‘Little Voice’ – Apple drama follows a singer/songwriter’s journey
Indeed, many of the events in the series, which begins streaming Friday, July 10, are inspired by the experiences of one of its executive producers, recording artist Sara Bareilles, and they form the basis of those of the character played by Brittany O’Grady (“Star,” “Black Christmas”).
It’s the story of a young New York musician who holds down several jobs to get by, while singing covers in bars at night when she’s not working on her own music. But Bess isn’t confident enough to perform her material in public, the result of a traumatic heckling incident. So she keeps it to herself and plays it only in a makeshift studio she set up in a storage unit.
Her neighbor Ethan (Sean Teale, “The Gifted”) hears it and thinks it’s quite good and so do others, including fellow bar musician Samuel (Colton Ryan, “Homeland”), and they try to encourage her but she focuses only on the negative. Also complicating things are a family who require a lot of attention.
“She’s a daughter of a musician who didn’t have much luck with his career,” O’Grady explains, “and she has a brother who’s on the spectrum who is starting his new life away from the family and creating his independence. So she’s trying to find her voice along with being a part of a family system that she cares deeply about.
“And through her experiences of being a bartender and being a dog-walker and being a music teacher and guitar teacher, piano teacher, she is learning to prioritize and validate her own artistic abilities and being able to feel like she can connect to an audience and not just taking care of everybody else.”
The original music here is all written by Bareilles (who executive produces with J.J. Abrams, Jessie Nelson and Ben Stephenson) and performed by O’Grady, who again demonstrates her considerable vocal talents following her turn in Fox’s “Star.” For the role, she picked Bareilles’ brain not only for her experiences as a working musician but also to learn about the songwriter’s mind-set.
And that’s explored early in the series when Bess and Samuel debate the nuts and bolts of a song’s arrangement, dialogue that O’Grady admits went over her head.
“When I was doing the scene, I didn’t really understand what the character was talking about and I just kind of had to act my way through that,” she says. “Because I grew up doing music, I played the saxophone in band growing up, I had piano lessons growing up and I took dance lessons growing up. But I haven’t delved into the arena of singing/songwriting as a career path. … But the great thing is that Sara was always there to explain the logic and the understanding of the musician and the singer/songwriter’s brain to me.”