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Kristen Hosack: “Great Music Is an Electricity; You Can’t Recreate It”


Saatchi & Saatchi LA’s senior music supervisor tells LBB how we can chart our own lives through songs, and why it’s so important to define a common language for music

Kristen Hosack: “Great Music Is an Electricity; You Can’t Recreate It”

Without music, creativity would not be the same. Whether it’s a rhythm and cadence provided in the background, or the transcendent emotions music can push to the foreground, so much of our creative history is linked to music and its unique ability to communicate directly with our senses. 

It’s that link which this new interview series, supported by SoStereo and inspired by their What About the Music podcast, sets out to explore. Over the coming months, we’ll be speaking to high-profile industry figures about how music has influenced their relationship with their craft, and get their take on the process of marring melody to creativity. 

Today we hear from Kristen Hosack, senior music supervisor at Saatchi & Saatchi LA. Kristen’s role has given her an unparalleled insight into the importance of music - not only in ads and brand communications, but in terms of our own self-identities. Here, she reflects on how music transformed her own life, what makes live music so essential, and why, at the end of the day, music isn’t *really* subjective… 

LBB> Kristen, let’s start at the beginning - growing up, what kind of role did music play in your childhood? And at what point did you start to think about it in terms of a career? 

Kristen> There are two memories which spring to my mind. The first is that my Dad, being a classically trained pianist, tended to fill the house with these beautiful melodies (Bridge Over Troubled Water was a favourite) while I was getting ready for school, and generally day-to-day. And the second is that, as a kid, I took a big interest in dance. I remember being in Jazz class and warming up to Real Love by Mary J. Blige. That song was so significant for me in that moment, and I loved incorporating music with movement. 

Above: Mary J. Blige’s ‘Real Love’ was an early influence for Kristen. 

It was in college that it started to dawn on me that I could pursue this love of music as a career. I tended to be assigned playlist duties at parties, figuring out the vibe and finding the right songs. But this was all before I knew that music supervision was really a career that someone could have. It wasn’t until many years later that I first got this job and it felt like a pipe dream. 

LBB> It’s interesting how you can link songs to very specific memories - do you think that tells us anything about the power of music? 

Kristen> I will always trace a memory back to a song or a band. It’s kind of a weird way my brain is hard-wired. I might not remember every detail about the setting I was in, but I’ll remember the song that was playing or the band I saw. I can probably chronicle my entire life story through what I was listening to at any one time. That’s probably what a good music supervisor needs to be - someone who can relate to life and all the experiences it offers through music. 

I actually have a fun experiment I like to play with people - I’ll ask them what the top songs are that define them as a human. Not their favourite songs, but the songs that got them through their first breakup, or what they discovered in college, or what they listen to to get pumped up for a job interview. I believe we can all chart our lives through music in that way. 

LBB> Fast forward to the present day, and you’re a senior music supervisor at Saatchi & Saatchi LA. What excites you most about that role, and what gets you out of bed in the morning? 

Kristen> That’s a tough question to answer, because it’ll be something different every day. It might be that I’m meeting some amazing new artists, or going to a show, or digging into some songs for a brief. 

But, broadly speaking, what I love most about my job is that it affords me the ability to apply a different kind of thinking to the work we do as an agency. The creative team will always have a vision, but by being exclusively music-first in my own approach I can provide a new angle to that vision which helps the idea evolve. It’s a brilliantly organic and collaborative process. 

Building off of that dynamic, I feel I’ve been able to create a space - and appreciation - for music within the agency. In what we might call ‘the before times’, I was able to bring bands in to perform and we’d have live music experiences. During the pandemic, we’ve done a lot of those virtually which has also given us the chance to extend invitations across different teams. 

LBB> The point about live music is so fascinating. We’re at a point in human history where it’s never been easier to find what music we want to listen to, for whatever mood we’re in. And yet we still seek out live shows and are inspired by them - why do you think that is? 

Kristen> Well, there are scientific and neurological reasons which we could dive into. But I also think there’s something intangible that happens when you experience live music, both for the performer and the audience. It’s an electricity - literal changes in our brain and in our dopamine and oxytocin levels. There are studies that have shown how even people who are hearing-impaired can feel live music pulsating through their bodies. It’s unmatched - you can’t recreate that space. 

LBB> But as someone who spends their working life surrounded by music every day, does it become more of a challenge to feel truly inspired by it? 

Kristen> That’s another tough question. I think the pandemic has been a blessing and a curse in that respect - a blessing because it has given me the space away from music which has allowed it to feel more fresh when I come back to it. But it’s been a curse in the way it’s taken me away from all of that stuff we were just talking about with live music. It’s hard to feel the same level of immediacy and authenticity. 

For a lot of people, I think the passion of what you do can sometimes take a back seat to the grind of simply surviving everyday life. Perhaps something the pandemic has taught us is the value of intentionally returning to that passion, when the opportunity allows. 

LBB> What’s been your favourite example of music in an ad you’ve worked on? 

Kristen> My absolute favourite project in my tenure at Saatchi so far was an ad for Toyota Corolla. It featured the song ‘I Put A Spell On You’, originally by JJ Hawkins - but we managed to secure the legend that is Chaka Kahn to perform a cover. We were able to get to the studio with her and record her with a live orchestra. I mean, what an incredible opportunity. Being in the room with those musicians and experiencing what it was like to record with Chaka Khan was just an unforgettable experience. 

Above: Chaka Khan’s cover of JJ Hawkins’ classic ‘I Put A Spell On You’ set the tone for this Toyota ad from 2019. 

LBB> That’s incredible! So what’s your process in terms of finding and scouting out new music? 

Kristen> There are a million different ways to do it. We’re all getting weekly newsletters from labels, agents, and managers, plus discovering new music on streaming platforms. We’re listening to the radio, we’re scouring blogs, looking for a spark or noting down stuff which could work. Sometimes it’s a matter of us sending out a brief - we’re not always the experts, and we can lean into our partners. But it’s everywhere. We are eating, breathing, sleeping, showering music. That’s what our lives are. 

LBB> And if I had to ask about your pet peeve, or biggest frustration in the way the industry works in terms of music, what would you say? 

Kristen> My pet peeve is that we all tend to think about and understand music differently - and that can be the biggest problem when you’re collectively trying to find that needle in a haystack. The challenges lay in creating a lexicon to speak about music that’s not intimidating. 

It’s hard because music is so often indescribable. The way it makes you feel and the messages that your brain sends out when it hears music are complex, and there isn’t perhaps a widely-accepted definition of how to describe those things. We need to bring a greater level of awareness to how music is discussed, I think. Perhaps, in doing so, we’d also build up a greater sense of trust towards music departments as well as promoting clearer communication. 

LBB> And, on a final note, what are you listening to right now?

Kristen> There’s a couple of bands which have really caught my eye recently. One is called Secret Night Gang, who can maybe best be described as a mix between Stevie Wonder and Jamiroquai. 

And the other artist I’m listening to a lot right now is called Navy. She’s a young Caribbean artist who like blends hip hop, reggae, and dancehall. She’s really incredible, and I’d recommend giving her a listen! 

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Genres: People, Music performance

Categories: Media and Entertainment, Record Labels

SoStereo, Mon, 15 Aug 2022 07:19:00 GMT