The Music of Supernatural – Composer Jay Gruska on Scoring the Emotional Series Finale and More

I have long said that the music of Supernatural has had a significant impact on the show – making it memorable and especially giving it the emotional resonance that it had for all fifteen seasons. That’s not something that every genre “horror show” can say, and I’m not sure any can say it with as much pride as Supernatural. The music added so much to the emotional impact of the series finale, so I was excited to talk to composer Jay Gruska about scoring that episode and the emotional episode ‘Despair’, as well as his fifteen years working on my favorite show.

As with many of the  people working on SPN (and another thing that made it so unique and wonderful), the same two composers worked on the show for its entire run – Christopher Lennertz (now working with Eric Kripke on ‘The Boys’) and Jay Gruska. I’ve talked to Jay several times over the course of the show – he contributed to ‘Supernatural Psychology’ for the chapter on music in the show – so I know how insightful he is about how music is used on the show. Chris and Jay tend to alternate episodes, so Jay scored all the even numbered episodes of Season 15, including the final episode, ‘Carry On’, and episode 15.18, Castiel’s goodbye episode, ‘Despair’.

The week before we spoke, I had done a Supernatural music panel at the Southwest Popular Culture Association conference with two friends and colleagues devoted to the most recognizable musical theme in the show, ‘Americana’, which Jay composed. We had invited him to do the panel with us, but he was unable to make it due to a family party. Luckily he and I were able to coordinate our schedules for a phone chat afterwards though.

Jay: That’s amazing about the panel, and kinda flattering and sweet. I’m so bummed that I missed it, I would have loved to share my experience from my end.

Lynn: I don’t think that many composers get an entire panel devoted to one single piece of music at an academic conference – but that’s how important ‘Americana’ is to Supernatural fans.

The Emotional Rollercoaster of ‘Carry On’

Lynn: I know you read my review of the series finale so you know that I loved the barn scene even though it was incredibly painful to watch, but it was such a masterful scene. I was talking to Jensen about it recently and said that he and Jared killed it, and also that the music makes it so much more emotional. That whole piece, the piano then the strings, and then the most familiar part of Americana in the middle…

Jay: Right. As you know more than anyone, I try my best to not use Americana just at the drop of a hat. I try to really respond to when a scene is asking for it. I’ve probably made a misstep or two along the way as far as some fans are concerned – I used it once with Jack, but boy, I heard from people right away like hey, he’s not family! And I was like well yes he is to me! But don’t mess with the Supernatural fandom.

Lynn:  So true. We’re passionate, that’s for sure. And some people would definitely agree with that and some wouldn’t.

Jay: But let’s start with those performances (Jensen and Jared). Because I’m gonna be crude right now and say that without performances like that, which don’t come along often, if there’s a scene where someone is not pulling it off? You’re basically polishing a turd with the music.

Lynn: lol

Jay: My job and particularly that scene, which I count as in the top two or three if not the most emotional, well acted, just hearts-on-their-sleeves as actors and as humans moments in the whole run of the show…

Lynn: I agree!

It’s okay, Dean, you can go now.

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Interview With The Fangirl – Fan Fiction’s Joy Regullano

Joy Regullano and Katie Sarife with Jared and Jensen
Joy Regullano and Katie Sarife with Jared and Jensen

Anyone who reads this blog probably remembers that my head exploded from excitement after watching Supernatural’s 200th episode, Fan Fiction. I loved it that much. So it was a thrill to have a chance to chat with one of the smart and snarky fangirls from that episode, Joy Regullano, who played Maeve. I was wearing my #Supernatural tee shirt; it seemed appropriate for a fangirl interview.

Joy: I love your shirt!

Lynn: That’s my homage to Robbie Thompson, who’s always reminding me to hashtag my tweets.

(Thompson, you will recall, also wrote ‘Fan Fiction’.) Appropriate shirt is appropriate.

We pondered the restaurant menu for a while and made small talk. Joy turned out to be as smart as her alter ego. She went to Berkeley and double majored in theater and Southeast Asian studies.

Lynn: Wow! Though you seem to be doing pretty well with the acting. Are you going to stick to it?

Luckily the answer was yes. We spent a few minutes chatting about our respective careers and went on a significant tangent for a passionate discussion of the ups and downs of American higher education.

Joy: It’s cool that you get to do research on fans.

Lynn: It is pretty cool. I feel really lucky that they let me do research on the psychology of being a fan.

Joy: That’s pretty important work though.

Lynn: [laughing] I think so! And speaking of fans, I loved the way ‘Fan Fiction’ represented fangirls – not at all condescending. And then you and Katie and the other actresses just embodied these characters. They are smart, strong women, and true fangirls. And you were hysterically funny – you can say a lot with just one expression. Did you know it would be an important episode?

Joy: No, not really. Phil [Sgriccia], the director, sent us a few episodes to watch – like eight full episodes.

Lynn: Oh cool, which ones? Were they the meta episodes, about fandom?

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Now That’s How You Do a 200th Episode! Supernatural’s Fan Fiction

Sam and Dean with... Sam and Dean
Sam and Dean with… Sam and Dean

I fell in love with Supernatural almost nine years ago, and discovered the incredible world of Supernatural fandom shortly thereafter. It was, if you’ll forgive the obviously intentional use of the word, a transformative experience. We started writing books about the Show and the fandom because we encountered so much shame surrounding what we knew was a wonderful and positive place – a place that, when discovered for the first time, felt like coming home. A place of understanding and acceptance and validation, where we could let our creativity flow unfettered, expressing what we really thought and felt. What we feared and fantasized about. Why, we wondered, was there then so much shame about being a fan – especially being a fangirl? Why was there so much wank, in the midst of so much acceptance and support?

That’s why we wrote Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls, and its academic book cousin Fandom at the Crossroads. To peel back that layer of shaming-from-the-outside as well as internalized shame coming from the inside. To tell the “real” story of being a fan – a Supernatural fan. To challenge all that shame (and the wank that happened as a result of it), we sought validation, even if we didn’t at first realize that’s what we were doing. We spoke to all kinds of fans about why they loved the Show and how they expressed their passion. Fanfiction writers and readers, fan artists, fan vidders, bloggers, enthusiastic readers and fans who just loved to watch the show. Then we spoke to the ‘other side’ – the people who made the Show we’d fallen for. Eric Kripe. Sera Gamble. Serge Ladouceur. Jensen, Jared, Misha, and every other actor willing to sit down with us and talk about how they felt about the Show and the fans and their place in this crazy wonderful little ‘family’.

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