How Marc Maron Picks Music For His Show

Marc Maron
Marc Maron

Marc Maron, the salt and pepper podcaster and personality behind the fledgling IFC comedy Maron, knows his way around a guitar.

In loose-fitting jeans and a patchwork flannel, the comedian looks a lot like your run-of-the-mill guitar dad. Except he jams with icons like The Blasters' Dave Alvin on his hugely popular podcast, WTF. Last week he played El Cid with a band that included Anthony Roman, of local music production boutique Black Iris, who oversaw Maron's blues and rockabilly themed soundtrack. Before the set, we sat down with Maron and Roman and talked about putting together the music for the indie comedy.

How does the scoring of a television show like Maron happen?

Roman: I went through a bunch of his podcasts and checked out who he talked to. He did an interview with Dave Alvin who is from The Blasters, an old L.A. guy. That set the tone do to this rootsy, blues, rockabilly thing, but it was important that it wasn't like Black Keys. We were trying to do something with a different twist to it.

Not radio-friendly blues records.

Maron: The Black Keys are taking the blues in another direction than where we wanted to go. We went very roots-rock with our theme song. More Blasters-y.

Roman: We have this great doo-wop song from Tyrone Ashely, an old singer from Jersey that made a record in the '50s, that we used for when Marc was cooking for Gina Gershon in one episode.

Maron: [Excited] Oh yeah, yeah, yeah!

Roman: It was what he would be playing when a woman was coming over.

Maron: Also a lot of the strategy here is to use original music, so you don't get into that world of insanely costly music. When you're doing a show like we were doing, it's a pretty tightly budgeted show, and you want to have music that really plays well with what the show is, but it's expensive to get stuff.

Roughly, how much is original music versus licensed songs?

Roman: I'd say roughly half and half. We licensed forty-seven pieces of music for ten episodes, so about four to five songs per episode. And then there's about five cues of original score.

Maron: But the licensing was from guys that [Roman] knew, that have songs going around. It's a whole new world to me... I wasn't in the studio or anything like that, but I'd get options... I never realized how much music was layered into TV, because it sort of goes by you, but when we edited it, it was like: we need this music here.

Did you guys watch a rough cut and then would score from there?

Roman: Yeah totally. But I also try and work off a script. Even though you haven't seen it shot you can kind of get an idea of what you're going to lay in there before you have picture. I know a lot of music supervisors don't read scripts, but I think it's really important to read the script.

Marc, this show is an auteur project for you, what cannon did you want to draw from in thinking about the music?

Maron: Well you know Louis [C.K.] uses a lot of bee-bop and that Woody Allen feel. But I'm pretty much a guitar head, so the stuff we were doing felt kind of raw, but kind of nice.

Roman: Sophisticated but still rootsy. Because comedy is rough. If you throw a cheesy string in, or a cheesy blues riff, it takes comedy into a bad place.

Maron: It's really tricky.


There seems to be a new crop of comedy shows that are able to use less of the cymbal clash laughs. Music has a part of making those shows feel more mature.

Maron: But for shows, like those HBO shows, if they can afford it they use popular music. Like for Girls they gotta for pay a fortune for the music.

Roman: Yeah that show's got money...

Maron: Or [musicians] want to be part of it. But I was happy our show was all original or just pulled from people that aren't huge.

Roman: I always try and use stuff you haven't heard in other shows... I was trying to get: If Marc was in a coffee shop in Highland Park, would this be playing.

Maron: You know the band the Zig-Zags? They're around, they reached out to me. I used their music on a podcast the other day.

When you interview musicians for your podcast, Marc, does that influence the kind of music you want to use on your show?

Maron: When I had Dave Alvin on I was thrilled. For him to play "Help You Dream" for me in my garage, I was like "this is crazy" and he let me play with him. But there's some musicians that I don't know if they would fit the show. Like I had Aimee Mann on, and she's great but it's not the tone of my show. That's more Girls.

So do you have a pretty substantial vinyl collection?

Maron: I have 1100 or 1200 records.

Roman: You got a farm man.

Maron: I'm like a crackhead. And now people are sending me stuff, shit I never heard before! Oh shit, I had Forgerty on the show. I went to his house, I love CCR. When people want to hear my stereo, I always put on that first CCR record because there's just something about them... So Vanguard [Forgerty's label] dumped all this stuff on me. Skip James, the Newport Jazz and Folk Stuff.

Roman: Oh, you're going to be in heaven.

Maron airs Fridays on IFC. The soundtrack is out today on White Iris Records

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