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SYFY WIRE The Winchesters

Jensen Ackles on how 'The Winchesters' keeps that rockin’ 'Supernatural' musical DNA alive

‘A lot of great music came out in the late ‘60s,’ says the narrating voice behind Sam & Dean’s family origin story.

By Benjamin Bullard
Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester (narrator)

From the early moments of The Winchesters very first episode, a big piece the new show’s Supernatural spinoff lineage reaches right out and grabs viewers by their ears. Yep, it’s the music — a reliable Supernatural staple of killer licensed tunes, and one that feels every bit as much a part of The CW franchise’s legendary fabric as Sam and Dean’s 1967 Chevy Impala.

As John Winchester (Drake Rodger) hops off the bus for his first meet cute with future wife Mary (Meg Donnelly), the strum of Ten Years After’s 1971-vintage hit “I’d Love to Change the World” swells in the background. It’s an instant cue that lets longtime Supernatural fans know they’re still playing in familiar pop culture territory — only this time with a post-Vietnam War-era soundtrack.

Bookending it all, Supernatural’s Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) is there to frame the narration for his parents’ monster-hunting origins, which in the show’s premiere episode received loads of period-appropriate ear candy accompaniment from musical classics that also cued up Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “All Right Now” by Free.

RELATED STORY: We asked psychics how to 'cleanse' your home of the kinds of negative spirits found on SurrealEstate

Speaking with SYFY WIRE and other outlets recently at New York Comic Con, Jensen and wife Danneel Ackles — both executive producers on the show — said The Winchesters wouldn’t be a true Supernatural series without that ambient aural swirl…and that there’s plenty more in store beyond the debut episode.

“The tricky thing was, we were trying to be time-authentic,” said Jensen, noting the catch that comes with setting a show in the early 1970s, well before the full Supernatural playbook of now-classic tracks from the 1980s onward really opened up.

“There was a lot that happened after ’73!” Ackles explained. “There was a lot of good music [that didn’t make the cut], and we were like [wincing and laughing at the same time]: ‘Awwww!’…It’ll skew older, but…look. A lot of great music came out in the late ‘60s. We might be asking for forgiveness on a few songs, if it’s like, ’Oh, that [song] was [from] ’75.’”

Of course that still means Dean’s treasured metal ballads are probably off the table for The Winchesters, though the show eventually might catch up to 1976 — the year franchise anthem “Carry on Wayward Son” by Kansas first hit the charts. Speaking of bands like Kansas, Jensen said there’s been little resistance from major artists whom The Winchesters has approached to bring fresh licensed songs to the mix.

“Not yet, no, and I think that Supernatural did a lot of legwork as far as that goes,” he said, recalling the series’ Miami Vice-like success at threading awesome tunes directly into the onscreen action. “You talk about Kansas, for instance: Those guys, they’re like, ‘Supernatural needs us?’ — and they’re like Superman. They just show up! We just put the Bat Signal out for Kansas, and they show up!”

Even without the crunch of later tracks that laid down series-defining moments for Supernatural fans (think Queensryche’s “Silent Lucidity” or AC|DC’s “Back in Black”), Danneel Ackles knows there’s tons of fresh musical ground to explore in the early-1960s pop culture ferment that frames John and Mary’s world.

“1972 still has a lot of carryover from the late ‘60s, so you do have some of that,” she explained. “There’s like The Supremes, and a lot of R&B…“ “—and you’re getting, like, doo-wop and stuff!” added Jensen, referencing the period’s cultural transition out of late-1950s Americana.

Licensing music isn’t exactly cheap, and Danneel jokes that the more eyeballs The Winchesters can attract, the more the show’s creators will be free to amp up the soundtrack in seasons yet to come: “It depends on the ratings, because we need a lot of people to watch the show!”

But old-school classics aside, there’s at least one present-day musical act who’s at the top of the husband-and-wife duo’s Winchesters’ wish list.

“There’s this band called Greta Van Fleet and I’m obsessed with them, and Jensen’s obsessed with them, and we really want them to come on and do a song,” she said. “I have DM’ed them, like, a lot, and they’re probably just like, ‘Whoever’s writing [us] is, like, craaa-zy!’ Please — Greta Van Fleet: We need you!”

Whether it’s retro soul or bleeding-edge rock, now’s no time to fear the reaper: Season 1 of The Winchesters rolls on — minus the iconic Blue Öyster Cult anthem, no doubt — when the spinoff series returns for its second episode tonight, Oct. 18, at The CW.

Looking for more monster-slaying? Check out SYFY's SurrealEstate, which returns for a second season next year.