‘It’s not a fairy tale. That’s what we loved about the books,’ John Paul White tells MTV News about movie’s music.
By Jocelyn Vena, with additional reporting by Matt Elias
To accompany the highly anticipated theatrical release of “The Hunger Games” this week, the movie’s soundtrack, The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 and Beyond, also hits the streets.
Featuring a wide-ranging list of musicians including Neko Case, Arcade Fire, Maroon 5 and Kid Cudi, the album’s themes and sounds pay homage to the story’s subject matter of rebellion and war, as well as the film’s setting in a dystopian version of the Appalachian Mountains, thanks to lots of twangy guitars and a handful of country ballads.
One of the soundtrack’s most frequent contributors, the Civil Wars, spoke to MTV News about the opportunity to appear on the film’s album. They not only are on its breakout single with Taylor Swift “Safe & Sound,” (Swift also recorded another track, “Eyes Open”), but their own song “Kingdom Come” also appears on the soundtrack. Both of their tracks are dark, slow and lamenting, and neither member of the Civil Wars could have realized how big the franchise was until they hopped on board.
“I don’t know to this extent [that we thought it was going to be big], but it seemed perfectly primed to fill the next gap,” John Paul White told MTV News. “And what excited me about it was it wasn’t your typical young adult romance. There was some dark underlying things to it, some pretty heavy situations. I just fell for the plot and it was obvious why other people did too. I think it actually earns it [and all the attention]. I don’t think we knew the size of it until doing this and realized how rabid people are for this first release.”
For their work with Swift on “Safe,” they knew they wanted to draw out a darker side of the normally optimistic singer.
“We had all read all the books and we were all fans of all the books and I think we knew with us being a part of the equation that it was probably going to be a little darker than she normally does, which she was fully a part of the idea,” White explained.
“The books are not the cheeriest. It’s not a fairy tale. That’s what we loved about the books,” he continued. “We talked about characters we liked and relationships that we dug, but it all kept leading back to some sort of lullaby. But we didn’t want you to know who’s talking to who. There’s probably four different relationships in the books that can fit that theme. Even if you’ve never read the books, you can make it have some sort of parallel in your life as well, and that was the priority for us.”
And when it came to their solo contribution, Civil Wars other half, Joy Williams, explained that they didn’t stray too far from that philosophy. “T-Bone [Burnett] called us up … we both jumped on [the opportunity] having been aware of the book. Out came this sort of, in my opinion, it sounds like this quiet survival song and almost this mantra you sing over to yourself. I’m excited about [the song and the soundtrack] and excited about the company [we keep on it]. I think the soundtrack’s going to be really solid and we’re just stoked to be a part of it.”
For fans wanting to hear the eclectic mix of tunes that made the final cut on the album, the music website Rdio is offering tributes the chance to listen to it for free. The T-Bone Burnett-produced soundtrack is also now available in stores.