Natalie Holt Breaks Down Her Star Wars Sound and Reveals Cherished John Williams’ Gift

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Following the full trailer earlier in the week, Natalie Holt discusses building new themes for planets and Stormtroopers in the upcoming Disney+ Obi-Wan Kenobi series, and where she falls in the canon of Star Wars composers.

Loki was where I set out my stool, as it were, for people to hear what I do,” she tells THR. “I think that’s what led Lucasfilm to hear about me.”

Now on her second major Disney project, the British composer, classically trained violinist and “huge fan of John Williams” will share space in the canon of one of Hollywood’s most enduring franchises. And she’ll do it alongside the man who is “basically the reason why I noticed music in film as a child.”

“John signed the Obi theme for me. I’ve got a printed Obi theme that he recorded and I’ve had it framed,” she told THR, excitedly. “It’s my pride and joy. I’m super happy to have his signature because he’s literally my hero.”

The two didn’t directly collaborate for the show, but Holt says his work on the series’ main character theme helped give her the foundation she needed to musically access one of TV’s most anticipated 2022 series. “The most difficult thing was finding my access point. What was my take on Star Wars? Because it is getting my head around it; feeling a bit frozen with the enormity of it,” she explains.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter ahead of Star Wars Day — as well as a Thursday appearance alongside composers Carter Burwell (The Morning Show) and Siddhartha Khosla (Only Murders in the Building) during a special live streamed ASCAP Experience panel — Holt spoke about how she achieved that satisfying feeling of “unlocking” her key into Star Wars, how the composing experience was different than Loki and what will make her Star Wars sound different.

Both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Loki are shows about hero-types whose stories are tethered to space. How did you approach them differently?

Loki required a certain lightness of touch, shall we say? It was more comedic in places and was also just a wacky journey through time and space. I was using lots of different palettes of color in that that weren’t appropriate for [Obi-Wan Kenobi] because it is more of a serious tone. For me as a violinist and as someone who’s a lover of big orchestral sounds, it was just a chance to pay homage to John Williams. It’s kind of a collaboration with the history of Star Wars and his new theme, and then also bringing a bit of modernity to it. There are some new elements in there. I guess it was my take on orchestral and emotional. I really got some lovely violin solos in there from James Ehnes. It was pushing the forces of what I’ve been allowed to work with before because of the scale of the drama, as well.

There’s a long history of Star Wars composers. Where within that timeline and on that sliding scale of experiences do you think your work falls? 

I probably had a more similar journey to John Powell or Michael Giacchino in the world of my Star Wars experience, because it was steeped in the historical heritage characters. Whereas, Ludwig [Göransson] had a kind of new landscape to work with, so he was able to carve out a bit more. He managed to set his own musical tone with what he was doing [in The Mandalorian] just a bit more away from the cannon. Powell had a theme written by John Williams, who wrote a theme for the Han Solo movie as well. I got to meet him actually at the SCL Awards and it was just great to have a bit of camaraderie. He said you get a Star Wars job and it’s this thing that you’ve grown up with as a kid — and John Williams is John Williams — so it’s overwhelming and it takes you a hot minute to just get your head around it. (Laughs.) [Obi-Wan Kenobi director] Deborah Chow as well said this about just finding the tone and the balance of the Star Wars that we’ve known and then doing something fresh and a bit more your own identity within it.

How long do you think it took you to get your head around it musically? 

That felt like it took — I would say it was like episode four, where I felt like, “Oh, it’s just flowing now.” I was getting it and it was just flowing out, and Deborah was like, “Yep, great!” and hardly any notes back. Before that, she was like you’ve gone too old-fashioned or no, this isn’t for us. Luckily Deborah was very clear on what wasn’t appropriate in this area. When you’re jumping on a project, it’s really important to have someone leading in that way and she was great. Kathleen [Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm] as well. Everyone sort of has this overview that you don’t have because you’re like a rabbit in the headlights working on the show. And they’ve kind of gone through that. Deborah said everyone has this moment where they’re like, “Oh, I’m working on Star Wars!” The writers — like all departments. It takes everyone a minute to get used to the idea of it and then find their way.

On projects for Marvel and Lucasfilm, composers frequently have the task of scoring for both individual characters and ensembles. You can also be, beyond themes, scoring for specific places. How much were you juggling for Obi-Wan

I did a suite for Loki where I had the Mobius and the TVA theme, and the Kang theme. So, yes, you have your hero theme and then you branch out from that. Obviously, John Williams has written the Obi theme, but I did start off trying to write one, to be honest. I was writing from Deborah’s instructions and it was interesting. She was like, “He’s in the desert. He’s lost, he’s been alone.” It’s like anything for his theme would just be small, crumbling, fragmented and thin. Then it would grow as he goes on this journey. That was kind of interesting seeing the place that I arrived at, just for the world and his environment. Obviously, there are lots of different characters in the show, and I did also write music themes for planets. In addition, there is a Stormtroopers theme. That’s all I can say right now.

Did you have a chance to work directly with Williams for this? 

We didn’t collaborate, but I did get to use his theme. He didn’t have very long and it was quite last minute whether he’d have time or not. But he really wanted to write that theme because he was the one character that he didn’t write the theme for in the original movie. So I think he had this feeling that he wanted to complete the challenge. I think he had two weeks and he came on board and wrote the Obi theme and a suite, which is the main title, and then a few variations of how the Obi theme can work. That was what he had time to give the project, and it was just a gift. It’s so perfect and in a way, once I had that Obi theme, it set the tentpoles up for the project.

Read the interview in full hereObi-Wan Kenobi arrives on Disney+ on May 27th.

The post Natalie Holt Breaks Down Her Star Wars Sound and Reveals Cherished John Williams’ Gift appeared first on Jedi News.

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