In early 2021, in a quiet, backyard setting in LA, a group of Hollywood’s most groundbreaking women gathered for afternoon tea. Hosted by Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts, they dove into a series of intimate conversations about their journeys on their paths to purpose. These inspiring, never-before-heard stories would become new Disney+ show, Turning The Tables with Robin Roberts. Airing July 28th, 2021, the series was produced by Roberts’ own Rock’n Robin Productions and the SpringHill Company. Leading the charge as showrunner and EP, Kadine Anckle called on her former Most Expensivestcollaborators, Flavorlab Score, to create original music for the show.
Scenes were shot with the camera as the viewer. A guest in a private discussion. During production, Anckle began to imagine the score. Inspired by the beauty of the surrounding Las Vírgenes in the Santa Monica mountains, she thought of her long time friend and fellow Panamian, singer/songwriter, Mai-Elka Prado. “I kept hearing her voice. I kept thinking it has to be this goddess – the woman – we need that connection,” explained Anckle. The initial conversations with composers Glenn Schloss and Erik Blicker called for something hauntingly beautiful, as iconic as the women being showcased. Just like the journeys of these women, the score had to highlight an evolution from sensitivity to strength. To underscore the intimacy and authenticity of the show, the composers opted for warm, acoustic instrumentation. They were also asked to write a different theme for each episode that still felt connected.
“Kadine’s leadership really made this successful. She had the confidence in vision while also allowing for that creative process.”
Erik Blicker, composer
They wrote several themes using nylon guitar and hand percussion. “The best way for people to connect to a melody is through the human voice,” said Blicker. “When I was writing the melodies, I was thinking of all the strong women in my life so that came through.” Happy with the plucky, inviting instrumental bed, vocal auditions began. The team sent the show concept and parameters to a number of vocalists. An entirely remote process, the singers recorded from home setups. They worked within the brief to come up with the music they submitted. The musical direction took a detour tasking Blicker and Schloss to write a modern pop talk show theme. Ultimately, however, the sound didn’t fit and they fell back on their initial guitar-laden demos, with Blicker in falsetto briefly on vocals.
They utilized two finalists from their vocal auditions to demo themes. With voice as the main feature of the score, polishing vocals to sound their best was a big part of getting the final theme approved. The team workshopped melodies with singers via video chat. At one point, Blicker had singers find their key over the phone so he could transpose the cues for each person’s optimal range. In the end, as Anckle imagined it, the voice of Mai-Elka Prado was chosen to be our guide. Recording from Panama, she sang from her kitchen. The resulting recordings were resonant vocalizations with some sounds from the radiator in the background. Using Izotope’s Spectral Denoise, the team filtered out errant household appliances leaving only the strong, gliding melody.
“We have so much trust between us. I’ve found, in a way, sometimes it’s even more efficient and constructive to not be together. It gives you the opportunity to breath, go through a few passes, and come back to knock it back and forth again.”
Glenn Schloss, composer
With the music done, Flavorlab Sound started in on the series’ mix. As the show is set in nature, the mix strategy looked a little different from a traditional talk show. Both mixers, Eric Stern and Ryan Hobler, had to take a more nuanced approach to filter out distracting noise while maintaining the natural environment. They also prioritize giving each voice the warmth and brilliance it required. They used the Izotope RX Advanced suite plugins, among others, to solve typical noise issues, and mostly kept a light touch. For the guests, Ryan employed a cocktail of multi-band compression, a low-end noise reducer, and a transient master plugin.
“Oftentimes, the technical aspects of mixing audio require listening to a certain phrase or syllable umpteen times. It’s easy to get into a very clinical mindset. Sometimes, you momentarily forget the content you’re working on,” explained Hobler. “That was impossible on this show. I always felt connected and inspired listening to the stories and thoughts Robin drew from the women in each episode.”
Panel – Behind The Music: Turning The Tables with Robin Roberts
Flavorlab music coordinator, Kyle Guffey, sat down with Erik, Glenn, Kadine, and Mai-Elka to talk about the project.