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Q&A: How Did That Awesome Song Get on Cracked? Music Supervisor Michael A. Perlmutter Explains How

The CSI franchise's undying love for The Who aside, crime dramas aren't really known for their killer soundtracks. CBC's Cracked, however, prides itself on being a different kind of cop show, and the Tuesday night drama loves to big-up its taste-making soundtrack of Canadian indie gems.

Visit the Cracked website, and you'll find an archive of every song featured on the series.

Visit the Cracked Tumblr, and you'll find interviews with the featured artists.

(Just watch the opening credits; the song is "Weighty Ghost," by Juno winners Wintersleep.)

Michael A. Perlmutter, who's curated the sound of Queer as Folk, The L.A. Complex, Degrassi and many more films and TV shows, is Cracked's music supervisor. Scheduled to appear at Canadian Music Week in Toronto, Saturday, March 23 - talking about his industry on a panel of North America's top music supervisors - CBC Live reached him by phone.

Read on to find out how your new favourite song makes it to an episode of Cracked


--Michael A. Perlmutter, music supervisor for CBC's Cracked.

CBC Live: How did you get involved with Cracked?

Michael A. Perlmutter: I got involved with Cracked because I had worked with Janice Dawe, a producer over at White Pine Pictures [the production company that makes Cracked], on City Sonic. And then they called me about Cracked and I was thrilled. I love the idea. A lot of people say there are too many cop dramas out there and I say, well, there might be a lot of them but this one certainly has a unique bent to it.

CBC Live: The attention paid the show's music is also pretty unique. A lot of series are known for having great soundtracks, but not so many cop shows. Why is music such a focus on Cracked?

MP: I think there's a couple of reasons for that. I think No. 1, one of the creators, Tracey Forbes, she's a big music fan. Most people are music fans, don't get me wrong, but she's a big music fan and it played into how she was writing scripts, or how her co-writers were writing scripts.

Because of the nature of the show - it's a very psychologically powerful show, and deals with some pretty heavy issues and about what, I guess, a victim is and a perpetrator is - I think you kind of get into the heart of a lot of matters. I think music is a great way to kind of convey those mixed emotions. But it's not like we peppered the show with music. There's a song or two or three per episode. Sometimes only one. 


-- Stefanie von Pfetten and David Sutcliffe in an episode of Cracked.

CBC Live: I was hoping to get a basic idea of how a song makes it into an episode of Cracked...

MP: How much time do you have?

Well, there's a couple of ways, and I'm happy to tell you. One way is a writer has written the song into the script.

CBC Live: How often does that happen?

MP: Well, it happens a LOT on Cracked, I can tell 'ya. It happened with "Calendar Girl" by Stars (Episode 102), it happened with "Lost Parts" by Forest City Lovers (Episode 106) and it happened with with a non-Canadian song, an Ingrid Michaelson song called "Keep Breathing," which is in one of the episodes which has yet to air, so I won't tell you too much about that one.

There's always a budget to work with, right? So we [the three-person team at Instinct Entertainment, Perlmutter's company] work within the budget and we have some pretty good relationships and we explain to people what's going on, and that we have so much money for the episode, and people - bands and managers and labels - are very cooperative.

In terms of everything else, we would read the scripts. The gal who works with me, her name is Dondrea Erauw, does a lot of leg work in finding the songs and she and I go through the songs and talk about them and see what would fit where and we would send them to the editors for specific scenes. So we work closely with the editors, the picture editors. Now, we haven't seen the picture necessarily. Sometimes we ask for it, and sometimes we have an idea - an idea - of what it's going to be like.

(When you get into a show you get a feel for the way it's edited and the emotion and the way the camera might move.)

We'll send over three or four songs. We might say 'We think this one is our first choice' but we don't have the final say because we're just a spoke in the wheel.

CBC Live: Who does have the final say?

MP: It always ends with the producer, or the creator. Once a song gets to the editors, gets to everybody, and they make a decision, then we go out and license it. 


-- A scene from Cracked episode 107, which features original song "Annalise."

CBC Live: This is rare, but sometimes a song is part of a Cracked storyline. I'm thinking of Episode 107, the one with the song "Annalise," which is supposed to be written by one of the characters. How did you find that song?

(Watch the episode.)

MP: Well - they needed a song, an original song written for that episode. We threw around a few ideas and I came up with the idea to get Phil Deschambault, who's a part of Ash Koley. He's an extraordinary writer and producer and a fast songwriter - and he kind of writes hits, which is pretty amazing.

The writer wanted a song with the word "Annalise" in there, and a couple of other lyrics. It was a very personal song that I believe the character's name was Billy is singing. Well, I don't know of any songs with the name Annalise in it. I know a few Beatles songs and a few James Taylor songs that have other gals' names in them, but not Annalise. So we spoke to Phil and explained what we were looking for, which was kind of a semi modern day Lenny Kravitz song but maybe not as hard, maybe a little poppier.

We sent him the script, we sent him the story that we had, the episode, so he got to really feel it out. We needed it to be piano based because Billy is a piano player - the character. And he basically nailed it on the first try, which is pretty unbelievable!

CBC Live: Are there going to be more original songs on the show?

MP: I can't tell you everything, can I? No, no, I'm kidding. That'll be the only original song written for Cracked Season 1.

CBC Live: Do you want to do more?

MP: It'd be awesome. It'd be like Glee, in a way, but not Glee.

CBC Live: Cracked isn't going to become Cop Rock. Not yet.

MP: No, no. That would be awesome! Maybe not this season but - knock on wood - hopefully if there's a second season we'll have a live band playing in a band somewhere, or a band playing at a party. Those kind of things are a lot of fun to help organize, you know, to find the band. 


-- The cast of CBC's Cracked works together to compile a killer office playlist. Or something like that.

CBC Live: Does Cracked have a specific sound? What is it?

MP:  I don't think there was a sound for Cracked necessarily. I think if anything it was emotion, more of a feeling than a sound. It will depend on the scene.

CBC Live: When you look over the songs that have appeared on the show, there are a lot of different moods, a lot of genres. If there's one unifying theme, it's that many are from Canadian indie artists. Why is that?

MP: We use a lot of Canadian bands. We always try to use Canadian bands wherever we can in our shows because we are huge Canadian music fans and we like to promote Canadian music. So we're our own little radio station. We're a mini CBC. Absolutely, we want to help promote it, but we're also lucky that it's really good because it makes our job a little easier.

(This interview was edited and condensed.)

A new episode of Cracked airs Tuesday, March 26 at 9 p.m./9:30 NT on CBC.


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