midnight special

To me, each of Jeff Nichols’ four movies exemplify perfectly crafted storytelling. I think of Nichols’ films with the same fondness as M. Night Shyamalan’s first few films.

Out of the gates, M. Night, wrote and directed: The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs. All phenomenal movies shot in and around his hometown of Philadelphia — and everything was on his own terms. [Check out my arrangement of the Signs theme here.]

Jeff Nichols, 37, is not unlike Shyamalan, in that he writes, directs, and secures his own financing. Each of his movies are compelling character driven stories set in the southern United States (Nichols is from Arkansas).

However, his movies are more of Cormac Mccarthy style storytelling: the audience picks up in the middle. I’ve watched a few interviews with him, where he talks about the audience’s natural intelligence to figure out what’s going on. He plays to this, rather than serve the plot in a predictable manner.

Personally, I’m bored very easily, and my mind is always thinking about the next creative musical thing that I’m about to do. If I’m even remotely interested in a movie, I’m fiddling with my iPhone the whole time. Amazingly, my ADD gets switched off during a Jeff Nichols film, and I just get lost in the story. I believe this is because he delivers his stories in a fresh, compelling way. 

Mud (2012)

If you haven’t seen a Jeff Nichols movie, my recommendation is to start with Mud (Matthew Mcconaughey). Mud will hook you into Nichols perfect mix of heart, adventure, and mystery. The plot is: two young boys encounter a fugitive (Mcconaughey) and form a pact to help him evade the vigilantes that are on his trail — and to reunite him with his true love.

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen Mud, but I remember the boys find a large boat stuck in a tree along a river from a long ago flood. They try to claim the boat but Mcconaughey’s character is literally living in it.

Take Shelter (2011)

From there, work your way back to Take Shelter where Michael Shannon delivers an Oscar worthy performance as a young father disturbed by apocalyptic visions. Like a modern day Noah, he struggles with keeping his family safe from an impending storm — or is he just insane?

Shotgun Stories (2007)

Lastly, Shotgun Stories, also starring Michael Shannon, is Jeff Nichols’ first film. Shotgun Stories tracks a feud that erupts between two sets of half-brothers following the death of their father.

Shannon’s character is the eldest of the “abandoned” boys — whose alcoholic father left them behind with an equally abusive mother — only to reform himself as a born again Christian with a new life and family.

This movie (more or less) begins with the forsaken brothers attending the funeral of their deceased father and spitting on his grave.


Another component to Jeff Nichols’ films is that he implements a personal theme in each one of his movies. In the case of science-fiction oriented, Midnight Special, it’s the relationship between a father and his little boy. As a new father myself (my son is 1), I’m sure this one will pull at my heart strings.

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How to play the Midnight Special Theme for guitar

This melody is by musician and composer David Wingo. He also composed the music for Mud, and Take Shelter. David Wingo has captured the spirit of these films, and specifically, Midnight Special has an 80’s feel to me. The trailer reminded me a lot of Firestarter — a Stephen King adaptation starring Drew Barrymore.

David Wingo obliges this by having an 80’s keyboard synth sound provide the bass line for most of the music from the score. If you liked the movie Drive, this has a similar throwback sound.

This is very easy to play, and not surprisingly the guitar tab is a single page long. [Please check out my Easiest of Easy to Play archive for more songs just like this.]

I’ve sectioned off the guitar tab into three parts: Intro played 2x, Main played 2x, and End. You’ll then repeat the Main 2x and End sections.

Enjoy, the guitar tab is available below. The Midnight Special Theme is played in a pseudo Open G tuning. Your guitar will be tuned as follows from low to high: E G D G B D. In other words, your 5th string is tuned to A and your 1st string is tuned to D.

Midnight Special Theme for classical guitar

Please comment to let me know what you think, or if you have any questions.


Written by:

Matthew's dad, Jennifer's husband, bass player - New Invisible Joy, YouTuber, short-film composer, creator of modern content for guitar.