Osage Nation Songwriter on His Killers of the Flower Moon Oscar Nom

This 12 months’s Academy Award nominees for finest authentic music embody earlier winners — Billie Eilish/Finneas, Jon Batiste, Mark Ronson/Andrew Wyatt — and a songwriter with a record-making 15th nomination, honorary Oscar recipient Diane Warren. 

The fifth nominee? An Osage Nation tribal member who works as a housing director accommodating low-income Native Americans and can be a talented musician who has spent 40 years performing Osage ceremonial dances. 

Scott George scored a nom for composing “Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People),” a stupendous, drum-filled, six-minute-plus music from Apple’s Killers of the Flower Moon. George holds the title of “head singer” in his tribe and was introduced on as a music guide for Killers, which follows the systematic assassinations of the Osage individuals in the 1920s by white settlers to take management of the oil on their land.

When “Marty,” as George calls Martin Scorsese, attended one of George’s tribe’s ceremonial dances and heard their conventional music, the director knew he needed one thing related for one of the closing scenes of the movie, which earned 10 Oscar noms together with finest image and finest director.

“We kind of knew what he wanted, but because that’s our ceremonial [music], we didn’t know how we were going to deliver that. We don’t really allow cameras in there,” George explains. “We talked about it
and stated, ‘We’ll simply need to make our personal music.’”

“Wahzhazhe” is carried out by Osage Tribal Singers and consists of vocals from George and two dozen feminine and male singers who gathered round the drum. For this interview, George sat in his workplace in Shawnee, Oklahoma, taking a break from his regular life at Citizen Potawatomi Nation, the place he’s labored for 19 years.

“I’m hoping the phone doesn’t ring or something while I’m sitting here,” he jokes.

Are you shocked by the nomination? It’s been a really aggressive 12 months for movie songs.

Not being concerned on this earlier than, we actually didn’t perceive the course of. We barely obtained it submitted in time as a result of it needed to be put in a written type. We didn’t actually perceive what we had been in for. When I’ve talked to different individuals and so they stated, “Well, there were over 200 songs in there, and the people judging this were the composers and musicians,” it actually shed a special gentle. Because in the starting, I believed, “Well, we’re tied to the movie and, kind of rough to say, but they’re just throwing us a bone.” Then after they stated that, I stated, “Wow, maybe there’s something to this.” So I’m like, “Wow, that’s just crazy.”

I’ve talked to all the guys and girls that sing with us, and so they can’t imagine it, both. I feel our complete tribe was all going loopy that day [the Oscar nominations were announced]. I had a name from one of my sisters who works in the tribe. She stated, “We might as well just shut this place down. We can’t get nothing done.” 

Any talks a couple of stay efficiency at the Oscars?

We’re getting hints that that may occur, however I feel which may be extra on Apple’s facet. I don’t know that we’ve heard something from the Academy’s manufacturing committee but. We’re all form of hoping for the likelihood. I feel that it might be good to have the ability to try this.

Cast and crew attend Killers of the Flower Moon premiere on October 16, 2023 in Los Angeles.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Your nomination is historic in your individuals, in addition to Lily Gladstone’s finest actress nod. What’s it wish to know that you simply each are making historical past?

With Lily, it’s not stunning to me that she’s been nominated. She’s nice. 

With us, should you actually needed to take a look at it, our music might be hundreds of years previous. For it to be acknowledged possibly for the first time ever, it’s overwhelming in that sense. But I’m form of hoping that individuals would possibly hearken to it a bit extra. You can obtain something, and on YouTube you possibly can entry all that stuff. I’ve been singing for over 40 years. All my life, I’ve all the time tried to introduce individuals to it. [Those] that don’t have an ear for it, they’re like, “It just all sounds the same to me” — in actuality, there’s lots of intricate dips and adjustments in tone and every thing else that we attempt to put in there. So if someone had been to present it a bit time to get used to it, they could come to grasp it a bit bit higher.

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Composer Robbie Robertson handed away final 12 months and earned a posthumous nomination for scoring the movie. Did you get an opportunity to work with him?

Not one-on-one. No, we didn’t. I feel he wasn’t feeling too good by the time we got here in, however he did choose this music [from the two that were submitted]. We recorded each of these songs after we had practiced them for some time and despatched them to Marty.

What was it like working with Martin Scorsese?

It was fairly neat. When we shot this music, it in all probability took all day — or felt prefer it did. We should’ve sang it a dozen occasions. We obtained to go up with him and sit with him and examine it on the monitor. He launched himself and thanked all of our individuals for being on the market. He was very nice to work with. He knew what he needed. 

Is this your first time composing a music for a movie?

Yes, for a movie, it’s. I’ve composed different songs. Usually we compose music for veterans, individuals which have been honored in no matter approach. There’s different causes to compose, however this might be the first time I feel anyone stated, “Hey, let’s make one for a movie.” Our intention was … after the film’s over, we might use it to honor our personal individuals every time one thing comes up. Rather a lot of our persons are requested to be the head man dancer or head girl dancer, and we form of frown on them utilizing their household music exterior of our arbor as a result of we’re afraid of individuals will copy it and take it some place else and do one thing. So this could possibly be used for that goal. So after the film’s over with, we’ll in all probability attend a dance someplace; it’s not likely a ceremony, but it surely’s an motion the place we’re going to announce that we’re going to put this music on the drum, which suggests it’s public at that time, that anyone can sing it.

Scott George.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

What do you assume of the different songs which might be nominated? 

Well, they’re lovely songs to me, so far as the melodies and the instrumentation, pianos. Beautiful songs. I’m shocked in some sense that there’s not an actual peppy music amongst them. The one which Diane Warren composed has a bit extra pep into it, however most of them are actually lovely, simply lovely songs.

So what’s subsequent for you? Would you wish to do extra movie stuff?

Well, it’s been enjoyable. I feel I instructed someone the different day, “I’ll be glad to see the other side of all this,” form of get again to who I’m and what I do. I don’t know that there might be one other alternative so far as you’re speaking about 500+ tribes in the United States, and all of us have our personal music. It would form of need to be peculiar to our personal individuals to do something like this once more. As many composers and singers on the market as you noticed sitting round that drum, there’s that many for each tribe at the least.

I’m positive lots of them additionally really feel represented on this music and on this movie as properly…

I’m hoping so. I’ve heard again from some of the youthful technology that I’m round. When they first heard it, that was their saying, “Why don’t you go put it on the drum, Uncle?” And I’m like, “Well, I don’t know.” I stated, “Let’s get this over with first and then we can, and then you guys can sing it.” So they’ve been listening to it and able to go. I get that feeling, and I’ve heard that already, that persons are proud that we’re on the market representing not simply us, however all indigenous individuals.

Have you already considered what you’re going to put on to the awards? I think about you’re going to take your spouse.

Oh, yeah. Yes. She’s been consuming me up on that half of it. She’s been purchasing and looking out round and [saying], “What am I going to do?” and all this. She’s the one which stresses out about it. I stated, “Well, I already know what I’m wearing.” She stated, “Well, you can’t just wear that. You got to wear something else.” So we’ll determine it out.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 14 difficulty of The Hollywood Reporter journal. Click here to subscribe.

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