How Kris Bowers created ‘the Bridgerton sound’ – from hip-hop beats to Ravel inspiration

15 May 2024, 19:02 | Updated: 16 May 2024, 14:55

Kris Bowers on creating ‘the Bridgerton sound’ | Classic FM

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Kris Bowers tells Classic FM his ‘Bridgerton’ soundtrack started as classical samples with hip-hop beats – before inspiration struck when he heard the music of French composer Maurice Ravel.

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Kris Bowers, the musical voice behind Green Book, King Richard, Dear White People, and the hit Netflix series Bridgerton, is quickly becoming one of Hollywood’s most sought-after composers.

Earlier this year, Bowers won an Oscar for his short film The Last Repair Shop about a musical instrument workshop in LA, which since the Oscars has had over $100,000 of donations. In his acceptance speech, he credited his beginnings as a film composer to John Williams.

With season three of Bridgerton about to land, the composer spoke to Classic FM’s Margherita Taylor about how he found the sound of Bridgerton.

Bridgerton has a wonderfully contorted aesthetic, blending conversational styles and morals from the modern world into a Regency era period drama. And the producers wanted the score to reflect that.

“I wrote a bunch of music that sounded like it was from the period and chopped it up into samples,” Kris said on his first attempt to create that genre-blending score. “Then I made pop tracks with them, with hip-hop beats. But that wasn’t the direction they wanted to go in!”

Read more: All the classical covers in Netflix’s Bridgerton Season 3 revealed

Kris Bowers won an Oscar for his documentary 'The Last Repair Shop'
Kris Bowers won an Oscar for his documentary 'The Last Repair Shop'. Picture: Getty

He went in for a second try. “The next era that I tried was, I thought maybe it would be interesting to write music that was incredibly accurate to the time period, but recorded in a really modern way,” he said. “We tried that, and just felt like it was too much of the time.”

Eventually, two interactions helped him find the sound of Bridgerton. The showrunner, American TV producer Chris Van Dusen, sent Bowers some piano pieces by French composer Maurice Ravel that he loved.

“I hadn’t been thinking of Ravel because I was going back and forth between – either this needs to sound like 1813, or it needs to sound like today. I never thought about any other time period in between,” Bowers told Taylor.

“So when they offered Ravel, I was really surprised and excited by the idea of now being able to pull from other periods and other composers and other styles.”

Watch the Bridgerton Season 3 trailer

Then, music supervisor Alex Patsavas played Bowers some of the classical covers they had been pulling out, which in the first season included Taylor Swift’s ‘Wildest Dreams’, Billie Eilish’s ‘Bad Guy’ and Ariana Grande’s ‘Thank U, Next’.

“When I heard the first one, the ‘Thank you, Next’, I was immediately excited by how that song puts the viewers in the seat empathetically of the characters we’re dealing with,” Bowers said.

“Anybody watching these young women can now project their own connections to this song into this environment – where they recognise like, ‘Oh, I know this song … because of this ex, or this person I used to deal with who wasn’t worth my time’, or whatever it was about. But now they could watch the scene and really feel all these very clear feelings.

“That also helped me think about how to approach the music from a rhythm, tempo perspective, melody and harmony perspective – to be more influenced by pop music, so that if somebody heard music that made them want to move and dance, it was informed by music that makes us want to move and dance today, as opposed to that period.”

Read more: Queen Charlotte – every orchestral cover in the Bridgerton story Netflix show

Bridgerton Season 3 focuses on the blossoming romance between Colin Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington as they go from friends to lovers.
Bridgerton Season 3 focuses on the blossoming romance between Colin Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington as they go from friends to lovers. Picture: Netflix

Bridgerton has immense appeal among younger audiences. The Vitamin String Quartet, whose covers feature in the show, has put Taylor Swift at No.1 in the Billboard Classical Album Charts ahead of season three, and Bowers has heard of influxes in young people wanting to pick up a musical instrument after watching the TV show.

“That’s the thing about this show that I feel so thankful about being a part of,” he said. “I remember with Season One, I had some friends of mine who played on the score. They said that they had an increase in young people asking for violin lessons or cello lessons because of Bridgerton – because they were excited about classical music because of that show.

“It’s amazing to be a part of a show that’s inspiring people to pick up an instrument and get into classical music.”

The orchestral covers have now been announced for season three, and they include more Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift remixes. But are there any musical surprises we can expect from Bowers?

“I’m always scared to say anything because of spoilers! But the things I’m really excited about are new covers – to be a part of that is pretty exciting. And then, with each season we’re focusing on new characters, so there are new themes. What’s really fun about this show is that there are themes that have existed from the previous seasons that continue and also now even themes from Queen Charlotte that are in the show because of the characters that we see in the show acting in different ways.

“But this season, we’re focusing on Penelope and Colin and their relationship, and it’s so different from the previous two seasons in terms of some sort of love dynamic. And so, having new themes for each of them and their theme together was a lot of fun to explore this season.”

Listen to ‘The Sound of Bridgerton’ at 9pm on Friday 17 May, with Margherita Taylor on Classic FM.