Composer Ludwig Göransson Talks Sounds Of ‘Black Panther,’ Grammys & More [Interview]
The award-winning composer and songwriter, Ludwig Göransson, sits down with Okayplayer to talk about Black Panther, the Grammys and more.
Ludwig Göransson was still putting the final edits to his soon-to-be-heard music score for the upcoming superhero blockbuster film Black Panther when we spoke for this interview. If his name sounds a bit familiar to you it is probably because you’ve been hearing it attached to the words “award-winning” or “award-nominated” as Ludwig has won for his work on Atlanta and is nominated for a Grammy, both as part of a tandem with Childish Gambino (Donald Glover).
Being busy has been a part of the Swedish transplant’s life ever since enrolling at USC to learn the fine art of composing. It was at the acclaimed university where Ludwig was recommended for a gig that led him to a chance meeting with Glover that was only the half of the story that changed his life. We say half because it was also at USC where he met another game-changer in the form of director Ryan Coogler.
Both students, both driven to create relatable and praiseworthy content — Ludwig may say that he has had a very fortuitous career. Fast forward to 2018, and Ludwig iis now on his third full-length album with Donald (“Awaken, My Love!”) and third feature-length film with Ryan (Black Panther) and together they’ve never looked better. With all form of their creativity being praised at the highest levels (the Grammys and Hollywood) — Ludwig Göransson and his one-man-band side continues to change the face (and sound) of the industry.
Ludwig Göransson is only in his mid-30s, mind you. Going from having a pretty cool day job, scoring for TV (Community, New Girl) to introducing the world to Haim to having some of the best creatives in music and film on speed dial would spin anyone’s head around. But for this successful innovator, it is only another fun day at the office. We were blessed to be able to get a few moments with Ludwig Göransson as he talked with us about the themes he created for Marvel’s Black Panther, his thoughts on this weekend’s Grammys and if there’s any progress with that Chano and ‘Bino collaborative album. Enjoy!
Okayplayer: The first question I have is, you’ve probably been asked this a million times, but for our audience, how did you get your start in film and TV scoring at such a young age?
Ludwig Göransson: I figured out relatively early in my life that I loved writing all different kinds of music. I loved writing rock, jazz, classical, pop, you name it. I found a way where, within film scoring, you can utilize your sound for all different genres. Right after college in Stockholm, I applied to the University of Southern California’s film scoring program, and I got accepted. I moved completely to L.A. when I was 22, and I had never been in the U.S. before. I didn’t know anyone and after a year in that program I met Ryan Coogler, who was at USC for its director’s program.
After I graduated from USC, I got a job, an assistantship for a film composer whose name is Theodore Shapiro. I worked there for three years and thanks to him, he recommended me for a show called Community, which was how I met Donald Glover. From that show it led me to other places like New Girl and I got a chance to do some really cool films as well. It was also during that time I was working on Ryan’s short films, which were these three-to-five minute student films. When he graduated, he asked me to do his first full-length project, Fruitvale Station.
That’s what got the ball really rolling and we’ve just completed work on Marvel’s Black Panther.
OKP: Can you admit that you’ve had quite the fortuitous career path?
LG: [Laughs] I think it was because I was focused on film scoring. I had no idea that I would get an opportunity like I did producing albums and records and touring.
OKP: When you get a chance to connect with Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station, I wanted to know your thoughts on how it was to work on that project? How did you feel your scoring added to the emotive elements of the film to further tell Oscar Grant’s story?
LG: Whenever I work with Ryan he always sends me the script when it is in its very early stage. This is before he starts shooting, so I read the script and start to imagine what kind of sounds he might want. I also ask him what else is he listening to at the time when this scene he wrote happened. We work all of that out so when I finally see the first cut of the movie, we both revel in how perfect it is. I was telling him [for Fruitvale Station] that he didn’t really need any music because the way the film was shot, it was so extremely realistic. I just felt like I as a viewer was right there in the moment, and any music would kind of take you out of the realness of what you’re feeling while watching Fruitvale.
Keep in mind that this was his first film and it was one of my first features, so even though I felt like it didn’t really need a lot of music, we were still a young team wanting to try out stuff. We tried to put music in different scenes and tried to experiment what we could experiment with. One of the things Ryan had that was present in the script was the BART train. So, through different transitions, you could see and hear the BART train. It represented this tense sound that comes through the movie. I used that as the musical element for the moments where you actually have music, which is not a lot of them.
OKP: I wanted to ask if you had either your own top five music composers or top five hip-hop producers or top five MCs?
LG: To me in terms of composers and producers, I’d say Igor Stravinsky is definitely one of my favorites. I’ve really been enjoying Giacomo Puccini’s operas. The first time I went to an opera in 10 years, I was really emotionally moved, so he has been one of the people I’ve been listening to lately. For producing, I have to go with Kanye West, especially when I started working with Donald, and I hadn’t really worked on a lot of hip-hop or rap albums. Kanye was one of the first producers that I really started to study. I still never get tired of listening to anything that he produces.
Kendrick Lamar is one of my favorite MCs. To Pimp A Butterfly is on so many levels above others and is one of the best albums of the last 10 years. Musically and lyrically, it is just on every level, production, etc., and it is just so interesting to me. The last one on my list is George Benson. If you think about it, there has never been a jazz artist that broke into pop like he did. I have seen him a couple of times in the last 10 years and he was at Albert Hall. Most of the people there knew him from his pop songs, but throughout his two-hour show, George would just break out his guitar and go into this crazy guitar solo that no one else could ever do.
Plus, he did three costume changes. The man is a genius.
OKP: Speaking of live, I got a chance to see you live when you performed the score for Creed at Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. I really wanted to know the inspiration behind “If I Fight, You Fight,” the song you did for the training montage.