‘Yellowstone’ Music Supervisor & Musicians Talk Soundtrack
“Not a lot moves the needle these days. But this show moves the needle.”
That was Hayes Carll, putting it out there as succinctly as possible about the impact the Paramount TV series Yellowstone has had on independent country music now for four seasons, with the fifth set to commence in November.
It seems a bit uncanny that a TV show of all things would play a primary role, if not the most important role in helping foster the independent country revolution we’ve seen over the past few years. But as the most popular show on television at the moment, Yellowstone’s soundtrack of primarily independent and under-the-radar country artists has done nothing short of launched careers in some instances, and it’s likely to launch a few more.
Recognizing this phenomenon, the Americana Music Association put together a special in-the-round performance and discussion on Wednesday, September 14th at the Hutton Hotel in Nashville as part of AmericanaFest. Along with Hayes Carll, another stunning songwriter and performer William Prince, as well as fast rising superstar Lainey Wilson—who leads all nominees for the upcoming CMA Awards, and is part of the Yellowstone cast for the 5th season—the discussion also included the Music Supervisor for the show, Andrea von Foerster.
It’s Foerster and the show’s creator Taylor Sharidan who are primarily responsible for the Yellowstone phenomenon so many independent country artists that have been a benefactor of.
“The one thing people don’t always realize is that obviously the songs have to fit the story of the show. It’s not a playlist,” Andrea von Foerster explained. “You got to wait for the right time for things. Sometimes it can take two years, five years, but we never forget a song that we want to use. I don’t remember where I live sometimes, but I can tell you the first time I heard a song, and every lyric to it, and why I want to use it, and where … We started ‘Yellowstone’ and I haven’t had a day off since we started. Because of our schedule, I’m sharing music with Taylor [Sheridan] all year round.”
Hayes Carll, William Prince, and Lainey Wilson all took turns playing songs from the show, while Andrea von Foerster talked about the process of how they choose songs and artists. With the way appearances by Whiskey Myers and Ryan Bingham have launched those guys into the stratosphere, the same is expected to happen for Lainey Wilson, right as her new album Bell Bottom Country is slotted to be released.
“We just kept coming back to Lainey’s voice, because there’s not a lot of female vocals in country music right now that have the same kind of grit, or for lack of a better term, balls,” Foerster explained. “I hate the words ‘sassy’ and ‘feisty’ because you would never use those words about a guy. But just really tough, female singers. There weren’t a lot of people around at that time that didn’t have more pop-centric vocals. So every time we had a badass scene, [it was] Lainey.”
Lainey then talked about the song placement she received for “Small Town Girl” that was especially meaningful.
“I think of the songs that were playing when I was running barrels, it was songs like ‘Small Town Girl.’ Never in a million years when I was writing that song did I think I would be writing it for a moment like that [in ‘Yellowstone’]. It was really just a full circle moment for me. And when my daddy got to see my song during a barrel racing scene—he’s a cowboy—he said, ‘Okay, she really is doing something.'”
Foerster went on to explain, “Taylor loves working with musicians, and there’s just a soul you can’t find anywhere else … and we are pretty loyal in our music universe. We like to come back to the same people. We don’t consider them one and done. If we love you, we keep loving you.”
William Prince especially stunned the intimate audience with his performances, while all the participants had to dance around playing songs, but not giving away any of the plot of the upcoming season. “This song is called ‘Everybody Dies,'” William Prince joked.
The song placements in Yellowstone not only earn the songwriters royalties and expose a mainstream audience to music they otherwise may not hear on commercial radio or television, the songs of Yellowstone also help spread the seed of independent country music, offering a window into an entirely different music world some, if not many don’t know is out there.
“I’m just so appreciative of this show, of Andrea and Taylor,” Lainey Wilson said. “It really has introduced my music to people who might not listen to radio, or stream music. And it’s crazy the amount of people who’ve come to my shows and said they found me from ‘Yellowstone.’
As for appearing in the new season, Wilson said, “This is going to change my life. So I appreciate it.”
September 15, 2022 @ 10:50 am
I wonder what Beth is going to think of this Abby…..
September 15, 2022 @ 11:17 am
Maybe be good for country music but it’s been awful for Missoula and Montana where they are filming. More Californians and Texans moving in and buying up properties and acting the way folks from those places do fouling up MT.
