“How do we make it uniquely ‘Monarch’?” That’s the question music supervisor Amanda Krieg Thomas asks herself before getting to work on each episode of Fox’s new drama series about a country music dynasty.
The answer is three-pronged: by having the cast (which includes Susan Sarandon, Trace Adkins and Beth Ditto) tackle country classics, by sprinkling in a selection of unexpected pop covers, and, on the licensing side, by championing upcoming country artists.
“We really wanted to focus on covers because that’s a strong entry point,” Thomas says, before elaborating on her mandate: “Always be unexpected, always feature different eras and styles.” By that criteria, episode 3, which aired Tuesday night, was a resounding success. Beginning with a twangy take on Lizzo’s “Juice,” the show segued into a soaring rendition of Faith Hill’s “Breathe.” Throw in guest star Tanya Tucker singing “Delta Dawn” and a Miranda Lambert hit from the ‘00s, and you have a decidedly eclectic lineup.
“In every episode, we make sure that these different boxes are checked,” Thomas says, “and I really love episode three because it runs the whole gamut.” She’s particularly proud of the Lizzo cover. “It’s a great way to kick off an episode because it’s not what you expect from a country show,” continues Thomas, who previously supervised music for music-led fare such as “The Prom” and “Pose.” Songs like “Breathe” and “Delta Dawn” then cover more familiar ground – albeit from very different eras.
“‘Delta Dawn’ came out in the ’70s, ‘Kerosene’ by Miranda Lambert is more recent, and there’s even a cover of ‘Always on My Mind’ by Willie Nelson,” Thomas lists. “So purely in the covers alone, you have a lot of different eras of country music represented — plus ‘Juice,’ which is really new and not country at all. But we made a country version of it that I think is really memorable and really ‘Monarch.’”
The pure syncs on episode 3, titled “Show Them Who You Are, Baby,” are every bit as diverse.
“On the source side, you have the Band Perry and Gretchen Wilson as well as a bunch of indie artists,” she says. “Again, it’s a great mix of songs – there are classics to rediscover, current hits, and artists that you may have never heard of, but will add to your playlist after the show.” Thomas refers to this as the “discovery element,” which is another guiding tenet of “Monarch.” It’s particularly key when it comes to establishing the Texas location and supporting local artists.
“We’re set in Texas,” Thomas says. “We never exclude a great song because the artist isn’t from Texas, but we really tried to find opportunities for emerging artists from Texas wherever we could.”
Among the indie artists whose music is being incorporated into the show are Sugar & the Hi-Lows, Across the Wide and Sean Wiggins.
Unsurprisingly, country labels were only too happy to take part in the show. “There was a lot of excitement because there aren’t a ton of opportunities in sync for country music,” she says. “We got a very warm embrace from everybody who worked in the country music space.”
Monarch debuted on Sept. 11 and airs at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.