The Third Day Trailer Soundtrack Wondrous Place Natalie McCool (produced by Grammy Winning Record Producer Steve Levine)
Oscar winner Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B Entertainment (alongside SKY Studios/HBO & Punchdrunk Entertainment) chose Natalie McCool’s track Wondrous Place as the soundtrack song to accompany The Third Day trailer.
The Third Day is an international 6 part series, which also features a never before seen immersive live drama audience participation.
The Third Day features Oscar nominees Jude Law, Naomie Harris and Emily Watson, Katherine Waterston (Michael Clayton, Inherent Vice), BAFTA winner Paddy Considine (Peaky Blinders), Freya Allan (from Netflix hit series The Witcher), and Laurence Olivier Award winner John Dagleish (Judy).
The Third Day Trailer Soundtrack Wondrous Place Natalie McCool
Here, in an exclusive interview, we gain an insight into the creative process behind Wondrous Place from Natalie McCool (Female Artist of the Year, LMA’s) and Grammy and BRIT Award winning record producer, Steve Levine.
Tell us about the recording of Wondrous Place. How was this song decided upon?
Natalie: NME and Q journalist Paul du Noyer asked me to record a track that was listed in his book Liverpool: Wondrous Place to perform at his panel at the Threshold Festival in Liverpool.
I decided upon this song because whilst I was at The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts I won an award from the Billy Fury Foundation which enabled me to purchase musical equipment; I felt very grateful to them and wanted to honour that. So I chose the Billy Fury song Wondrous Place.
When I was arranging the piece for the Threshold Festival performance, I just listened to the lyrics at first. If you examine the lyrics in isolation, they actually seem a little unsettling and almost desperate, i.e. desperate for someone’s attention and love.
So I thought about the backdrop I wanted to create for these lyrics, and started playing around with my Boss DD-7 delay guitar pedal, which has an amazing ‘warp’ function, which basically overlays what you are playing over and over again, not like a delay, it’s more like an electronic drone.
“I created this drone sound which swells throughout the track until it sounds like it’s out of control, which I thought resembled the feel of the lyrics. The lyrics are very intimate so that is the way I wanted to perform them, almost as though it’s right next to your ear.”
I also had this gospel sound I wanted to create vocally – but more sombre than joyful – there’s a hum melody that comes in later on which I wanted to layer with very low harmony to add to the unsettling feel.
I initially recorded the guitars at Tankfield Studios on the Wirral, then went into the studio with Steve to record the vocals and finish the track. We added some extra textures to add atmosphere, and also some drums at the end when the track reaches its highest point.
Steve: Wondrous Place happened to be one of my favourite Billy Fury recordings – in fact I’m a big fan of the FURY album because I feel that album was really ahead of its time in terms of sound and production, and it also allowed Billy to have a lot of artistic freedom which was extremely rare for its time. Our sessions were one of the first to take place at my new Liverpool recording studio.
We were a few years into our working relationship, having completed Natalie’s eponymous album and a number of other tracks. By this time we were working really well together, and had created a darker sound for Natalie’s track Black Sun during those sessions.
We really built it from that standpoint. Natalie had her white Elise Fret King guitar for these sessions, and we were also experimenting with various guitar FX pedals.
“Natalie’s vocal (which is always superb) is also complemented with a 3 part harmony toward the end of the track, and I also added some electronic beat sounds. We didn’t want to fill out the track too much, so these are relatively moderate drum beats.”
Mixing was fairly straightforward as there weren’t that many tracks to playback. Most of the sounds on this recording had been created using guitars and FX pedals, they were also layered where necessary with a ‘mix’ or blend created as we went along.
Why do you both think this track was chosen for the show?
Steve: There’s an exciting current trend to have a dark minimal ‘Nordic’ style sound on TV drama at the moment: for example I love the Chernobyl soundtrack which features so many drone tones and dark ambiences. This show is produced by the same team so I guess they are really drawn to that sound – I feel it’s just so ahead of the curve sonically.
Natalie: I feel my version of Wondrous Place was chosen because of the storyline and what I imagine the world visually to be in the show.
“To me, it seems post apocalyptic; nobody on the island seems to know why they are there, or where everyone else has gone. These survivors are looking for answers in the deserted landscape surrounding them.”
