A True Blood Fan First, Composer Second
By Stacy Lambe
After seven years, HBO is putting the final stake in True Blood (the final episode airs, Sunday, Aug. 24). The fantasy-horror series embraced camp, but it has always been grounded in the original score composed by Nathan Barr. While the series has introduced a number of new characters and storylines each season, the one constant has been its composer.
Barr has been able to construct distinct musical themes that have become as identifiable as the show's “Soooooookie” utterances. “It’s just about finding that part of the character’s internal journey that the music wants to help extenuate,” Barr explains.
Having seen every single episode, Barr is certainly one of the series' most dedicated viewers. Watching it as a fan first, and a composer second, according to Barr, is the secret to writing music for each episode. “If I can react as a fan," he says, "Then it gives the music a chance to really be a part of the show in a way that’s going to be of the best benefit and please the audience." Even when talking to Out, Barr had not yet seen the final episode of the series and had no idea where it was headed, just like every season before it. (Needless to say, there are no spoilers in this story.)
Barr has enjoyed watching the episodes of the seventh and final season because of "the leaps that they are taking in terms of preparing this story for its end,” he explains. “This season is so interesting because it is the good-bye of the show to the world.” One scene that was written as a farewell gift to gay fans was the steamy sex scene between Jason Stackhouse and Eric Northman. “It was a pretty sensual scene and with two incredibly good-looking guys,” he says, saying that he joked that he needed to watch it repeatedly. “It was fun to finally see that happen.”
The power of musical composition has personal resonances for Barr as well. It was after he wrote the theme for the 2000 indie film Red Dirt, about a young man coming to terms with his sexuality while living in a small town in Mississippi, that he came out as bisexual. "My mother was challenged by the news when I told her," he says. "Interestingly, it's that theme and that score that she absolutely loves and, somehow, that’s a pure expression of that journey for me. It's funny that she was reacting in a very positive way to that emotional journey in that score, but it was much harder for her to come to grips with in real life."
Inspired by Anna Paquin's outspokenness, Barr defends her decision to be vocal about her bisexuality despite people's confusion and criticism. "She's so important to bisexuality because she is in a committed relationship with a man. But from that vantage point, she is still willing to come out and say 'I am a happy bisexual person in a committed relationship with a man.' She isn’t all of a sudden straight; she’s just made that choice in her life. So I think that’s really, really, important. And the other thing that really, unfairly get a bad rap for is: 'Oh, you're just promiscuous! You just want everything.' And that just feels like a load of shit to me, too."
While the show has finally reached its conclusion, True Blood still lives on in Barr’s world. The composer made headlines when he revealed that he wanted to bring the show to the stage; an idea that he admits he’s had since season one when he wrote the song “Take Me Home” for a scene involving Sookie eating pie after her grandmother’s death. Wanting the song to be heard, Barr pitched the idea to show creator Alan Ball, who liked the idea, according to Barr, and helped him pitch it to HBO. “There are no guarantees at this point,” he admits, but he’s pushing forward. And Barr promises that the musical won’t follow the series into such territories as werepanthers. “It’s more about finding the essence of what the story is about and if you look at it from that point of view, it actually becomes quite simple because a musical is two hours."
Before fans get a musical, however, they will have to make it through the finale. And like many longtime viewers of the show, Barr does know that the final scene will be a cathartic experience. “I haven’t even seen yet… I know that the absolute last scene in the show is going to be really, really emotional.”