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HomeAwardsDaisy Jones & the Six Showrunner Scott Neustadter on Fulfilling His Musical Dream Project...

Daisy Jones & the Six Showrunner Scott Neustadter on Fulfilling His Musical Dream Project and Possibly Taking the Show’s Band on Tour

The story of the struggling rock band that finally finds fame and fortune only to implode after members begin abusing drugs is a familiar one. We hear those kinds of salacious headlines all the time, but rarely do we see the behind-the-scenes drama unfold before us, which is why Amazon Prime’s 10-episode limited series Daisy Jones & the Six is such a great binge-watch. The series hails from co-creators Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who previously wrote (500) Days of Summer and adapted The Fault in Our Stars. Neustadter also served as co-showrunner along with Will Graham.

After tracking down an early copy of the bestselling book by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Neustadter read it and immediately fell in love, and it was his relentless passion to turn the book into a series that got the project made. He teamed up with his wife, Lauren Neustadter, who just so happens to serve as the President of Film and Television at Reese Witherspoon’s production company Hello Sunshine, and for the first time ever, they teamed up professionally as husband and wife. As it so happens, he already had a hunch that Witherspoon might be interested in the material, as he’d had a business lunch with her years earlier in which they spent a great deal of time talking about Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac.

Daisy Jones & the Six follows an iconic 1970s rock band fronted by Daisy Jones (Riley Keough) and Billy Dunne (Sam Claflin), two lead singers who may have a love-hate relationship but who are destined to create chart-topping hits together. Their musical partnership is certainly complicated, but it’s also lightning in a bottle, taking them from obscurity to success and stardom.

Above the Line spoke with Scott Neustadter via Zoom video from his home in Los Angeles, where he spoke with a youthful exuberance about his interest in Daisy Jones, which fulfills his desire to make a project about one of his greatest loves — music. A self-described “music junkie,” Neustadter discussed what he needed musically from the cast some of whom went to “Rockstar Boot Camp,” and he also brought in famous musicians to talk about life on the road. He also addressed the much-discussed parallels to the tumultuous duo behind Fleetwood Mac, the show’s live performances, and why they wanted to shoot in authentic music venues.

Mostly, Scott got a real kick out of how the fictitious album “Aurora,” written and produced by Blake Mills, has gone on to have real-life success on streaming music platforms. Taking pride in the fanbase that the show’s band has amassed, he even hinted at getting Daisy Jones and The Six together for a possible tour down the line — schedules permitting, of course.

[Note: This interview was conducted in April prior to the Writers Strike.]

Scott Neustadter
Scott Neustadter photo via The Vondys

Above the Line: Are you familiar with this era of music?

Scott Neustadter: Oh yeah, this is my thing. I grew up in a house that just played a lot of music as a kid, and it was probably the first kind of music that I fell in love with, and since then I’ve just been a music junkie. It’s really a big passion of mine, so when I read this book, I flipped for it. I really loved it.

ATL: How did you get involved and why did you option the book with Hello Sunshine?

Neustadter: Taylor Jenkins Reid’s manager, Brad [Mendelsohn], just knew that I was a music nerd. So when he got this book from his client, he wanted to show it to a handful of people, and I was on the list just because he thought I would get a kick out of it. So he sent it to me and my writing partner (Michael Weber), who’s not really a music person [laughs]. I read about 100 pages, and I texted my wife, who had just started working with Reese at Hello Sunshine, and I said, ‘Do you know about this book?’ because Fleetwood Mac and “Rumours” were always, like, my dream projects. I said, ‘Have you gotten this?’ She always gets the better Glengarry [Glen Ross] leads before I do. She didn’t know what I was talking about, and I said, ‘You have to get your hands on this. I haven’t finished it yet, but I think it’s going to be an unbelievable TV show and maybe something we could do together,’ which we hadn’t yet done.

