certain editor or a producer, and let them know, “Hey, here’s a great song. Make sure you listen to this section to really understand why this would be a great song for whatever the particular scene may be.”

SMN: So if someone wanted to send you music where they felt the chorus was right on but the verses weren’t, if they just sent you the chorus, does that work?

MM: I like to have the whole song. I like to hear the whole idea, and from there you can kind of work into getting an instrumental version or getting different sections of the song customized. But for me I want to hear the whole song in its original format first. 

7.    SMN: Makes sense. Kasey, what  shows that you  worked on got picked up for the next season?

KT: Hart of Dixie , Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and Supernatural. And Mad Men will come back, I believe. Yeah, I think we have quite a few coming back.

SMN: Now, in a show like Mad Men, where you’re using original music, and it’s definitely a time period, do you ever consider using an unknown song and an unknown writer that has the right feel of the era that you’re working in?

KT: Not really. Mad Men is Matthew Weiner; he’s the creator of that show, and it’s his brainchild. He’s choosing songs where the scene is absolutely perfect for his episode. He’s choosing the songs for specific reasons. The unknown stuff doesn’t really happen unless we’re just kind of using some smaller background cues, and then we can sometimes get away with not having something recognizable, per se. But we are very strict on the time period.

SMN: And that’s really a show where the music takes you to that era.

KT: It does.

SMN: And you remember that song or somebody remembers when, and it’s a good use of that, I must say.

KT: Yeah, he’s pretty amazing.

8.    SMN: Matt, you made the change in 2012 to join the Walt Disney Film Studio, within the Live Action Film Music Department.  You currently help to oversee music in films across the Disney brand and their soundtracks. Tell us more about that?

MM: It’s not easy leaving a place like Chop Shop where you’re working on so many great projects, and obviously you’re working with a great staff, people like Kasey and Alex and the rest of the crew over there. But, last year I jumped over here to Disney, and it’s been a really interesting learning experience so far. I’ve been here for a little over a year now. We oversee all of the music for the live action films. What that means is, basically all the Disney feature films with people in them. So we don’t work on the animation or Pixar projects. Our main focus is the films, like this year we have Oz the Great and Powerful, and we have The Lone Ranger that just came out. We also release all the Marvel projects, so Iron Man 3 was something that we worked on earlier this year. That was obviously a really big hit for our studio.

Working at a major film studio, the main difference from my days at Chop Shop, is the timing of the projects we are working on. With films, we get a lot of time before these projects actually hit the screen, where in TV sometimes it’s just a week or two away. Here at Disney we’re working on films for several years as they’re in development and as they go through several steps to get into production and post-production. A lot of these properties have such high production value and have so many special effects that we end up working on these things for quite some time. So it’s definitely been an interesting shift, but also one that’s been really fun and very challenging at times. And at Disney, most of our projects are very high profile and have the potential to be very successful. It’s been very fun.

9.    SMN: And quite a change in pace, I’m sure.  Kasey, what are your projects for the new season? Do you have any new shows coming up?

KT: Well, I’m working on a movie called Veronica Mars, and that’s going on right now. We’re just starting to shoot this summer. And then in the fall, I’ll be doing the same shows. As far as pilots, a few pilots that we worked on got picked up, so that should be fun!

10.    SMN: Matt, what projects are you currently working on?

MM: We’re just finishing up this smaller budget film called Echo. And we just finished shooting the next Muppets movie, which is going to be called Muppets Most Wanted. Lots of really great music in that one. And then we have a couple of others, like I mentioned, Lone Ranger, just came out, which is a really, really fun film. We have a film coming later this year called Saving Mr. Banks, which is about the making of Mary Poppins. It’s a lot of the original Sherman Brothers songs from that film. We always have a lot of films in development here that we’re working on, and there’s a film in production right now called Million Dollar Arm. It’s a baseball movie that stars Jon Hamm, so I get to work with Don Draper again. There are always things that are in the pipeline that I can’t necessarily discuss yet, but, as we get closer, we’ll be able to reveal the plans for those.

SMN: Sounds like wonderful projects.

MM: Yes. It will be fun.

11.    SMN: Kasey, what shows will you be using original music in, and what genres will you use?

KT: Let’s see, Grey’s Anatomy is kind of a singer/songwriter, indie-rock, indie-electronic sort of vibe. Hart of Dixie is country: contemporary country, alt-country, singer/songwriter, indie/folk. Suburgatory is kind of all over the board. It’s, I would say, indie/folk, indie/rock, and then some fun recognizable hip-hop or big pop songs. I would say those are the three main ones.

