Alexandra Patsavas, Music Producer for the Grammy nominated Grey’s Anatomy Soundtrack Vol. 2, has what some fans of the show consider to be a dream job. BuddyTV had a chance to speak with Alexandra about her experience with Grey’s Anatomy, a possible Grammy acceptance speech and her quest to license Neil Young.
How did you get started in the music industry? Have you always had a passion for music?
I did. I was the kid who went to a bunch of rock shows and at the time that I was young I was buying LP’s and imports and by the time I was in college I was booking for my university first, and then I had my own little promotion company. So I’d bring acts, touring acts to campus. So, that’s how I started.
Can you describe the song selection process?
There really isn’t a specific way that every song gets selected. You know in music-heavy shows, we can license as many as six to eight an episode. Sometimes songs are scripted, sometimes we pitch, after we’ve read the script sometimes we look at already edited and compiled footage and think about songs at that time. So, it really does happen in all sorts of ways.
So is the process different for television and movies?
No. The only difference is that the time frame is completely compressed in television. In a movie you might have six months or seven months from the time that the movie is shot to the time that it’s mixed. In television we can have, typically, a week turnaround. So you know, it’s a difference between months and weeks.
Do you find television more fun, being under a deadline, or do you find movies more fun?
You know what? They’re both really fun, actually. And every creative challenge is different. It’s really about helping to define the sound and bringing to life what the director, producer sees musically for the project.
How do you know what makes the perfect combination of scene and song? How do you make a match?
I think that it’s really…it’s about finding a song that really does enhance the acting, the drama, and the storytelling. And, a scene that really allows the song to shine as well. You know, plenty of songs get overlooked because they’re so far back, but when a song can really get highlighted I think it makes the most impact.
Do you believe that music can truly manipulate the impact of a scene?
I think that music can enhance it. I think that if the shot, if everything isn’t already in place, like, great music can’t make a bad scene good but great music can make a good scene better.
You’ve done a variety of different shows, from The OC to Shark to Grey’s Anatomy. How do you find inspiration for such different types of shows and genres?
I think the best part about being a supervisor is that you really sort of sit in the middle of a creative fulcrum. We work very closely with the show’s producers but also work closely in the music industry to find new acts, new tracks. And I think you know the creative challenge is just bringing to life what the producer sees for the show.
What was your experience like working on the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack?
Oh, it was great. We’ve done two soundtracks. So, last year we put together Volume Two and worked with Touchstone and ABC to create the How To Save A Life video and also the Chasing Cars video. It was a way to take songs that were used in the show in big moments and sort of expand their appeal and prominence.
How much does your personal taste influence your choices?
I think that my personal taste is, you know, you can’t get away from your own taste. But the job is certainly about combining your personal taste with what works best for the show.
Have you ever had to select songs that you hate?
Not very often.
You’ve done compilations in the past, but this is your first Grammy nod. You are the only television nominee in you’re category (Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media for Grey’s Anatomy Vol. 2 shared with various artists and Mitchell Leib, producer). What do you think makes the Grey’s Anatomy Soundtrack so unique?
I think that the producers have chosen to make music a character on the show. And we have enough budget and the songs really play and enhance, you know, I think the audience really participates in the songs in a way. And I think that’s the difference.
Who will you thank if you do get the Grammy?
Oh gosh, you know, of course the Executive Producers Betsy [Beers] and Shonda [Rhimes], and the editors who work so carefully and tenderly with the music that we select, and, of course, the bands who have been making great music lately. And I want to add one more person that I would thank for the Grammy’s and that would be Mitchell Leib,
Who is the most difficult artist you’ve ever had to get a song from?
Wow. I’ve never been able to license Neil Young. Someday I hope to do that. He’s one of my favorite artists. You know the most difficult songs are ones with sample issues. It’s not really about artists, it’s about clearances. And those tend to be the most, the overseas samples or something that’s just simply complex, because of the nature of the song.
Aside from what you have done personally, is there a television or movie soundtrack that you admire?
I love the Out of Sight movie soundtrack. I think the Six Feet Under soundtrack was amazing.
Who are your favorite artists right now?
Oh I have so many favorites! What are my favorite artists right now…I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
Do you have any personal musical aspirations? Do you play any instruments?
Oh, God no. No, no. I’m too old.
Do you plan on returning to Grey’s Anatomy? What’s next for you?
Certainly, you know, next season will be the next Grey’s Anatomy and we’re already thinking about Volume Three. I just finished a movie called The Invisible, which will be coming out in late April.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
When people wonder about music supervision, it’s not just about the creative choice, it’s also about responsible budgeting, clearance, you know, budgeting your time. It’s definitely, like, it’s not only a creative task, but a very business-oriented task as far as pulling the rest of it together. The business of music supervision is essential to its success.
Well good luck on Sunday evening, we’ll be rooting for you!
Oh, you will? You and my mom.