Q&A with Florence Welch. The singer divulges all on Game of Thrones’ haunting end credits
|Toronto Star 22 Apr 2019 at 10:55|
Only a handful of contemporary bands have furnished the end-credits music to Game of Thrones: the Hold Steady, for example, covered the Westerosi drinking song “The Bear and the Maiden Fair,” and the National covered the foreboding ballad “The Rains of Castamere.” In this week’s episode, it was Florence + the Machine, the last group who will ever do so, according to HBO.
Which was fitting: the band was one of the first that the series showrunners, David Benioff and Dan Weiss, attempted to recruit.
Florence Welch with Florence + the Machine will be the last band to lend their talents to the end credits of an episode of Game of Thrones. “Jenny of Oldstones” was featured at the end of Season 8’s episode 2. (Mauricio Santana / GETTY IMAGES)
That was for Season 2 — an eternity in pop culture time — when they had wanted that band’s frontwoman, Florence Welch, to sing “The Rains of Castamere.” Florence + the Machine turned down the request at the time, but Benioff and Weiss never let go of the idea.
“We’ve always been huge fans of Florence’s music,” they said in a joint statement. “So the opportunity to hear her otherworldly voice on our show was always at the forefront of our minds. We’re still pleasantly shocked that she agreed to sing ‘Jenny of Oldstones’ and we’re in love with the result.”
Perhaps it was an easier sell now that Welch, like so many millions of others, is a fan.
During the episode, Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman) sings a portion of that tragic love ballad over a montage of various pairings — Sam and Gilly, Sansa and Theon, Arya and Gendry, Missandei and Grey Worm — and finishes as Dany approaches Jon, perhaps as foreshadowing. His version has an air of hopefulness. Welch’s, however, seems to capture more of the song’s inherent mysteries, even though, as she said in a phone interview, she had no idea while recording what would happen in the episode.
Welch took a break from celebrating her grandfather’s 80th birthday in Galveston, Texas, to chat about the song and its possible meanings. (She joked that she was calling from Westeros.) Following are edited excerpts from that conversation.
Game of Thrones licensed one of your songs (“Seven Devils”) for a trailer before, but this is the first time you’ve recorded something specifically for the show. Are you a fan? At what point did you get into Game of Thrones?
Any regrets about passing on a previous request from the show to record a version of “The Rains of Castamere”?
Oh my god. (Expletive) Did I? I can’t remember. (Laughs) I think that was during my quote-unquote wild years. If I’m being super honest, there are a lot of things that are a bit blurry. I wasn’t as … involved, or, shall we say, as focused as I am now.
What kind of direction did they give you with “Jenny of Oldstones”?
They just had a simple, stripped back, lilting melody. The notes of it sounded like a Celtic folk song to me. I thought it was really beautiful. I love the idea of dancing with ghosts and never wanting to leave. That totally makes sense to me. I feel like I do that every night onstage. I worked with Thomas Bartlett on High as Hope and he’s a piano genius. He helped formulate the chords and then I kind of added my choir, my hellish soprano. We just tried to keep within the Game of Thrones world, to retain the ghostliness of it.
This is a song that is shrouded in mystery in the books …
Really? There’s a kind of sadness to it and it sounded kind of haunted to me. I’m always really drawn to that kind of thing. What’s it about?
Fans have various theories: that the song is about a prophecy, that it was written by Rhaegar Targaryen. In the show, they’ve had Jenny claiming to be a descendant of the Children of the Forest herself. So fans have been anticipating this one for a while.
Wow! Oh my god, that’s perfect! To be honest, they keep such a tight ship on Game of Thrones, they didn’t tell us what the visual would be. We weren’t told what’s going to happen in the episode. We weren’t even told what the episode is called. It was all so top secret, so cloak-and-dagger! When I heard it, it evoked something quite strongly in me — you can kind of feel that there is a presence in that song, like something that had history. So I’m really glad it does have a rich history!
Have you ever seen some of the suggestions out there that you could play Melisandre?
Yes! I’m so on board to be Melisandre. She’s scary! I think I sometimes get mistaken for Sansa Stark as well. I thought you were going to go there. But I’ll take Melisandre. The witchiness, that’s definitely me. Although if I take my jewelry off, I don’t turn into an old lady. Or do I?