SMN: And, a songwriters question: If they have a song that fits any of those projects, but they’re not an artist, is that something you would consider?

KT: Absolutely. If the recording is TV-ready, meaning if it’s not a work tape. The quality of a work tape won’t work, but a lot of times a flushed out demo will be just fine, and a lot of time even just a sparse acoustic/vocal track can work if the quality is good enough. So, yeah, we don’t really discriminate on established artists or not.

SMN: So the song wins out?

KT: Yeah, in most cases it does.

12.    SMN: That’s great. I’m sure our songwriter people that read these articles will be happy to hear that. Matt, do you use original songs from unknown writers and unknown artists in films?

MM: Yes we do. The film I was mentioning, Echo, which is kind of this lower budget thing as far as music rights. I had a lot of spots for music, so what ended up making it into the film was a lot of unknown artists that aren’t necessarily hitting the mainstream at the moment. Maybe they will at some point. But, yeah, we definitely use a lot of different stuff. And really, like Kasey was saying, the song does win out. If it’s a great song, I believe it has a life somewhere, whether it’s in one of the many Chop Shop projects or a film over at Disney. If it’s a great song, it’s a great song, one that will be used somewhere.

13.    SMN: That’s great to know. And that’s helping others careers being launched as well. Kasey, how do you like to work with publishers, writers, artists, and bands, and how do you like to receive submissions? Are you a CD person or a digital person?

KT: I’m digital, unless it has full art, and then I love seeing the full art on a record.

MM: Kasey is old school like that.

KT: I prefer to get the music as fast as possible, so digitally is fantastic, but if there is full album art, then I love to see that because I love to see the liner notes; it helps me remember who or what I’m listening to, and I love seeing who produced it, who actually wrote the songs, and all of that stuff, and that just really gets lost in a link. 

SMN: That’s true. And what do you new-schoolers like Matt?

MM: I’m a links guy. I like it digitally. You know, my dad loves the liner notes, but I end up with a stack of CD’s sitting around my desk that I don’t usually look at. So I like to get it as fast as possible. If it’s in an email where I can download it, put it in my ITunes, and listen to it right away, that’s usually the best way for it to have an immediate impact.

SMN: And do you prefer DropBox or BoxNet or something other?

MM: I love being able to preview. My favorite is Box.net, because you have the ability to preview before you download, and it’s a very easy way to get music I think.

SMN: Yeah, I enjoy using that too. What about you, Kasey? Do you like DropBox or Box.net?

KT: No, I agree with Matt. I do like Box. I do like to be able to stream something and also have the option to download the whole folder immediately. And I like YouSendIt too. I like being able to click on a link and download it. It is helpful to hear what I’m listening to before I download so I’m not wasting time or computer space.

14.    SMN: Kasey, when you hear a song that you like, what happens then? Do you send it to the producer of a show or what? How does it make its way from you to the show?

KT: Kind of what Matt was talking about before. We’re always looking for music for our shows. I just create playlists for each show, and once a week or every two weeks, I send, basically, a mix tape, an old school mix tape of music with the vibe that the show needs for  the season, and then the editors and the producers, everybody, will pick music from that. And that’s the music that gets cut in and essentially the music that is aired.

SMN: And when the song makes its way to your playlist, do you notify the person who submitted it?

KT: No, absolutely not. I try to keep expectations pretty low, because it can get really exciting if you know you’re in the mix on things, but, you know, until the episode is mixed and really until it airs, I don’t think anything is a sure thing, so I would rather just kind of do my job and provide the show with all the music, and if the song gets picked, then I’ll notify somebody, requesting the song. This is the first time they will know that their song is in contention.

SMN: Well, that’s also good information to know.

MM: Yeah, it’s never fun to be the dream killer.

15.    SMN: Matt, what are the differences between music agents, aggregators, music warehouses, licensing companies, and music libraries? I know that’s a long question, but there seem to be so many different sources of music for you folks, that I wonder just what the differences might be.

MM: I’m not sure what half of those things that you mentioned are. I’m not sure that I know what an aggregator is.

SMN: Well, that’s good, because we didn’t know. And it’s always mentioned in music supervisors panel, when an artist asks, “What is the best way to get your song in a movie or TV?” they’ll say, “You have to find an aggregator.” Do you guys agree with that?

