A few months ago, producers of the Fox science fiction show Fringe contacted Pearl Jam about using their song "Just Breathe." After some back and forth they wound up with something even better: guitarist Mike McCready offered to compose the score for the entire episode. "I wasn't a huge fan of the show at first — but now I totally am," says McCready. "I like X-Files-type shows with government conspiracies and extra terrestrials and all that." The episode, titled "Northwest Passage," airs tomorrow.
McCready recently wrote the score for the surfing documentary Westsiders, and nearly a decade ago he contributed some music to Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous, but this is his first foray into television. "It's a completely different kind of songwriting than what I'm used to," he says. "Chris Chilton, who writes the music, gave me some ideas and I transcribed them on guitar. They told me they wanted some sort of Northwest, dark-type feelings. It's a very dark show, so I played a darker kind of guitar tone and even stuff that doesn't sound like guitar, and a little bit of piano." Trent Reznor previously teamed with the Fringe crew for a promo spot that aired last October.
The guitarist hopes to devote more of his time in the future to writing scores for movies and TV. "I like to have a lot of different creative outlets," McCready says. "It means working with a lot of people — directors, editors, musical supervisors and you have to appease all of them. I'm totally up for it."
In the meantime, he's keeping his day job in Pearl Jam, who just launched an American tour at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. "Our first show in New Orleans was a little shaky," he says. "We could have probably rehearsed a little more. The crowd seemed to love it though. I'm probably overanalyzing it. The second show in Kansas City was fantastic. Jeff Ament and I have been wanting to come back to the Midwest for a while because we've been neglecting it."
McCready says the band functions best when they do short tours spread throughout the year, rather than long slogs. "We're getting older and we've had some success so hopefully we can kind of call our shots more so than we have before," he says. "We've done those long and draining tours, but we probably never will again. We want to have a life outside of Pearl Jam, too."