The juggernaut film The Hunger Games opens today, to great anticipation and excitement. The film itself will only feature two pop songs, Taylor Swift and the Civil Wars’ “Safe & Sound” and the Arcade Fire’s “Abraham’s Daughter.” But the soundtrack, Songs From District 12 and Beyond, is loaded with songs inspired by the book from artists like Maroon 5, Kid Cudi, Glen Hansard (of Once), Miranda Lambert, and several less well-known acts.
So how did these bands earn a spot the soundtrack for one of the most anticipated films of 2012?
The Hunger Games music supervisor, T. Bone Burnett (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Cold Mountain, Crazy Heart) oversaw the selection of artists and worked with them to create original songs for the soundtrack album. All the artists were all charged with writing an original track that was inspired by the book…and sounded like Appalachian music 300 years in the future.
The Secret Sisters, whose track “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” is the second song on the soundtrack, were personally asked by Burnett if they would contribute. Lydia and Laura Rogers worked with Burnett previously, when he executive produced their self-titled debut album.
Lydia told CBS Local, “…we got a phone call and it was T-Bone asking if we could supply a song for the soundtrack. He told us to read the books and so we did and got sucked into whatever The Hunger Games does to people. Really addictive set of books.”
Their track was actually inspired by the aftermath of a string of tornados that devastated Alabama in April of 2011. The storms killed at least 337 people across 7 states, making it the second deadliest tornado outbreak in U.S. history. Lydia expanded, saying, “It was nuts once we did read the book. The song suddenly fit into all these places. In the Games, the fighting after first day, and that horrible mind-blowing situations [in the book] that people now-a-days couldn’t even wrap their heads around. Similarly we were inspired by natural disasters, in those moments where people can’t understand what it means to have your home taken away by something out of control.”
Taylor Swift talked of being inspired by the Katniss character while writing “Safe & Sound” and “Eyes Wide Open,” but the real challenge for most artists was writing songs that would fit well 300 years into the future. For the Secret Sisters, the jump was easy. They drew inspiration from timeless classics. Lydia said, “…what really clicked in my head was, obviously we’re Southern church going ladies and I instantly thought of church gems. For example, “Amazing Grace,” which has been around for decades but will still be meaningful years from now. The feeling is timeless and we wanted that in the song we offered for the soundtrack. [Songs that] could be applicable in 1800 or 2200, whenever.”
The Hunger Games: Songs From District 12 and Beyond, was released on Tuesday, March 20. The Hunger Games movie opens today, with pre-sale tickets already surpassing one million sold and 2,000 sold-out screenings.