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Several years ago, Sugarland's Kristian Bush and his brother Brandon, a former member of the band Train who also plays keyboards for Sugarland, were channel surfing on their tour bus when they stumbled across Turner Classic Movies, a station they had never really noticed before.
"The first thing that hit us was the fact that there were no commercials," Kristian says. "When you're trying to unwind after a show, you really want something immersive. We got pulled right in – it was so experimental, and it's curated content. Both of us were hooked right away, and over time, we became real TCM fans.”
Once back home in Atlanta (which, coincidentally, happens to be where TCM is headquartered), the Bush brothers contacted a few of the station's execs and suggested a breakfast meeting to throw around some ideas. "Not only were they crazy enough to say yes," Kristian says, "but when we asked, 'Why don't you guys let us score something for you?' they said yes to that too. We thought it was a high-risk idea, but they jumped right in."
The Bushes holed up in their Decatur studio, The Projector Room, and Atlanta's Crawford facility and assembled a small group of area players to cook up the music to an insanely clever 30-second on-air promo spot that trips through the history of cinematic scoring with audio homages to King Kong, Psycho, Dr. No and To Kill A Mockingbird. "In one piece of music, we're paying tribute to Max Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, John Barry and Elmer Bernstein," says Brandon. "Putting all the cues together and making them work seamlessly took some doing, but I think we got it in the end."
Kristian, who will be releasing his debut solo album sometime this year, is currently on tour ahead of the release of his debut solo album, while Brandon, a studio musician with credits on over 100 recordings, serves as musical director and keyboardist for his brother's five-piece band. Both Bushes insist that a move into proper film scoring lies in their future. "It's another avenue of storytelling that we really enjoy," Kristian says.
“As a business and as publishers and songwriters, it’s what we’re pursuing," Brandon adds. "Doing the TCM shot sure whetted the appetite. Of all the things I’ve done as a musician, nothing beats the feeling of having a score laid out in front of me and seeing musicians on the other side of the glass. Hearing music brought to life by other musicians – it’s hard to supersede how awesome that is.”
On the following pages, Kristian and Brandon Bush run down their picks for 10 essential film scores.