It feels like once a quarter we get the much welcome opportunity to interview acclaimed composer Siddhartha Khosla. Each time, there is something new and epic to discuss, somehow surpassing the level of coolness from the previous interview. Venturing into season 4 of “This Is Us,” Siddhartha’s current feat comes in the form of his first Emmy nomination in the category of Outstanding Music Composition for a Series for “Songbird Road: Part One.” We catch up with Sidd to chat Emmy nom, his other works on Hulu and Netflix, and how he manages to keep getting better and better.
Three seasons in and you finally have your Emmy nom for “This Is Us”! Why do you feel it was the third season that sealed the deal for you to get your nomination this year?
It’s been an incredibly special couple weeks, as I’m still buzzing off this nomination. Honestly I’m not sure what sealed the deal. I do know that as a show we had an incredibly elevated season of television. We all brought out our best stuff, and it feels special to have gotten this recognition.
Every year your impact on the show becomes more and more recognized. Each score is truly ingrained in the DNA of the show. How do you go about using fresh ideas each season while maintaining the musical identity of the show fans expect?
Just as these stories evolve, so do the people working on the show. Whether it’s music, cinematography, editing, or direction, we constantly get better. For one thing it’s natural growth as artists. There’s the desire to step the game up a bit for ourselves as artists to keep things interesting. So that’s what you hear in the music. There are times in season 3 you heard the music was very cinematic. Other times it was terrifying. In “Songbird Road: Part One,” we see Nicky’s story in Vietnam and why he left Vietnam. Then you have that story with the boat exploding with the boy in it. It was one of the most harrowing moments in the series. The score there was terrifying. I had that opportunity to do that work last season. It’s been gratifying. We had a pretty extensive Vietnam story so by virtue of being there, the story had to evolve. It would be sweeping and big at times.
Of course, it was a collaborative effort working with Taylor Goldsmith and Mandy Moore. Were you hands-on with the lyrics of the song “Invisible Ink” for that episode?
Taylor Goldsmith, lead singer of Dawes, we wrote the song together. It was a truly great collaborative experience.
What notes were you given to make this piece. I assume they gave you a lot of the back story of the major storyline surrounding the song.
They gave me the notes that Rebecca was going on a road trip with Jack to Los Angeles to pitch this song she wrote to the record company that showed interest in her. That was the backstory I was given, that Rebecca wrote it. At some point in the show Rebecca would sing the song to Jack in the car. The car would help tell Jack’s story in Vietnam particularly related to his brother. So, I knew it would have an emotional impact on the show. The performance of the song also had to make Jack tear up. It was a daunting task. Dan Fogelman called me about it and I was messing with the guitar and these different melodic ideas. The first person I thought of to collaborate with was Taylor. I knew we’d work together at some point and when this opportunity came up, I knew it would be Taylor. Who would know Rebecca’s perspective, the depth of her character, more than Mandy Moore’s husband, who lives with her.
You’re on several television shows, which certainly means a crazy schedule. How do you manage to get this much done with the quality you are doing them?
Nothing really gets done without my team. I have a great team who work for me and with me. I love the talents in my company. Creatively, I need to do all these shows. I learn from one show, even if it’s a completely different genre, that I can take into another show. I am stretching my palette from orchestral to synth to something organic like :This Is Us.” It’s exercising my musical muscles.
Do you see yourself venturing more into film as well?
I have done a bunch of films on the independent side. Television has turned into a very cinematic medium. For me, it’s television because you’re on an insane schedule. I have one week to score “This Is Us.” For a show this important and big, it’s a lot to do. For Marvel’s “Runaways” on Hulu there is more breathing time but it’s still compressed. I am proud of this body of work. “Looking for Alaska” on Hulu is yet another beautiful show I am happy to work on.
Speaking of film, your credits also include Beats, a Netflix film I absolutely loved. It is quite the opposite from “This Is Us” musically and has hip hop elements. How did you use your singer-songwriter background to help the music of that film?
Thanks! Though I didn’t write the songs in the film, I did compose the score. It was definitely a challenging score, a mixture of jazz/hip hop and darker dramatic score.
Now that you have an Emmy nomination what is the next goal for Siddhartha to hit next?
Just to be able to keep on doing what I love to do for as long as I possibly can.
by Erman Baradi