From Leaves composer and arranger, Candace Bilyk:
When Laura and Bryan first asked me to write music for Leaves, I was unsure. The kind of music that they wanted was outside of my usual style and very different from my last project with Savage Umbrella (The Awakening). While not pop music, the aesthetic they wanted leaned much closer to the pop side than to “art” music, or whatever people call it now. Additionally, the timeline would be much shorter.
The script was created by a team of writers, so I suggested having multiple composers as well, thinking it would fit the spirit of the show, help with the time crunch, and hopefully keep my abstract tendencies in check. At the same time, Ben Mattson was asking to do some music for the project, so he and I set out to work together. Some of the cast members also pitched in and wrote two of the songs.
Still, writing for Leaves was a challenge. How do you create a unique feeling melody with ubiquitous chords? How do you break out of the box when your goal is also to get inside of one? How do you keep the audience from being distracted from the fact that the characters are singing now instead of speaking, and keep it natural and smooth when the form of the music is so obvious? Most people think pop music is easy, but the truth is making something poppy, subtle, and creative is really hard.
Usually when I write I start out with ideas for themes and melodies and fill in the chords that work with those ideas. To get more of straightforward feeling in the music I put a focus on chord progressions and then melody, adjusting the melody to work with where I wanted the chords to go instead of the other way around. Other figures in the accompaniment were either adapted from the melody lines or bits from music written by the other contributors to make the score feel more cohesive.
The path that Leaves takes the audience down is one towards hope. While I may have started with reservations, I find myself following right along. While there have been personal successes, I think it has more to do with being surrounded by the characters and their play for the last two months, finding myself in them and letting them find themselves in me. That is the magic ofLeaves--other people may tell you it's about America, but you are America, and it's about you.
There are so many reasons to come to this show. Come to hear the music performed by expressive and talented singers, music that somehow fits together despite being written by four very different people. Come to see strong, rounded characters pitted against each other that have nothing to do with the stock parts you may be accustomed to. Come to be challenged or come to feel self-affirmed. Come to say you saw Savage Umbrella when they were small but already a powerful creator of new and meaningful theater. Come to contribute to a communal hope. But most of all, come as you are and find some part of yourself within.