News Column

We talked to Alicia Keys about her film composer debut

October 7, 2013


Oct. 07--Alicia Keys has conquered a lot of challenges over the course of her rise to music superstardom.

But "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete" finds the 32-year-old Manhattan native, a 14-time Grammy winner, on new terrain.

She's an executive producer of the small independent film about two Brooklyn kids who spend the summer by themselves after their mothers disappear.

And, for the first time ever, Keys has joined the ranks of film composers, having scored the movie.

amNewYork spoke with Keys about it.

It's not every day that you decide to executive produce a movie and work on its music. Why do so here?

This script on the page is so magnificent, it might be one of the best things I've ever read. That really caught me right away. It was the depth of the characters. ... It's a difficult story, but it makes you push right through it and find the funny in life and also find the triumph throughout it.

When did you know the tone for your score?

Right away from the very beginning I knew I wanted to score this. I knew that would be a part that I would play in this and that was just because I could imagine, even without seeing it yet but having read it, I could imagine how emotional it was going to be, just how powerful it was going to be. I wanted to help create the character of music that would help bring it through.

This is the first time you've scored a movie.

There's a lot of learning process that goes along with it. Fortunately, George [Tillman Jr., the director], and I were connected from the beginning. Even just melodically, the things I heard as themes he really related to.

You're from New York. What does the movie get right about growing up here?

I am born and raised in New York City; this is a life I'm very familiar with. The way that it's done is extremely authentic and honest. It's just real. Pete is Korean and Mister is black and they both live in the same projects. I thought that was a really powerful thing because I think a lot of times you have a lot of stereotypes of who lives where and how does it go.

How does the city inform your work?

I think it grounds me and it roots me to a place that I know and I love and I recognize in all it's diversity. ... Just growing up here and how that's given me a different attitude.


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