Soundtrack City: How Nashville is awash in film, game scores

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In this Oct. 21, 2019, photo, Nick Spezia works in the control room during the recording of a video game soundtrack in Nashville, Tenn. Music City is earning a new reputation as Soundtrack City. And more production companies, including Netflix, Showtime, Sony and Focus Features, have been lured to Nashville to record music for movies, TV and video games in the last year thanks to a new incentive program. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Nashville is already known as Music City, but a new wave of music being recorded there for video games, TV shows and movies could earn it a new title as Soundtrack City.

The city has a reputation for high quality studio musicians that can play just about any genre, including country, pop, rock, gospel and more. Nashville musicians have also been behind the soundtracks for some of the biggest video game franchises including “Madden,” “FIFA,” “Call of Duty” and “Star Wars.”

And more production companies have been bringing their film and TV soundtrack recordings to Nashville, including Netflix, Showtime, Sony and Focus Features, thanks in part to an incentive program enacted into law in last year.

“Nashville has become one of the two or three major places to record in the world for film, game and television,” said Steve Schnur, president of music for Electronic Arts, the popular video game company.

Schnur's background includes working at MTV and record labels such as Arista and also working as a music supervisor on films prior to joining EA. He's been a sort of Pied Piper for soundtrack recording in Nashville. “I’ve been preaching Nashville for quite some time and initially it was met with a little cynicism,” he said. “Nashville? Don’t they make country records there?”

For a long time, EA recorded soundtracks for their games with orchestras in Los Angeles, London and eastern Europe. That changed about seven years ago when Schnur came to Nashville to record music for a trailer for a game called “Dragon’s Age Inquisition.”

“It was like the world’s greatest band,” Schnur said of the 60-member orchestra assembled for the recording. “It really supported what Nashville is: a collaborative place.”

Even more so, Nashville’s musicians were both fast and accurate, even on complicated scores written by acclaimed composers such as Hans Zimmer, Lorne Balfe, Jeff Russo and John Debney.