Listeners sometimes ask about the scoring music we use on This American Life. We use hundreds of bands and musicians, but here’s information about some of the artists we use the most. Most of these musicians have written original music especially for our show. They also created playlists of their music for the show, just in case you want to pretend you’re in an episode of This American Life while you pick out produce or change the oil in your car.
Marcus Thorne Bagala, occasionally referred to as Moose, is a composer, synth designer, and audio engineer based in New York City. His work can be heard in podcasts, film, and TV, including This American Life, The Daily, PBS, and Amazon video. He co-scored the film Fathers of Football with legendary indie rock band The Flaming Lips. Marcus is currently composing a musical about baking competitions with his wife and writing partner Megan Dorn.
Christina Courtin is a violinist, composer, and singer-songwriter based in New York City. She has contributed to This American Life with her project wowmomwow. She started Pilot Violet with Michael LaValle in 2016 and is working on a new solo release featuring The Knights, a chamber collective of which she is a founding member and longtime collaborator.
Martin D. Fowler is a New York City-based composer and producer of music for aural and visual media – including Soundfly, This American Life, Limetown, and The Spark.
Martin records and performs on bass, keys, and electronics with VÉRITÉ, the PLS.trio, Arthur Moon, and other New York City artists. He produces original music and remixes as mdfx and WNNR. He will release his debut solo record in 2018.
Larry Goldings is a Grammy-nominated musician living in Los Angeles. As an organist and pianist he has been sought after by an impressive range of jazz and pop musicians including James Taylor, John Mayer, Norah Jones, Madeleine Peyroux, Melody Gardot, John Scofield, Maceo Parker, Tracy Chapman, Charlie Haden, Steve Gadd, Sia, and Elton John.
Goldings composed the music for the 2013 feature film Dealin' With Idiots, written and directed by Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm). His music can be heard in films such as Seth Rogan's Neighbors, Judd Apatow's Funny People, as well as Space Cowboys, Proof, and several TV series, including Masters of Sex, and The Office. Goldings’s compositions have been recorded by Sia, Pat Metheny, Michael Brecker, Lea Michele, John Scofield, Toots Thielemans, Jim Hall, Curtis Stigers, Gaby Moreno, Jane Monheit, Mike Viola, and others.
This spring, Larry will release his 19th solo recording, Toy Tunes, featuring Goldings on Hammond organ, Peter Bernstein on guitar, and Bill Stewart on drums.
Bobby Johnston is an Los Angeles-based film composer and multi-instrumentalist. He has composed original scores for several films, including King of the Ants, Wristcutters: A Love Story, Edmond, Marfa Girl, and the documentary City of Gold.
Allison Leyton-Brown is a composer and pianist with countless original scores written for TV, film, theater, and other media. Recent scores include This American Life and podcasts Stranglers and Outside the Box. TV scores include PBS Kids’ Emmy-winning series Peg+Cat, 20/20, and ABC’s What Would You Do? Allison performs regularly in New York City with her trio.
Merel & Tony met in 2013 while working on an art installation in a small Dutch village. Since then, they have released several EPs of songs, written instrumental music and songs for theater and radio, and toured Texas with their band, The Woe Woe Woes. Merel & Tony divide their time between Rome and Houston.
Tony has contributed additional music to This American Life that he’s created for theater and bands as Anthony Barilla.
Mark Orton is a composer working in the mediums of film scoring, concert music, and radio drama. He is both a multi-instrumentalist and a collector of antique and unusual instruments, performing on all manner (and era) of guitars, keyboards, and percussion. Mark is the co-founder of Tin Hat, an internationally renowned composer/improviser collective with seven critically acclaimed albums.
Stevie Pre is a producer/turntablist from New Jersey. Stevie Pre music sounds like when an elephant dies and is reincarnated as a dragonfly.
Stellwagen Symphonette are purveyors of evocative instrumental music. Members Matthias Bossi, Jon Evans, and Carla Kihlstedt have worked with Mike Patton, Tom Waits, Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Tracy Chapman, and John Vanderslice. They are founders of the iconic bands Tin Hat Trio, The Book Of Knots, and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum.
Timber Timbre is a Canadian music group formed in 2005, featuring Taylor Kirk, Simon Trottier, Mathieu Charbonneau, and Mark Wheaton. The moniker refers to an early series of recordings made in a timber-framed cabin set in the wooded outskirts of Bobcaygeon, Ontario. The band’s sound has been described as "an aesthetic rooted in swampy, ragged blues" and "beautifully restrained blues from an alternate universe," which creates an atmosphere that is cinematic and spooky.
Stephen Ulrich is the composer for the HBO series Bored to Death, the documentary Art and Craft and the PBS series Make ‘em Laugh. His band, Big Lazy, has flourished for over two decades in NYC's downtown music scene, playing their singular brand of noir and twang with a filmic sensibility. Stephen’s and Big Lazy’s music can be heard on This American Life.
Blue Dot Sessions records minimalist and acoustic music at their dedicated studio in Turners Falls, MA. Focusing on intimate and sparse chamber music and soundscapes, their library runs from string quartet jams and marimba noodling to abstract textures and lo-fi beats. Their music is used widely across NPR, podcasts, and the internet at large.