‘Black Panther’ composer Ludwig Goransson is having the best year ever
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He’s been part of two of the year’s biggest pop culture moments — with the movie “Black Panther” and the song “This Is America.”
But unlike Michael B. Jordan or Donald Glover’s Childish Gambino musical alter-ego, Ludwig Goransson can walk down the street unnoticed.
At 34, the talented composer from Sweden is having the best year of his career. He completed the film score for the uber-successful “Black Panther,” even traveling to Senegal for three weeks and South Africa for a week to learn about African music.
He got three Grammy nominations for his production work and songwriting on Gambino’s album “Awaken, My Love!,” and the duo reached even greater heights with the epic “This Is America” — and its heralded video — which went viral and became a No. 1 smash in May.
Goransson also composed music for “Venom,” released in October, and did the “Creed II” film score.
Oh, and he’s worked with Beyonce and Jay-Z, too.
“It definitely feels like I’m living a dream,” says Goransson, who’s signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label. “But I try not to pinch myself because I don’t want to wake up.”
“I worked on a little trailer for the tour. It was just a short little thing, but, still, it was Beyonce and Jay-Z.”
Goransson worked for months on “Creed II,” starring Jordan, saying the franchise “is so close to my heart” because the 2015 film was one of the first studio features he composed music for.
Goransson moved to America to study at the University of Southern California, where he met Ryan Coogler and composed music for the now well-known director’s student film. When Coogler directed the acclaimed independent film “Fruitvale Station,” he called on Goransson. “Creed” and “Black Panther” soon followed.
“We’re getting to know each other more for every project,” Goransson says of his relationship with Coogler, who didn’t direct “Creed II” but was an executive producer.
Goransson, who now lives in Los Angeles, grew up in Linkoping, two hours south of Stockholm. He started playing guitar at 7 — his father is a guitar teacher. At 9, he fell in love with Metallica.
“That’s when I was, like, ‘OK, I want to spend 10 hours a day practicing guitar for the rest of my life,’ ” he says. “And then my dad got me a portable recorder, so I started writing my own music.”
After graduating from USC, he got a job assisting composer Theodore Shapiro, initially on the 2008 comedy “Tropic Thunder.”
“It was immediately clear that he had his own voice as a composer, and that’s really rare,” says Shapiro, who has scored “Destroyer,” ”The Devil Wears Prada” and “Blades of Glory” and also wrote music for “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
“It’s very rare that you find somebody who really arrives with a very unique sensibility,” Shapiro says. “He just thinks a little bit differently than everyone else.”
Shapiro’s schedule wouldn’t allow him to compose music for a then-new TV series called “Community,” which debuted in 2009. So he recommended Goransson.
That was where he met Glover. Working on a song together for the show led to Goransson and Glover trading ideas about for the 2010 Gambino mixtape “Culdesac.” They have worked together ever since.
“What’s really fun, working with Donald, is he’s such a Renaissance man,” says Goransson, who also has produced for Chance the Rapper and HAIM. “We just keep pushing each other, and I keep learning, keep challenging myself.”
With Gambino, Goransson earned Grammy nominations for album of the year for “Awaken” and record of the year and best R&B song for the hit “Redbone.” The song won Gambino his first Grammy — best traditional R&B performance — a category only awarded to performers, not producers or songwriters.
This awards season, Goransson is looking like a white-hot contender, from the Grammys to the Oscars, thanks to “Black Panther” and “This Is America,” which he and Gambino started working on three years ago.
Goransson says composing for the huge-grossing Marvel Studios project came with “extreme pressure.”
“Being white and from Sweden, scoring a movie like this, there was a big pressure,” he says. “After I read the script, I knew the only way that I could score this movie was to go to Africa, do my research, learn and train with some of the greatest musicians I’ve ever met.”
Shapiro says Goransson “didn’t have to do that. He could have stayed at home and done the research. But he … really dove in to an extraordinary degree, and that commitment clearly came out in the music that he wrote.”
Shapiro says Goransson “has this easy confidence about him that is really magnetic, but also a real kindness to him.”