Move over Yellowstone as the biggest opportunity to promote country and roots artists in visual media, here comes the newest installment of the Hunger Games movie franchise that not only has a bunch of deserving artists on the soundtrack, but has a significant musical element throughout the script.
After an eight year hiatus in the film franchise, Hunger Games is returning with a prequel called The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. As the name implies, the film has a strong musical element to it, with the main character portrayed by Rachel Zegler playing itinerant folk singer Lucy Gray Baird. The film is set to premier in theaters on November 17th.
Sierra Ferrell, Charles Wesley Godwin, Molly Tuttle, Billy Strings, Flatland Cavalry, and Bella White all have songs featured in the film’s soundtrack assembled by producer Dave Cobb. Rachel Zegler also sings multiple folk and country-inspired songs in the film and on the soundtrack, and performed her songs live on camera.
Even more cool is the music for the film was directly inspired by the earliest forms of American country music. Suzanne Collins is the author of the Hunger Games book series, and wrote the prequel released in early 2020 with “a big musical element.” She then instructed the film’s director Francis Lawrence to watch the 16-hour, 8-part Country Music documentary by Ken Burns released in 2019 to give him an idea of what she was going for.
Dave Cobb was then brought in since his work with guys like Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, and Sturgill Simpson embodies the quintessential gritty and organic style of music that the film wants to portray. Cobb also worked recently on the soundtracks for A Star Is Born (2018) and Elvis (2022) successfully.
“One of the things that was so attractive about working on this film [is that] I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a more intelligent person in my life than Suzanne Collins. She’s an absolute genius, by any measure,” Cobb says. “Suzanne telling me the impetus of the story had me captivated. I’m a history buff, and everything in this film — everything she’s written for Hunger Games — is derived from real history.”
To make the songs fit the inspiration for the film, Cobb had to compose and record songs that felt like they were from the turn of the century, similar to The Bristol Sessions and the work of Alan Lomax as opposed to more modern country interpretations. Instead of recording the songs in a studio, Cobb recorded them in a 200-year-old mansion in Savannah, GA with bleed over in the microphones and the creaks of the old building left on the recordings.
Could this be a big music/movie moment similar to the phenomenon we saw around the soundtrack of O Brother Where Art Thou? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but it certainly couldn’t hurt. Though Billy Strings is out there selling out arenas at the moment, Sierra Ferrell, Molly Tuttle, Charles Wesley Godwin, Flatland Cavalry, and Bella White are all performers that feel like they’re right on the cusp of hitting it big, and this opportunity will get them in front of audiences they may otherwise not be exposed to.
Though some may have forgotten, the original Hunger Games soundtrack called The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond also featured country and roots artists in a prominent role, including The Secret Sisters, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Punch Brothers, Miranda Lambert and the Pistol Annies, and The Civil Wars. Taylor Swift also appeared numerous times, so there is some history with country, roots, and this movie franchise.
But it’s not just the players and songs. It’s the premise of The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes that country and roots fans should be looking forward to.
Physical copies of the The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes will be released on February 2nd, 2024, and are now available for pre-order.
- Olivia Rodrigo – Can’t Catch Me Now
- Rachel Zegler – The Hanging Tree
- Flatland Cavalry – Wool
- Rachel Zegler – Nothing You Can Take From Me
- Sierra Ferrell – The Garden
- Rachel Zegler – The Ballad of Lucy Gray Baird
- Molly Tuttle – Bury Me Beneath the Willow
- Rachel Zegler, James Newton Howard – The Old Therebefore / Singing at Snakes
- Bella White – Burn Me Once
- The Covey Band – District 12 Stomp
- Rachel Zegler, The Covey Band – Nothing You Can Take From Me (Boot-Stompin Version)
- Billy Strings – Cabin Song
- Rachel Zegler – Lucy Gray (part 1)
- Rachel Zegler, The Covey Band – Pure As The Driven Snow
- Charles Wesley Godwin – Winter’s Come & Gone
- Josie Hope Hall, The Covey Band – Keep On The Sunny Side
- Rachel Zegler – Lucy Gray (part 2)