Peaky Blinders: The music

1920s gangster epic Peaky Blinders is known for its dark and dramatic soundtrack, which features music from Nick Cave, PJ Harvey and Jack White. We talk to music supervisor Amelia Hartley about its distinctive sound and why we’re hearing more commercial music in TV drama

If you’ve ever watched an episode of Peaky Blinders, then you’ll be familiar with Amelia Hartley’s work. The BBC 2 drama is set in 1920s Birmingham and follows the exploits of the Shelbys – a crime family headed up by Tommy Shelby (played by Cillian Murphy). In five seasons, it has won two Best Drama awards at the BAFTAs, but its appeal lies as much in its unique look and sound as its plot twists.

The show’s costume design has inspired ‘get the look’ articles in the Guardian, GQ and Esquire and 1920s-themed high street collections, while Cillian Murphy’s undercut is now arguably the most famous male hairstyle on TV. Its soundtrack features dark and moody music from the likes of PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, Jack White and the Arctic Monkeys – music which perfectly captures the show’s suspense and the tortured emotional state of its main characters. An unofficial playlist featuring songs from the show now has over 180,000 followers on Spotify.

Music is often used to heighten a sense of drama on TV but in Peaky Blinders, it has a slightly different function. The soundtrack is a window into the mind of Tommy – a tortured ex-soldier with a sensitive side who appears to be suffering from PTSD after fighting in the trenches during World War One.

“We’re very much driven by the idea that the commercial music we use is what’s inside Tommy’s head. With some shows, the music is used to drive the editorial on, but we try not to do that [in Peaky Blinders],” explains Hartley.