Freeform’s The Bold Type has come to an end, airing the series finale on Wednesday June 30th. A top show for music discovery, The Bold Type soundtrack features pop songs that create an empowering sound for the series. Early on, the infectious pop soundtrack set the tone for the story and development of the characters.
We caught up with music supervisor Rob Lowry (Gossip Girl, Freaky, Ramy) to learn about his process of selecting the best songs for Freeform’s New York-based comedy-drama series, created by Sarah Watson.
“I was a PA on Parenthood as my 2nd job in LA, when I was in my early twenties. I became friends with a lot of the writers on the show and I was always reading their scripts and giving them mixes and talking music with them. One of those people was Sarah Watson,” shared Lowry. “Fast forward 7-8 years after Parenthood ended, Sarah had this pilot (The Bold Type), and reached out to me. It was a dream come true.”
The series follows three best friends, Jane Sloan (Katie Stevens), Kat Edison (Aisha Dee), and Sutton Brady (Meghann Fahy) who work for Scarlet magazine and frequent the fashion closet to dish about their lives. Jane, Kat, and Sutton navigate their careers and explore their relationships. They tackle issues about women’s health, social injustices, and climbing the ladder of success. If there’s a topic to be discussed, The Bold Type covers it in spades focusing on self-love, sexual independence, and acceptance.
The process for finding those picture perfect pop songs starts with casting a wide net and some serious narrowing down. Lowry listens to a ton of pop music year round, creates big playlists of thousands of songs, and then breaks them down based on character, tones, relationship dynamics, and lyrical themes. “We’ll then kind of sort them based on scene, relationship, or tonal dynamics,” Lowry said. “It’s a lot of listening and organizing and watching to picture and waiting for goosebumps.”
This trio of dynamic characters has been through a lot across five seasons and closing the door on their story has been difficult. Rob Lowry told Tunefind that the biggest challenge was tying up loose ends, “making sure that we were telling the stories we wanted to tell and respecting character’s journeys while also giving the fans music they can relate to, love, and put on mixes to listen to forever and think of The Bold Type.”
Beyond giving closure to the characters and fans, music supervisors are generally faced with familiar issues like budgets, creative differences, and the fact that music is very subjective. But Lowry felt free in this final season to do these stories justice through his music selections.
“Creatively we’ve been empowered by producers and the studio/network. They trust us and there’s really nothing more rewarding and fulfilling than to be able to indulge those creative instincts and create a treasure map of songs and music that tell a character’s story through a playlist of songs.” According to Lowry, attentive fans will find Easter eggs throughout this final season, “We had a lot of call backs and references to previous artists that soundtracked important sequences or scenes for different characters and relationships, and that was really fun and special to be able to do.”
The Bold Type highlights supportive relationships between the main characters and the behind-the-scenes team is no different. “Sharing music with someone is really intimate and personal,” said Lowry. “Sarah [Watson] and I knew each other when she brought me on The Bold Type, and I’ve just always really valued the relationship that is both creative but also personal. I’m so thankful to have that relationship with people I work with including Emily [Bender] and Mia [Riggins, both music coordinators on Rob’s team] on The Bold Type, Sam [Boyd, creator] on Love Life, Ramy [Yousef, creator] on Ramy, and Josh [Safran, showrunner] on Gossip Girl. We’re constantly sending each other music we are excited about and talking about things we love. It’s really one of the best parts of my job and really just of life, sharing music with people you love.”
The actors contributed to the musical collaboration as well because many of The Bold Type cast members are singers too. The penultimate episode in season 2 features a cast performance from Jane Sloan (Katie Stevens).
“When she performed ‘Torn’ [by Natalie Imbruglia] on the show, it was a lot of conversation between the two of us about her favorite songs, what she wanted to sing, what she felt was in her range, what her character would be attracted to, etc.,” Rob continued, “Our job is super collaborative, and you’re really only as good as how open you are to other people’s tastes and opinions.”
The series also featured on-camera performances by Betty Who in the season 3 premiere and Sofia Reyes (as Bella Diaz) in season 4. “For Betty, we were obviously huge fans and had been wanting to use her music in the show,” Lowry said. “Katie proposed the idea because the two of them are such good friends. It worked out super well!”
The performances with Sofia were big ones and Rob shared, “This started very early on. Wendy [Strauker Hauser, TBT showrunner] and I got a coffee one morning when they were breaking season 3, and she told me about this story, and asked me to put a list of artists together. We had a pretty big list, but Sofia was always at the top and actually the first person that I brought up when we were discussing it.”
Sofia played a significant role the episode, both narratively and in the fact that she wrote two songs (currently unreleased) for the show. “We were so happy to have her come on board, and of course work with her in creating two original songs for the show that we feel like were two of the best pieces of music we ever got to work on for the series.”
At the start of season 3, you tweeted “We only use artists on #TheBoldType that identify as a woman or non-binary (there are very few exceptions). Yes, this is purposeful. I had to fight for this creative decision. It is important.” Tell us about this choice and how you achieved this.
