The Most Heard, Least Known Composers In America
“A Lot Happens Early” on CBS’ The Early Show
August 31, 2009Posted by on
When we were asked to write the song for CBS Early Show’s new “A Lot Happens Early” promo campaign, CBS called and outlined what they wanted to hear, their objectives, the audience they were targeting, and gave us a few reference tracks. It had to be a song you knew was a hit the first time you heard it. At SAM, we all agreed: Let’s knock the ball out of the park.
We got started that afternoon. Stephen and I first worked out a couple of rough versions on acoustic guitar. These were just preliminary ideas we recorded and sent to CBS for review.
The feedback was very positive and we were fortunate to have strong creative direction from Dave McCoy (Senior VP, CBS News Promotion) and Julie Haaland (Director of On-Air Promotion, CBS News). They wanted the final song to have a crossover appeal, so they reemphasized the importance of the tune’s urban/pop elements.
With the initial creative direction approved, it was back to the drawing board. We worked for a while and then there was this moment when we all knew we’d found the next step. We were working with Greg Barnhill – a Grammy nominated songwriter for Tim McGraw, Jessica Simpson, and Trisha Yearwood, among others. Barnhill was chiseling away at some lyrics while we tried various chord progressions on the guitar, playing with the melodic and rhythmic structures.
After trying several versions of the song, all the pieces suddenly came together. There was this instant buzz and we pretty much panicked – “Hit record and capture it quick!” You just know when you have the right tune and this was it, a great melody that served as the foundation of the song for the rest of the project.
After we worked out the song’s lyrics with Greg, we began searching for a female vocalist who could give the melody the touch it needed. This was an essential part of the process since “A Lot Happens Early” is such a vocally driven song.
And it feels like morning everywhere
C’mon get up, get on
Be a part of a bigger change
And a better way
Right here, right now
This is a new day
It’s a new morning for America’s family
Sun’s coming up so make it all that it can be
You know a lot happens early
Everyday is good when you’re starting it off right
What a way to bring it all out in the daylight
You know a lot happens early
The music and words convey a sense of chance, an opportunity that comes with every morning. We wanted the listener to experience that, so we needed the right singer for the magic to come across.
We shopped around a bit and had a few auditions in Nashville and elsewhere, but once we found Ciamar, an extremely talented artist here in the Dallas area, we knew we’d found the voice we were looking for.
As we wrote the song, and later as we recorded it, we thought of the project as though we were making an album for a top recording artist. We wanted more than just a memorable melody; we wanted a song that could top the pop charts. A song like that needs the right melody, the right chords, the right musicians, the right groove, the right tone, the right mix. There are so many nuances that seem easy to overlook, but if one thing fails, the whole project suffers.
For example, we re-recorded and re-wrote the background vocals multiple times trying to lock down an arrangement that complimented both the genre and the lead vocals. If you listen, you’ll hear the backing vocals are quite complex; the process took a lot of time, but the effort was necessary to make the track come to life.
As a result, “A Lot Happens Early” required the efforts of so many talented people. Our whole team and our creative partners at CBS were behind this project from the start. I think everyone was very pleased with the result: “A Lot Happens Early” really captured the emotion of a beautiful morning.
There’s this point in a song’s life when you get past the trial and error stage – it all gels and takes you where you want to be: that’s the joy of creating music. That’s why we do what we do.