Heels, which debuts Sunday (Aug. 15) on Starz, follows wrestling brothers Jack and Ace Spade as they battle over their father’s legacy in and out of the ring.
The series, which stars Stephen Amell and Alexander Ludwig, needed an appropriately gritty main title theme, which the show’s composer Jeff Cardoni took on with Band of Horses’ frontman Ben Bridwell.
“Love in War,” the atmospheric, brooding anthem that spans the 90-second opening credits of the series, is premiering first on Billboard. Listen:
“I really felt the main title theme should be based on music from the show, so I wrote the track and tied it to the main titles graphics and started lobbying the powers that be to have a listen,” Cardoni tells Billboard over email.
Music supervisor Jonathan Leahy suggested pairing Cardoni with Bridwell. “We bounced some voice memo vocal ideas off each other and then Ben did his thing. A few days later, he sent me the song and I just about had an out of body experience,” Cardoni says. “It was so emotional, uplifting, and poignant. His voice paired with my music just worked in ways I couldn’t have imagined.”
For Bridwell, it was the culmination of a lifetime of fandom and the start of a potential new career path. “As a southern kid who grew up watching wrestling and waiting after the matches to get autographs, I was thrilled and honored to be asked by Jeff Cardoni and Jonathan Leahy to contribute to the Heels theme,” he says. “It really does feel like a dream indeed. I was stunned when they liked my rough demo, and then chose to use the final version. I’ve wanted to work more in television and film, and I am so grateful for the opportunity.”
In addition to Leahy, Bridwell also had admirers in show creator Michael Waldron and showrunner Michael O’Malley. “When I first started on the series and talked to producers about important musical reference points, Band of Horses immediately came up,” Leahy says. “Michael Waldron and Michael O’Malley, in particular, are massive fans, so having Ben involved means the world to them. We gave Ben an impossible deadline, but he locked in immediately and delivered a stunning vocal performance.”
The length of the title theme also gave Cardoni and Bridwell a chance to stretch out a little. “At 90 seconds long, Heels gave us an opportunity to do something really ambitious with our main title theme,” Leahy continues. “We discussed licensing a pre-existing song or working with a band to create something new for the show, but once we heard Jeff’s instrumental theme, that became our focus. When considering potential collaborators, Ben Bridwell was the first person who came to mind. The stars aligned, Ben was able to write and sing on the track, and the final result really captures the heart and intensity of the series.”
Weekly playlists featuring the score and source music will appear on Spotify timed to the episodes.