Reese hired her to run film and TV, and she had been there for about five months, so they were looking for projects. I’d had lunch with Reese maybe five or six years [before] that when she said, ‘What’s your dream?’ And I was like, ‘One day I’m going to make “Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac into a show.’ We spent the rest of the lunch talking about Stevie Nicks, and so I knew that Lauren would love it, just because it was great, but I also knew Reese would love it because I’d had that conversation with her before. So they read it, and they loved it. Then the three of us convinced Taylor that we were the right people to turn it into a TV show.

Daisy Jones & the Six
Riley Keough in Daisy Jones & the Six/Prime Video

ATL: What was it like working with your wife?

Neustadter: I would do it again in a second. I think she’s so excellent at what she does that even if we were not married, I would be like, ‘Who’s that? I want that person [working for me].’ We have a really great kind of working relationship because I really only like to do the one thing that I have confidence in, and she is so good at the more interpersonal things. She’s a real people person, and she also loves to put out fires, whereas I will run screaming from the fire and be like, “I hope someone puts this fire out!” [laughs]

ATL: In your conversations with Taylor, did she ever admit that her book is based on Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham?

Neustadter: I think it’s very apparent that that was the genesis of where a lot of this came from. I think Daisy has a lot of Stevie in her. I think Karen (the keyboardist played by Suki Waterhouse) has a lot of Christine McVie in her. Billy is not like Lindsay Buckingham at all, and the rest of the guys in the band aren’t really like the guys in Fleetwood Mac.

But I think what’s so legendary about it is that they put their feelings and their relationship traumas into that record [“Rumours”] in the lyrics, and the way they play it on stage, you can just kind of see the way that they’re interacting with each other, and it’s a soap opera.

So it’s really the best example I can think of of artists baring it all in their music. That’s something that I always gravitate towards and love. I mean, my first movie was 500 Days of Summer, and that’s basically just me putting my relationship shenanigans into a script. So I always really appreciated that kind of storytelling.

ATL: Speaking of Stevie Nicks, there’s one shot where Riley Keough’s Daisy is wearing a wingspan costume that’s eerily similar to what Stevie wore in the heyday of Fleetwood Mac.

Neustadter: Yeah, I think once we had all the scripts and kind of an idea of what we wanted it to look like and everything else, we pulled from everybody in that era. Our costume designer [Denise Wingate] and our production designer [Jessica Kender] and everybody had a million images that they would kind of reference, and that’s part of the fun.

You know, this was always a world I wanted to move to and live in, and to recreate it as authentically as we could was really the dream. I mean, it’s interesting to go from the late ’60s to the late ’70s. It really encompasses that decade, and things changed so dramatically in that time. It’s fun to watch the early episodes and see some of the references there — and then the last episode and see how far everyone has come.

ATL: Great. So let’s talk about casting. Did you want actors who could sing or who could eventually portray musicians?

Neustadter: Initially, I think we were thinking we would cast musicians, teach them to act, and go from there, but we quickly realized that would probably have been a disaster. It’s really 85/15 acting to music in our show. The prerequisite was really that everyone had to have some experience with music, even if it was singing in the school play or being in a band in college — except for Riley, [who] raised her hand very early on and said that she loves this character and that she really feels it in her soul that she should be Daisy, but she has no musical ability. We were like, ‘Well, that could be a problem.’ I mean, obviously, we knew maybe she, genetically [as the granddaughter of Elvis Presley], might have some [musical ability] that she doesn’t know about!

But we couldn’t bank on that, so we ended up putting her in front of our music directors. She went to Sound City Studios, and they put her on a microphone for the first time and asked her to sort of just sing and do it. She was totally up to the task and was excited to try. What they said to us was that her voice is not classically trained or polished, but there’s something in the timber there, something innate, that is really going to work for us. They always believe that the best rock voice is not the voice that you think of. It’s got something special to it that you can’t really articulate, and they really believed that she had it. Once we heard that, we were in really good shape for [casting] her.