Rob Lowry: It evolved fairly naturally. But it was a conscious decision that was made by our team. I’m also sensitive to calling artists “female artists” or “female vocalists” or whatever, because that gives a certain qualification of artist, rather than them just being fantastic artists. So while I’ve done that in the past, I’ve tried to avoid it – but we do exclusively use and promote artists that identify as female or non binary.
The pilot didn’t use exclusively artists that identify as female, there were some really wonderful uses by great bands and songwriters that identify as male. But once the show got picked up to series, and we started working on 102, 103, 104, the identity of the soundtrack started to reveal itself in terms of what we were all gravitating towards, what felt like was really supporting the stories, the women, what the perspectives were from songwriters that we really wanted to highlight and felt really gave weight to the stories, and more importantly what gave the show it’s own unique sonic identity.
This was a result of many people’s opinions and taste – primarily myself, Sarah Watson the showrunner, and Katie Skjerping who edited the pilot as well as several episodes in the first season and played an instrumental role in helping to develop the sound of the show. It became a fairly conscious decision within the the first two episodes and something we really embraced and ran with. It was met with some skepticism, but ultimately supported by everyone, especially with the studio and network and providing us with the resources to make sure we were able to really lean into this decision and give it what it needed to make sure it was successful and fully developed.
Also want to add that this idea and concept was something that was fully met and embraced by our team every season – from Sarah, to Amanda Lasher who was absolutely incredible, and then Wendy our last couple of seasons. I think each showrunner brought so much to each season, of course all starting with Sarah, who created such thoughtful and powerful characters and narratives and created the foundation for all of this.
What moment in the show are you most proud of?
RL: There are a lot. I think the use of MILCK’s ‘Quiet’ in the season 1 finale is something I will always remember and will always bring me to tears. I had an unfinished demo of the song. I remember reading the rough draft of the script of the finale and, when I read the scene, sending the demo to Sarah and being like “this is the song!” Then it was never not the song. We worked with MILCK’s label and management in building out the song and making sure it was finished in time for the finale and for our mix, so that we were able to premiere the finished version of the song in the show.
To be able to use Taylor Swift’s ‘Lover’ during an engagement scene, which she had said was the type of use she had hoped for for the song, was really a dream. One of my favorite artists/songwriters, and a truly gorgeous song. I think it captured the moment and elevated an already pitch perfect scene.
But I’m also proud that the show existed, that it told stories and showcased characters that weren’t being represented; that people found power and comfort in those characters and relationships and songs. And I feel proud and honored and humbled that Sarah trusted me to create the soundtrack for such a beautiful, thoughtful show.
What song almost didn’t make it in? What was the toughest deal to make happen?
RL: I can’t name names but there was a song this season that was flat out denied, at the very last minute. The entire sequence was cut specifically to this song. Usually we have backups, but there were no backups for this because this was *the* song. It was a big named artist, they were concerned with some content in the scene, but with the help of some very passionate and fantastic label friends and publishers, we turned the “no” into a “yes” a couple hours before our mix, which is very rare. It was a huge win because everyone loved it. I can’t imagine anything else in the scene.
Anything didn’t make it in, but you wish it had?
RL: Nope, we were lucky enough to lay it all out on the dance floor.
Thanks for the peek behind-the-scenes of The Bold Type, Rob. Now, let’s learn a bit more about you. How did you first get into music supervision?
RL: As a PA – similar to my story with Sarah. I was just sharing music with editors and writers, telling everyone what I wanted to do. An editor on Parenthood eventually introduced me to a friend who was producing a small indie film called The Kitchen. I got the gig and it was my first foray into supervising, and it was essentially my music supervision schooling – I learned how to do clearances, on camera performances, pre records… It was absolutely insane, but it was the best thing I could have ever asked for.
What’s your favorite part of this work?
RL: Introducing people to music they haven’t heard before, or introducing them to a song they’ve heard a million times in a new context. Just kind of making people feel things. Sharing songs, sharing that emotional high that only music can provide. Collaborating with people you love and trust who inspire you and challenge you, and working on projects that do the same.
Any advice you’d give your younger self, or aspiring supervisors?
RL: My younger self did ok, cause I’m here now, and I couldn’t be happier. I’m very fortunate and lucky. Aspiring supervisors, I know it’s tough, and I know a lot of things have to break your way…it’s not as simple as getting from A to B. But the best thing you can be is resourceful. Think of creative ways to both hone your skills, add value to your craft, connect with people, and ultimately get into the industry. And don’t be shy about putting it out there and letting people know what you wanna do.
What song have you had on repeat lately?
RL: Elissa Mielke ‘Finally,’ the Lucy Dacus record, Jensen McRae, anything and everything by Olivia Rodrigo, the new Jungle record, and the new Little Simz record. Love the new Japanese Breakfast album. Also this amazing Leon Russell / Mary Russell record that Josh Safran (Gossip Girl showrunner) introduced me to.
What song always makes you want to sing along?
RL: Carly Rae Jepsen ‘Run Away With Me’, Kelly Clarkson ‘My Life Would Suck Without You’, The Beatles ‘Norwegian Wood’, Taylor Swift ‘All Too Well’, and any National song.
