What’s Up Interview: Musician Don Chilton Plays On The Soundtrack For New Film “Where The Crawdads Sing”

It might be hard to guess which instrument Newport resident Don Chilton is featured on in the new film Where the Crawdads sing. The highly anticipated Reese Witherspoon-produced film hit theaters and Chilton contributed to the soundtrack… but not on his usual trumpet. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear him playing seashells.

Chilton, who was a trumpeter in the US Navy Band for 26 years, is very active in the local music scene. He plays in several bands including The Winehouse Project, Downcity Band and the Larry Brown Swinglane Orchestra, which he conducts. He is also a conductor at Thompson Middle School in Newport where he trains the next generation of musicians.

So, how to enter the “shells” as an instrument? It’s certainly not something typically offered in the high school band.

“About eight years ago I came across a video of Steve Turre playing seashells,” Chilton explained in an interview last week. “I was super fascinated by it and ended up getting my own conch. For four years I’ve been using them a lot, playing them regularly with Swinglane and other projects.

“When the pandemic hit, I bought my own home recording studio, which opened up a whole new realm for me in the music industry, recording tracks, sending them to people, playing music. trumpet. I also played seashells on some projects. It kind of grew and grew,” he continued.

Chilton was recently contacted by a composer from Los Angeles who was working on the film. Chilton wasn’t actively looking to be part of a soundtrack, but the opportunity was too good to pass up. He explained what happened next.

“Mychael Danna, an Oscar and Golden Globe-winning film composer, reached out. They found me through social media and asked if I would be interested in recording my seashells. , and of course I was interested. So I ended up doing a zoom call with him, he told me what it was, what he was looking for. I ended up recording my shells here even in my home studio and he used it for the movie.

The seashells are part of the larger soundtrack of the film which is partly set in the swamps of North Carolina. The film also features the moving title track “Carolina” by Taylor Swift.

“I was hired as a soloist but it was put into the orchestration of the music. It’s me who plays conches with an orchestra. At the time, I didn’t even know why he (Danna) was recording – he just said it was going to be a big movie, he couldn’t tell me apparently. I found out about it later,” Chilton said.

Photo provided by Don Chilton

The process involved zoom calls with Danna. “In the zoom calls, he gave me an idea of ​​what he wanted in terms of feel or vibe. He told me to think about loneliness and desperation. He showed me the scene opening where she crosses the swamp to give me an idea,” Chilton explained.

“So I grabbed my shells, I started playing different ideas, he gave me the freedom to come up with different melodic ideas, different textures, we just went back and forth. At the time, I I had about 16 different seashells, some with higher pitches, some with lower pitches, each seashell has a different timbre,” he added.

When we spoke last week, Chilton wasn’t sure exactly where his music would appear in the film. He had already bought tickets for the opening day.

“It was just a pleasure working with Mychael Danna and the recording process. I can’t wait to hear the finished product. I’m sure it’s in the opening. I know it’s going to sound great, I just don’t know how many there are in the movie.

To see Don Chilton playing seashells, visit his YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/c/DonChilton

For tickets to the film at Showcase Cinemas in Warwick, click here.