‘The Righteous Gemstones’ Music Team on Crafting the Show’s Unique Sound

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When it comes to the family at the center of HBO‘s hilarious Danny McBride comedy The Righteous Gemstones, music is a key component to their bond, but how does the distinctive sound of the megachurch-set series come together?

Music Supervisor DeVoe Yates and Composer Joseph Stephens are two of the creatives helping to bring the cheery musical numbers and compositions together along with the more epic and holy-sounding tunes set against the show’s more dramatic moments. Season 3 had its fair share of music moments between Uncle Baby Billy’s (Walton Goggins) Bible Bonkers and the introduction of the Montgomery family.

Among one of the first performances of the season though was the inclusion of “There’ll Come a Payday,” the old gospel song Billy sings by the pool at Zion’s Landing, the religious resort the Gemstones opened in Season 2. When it came to selecting the song, Yates says, “We get the scripts first. We kind of get a sense of what Baby Billy’s arc is for the season. And we have a sit down with Danny to talk about his ideas about the season and the characters.”

Walton Goggins in 'The Righteous Gemstones' Season 3

HBO

When it came to this scene, Yates reveals, “Danny was directing that episode. And so I remember I pulled probably 10 songs for that spot, and ‘There’ll Come a Payday,’ was in there. I pulled it before a previous season, but it was sitting around, so I put it up for that spot. Cause I kind of felt like it spoke to Baby Billy’s story this season.”

As viewers may recall, Baby Billy was feeling rather aimless and was seeking a renewed purpose that would put him in a more direct spotlight after feeling relegated to poolside entertainment. “That song was so on the nose for what we wanted from it. And it was just the idea of having Walton singing that was priceless,” Stephens chimes in. “And so we knew that once we heard that, we all agreed on it pretty quickly. But we also knew there was no way to write something better than that for that moment. And then Walton just completely ate it up,” Stephens says.

When it came to crafting the theme for Baby Billy’s Bible Bonkers which involved more theatrics, Yates credits Mike Mitschele and Rick Randall who are “two people that help write songs for the show and they’re actually in the band [for the] big church scenes… They just knocked it out of the park in the first pass, and then we added [to it],” Yates reveals. “We added that little trivia section at the top, and then it was pretty much good to go. But those two guys kind of made all the music [for it]. And then obviously there’s a bigger band you see on camera,” Yates continues, noting that additional voices were added into the final cut as well.

Steve Zahn in 'The Righteous Gemstones' Season 3

HBO

“There weren’t really any notes on it, Stephens concurs. “It was the banger out of the gate.” Even still, Stephens recalls, “Walton was very nervous about that one. I remember him being really nervous about singing that well, way more nervous than he was about singing ‘Payday.’ But he completely crushed it. So all of his fears were for not.”

Meanwhile, when it came to finding the Montgomery family’s militia sound, Stephens took charge, revealing, “I started with a theme for Peter (Steve Zahn) who runs the militia. And so I composed this piece on a violin or fiddle and pitched it to Danny before they even started shooting, after I’d read some of the scripts, and he liked that idea for Peter. So that kind of informed a lot of what happened after that. I wanted to keep everything in that world of wooden instruments mixed with some peculiar sounds here and there, but a lot of cello and string instruments that are less modern feeling some of the other Gemstone score, like what you might hear at a camp or on a porch.”

Part of the fun of creating these sounds comes from the show’s ability to find new antagonists for the Gemstone family to face, “That allows for a lot of exploration with the score,” Stephens admits. “And for Season 3 using the violin and those [other instruments] was attractive to me. It was a lot of fun.”

What did you think of the sounds and songs featured in The Righteous Gemstones? Let us know in the comments section, below, and stay tuned for more as we await the show’s return for Season 4.

The Righteous Gemstones, Seasons 1-3, Streaming now, Max

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