There is a lot of space within the track, a lot of ‘ether’, and it creates an unsettling feeling within the listener. I think they matched the song to the show incredibly well.
Describe your usual writing style Natalie. Do music or lyrics come first? What genres do you prefer? Which artists are you most drawn to?
It very much depends on how I’m feeling as I’m writing, but as above I place a lot of importance on the lyrics. That’s just me personally – I believe a song should tell a story. And you can’t have a story without words; and colourful, fluid writing definitely captivates people. I really like hearing the story behind the lyrics too.
One of my favourites is Woodstock by Joni Mitchell for this reason – she never made it to the festival everyone has an anecdote about, but wrote about it from an outsider’s point of view, watching the news, reading the papers.
It’s really interesting, and it also gives a lot to the listening experience. I also really like how PJ Harvey always has a story to tell and something to say. She is great at twisting characters or showing the vulnerability in people – Is This Desire is a beautiful album for this.
Having said that about lyrics, I also like a lot of different styles, some artists I can’t stop listening to right now are: Torres; Husky Loops; Rosie Lowe; Weldon Irvine and Ayelle.
There’s a lot more, but those are the most recent artists I’ve been listening to. I have my own Spotify playlist I update bi-monthly, with (mainly) new discoveries. It’s called The Magic Number, because it always features 7 tracks, and 7 is my lucky number!
What is the special ingredient that makes each of you unique? What have you been influenced by for this track?
Steve: I have a great understanding of sound, and the instruments artists can use, so I can show them lots of sonic options- I also have a great studio, so I can track and record almost anything. I think I really try to understand what the artist is trying to achieve sonically, or arrangement wise.
Natalie: It might be the way I treat vocals as something really intimate, more like a whispered message rather than belting them out talent-show style. It’s just more interesting to me. Wondrous Place lyrics inspired that.
Tell us about your guitar style Natalie. How many instruments on your tracks do you typically play?
Natalie: I first learnt guitar going inbetween learning rock (for example Nirvana and Radiohead), then fingerpicking i.e. Lindsey Buckingham/Fleetwood Mac, Suzanne Vega and Classical guitar. I really enjoy doing both.
“At the moment I play electric guitar, and enjoy experimenting with pedals to create sounds that do and don’t sound like a guitar within my songs, in addition to playing the rhythm part, and also solo parts. I love guitar and always try to find a unique sound, part or method. I’m really not your regular guitarist at all!”
Recently I have gotten into playing piano / keys more. I did a stripped back session of my latest single Someone Nue on piano, which I filmed and recorded live – you can watch that on YouTube. I really enjoyed the whole process. Who knows, maybe a piano album is coming!!
What is on the horizon career wise for you both?
Steve: Recently I produced the music for the Hyperbrawl video game; the game development studio (Milky Tea) were very specific about the sound and feel they wanted to create. With my background I was able to bring those sounds and production tricks to the party.
I have also been writing and working on electronic project Pretty Robotic which has recently attracted television synch deals, including for the BBC which is exciting. I have also just completed production on the new Vapors album, due out around March 2020.
Natalie: I’m doing (and want to do) a lot! I’m about to play a number of UK dates and festivals. I’m also gearing up to release a new single next month, and I’m playing at US showcase festival SXSW in Austin, Texas, which I’m excited about.
It’s the biggest showcase music festival annually, and I can’t wait to perform stateside and looking forward to connecting with like minded people, whoever they are. My album is finished and I can’t wait to release it. I am feeling in the best place ever with my live set and band, and can’t wait for my live shows this year.
Aside from my own albums, I also write for a lot of different projects, including for film and television. I have two separate projects right now which I’m hugely excited about. They are completely different from what I do as an artist, but it’s always good to have something different to feed into your main project.
What’s the best piece of industry advice you’ve been given?
Steve: Take regular breaks during a session (you can get cabin fever very fast!) and communicate – things always go wrong when there is lack of communication. Try and really understand what the artist wants to try and achieve – and try to get as close as possible to their vision.
“Another important piece of advice is that great studio ‘mistakes’ can lead to exciting sonic pathways, so never be scared to try something different!”
Natalie: Practice like the devil, and always be friendly!
The Third Day Trailer Soundtrack Wondrous Place Natalie McCool – watch the trailer here