What song makes even the worst day better for you?
RL: Sza ‘Good Days’ (I listen to this at least 2-3 times a day), Van Morrison ‘Tupelo Honey’, The National ‘Pink Rabbits’, Oasis ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, and Jim Croce ‘I’ve Got a Name’.
What emerging artist do you feel deserves more love?
RL: Kississippi, Illuminati Hotties, Pom Pom Squad, Tkay Maidza, Yaya Bey, Erika De Casier, Elissa Mielke, and Wild Pink.
What’s your favorite TV show (other than your projects)?
What’s your favorite recent music moment NOT from one of your own projects?
RL: Adrianne Lenker’s ‘Anything’ in Shrill from Maggie Philips, Christine Greene Roe and Andrew Brady made me cry.
The Bold Type has featured nearly 400 songs across the series. There are simply too many songs to dive into – no really! There’s over 20 hours of music on the official The Bold Type playlist on Spotify. So, we asked Rob to walk us through some of his favorite music moments.
RL: I mentioned this before, but this was a great representation of what the show was at it’s best – working with a new artist and a beautiful song, showcasing and soundtracking an incredible moment in the show that was topical and pushing the envelope in terms of the issues it was addressing.
RL: I am so grateful to Connie (MILCK) and her team for working with us on this one, it was such a special moment.
RL: Dagny was an important artist for the show, and tracked Kat and Adena’s relationship very well. Working with her on doing a cover of ‘Landslide’ was so much fun and she absolutely nailed it.
RL: This was a great usage for a really tough sequence in season 1, where Kat and Adena sleep together for the first time, and Sutton goes home with Alex. It was really romantic without feeling in your face, it was just a really beautiful, nicely paced love song.
RL: For this song, we really used the instrumental to build out and score an entire sequence, and then introduced the vocals over a big kiss moment – the climax of the sequence. We would continue to use pop music instrumentals as score, and then introducing vocals to really elevate scenes when needed.
RL: This was used in the second episode of the show, and really gave us the opportunity to showcase and figure out how music was going to be used in the show.
RL: To license a Taylor Swift song was an absolute dream. Especially during an engagement scene! Anyone who knows me knows I am a Swiftie, so this was just special on every level.
RL: I think we were the first to use the song in a show or movie, so that felt extra special.
RL: This was such a beautiful song and usage as the final song of the season 3 premier. It really allowed us to feel the depths of Kat’s heartache, and the girls rallying around each other (as usual) in the city that they love.
RL: This was one of the steamiest sex scenes of the show, and this song just soundtracked it absolutely perfect. It’s so fun and driving and sexy and spicy and it just hit in all the right ways.
RL: We scored the entire season 4B premiere with this song, and it just felt so special. We usually have something fun and upbeat but this was a darker, more inward-looking song. We took all the audio out of the rest of the scenes and played this featured as score, soundtracking Jane’s recovery.
RL: The song just builds and releases at all the right moments and I have cried every single time I watched it.
When you work on a show for five seasons, you develop relationships with these characters, the creative team, and even the fans, who have actively engaged with you online around the soundtrack of the show. How are you feeling as you wrap up this final season?
RL: I will miss the fan engagement, getting messages asking about a certain song, and if it means this or if it means that. The level of thought that people go to dissecting lyrics and what it might mean for a character or a relationship is so incredible because believe it or not, we put that type of thought into what music we’re using as well, and are very aware and sensitive of the message being portrayed. I will miss the live tweets and outpouring of love, or even the questioning of some decisions, because I think criticism is so important, and it helps to make us look at our work in a new context by stepping outside of ourselves. I’ll miss all of our mixes and spotting sessions and collaborations with our team. I’ll miss getting a new script and racing to read it, or getting a new cut and seeing how all of the music is playing together in context. I’ll miss the fashion closet!
Lastly, let’s talk about your upcoming projects. One that has a lot of buzz already is Gossip Girl. Anything you’d like to share to get fans even more excited?
RL: Gossip Girl is an actual dream come true. It was one of the shows that inspired me to want to be a music supervisor, and to *attempt* to carry the torch from the great Alex Patsavas is just incredible. It’s been fun. I don’t think there’s a soundtrack like it on television. There’s a lot of pop, R&B, classical, orchestral, some classic rock and folk stuff. Josh has eclectic taste, and we complement each other so well, that I think it’s just created a really interesting sonic palette. Ariel Rechtstead and Amanda Yin [composers] have created an incredibly gorgeous score that is so fresh and exciting and unlike any other score I’ve heard on TV. I’m just so excited for everyone to see and hear the world that was built.
Keep an eye out for the upcoming Gossip Girl reboot on HBOMax premiering on July 8th and be sure to check out the complete series of The Bold Type on Freeform. As usual, Tunefind is tracking all the songs from The Bold Type and stay tuned for your Fan Favorites from The Bold Type series. That’s it. Be bold and don’t stop screaming.
〉Full list of songs featured in the The Bold Type soundtrack