This Is Us composer Siddhartha Khosla and songwriter Taylor Goldsmith will be representing the hit show come Emmy night, as their song “The Forever Now” (Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics) is the singular nomination the show received. The song is Khosla and Goldsmith’s second collaborative effort on This Is Us, with their first song, “Memorized” also scoring an Emmy nomination in 2020.
Throughout the show’s run, the storytelling played with flashbacks and flashforwards that spanned different periods, covering nearly five decades, as viewers watched the Pearson family grow up. Due to the show’s specific way of storytelling through the decades, music became an integral part of the show’s identity. Songwriter and musician Taylor Goldsmith pointed out how significant Sidd Khosla’s score is, “I think from the beginning, I marveled at the score that Sidd had put together. Sidd’s family is from India; his musical roots are from India, and he really embraced that while scoring this show about a family from Pittsburgh.”
“It’s helped cement this aesthetic, and this singularity that the show has, and it’s really unlike anything else because Sidd felt really free to be himself.”
Their song “The Forever Now” is highlighted in the episode “Day of The Wedding.” The episode follows all three grown Pearson kids on the day of Kate’s wedding. In the episode, the Pearsons have to confront the magnitude of Rebecca’s progression with dementia. It all leads up to the question of whether or not Rebecca (Mandy Moore) will be able to perform at her only daughter’s wedding. When Rebecca sits behind the piano to sing the song, it’s an emotionally significant moment. Not only is the song she sings the main theme of the score (put to words by Goldsmith), but it’s a staggeringly powerful performance by Mandy Moore, who masterfully uncovered Rebecca’s fragility throughout the season.
To unpack more of Sidd’s six-year process on This Is Us and the collaboration between the two on “The Forever Now” Awards Radar conducted interviews with both Khosla and Goldsmith.
Niki Cruz: Siddhartha, you’ve created a suite of music for This Is Us that feels like a whole character. It speaks to the show’s emotional breadth in many ways. How do you go into a process in the early days when a show is just finding its footing?
Siddhartha Khosla: I write as early and often as I can. I often write off the script or images of costumes and production design. It takes a while to find the sound of something, to capture the vibe, and in my experience, it benefits the show or film to begin that process early. Sometimes the music helps picture editors better visualize a scene, too.
NC: And Taylor, you have multiple connections to This Is Us, in that you had the opportunity to create Memorized and The Forever Now with Sidd, and your wife Mandy Moore is the lead on the show. So I imagine it’s an interesting place to enter a show in terms of perspective.
Taylor Goldsmith: Totally. I was in this rare position of having a certain perspective that could be useful to what Sidd and Dan [Fogelman] were looking for. On top of it all, I’m a songwriter, so when they needed original material, and they needed it to come out of Rebecca Pearson’s brain, I had this front row seat to the way [Mandy’s] been building this character. When the show starts, the characters belong to the creator, Dan. You get into season six, and these characters belong to Dan and to the actor that brought them to life. Rebecca is Mandy’s in a lot of ways, so to write words and music that might be coming out of her brain and her mouth, it was cool to have that insight and be able to look over my shoulder and ask her, “Does this feel like the human that you’ve created?”
NC: Some shows aren’t inherently musical, but because this show plays with flashbacks and memory, it relies on music throughout the show’s whole run. Sidd, how did you approach tracking those significant moments through music?
SK: For me, it’s about finding a thematic thread – a melody that can be woven throughout the episode in multiple variations. So when I was able to find a theme, I’d work with our editors and Dan to weave it in wherever we could. The score of the show then became something that was a useful tool in helping tell the story.
NC: What is the process of working together like in terms of this second collaboration?
TG: Working with Sidd is a joy. I think part of the reason we’ve worked so many times together, and why we’ve been so proud of the work we’ve done together, is that we really like each other. It’s not just a working relationship, there’s a lot of camaraderie and respect, and we’re always looking for an excuse to hang out. There’s a chain of command, and I think that helps what we’re trying to do. Also, our roles are really delineated. “Forever Now” is a good example because the melody was the show’s theme. It wasn’t like I was going to get in there and start changing how that song goes. The song has been imprinted on people’s brains for the last six years. So it was, how do I honor that? It was strictly a lyrical perspective that I was bringing to it. Sidd’s very motivating and inspiring. Anytime I come up with ideas that he might even have a sense isn’t going to stick; he lets it breathe for a while.
SK: I generally would come up with the melody and music, and Taylor the words. He’s one of the best songwriters around, period, and our friendship has evolved over the years to the point that these collaborations with him are effortless and so rewarding.
NC: You both created this missing piece to Rebecca’s story with The Forever Now. The song is in one of the biggest episodes and gives Rebecca’s story even more context and color. Knowing that, was creating this song daunting?
SK: It’s always daunting. Even after six seasons and multiple original songs, the challenge to write something that could serve the story and connect with our audience was always sweat inducing. I always believed we’d get it right, but it always took days of writing and rewriting to get it right.
TG: I was under the impression that if this isn’t top-shelf great, according to Dan and Sidd, then we will not do this. Now looking back at that scene and what that episode is, it’s hard to see the show, let alone the episode, without that moment. In my mind, I was like, if we don’t get it, they’ll just figure something out. I was telling myself to alleviate any amount of pressure because it was a big thing, and had to really deliver. I think the heaviest lifting wasn’t really the writing. Making that all work hinged way less on my words and more on Mandy’s performance and her selling it, and I feel like she did.
NC: I’m still talking about how wonderful Mandy’s performance was. The support for this song online has been enormous, especially people who were reacting live on Twitter. Taylor, does the reception feel different from meeting someone backstage at a concert?
TG: We had this amazing, rare opportunity about a month and a half ago where we went on a two week tour for Mandy, and my band was her band. In those two weeks, every single night, Mandy would get back into her old records from before she was an actress, and then she would do some new stuff we’ve done for later records. Right after Mandy’s first single, “Candy” the very last song we would play was “Forever Now.” Mandy gave his whole spiel about what these last six years meant to her, and then she would sing the song, and every night, people were going crazy as if it was like this hit. Most songs that exist in this environment that you’re talking about, we don’t get to go out and see it in people’s eyes from the stage. We don’t get to see what it really means to them. So the fact that we did have a bunch of shows where we got to go to these cities around the country and watch people react to this meant the world to us.
NC: Before I let you go, Taylor, I have to address the elephant in the room, which is Mandy not getting a nomination for her extraordinary work. I championed her, and I was shocked on Emmy nomination day. It was a travesty!
TG: I’m so biased, and I’m so the last objective person that you could talk to, but to me, it’s ridiculous, and it’s a travesty. Even this nomination for Sidd and I, in my opinion, is as much her nomination as ours because she’s how people heard the tune. I’ve heard a lot of theories. I’m no expert, but people were talking about how network was cast out of the Emmys now in many ways, but it is weird. Maybe I’m wrong, but the temperature that I was picking up was that everybody loved the way this show ended that landing. The show never stopped being a gigantic success, so none of it made sense to me. The fact that the only nomination was for the song is just so strange and unfortunate, but also like whatever, they know how good the work they did is, and that’s what matters most
[This interview was edited for length and clarity]