Daisy Jones & the Six
Sam Claflin in Daisy Jones & the Six/Prime Video

ATL: What about casting for the role of Billy, played by Sam Claflin?

Neustadter: We spent a really long time looking for Billy. That was really hard. And Sam came [in], and he was someone who also said, ‘I don’t know that I’m musical.’ And we said, ‘All right, well, we’ve got to go through this again.’ And he has an English accent, but what was really remarkable about Sam was that he’s classically trained. The British actor is an amazing mimic, so he could listen to Blake Mills on the record and make himself sound just like that. It was amazing.

Sam, to begin with, is also the greatest human. He’s a wonderful person, which is nice. We got very lucky with our cast because they were super talented but also a delight to be around, and we were together for so many years that it was nice. There wasn’t a bad egg in the bunch.

ATL: Did you send the actors to a Rockstar Boot Camp, so to speak?

Neustadter: They were supposed to go to Rockstar Boot Camp for about three weeks — a very intensive three-week boot camp where they would learn the instruments, learn these original songs, and learn how to move on stage. They had a movement person. Then, when COVID happened, everyone got an extra 18 months to practice and really throw themselves into this. And everybody did. It was not a vacation for anyone.

I think everybody spent that time on Zoom with the rest of the cast and the band, practicing and doing lessons. So, by the time we were ready to shoot, everybody had become exponentially better at the music stuff. I feel like if we had actually gone on time in April of 2020, we would’ve needed to do so much “movie magic” to convince you. Because we were afforded this amount of time to practice, we didn’t have to cheat too much, which was a blessing.

ATL: Did you have any consultants on the set?

Neustadter: Oh, yeah, in every capacity — even starting in the writer’s room. We had a lot of people in the writer’s room come talk to us about being in a band. We sat down with Bernie Taupin to talk about collaboration for a day. We had Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth, who was in a band with her husband, talking about what that life is like. We talked to Harold Faltermeyer about disco in the ’70s and Los Angeles at that time, which was really fascinating. We talked to Nancy Wilson [from Heart, too].

And then we had addiction experts and people who could talk to us about that time period because I feel like one or two of the people in the writer’s room were probably around then, but for the most part, we were all kind of coming at it from a different angle. It was really helpful to have people who were authorities on all these subjects, and if anything didn’t ring true for them, they would raise their hand and say it would not have gone down that way. We really took advantage of that.

ATL: Tell us an example of when someone raised their hand and said, “No, that would never fly.”

Neustadter: Even little things like when we would call it “rehab” and they would say ‘no, it would never have been called “rehab” then; that’s not what would’ve happened.’ A lot of the stuff happened when Billy would come in and people would do drugs around him. Addiction experts told us it’s not like today, where we all understand that it’s a disease and that it’s a constant fight. People then were much more nonchalant about it. You would just dry out and come back, and it was just a very different understanding of how this goes. So it was important to us to never put our 2020 lens on these characters in the ’70s. Even if it meant not being PC, you had to be authentic.

Daisy Jones & the Six
Daisy Jones & the Six image via Prime Video

ATL: So I’m wondering, do the show’s fans really believe that this is a real band?

Neustadter: Even when the book came out, I felt like there was a lot of, “Is this a real band or not?” We’ve only made that even more complicated because now there’s an album that actually charted. There are people talking about them going on tour, and they absolutely could do that if we could ever figure out the scheduling. There’s no longer a question of whether they’re a real band or not. They’re definitely a real band now, which is kind of amazing.

ATL: Would they go out on the same tour bus from the show?!

Neustadter: Our production designer, Jess Kender, and her team had worked with Hello Sunshine on some other things. Lauren [told] us [she’s] the best production designer she’s ever worked with; ‘you have to meet her,’ and we loved her. It was a real love fest from the beginning. She was very excited about these tour buses, and I think what she did was take old Greyhound buses that were not being used and completely retrofit them for this purpose. Billy’s has a very specific kind of interior, and then Daisy’s is more of the party bus, and everyone else was kind of on that bus, so that had more beds.

