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Australia’s Alex Stewart talks making music with Dolly Parton on highly-anticipated Netflix show

A powerful score is one of the most fundamental aspects of a memorable movie or television show. It has the power to add humor, drama, and emotion into a scene with just a few notes. For composer Alex Stewart, music adds another dimension to what you are watching. Instead of just appealing to the visual senses, music brings in the audience's auditory senses to support the drama and action, creating a more engrossing and enjoyable experience.

“I turn musical ideas into drama, so you don't just see it, but also hear it. When this is done well, the audience can even feel the emotion portrayed by the work in their bodies. Often the saddest and happiest moments in movies affect the audience deeply because the music is emphasizing what's happening on-screen,” said Stewart.

Stewart has dedicated his life to making audiences feel moved by his music on their television screens. Best known for his work on shows like Family Food Fight hosted by Ayesha Curry, Steve Harvey’s Funderdome, Temptation Island, and The Contender, and the film Cosmic Fling, he is a leader of his industry in his home of Australia, with millions all over the world hearing his beautiful work.

Stewart loves that his job constantly gives him the opportunity to work with other inspiring musicians, and one of his most recent projects allowed him to collaborate with none other than nine-time Grammy Award Winner Dolly Parton. In partnership with Netflix and Warner Bros., the country music icon is releasing her new show Dolly Parton's Heartstrings, or simply Heartstrings, on Netflix later this year. It is set to showcase the stories, memories and inspirations behind Parton’s most beloved songs.

“It was an honor to be working on a project with Dolly. She is a very kind and inspirational person. She's a music industry veteran so she has extremely vast knowledge and years and years of experiences as a performer, songwriter, and actor. Every minute spent with her is very valuable for someone like me,” said Stewart.

Working closely with Emmy-nominated Composer Mark Leggett and Supervisor Crystal Mangano, Stewart took on the task of managing all the technical aspects of music production, including score recording and mixing, music editing, Pro Tools operation, and technical troubleshooting for the upcoming show.

As a technical score advisor, Stewart was asked to maintain all the software and hardware to do with the studio they were using to write the music. He spent most of his time preparing tracks to be sent to the mix engineer, orchestrator, or recording studio as they were being written. The role is vitally important in film and television nowadays, as composers rely so much on technology, that if it fails, the entire process becomes misconstrued. It was up to Stewart to avoid technical failures and also have everything received and delivered on time. Because this show relies so heavily on the music, the show would not be as good without the highest musical standards. It was his job to make sure nothing stood in the way of achieving these standards.

“Working with Dolly Parton's music was the best part of working on this project. Learning and being involved with the rearranging of her songs was a real honor. I got the chance to really surround myself with country music for a while, which was nice because it's a genre I'm not very familiar with. I certainly learned a lot throughout the course of this show,” said Stewart.

Over 139 million people use Netflix worldwide according to CNN, so Stewart knew the stakes were high when he was perfecting the music on the show. He is very excited for worldwide audiences to have the chance to see Heartstrings later this year, as it not only shows off Dolly Parton’s timeless music, but also has an important story.

“I love that the overarching message throughout this series is so positive and relevant. Especially today, it's important that people find inspiration to be kind and accepting of each other. I think this show does a great job of that. It really teaches acceptance more than anything and I personally am inspired by that and I hope others will be as well. Dolly is a very kind and loving person, and this comes through in the show,” he concluded.

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