“Welcome back to Big Little Lies’ music world, where the characters are the ones spinning,” the HBO series’ executive producer Jean-Marc Vallée recently told Billboard. From Jane to Renata to Celeste to Madeline to Bonnie, Big Little Lies has made it a priority to hint at the inner workings of each character by subtly incorporating purposeful songs into their respective scenes.
The first season featured songs from PJ Harvey, Michael Kiwanuka (whose “Cold Little Heart” returns as the theme song) and The Temptations, and the soundtrack for season 2 is no different. The show’s creators have gone deeper into the musical vault for season 2’s soundtrack, which was unveiled last week and features songs like The Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around,” Ann Peebles’ “Until You Came Into My Life” and Benton Wood’s “Great Big Bundle of Love,” as well as tunes from some of today’s brightest songwriters, like Elle King, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James — and, perhaps most notably, Leon Bridges, whose song “River” became one of the breakouts of season 1.
The retro R&B singer has followed up his previous stint in the BLL universe with “That Was Yesterday,” his first song since 2018’s Good Thing, which received the coveted season finale post-credits slot on Sunday night (July 21). The song was written back in 2015, when Bridges was still learning how to handle newfound success after releasing his debut album, Coming Home, that same year. His voice sounds a little bit rougher on the song, perfectly matching the drama of the season finale.
Billboard chatted with Bridges about “That Was Yesterday,” Big Little Lies and the process of scoring the new sync.
Billboard: How early in the process did the series approach you to contribute the song to season 2?
Bridges: All of this came about, I would say, around May. This is a jam that I wrote on the tail end of Coming Home, and it was basically just me playing around, trying to figure out the sound I wanted.
What made you choose this specific song?
I felt like this song was similar to “River,” which was the first song they chose for [season 1]. It just has a very stripped-down vibe — and the same with “River” — so I felt like this song would be perfect for it.
How did having “River” on the first season help the song?
It helped immensely. It put me on to a whole new fan base. We were at the end of my album cycle, and it put my album back on R&B charts and all of that, so I’m forever grateful for them syncing that song.
And it was written almost four years ago, right?
Totally. It’s really interesting, the way my tone is in my voice. That’s reflective of where I was at in 2016, and comparing that to the way I sing now is totally different. My voice was way more raspy from all the touring and drinking pretty hard [laughs], and now I sing a little smoother. But yeah, it’s an oldie. A goodie.
What were some of the emotions you were experiencing during that time?
The weight of everything — of all the success — compelled the need to write this song. It’s just about reflecting on where I came from, but also, it’s about me maintaining who I am while navigating through the music industry and all of the success.
Do you have a favorite Big Little Lies character?
It’s a tie between Madeline [Reese Witherspoon] and Bonnie [Zoe Kravitz].
Would you ever make a cameo on the show if the opportunity arose?
Oh, definitely. I’ve been dipping and dabbling into acting a little bit, and I’d love to make a cameo.
What’s coming up for you next?
I’ve got a couple things in the pot that I’ve been cooking up. I’m doing this side project with this band called Khruangbin out of Houston, and I’m really excited about it. I was able to make some new stuff, but also bring some old songs out of the vault that I thought would never see the light of day, so I’m super excited about that.