One thing was a given before the Netflix anthology series Dolly Parton's Heartstrings debuted: the music would be good. This guarantee hinged in part on Parton's greatness as not just an iconic vocalist but also a prolific songwriter and guitarist. Yet Parton had help from a couple of familiar names, including country musician turned television and film composer Mark Leggett.
Parton called on Leggett and fellow composer Velton Ray Bunch to score longer stories about such established characters as accused homewrecker "Jolene" and outlaw lover "J.J. Sneed."
"It's almost like you want to hear more of the story after the song is over, which I think lends itself to filmed entertainment," Leggett says of Parton's familiar hits.
Leggett's connection with country music goes back to his time as a side musician for one of the "J.J. Sneed" episode's stars, Mac Davis. By chance, Bunch worked back then as Davis' musical director.
Later in the '80s, Leggett worked at Kenny Rogers' Los Angeles studio--a job that positioned him to pitch his song "Ain't Nothing Like a Woman" to one of Mama Leggett's favorites, Dottie West. Leggett next joined forces with Bunch, the musical director for Parton's ABC variety show Dolly, as composers for the sci-fi television series Quantum Leap.
More recently, Leggett and Bunch wrote original music for two TV movies: Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors (2015) and Dolly Parton's Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love (2016).
For his latest project, Leggett transitioned from writing original scores for television shows (including music for My Name is Earl and the Emmy-nominated theme to The Pretender) and documentaries (Dinotasia, Anne Frank's Holocaust) to limited, direct-to-streaming series.
"From a writing standpoint, it means you almost have to condense your workload," Leggett says of his experience with Netflix-exclusive content. "You know you have to do eight of them or 10 of them or however many the order is. You kind of get up and running, and it's one big piece of work. It's completely different than writing for episodic television."
Through it all, Leggett's musical pursuits continued beyond the big and small screen. He's collaborated over the years with Kylie Minogue, Richard Thompson and Levon Helm and performed around Los Angeles with the Bonedaddys and the Mark Leggett Quartet.