The Eddy, the Netflix limited series, is a unique fusion of live performance and drama played out in contemporary Paris, featuring an original suite of songs written by songwriter/executive producer Glen Ballard and songwriter/Eddy band member Randy Kerber. They both recently opened up to Martin Carr about their involvement, their experiences and what makes The Eddy so special…
To an extent The Eddy centres round a very human need to create. What drives you both to keep making music?
Glen Ballard: For me the inspiration was firstly having a great band that can play music you like. With a band like The Eddy which we sort of created, the reason was always to hear them performing live playing what we considered to be a new version of jazz. It’s mostly that performance and about engendering something where you can be in a circle of musicians and have this magic happen. Randy and I have been making music with computers and with other musicians, but the idea of being able to create bespoke music for an ensemble is a wonderful invitation. For me being able to create music for a real band and a real singer was exciting.
Randy Kerber: I absolutely echo what Glen is saying and as far as writing music and the drive to write, it is just something that I have to do on a daily basis. Something that has to occur and for me this is my means of expression much more than words or language. That is the way I express myself and tell people what I am feeling.
For me life experience is important in the creative process. How do you think you both contributed to The Eddy in that respect?
GB: I think life is a mysterious struggle for everyone and musicians or songwriters try to help with that in a way which makes some sort of emotional sense. I think we truly operate in an emotional kind of realm and we intellectualise it after it’s done. However the best music can transport you, so for me it’s about trying to find the magic in the music and words that lift us out of our trials and tribulations. I know for me personally there are certain songs and pieces of music that probably saved my life. So the great emotional power of music is just something I need to do, because it feels more comfortable in that mode.
RK: It’s a kind of wonderful thing which happens in the writing process with Glen, who is such a wonderful producer, co-writer and co-creator because there are no road blocks during the process. So everything is available to move us down the road and see where it takes things creatively. From there the music kind of informs us where we go and something magically always happens.
The Eddy feels so uniquely collaborative on so many levels, with so many different creative elements all coming together. What is the most important thing you have both taken away from the experience?
GB: It’s just a great gift for me to work with Randy who is one of the greatest musicians I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside. He has given his music to so many incredible projects as a performer, but what I have taken from it is that if you have the right partner there are no roadblocks. This allows you to move something along very creatively but do it in an unpremeditated way, by finding the right phrase or piece of music. Once you do that you put another one on it and another and so on, meaning you can build something in a very uncompromising way.
– Left to right: Eddy band member and songwriter Randy Kerber on piano; songwriter and executive producer Glen Ballard foreground; Eddy band member bass player Damian Nueva Cortes background behind Ballard; Eddy band member Ludovic Louis on trumpet; Eddy band member drummer Lada Obradovic and Eddy band member sax player Jowee Omicil taken in Paris on the set of The Eddy. – Photo credit: Lou Faulon
For you Randy, how did you find not just working with Glen but also connecting with Damien (Chazelle) and Jack (Thorne) on that side of the process?
RK: We were so fortunate to have Damien Chazelle and Jack Thorne on board from the early days. Jack took away all the songs which had been written and he reinvented them in these stories, which was just such a gift to see that happen. Damien heard and loved things that Glen and I had written which then got Jack involved, then this whole thing took on a life of its own. Going forward from there we got the band on board with all these uniquely musical personalities which just added another level. Meaning that every step along the way things just gained intensity and became more focused through all these contributions.
Leading on from that, what do both think a live performance element brought to The Eddy?
GB: I think it brings a unique energy and it is not the type of energy you would encounter in normal television shows or even feature films. Randy and I have both been working in film and television our whole careers and I don’t think either of us have done anything like this. Music normally comes in at the end but in this case not only was it there at the beginning but also during shooting. For me it was fundamentally essential to the tone and this indefinable energy which comes out of real people playing music in real time. I think we succeeded in making the point that playing live brings an authenticity to it, which everyone embraced and allowed us to do.
RK: Glen answered that pretty much perfectly, but the only thing I could add would be that on occasion during filming Damien asked us to play longer. So we did long performances and these then became embedded into the drama which then underscored what was happening thematically. Which meant it reached a point where the music and story reached a level of interplay that just added something new.
To what extent would you both agree that the music became a separate character in The Eddy?
GB: I would certainly agree and we owe that to Jack Thorne, but as Randy said he took thirty nine of our songs and very carefully embedded them into eight episodes. So they are the sub-text for this entire libretto and become more than just incidental pieces of music. We are just so grateful that Jack wanted to do it that way and that he was so specific about their placement. He would even say in some of the stage direction how long certain scenes should play. Jack wanted it grow out of the rhythm in which certain jazz music is played. Combined with the input from Damien Chazelle who is a jazz aficionado and understands this entire process it was a dream come true.
Name 3 albums from your collections at home that you go back to and why?
GB: ‘Kind of Blue’ (Miles Davis) every day just because it calms me down and makes me happy. I listen to a lot of Donald Fagan solo stuff and Steely Dan records. My list is a lot longer but we will stop there.
RK: There was a concert with Miles Davis and Tony Williams on drums and Herbie Hancock on piano with George Coleman. It was in the south of France and the song was called ‘My Funny Valentine’. I can’t remember the name of the album but ‘Stella by Starlight’ was also on there. I keep going back to it because Herbie Hancock embodied a combination of Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly who had both played with Miles before and took it to another level. But the conversation between the players is so magical and fluid I keep going back. ‘Sinatra at the Sands’ is a huge one for me purely because it was Quincy Jones arranging and conducting with Sinatra and the Basie band.
If you could both describe for me your perfect Sunday afternoon with Glen starting off.
GB: I just had it and listened to Miles Davis in the afternoon, a little bit of Oscar Peterson right after that and then went for a walk in Griffith Park to the observatory and look out over Los Angeles and count my blessings. That just happened yesterday so it was perfect and I am going to try and repeat this next Sunday.
RK: It would be in Paris because I am here right now with my family. So it would be French toast for breakfast then a walk to the Champ de Mars with my wife and daughter. It would involve a lot of walking through Paris during the day, then later it would be a picnic at the Bois de Boulogne just enjoying nature and time with my family.
Thank you both for taking the time to talk to Flickering Myth today and take care.
The Eddy is currently available to stream on Netflix now.