MM: You know, I think really, all of those are just different vessels to get music to supervisors. Whether it’s a library or a warehouse, or a third party pitch company, they’re all essentially, on a basic level, doing the same thing, in my mind. They’re sending me music that they represent in some way, and I really try to trust my ears, so I try to not have a bias of, “Oh, this is from a music library,” or “This is from a certain thing so it’s going to have this certain sound.” I think there is so much good music out there, that wherever it’s coming from, it almost doesn’t really matter as long as it’s really good. If it’s good, then I’m going to listen to it, and I’m going to either want more or I’m going to try to use it in a project that I’m a part of. So, yeah, I’m sure there are several differences in nuanced ways, but to me they’re all kind of serving the same purpose.

16.    SMN: Yes. They’re all music providers. Kasey, we often hear that we should “do our homework” when submitting music for a TV show or a movie. Let’s say we’ve done our homework and we know the genres and time periods used, what should we concentrate on then for a submission? Where we think the storyline is going or just the emotion of the song? Lyrically or musically?

KT: I think it’s a tough thing to predict what’s going to happen, because you’re watching the episodes as they’re airing, and we’re working on them a little bit earlier than that, obviously, so you could be predicting something for a storyline that you just saw, but we’ve already kind of moved past the two episodes that you were going to be pitching for. So I think a general rule of thumb is, yes, mild plot points I think would be fine, but more the vibe of the show, the tone of the songs that we do use. I would cater pitches towards that: just seeing and going online and looking at the ABC music lounge or the CW has a list of the music in every episode, and just kind of seeing what is consistently being used, what the sound that the show uses is and then catering your pitches toward that.

SMN: That’s an excellent suggestion.

KT: You can start overthinking it. You’re really going for plot. And, also, really specific songs like that usually don’t line up anyway. 

17.    SMN: Interesting. Matt, if you could sum it up in a few words, what advice would you give to publishers and songwriters/artists who want to place their songs in movies and TV?

MM:  That’s a tough one. I think it’s kind of in the theme I’ve kind of been going back to. You know, if the music is great, then it’s going to find a place. So I guess my suggestion for songwriters and publishers is just to really focus on the craft of good songwriting, because if you have a great song, then it will have a life somewhere. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always for placement. Maybe it has a life if you are a touring musician and you get a fan base because of that, or you have great music and write for other artists and they make it popular. I think there’s just a lot of ways that you can get caught up in the politics of everything, when, really, it boils down to just great art, and I think if you can really focus on making good music and then partnering and aligning yourself with good people, that can help you. I think all of that stuff kind of falls into place as long as the music is there.

SMN: Kasey, what would you add to that?

KT: I actually completely agree with what Matt just said. He said it perfectly.

MM: Perfect. Here’s what happened though. Kasey’s taught me everything I know, so what I just did was I said something that she probably told me years ago and took credit for it.

SMN: And for that reason Matt,  you thought it might be fun today to interview the two of you at the same time which is something we haven’t done before, but knowing your background and relationship, I think it’s been great. And we have one last question to ask you both. Well, two last questions. The first is: Kasey, do you have a favorite story that you would like to share with our readers? You can clean it up if necessary.

KT: I do have a lot of favorite memories about Matt, that’s for sure. And one is going to South by Southwest one year. We both rented bikes and did SX riding around on bikes and going from show to show, and that was pretty awesome.

MM: That was definitely a memorable experience, that’s for sure, which is really the only way to do South now. We can’t go back. We have to do it on bike.

KT: Too much walking, that’s for sure. 

18.    SMN: And lastly, for either one of you, is there a question we should have asked but didn’t?

MM: You should ask Kasey where she’s going tomorrow.

SMN: (Chuckles) Kasey, where are you going tomorrow?

KT: I am going to Hawaii.

SMN: Oh, I’m so jealous.

MM: Yeah, we’re all jealous of you.

KT: Yep. I’m on vacation.

SMN: Well, I’m sure it’s a well deserved rest.

KT: Oh, thank you. I’m looking forward to it.

MM: It definitely is.

SMN: And Matt, where are you going tomorrow?

MM: Tomorrow, actually, I’m going up to Big Bear. I’m going camping with some friends.

SMN: Oh, well that sounds cool.

MM: I know. Yeah, camping on purpose. Who does that?

SMN: A different kind of camping than Kasey will be doing.

MM: Yeah, I would much rather be where Kasey is, that’s for sure.

SMN: Well, We thank you both for taking time out of your busy schedules to talk with us today.


Frances and Harry Date are Song Matchmakers Network – a boutique one stop music publisher, music licensing, and production company.  Have a question you’d like us to ask or a person you’d like us to interview? Send them to SongMatchmakersquestions@gmail.com
For more information about us, see our website SongMatchmakersNetwork.com.


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