Pop duo Leanne & Naara have made history as the first Filipino musicians to serve as the soundtrack for the country’s first locally-produced Netflix series, Replacing Chef Chico.
The series was created by Antoinette Jadaone and stars Alessandra de Rossi, Sam Milby, and Piolo Pascual in the leading roles. Replacing Chef Chico tells the story of a Filipino restaurant (Hain), where the head chef Chico (Milby) falls into a coma, leaving Ella (de Rossi) to step up to the plate. Pascual plays the role of Raymond, a consultant who is hired to help the restaurant from closing down. A few day after the show’s premiere, it hit the No. 1 spot on Netflix’s top TV shows in the Philippines list.
Billboard Philippines sat down with Leanne & Naara to go behind the scenes of how their music made its way into the soundtrack.
Billboard Philippines: How did the Replacing Chef Chico team reach out to you about using your music in the upcoming series?
Leanne & Naara: Direk Dan Villegas has previously expressed his interest to work with us before and says he’s a fan of our music. When “Di Na Babalik” (Never Returning) was about to [be] released, we thought it would be cool to collaborate with him. We decided to shoot our shot, Kelley Mangahas of Warner Music [Philippines] reached out to him, and the rest is history.
Billboard Philippines: Walk us through the process of piecing together the soundtrack of the show. Were you able to watch the series while working on it? Did any moments or scenes from the show influence the soundtrack in any way?
Leanne & Naara: It was a collaborative effort with the people we work closely with. We wanted the subjective input of people who are widely familiar with our work. We got help from Kelley Mangahas and our stylist Jessica Cabuay (whom we fondly call “nangski” as in ninang/godmother) with the song choices. The songs were already recorded and released but it’s nice to see them be appreciated in a different way. Like “Evergreen” for example, it sounds like a sad song but it was always used in the tender moments within the show.
Billboard Philippines: What are each of your favorite songs from the soundtrack?
Naara: Mine would be “The One.” I was in a rough state the past year and that song helped me and gave me hope to not give up. I love how they put the song on every important scene and how relatable it is to the viewers, like me.
Leanne: “Evergreen.” It makes me so happy that it gets appreciated in this way. I don’t think we were able to promote it properly during the pandemic. This song is so dear to me. To see so many of the viewers resonate with it makes me so happy.
Billboard Philippines: What was it like hearing your songs on a Netflix Original?
Leanne & Naara: We were in a constant state of disbelief and kilig. It made us giddy. We had this big smile on our faces. And we also cried, a lot. They touched on so many issues that hit close to home. We love that it centers on feminist stories and deals with all kinds of empowerment, such as LGBTQIA rights. The songs were so beautifully tied with the stories. It was a pleasant surprise every time the songs would come on because we’d also get lost just watching the show. We both finished it in one sitting!
Billboard Philippines: If you had to dedicate one song each to Chico, Ella, and Raymond, what would it be and why?
Leanne & Naara: For Chico it would be “Unan” (Pillow), specifically the lines “bakit parating meron kulang” (why is there always something missing). He craved validation and just wanted to be seen as good enough. If we change the lines to “di sapat ang mga ‘ulam’ upang maibsan ang kalungkutan” (‘food’ isn’t enough to heal the sadness), it would be perfect!
For Ella it would have to be “Evergreen.” She knows that as a woman, she has to work twice as hard to earn the respect of everyone. But she remained unfazed despite of the challenges. We also love that “Till the Morning Comes” is her kitchen song! It only proves that cooking while in a positive mood makes the food taste so much better!
For Raymond, it would be “The One.” We recall the lines “just let me show what it’s like to be loved by someone like me.” It sounds like something he would say to both Ella and Hain, when he was trying to save them.
Billboard Philippines: In the show, what sets Hain apart is love. In your words, what sets Leanne & Naara’s music apart from everyone else’s?
Leanne & Naara: We don’t know what sets it apart but we know it’s special because of our friendship. It’s really our connection that drives the sincerity behind the songs, turning the personal into universal.
Replacing Chef Chico premiered on Netflix on November 24 and is now available for streaming.
Listen to the original soundtrack for Replacing Chef Chico below.