Just prior to Nintendo Life VGM Fest kicking off in mid-August, we were contacted by Steven Morris — a musician and prolific producer of VGM covers — about a recent project he had undertaken to fuse music from the Legend of Zelda series with the relaxing tones and chilled beats of bossa nova. The result is Bossa de Hyrule, a five-track mini album that takes you on a very pleasant journey across the series from A Link to the Past up to Twilight Princess.
We've been listening to it for a while, and we recently caught up with Steven via email to find out more about the project, the instruments he used to create these rich sounds, and how he chose the five tracks on the album from all the glorious possibilities...
Nintendo Life: Your album puts a bossa nova spin on some classic Zelda tunes. For the benefit of non-musicians, could you explain what defines that style and why you chose it for this project?
Steven Morris: Bossa nova started in Brazil in the late ‘50s and is a slow-to-mid-tempo style that combines a jazz harmony with a “clave” rhythm. I was hearing the Dark World theme from A Link to the Past in this style in my head and thought it would be humorous to record.
Somewhere along the line the name Bossa de Hyrule came to me, and that’s when I decided to record a mini album of Zelda music.
The Zelda series is a treasure trove of iconic video game music – how did you decide on the five tracks you chose for the album?
I flipped through vgleadsheets.com for the remaining three tracks. I chose the title theme from Ocarina of Time since it already has interesting harmony. Dragon Roost Island is a popular up-tempo tune in the VGM community, and I also thought it would be fun to hear the melody against a different rhythm. I selected Midna’s Lament specifically because I was aware that one of my supporters on Patreon likes it — despite my concerns about the challenge, this one seemed to really work out well in the style of bossa nova.
What equipment and instruments did you use to record these arrangements?
For the rhythm parts, I used nylon guitar, fretless Jazz Bass, Pianet (electric reed piano), and percussion (including bongos, congas, shakers, claves, cowbells, shells, and triangle). The wind sections vary, but generally they include a cornet, 2x alto saxophones, 2x french horns, and a couple of recorder parts.
Usually one of the rhythm or wind instruments handle the lead parts or take a solo, but I also used a melodica, a fun instrument that is like a keyboard operated pan flute called the Suzuki Andes, a glockenspiel, and even an electric sitar. I also added some synth strings using a Sequential Prophet Rev2.
Everything but the fretless Jazz Bass, Pianet, and Prophet Rev2 was recorded acoustically. Most everything had a close microphone as well as a stereo pair of microphones a few feet back to create a sense of depth and hopefully a more natural stereo image.
This is far from your first foray into VGM – is there anything in your back catalogue that you think Nintendo Life readers might particularly enjoy?
To the extent to which I’m ‘known,’ I think I’m known for my EarthBound covers. I also released a cover of Richard’s Villa from Link’s Awakening in 2019 — it’s included on a mini album titled Relax’N, which has five Nintendo covers.
Finally, is there any other Nintendo-focused project you’re keen to tackle in the future?
Be sure check out the other Nintendo Life VGM Fest articles in our season of music-focused interviews and features.
- Further reading/listening: Chill Music From Video Games - Relaxing Playlist