September 15, 2022 @ 11:45 am
I’m sure it hasn’t helped, but that was already happening due to the pandemic and other factors. As someone who lives in Austin, which is dealing with its own incredible crush of Californians moving in, I can sympathize.
September 15, 2022 @ 1:29 pm
For the most part it seems to really only be hitting Missoula and a couple other tourist towns. I don’t think most of the rest of the State will see too much change, not for a long time at least.
September 15, 2022 @ 10:07 pm
As someone who lived in Montana for many years, my experience has been that Yellowstone put Montana on the mainstream radar and the pandemic made it possible for people to relocate. It was a perfect storm that changed Montana in profound ways, and not for the better. Good friends who have lived in Western Montana all their lives can no longer afford to buy homes there. Missoula/ Montana pre-Yellowstone/ Covid was something like a well-kept secret. It felt very isolated from the rest of the country both geographically and culturally. Montanans have traditionally been such friendly down to earth people. Just total quality. They stay out of your business but are there the second you need a hand. Now a different mentality has infiltrated, the “rat race” mentality for lack of a better word. Investors are gobbling up much of the real estate. Glacier Park now has a permit lottery to drive a vehicle on Sun Road when before it was easy and free and open to everyone. But there’s just too many people for that these days. Status cars now cruise the streets of downtown Missoula when before it was all Tacomas and Subarus and modest cars. Missoula always had a strong blue collar backbone and level of grit but that has been polished and shined nearly out of existence. We won’t even discuss what’s become of Bozeman…. Change is ubiquitous nearly everywhere you look in Western Montana these days, and again, not for the better. As someone who loves Montana dearly and lived there prior to Yellowstone/ Covid, its very difficult to witness. Of course there are other contributing factors that put Montana on the radar, like Instagram and whatnot. But I can tell you that just a few years ago when I told folks I was from Montana, they often had barely a concept for it. They just didn’t know what was there. These days, the number one response I get from people when I tell them I’m from Montana is “have you seen Yellowstone?”
September 16, 2022 @ 5:59 am
Meanwhile, during the Yellowstone Labor Day marathon, the cast aired commercials begging people to visit Montana to help the state recover from the historic flooding. You can’t have it both ways; “come spend your money, but don’t stay too long.”
All regions experience a population migration and boom. Look at North Carolina. Most Carolinians will tell you they are far off better today than 20 years ago due to their population boom.
September 15, 2022 @ 12:12 pm
Let’s not forget the Sturgill scene where the song is actually part of the dialogue.. Made me laugh:
September 15, 2022 @ 12:53 pm
Glad for the exposure as all those artists are very worthy. Would love to see the show dig deeper into the crates for good music. Plenty of underground artists could use that boost.
September 16, 2022 @ 7:56 am
Def like Cody Jinks, Aaron Lewis, Matt Mason, Ryan Bingham, the list could go on and on!
September 15, 2022 @ 5:47 pm
September 16, 2022 @ 5:55 am
Really happy for Ryan Bingham and the exposure he has received from being on the show and having his songs worked into the story.
September 30, 2022 @ 8:43 pm
You must have missed that entire Jeff Bridges movie from almost 13 years or so back… Ryan is talented and has done good work, but he’s been Hollywood since before anyone in Texas knew him.
September 16, 2022 @ 6:07 am
This is the best branded TV show ever. From the music, to the commercials, to the Ram trucks.
I know a small part of what’s kept Purgatory in the charts is the Lady May scene with Rip and Beth that’s in constant marathon rotation.
Lainey Wilson had an extended EPK like commercial in the finale last year that put her on the map for me.
October 14, 2022 @ 6:10 pm
Lodge Cast Iron, now has Yellowstone branded skillets.
Thought – Wow, i really need to watch this show. See what the fuss is all about.
September 17, 2022 @ 1:38 am
Great show and great music. Montana is beautiful.
September 17, 2022 @ 8:50 am
gospel first nation from William Prince is a great album and i didn’t know his music was featured on yellowstone
October 14, 2022 @ 3:42 pm
Though I’m now kind of turned off the show, the soundtrack was indeed killer! It’s how I discovered William Prince.
October 31, 2022 @ 3:20 pm