Why This Matters: Charlotte musician Chad Lawson creates music for the hit podcast “Lore” and the Amazon Prime show based on it. An ASC grant helped him in his work.
By Bernie Petit
When Charlotte pianist Chad Lawson learned “Lore” creator Aaron Mahnke was a fan – Mahnke was using Lawson’s music on his top-rated podcast about true life scary stories – he looked up the writer and storyteller.
“We eventually hit it off – we’re both incredibly introverted,” Lawson said. “I started writing music for him and sending it to him.”
That conversation-turned-collaboration, which happened a year-and-a-half or so ago, made Lawson the unofficial music director for “Lore.”
“I would say, ‘Just give me one word about what this show is about,’ and he would say, ‘Outcast,’” Lawson said. “That’s really how we work.”
If you haven’t listened to the podcast, you’ve likely still heard Lawson’s music. His work has been featured on “CBS Sunday Morning” and NPR’s “All Things Considered,” as well as cultural phenomenon “The Walking Dead,” past CW hit “The Vampire Diaries” and numerous commercials. In 2016, he released “Dark Conclusions: The Lore Variations,” a soundtrack for a special “Lore” Halloween episode.
So when Amazon decided to base one of its original shows on the popular podcast, Lawson was a natural fit.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be established as an artist already,” he said. “This was already music I was writing stylistically.”
The anticipated Amazon Prime original series launched last month, on Friday, October 13. Like the podcast, which Lawson doesn’t often listen to (“It just wigs me out,” he said), the show uncovers the real-life events that have spawned nightmares and horror flicks – from vampires to werewolves. It does so through dramatic scenes, animation, archive, narration and Lawson’s emotion-driven music.
It took the 42-year-old classical musician three months to score the six-episode series. A 2017 ASC Regional Artist Project Grant for $2,000 that helped him purchase specialty microphones made the work easier.
“That grant was so impactful,” Lawson said. “The music you hear on the podcast or the show, a lot of that is that because I had those mics, I was able to record them in my own setting on my own time.”
One of Lawson’s greatest strengths as a musician is his ability to pull at heartstrings, which might seem odd for someone composing content for such a creepy show. But it’s that intimate balance between the heartfelt and the supernatural that helps listeners lose themselves in the storytelling.
“It dawned on me that Aaron already has the creepy part taken care of,” he said. “I’m the one holding their hand saying it’s going to be okay.”
Take “They Made a Tonic,” the first episode of the Amazon show. It’s about how, in the small New England towns of the 1800s, there was a belief that tuberculosis (more commonly known as “consumption” in those days) could only be stopped by making sure the dead were actually dead. The episode depicts how the disease ravaged the family of a Rhode Island man.
“That father – seeing his wife die, seeing his daughter die, about to lose his son – I imagine what he is going through,” he said. “I’m trying to play off the emotion.”
These days “Lore” is on the road and Lawson, who composed the theme, is participating in the national Lore Podcast Live tour with Mahnke. He’s also traveling for solo shows in Europe and has two performances lined up Jan. 12-13 at Stage Door Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center for a special edition of Jazz Arts Initiative’s The Jazz Room series.
Wherever he performs, he’s sure to have his specialty microphones with him.
“I can’t tell you how much of a fingerprint of my sound and my music they are,” he said. “It’s like another band member except I don’t have to feed it.”