Then it had its own kind of beautiful, big queen-size bed in the back that she would be on with her husband. Billy’s had a TV, and it was a little more staid, and no one was partying on that bus, but they each had their own personalities, and it drove around New Orleans for a little while. It was very difficult to shoot on it because it’s tight, plus it was COVID, so we didn’t want to all be on top of one another. But it was awesome, for sure.

ATL: Did they perform the music live when they performed or was that to track?

Neustadter: It’s a little bit of a mixture. In some of the big concert sequences, it was a lot easier for us to do a pre-record and have them kind of sing to the track. But in a lot of the other scenes where it’s just someone with a guitar, you couldn’t really fake that. You can tell when they’re lip-syncing, and it would be very inauthentic. We made sure that they could actually do it that day. That’s really them sort of playing. We had a music supervisor named Frankie Pine, and she would say that you can’t use that take because his fingers are not where they’re supposed to be. Even if we were to sweeten it and make it sound better in post, artists would know. It was important for us to never get dinged by musicians watching the show back.

ATL: Did you shoot in real clubs or were they sets you built for the show?

Neustadter: Some of Jess’ influences are fascinating to me. She was talking about one of the clubs being modeled after a Playboy set. We did shoot at the Troubador. We shot in as many practical locations as you could, to the point where Filthy McNasty, which is the Viper Room now, was retrofitted back to when it was Filthy McNasty, and we filmed in the same sort of space.

We filmed in Sound City, where Mick Fleetwood first heard Lindsay play the guitar. We could have built that stage on a Paramount Studio lot and moved the walls around, which probably would’ve been a lot easier, but everyone believed that you would get so much more out of doing it on those hallow grounds. Then again, they had to take it back 50 years and make it look like it did in the ’70s because it definitely doesn’t [look like that] anymore, although the actual recording studio does kind of look like it used to, which is pretty cool.

Daisy Jones & the Six
Daisy Jones & the Six image via Prime Video

ATL: Have you heard from anybody in Fleetwood Mac or do you know if any of them have seen the show?

Neustadter: I’m not on TikTok, but someone told me there was a TikTok that was Billy and Daisy… and then Lindsay and Stevie were doing “Silver Springs,” and someone said something, and Lindsay Buckingham replied, which I thought was cool [laughs]. I would love to hear if they’ve watched it and what they think. That would be a real treat for me.

ATL: I love that the audience is so diverse, like my generation, and people who are in their 20s and practically live on TikTok.

Neustadter: It’s a very interesting thing because it’s hard to find those kinds of shows that aren’t a Marvel thing or a Disney kind of project, but this definitely has the appeal for people who’ve been there, remember it, and can kind of enjoy that part of it. I think it’s kind of cool, young, sexy, and hip for young people to watch [as well]. We kind of felt like that when we first read the book. We were like, “Who wouldn’t love this? It’s got something for everybody!”

ATL: So since this was a dream come true for you, what was the most fun part of the project?

Neustadter: Everything about it was really fun. Being involved in the music was super cool, and having some kind of interaction with all these incredible songwriters was definitely a special kind of thing that you don’t get on most television programs. Doing this with my wife was a really cool treat. We brought our kids to New Orleans with us for a little bit, and they both have cameos in the show. My son plays the grandson at the very end, and my daughter plays Daisy’s daughter at the very end. So we stunt-cast them. It was a real family affair.

ATL: I have a feeling the band will be back for more…

Neustadter: I think we always sort of said that it’s a limited series with a beginning, middle, and end. We hope that we land the plane and that it has a very definitive, satisfying conclusion. My favorite endings are basically ones where you answer all the questions but then ask some new ones on your way out the door. And so we definitely did that. So I feel like if there’s an appetite to continue the story or anybody who wants more of these, I would say it’s not impossible. I would love to collaborate with Taylor and figure out where to take these guys next.

Daisy Jones & the Six is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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