NBC’s Songland has gone to the next level in season two, both with the caliber of aspiring songwriters and the established artists who were receiving new material to record for a future project. The show’s foundation, gifted writers and producers Ester Dean, Shane McAnally and Ryan Tedder return for the new season with an unbelievable energy and an endless fountain of creativity.
The three members of Lady Antebellum joined Ester, Ryan and Shane on the pre-recorded opener. Charles Kelley explained that he and Dave Haywood were already writing together when they pitched a song for Hillary Scott’s first album. She asked Charles to sing with her and, at first, he didn’t want to because he wanted her to record the song. Of course, they have since gone on to defy genres with their Grammy-winning recordings and all three members stand on their own also as award-winning songwriters.
If you’re new to the Songland audience, four songwriters start out in the competition performing an original number. One writer is eliminated and the three remaining are paired with either Ester, Ryan or Shane who helps them to refine their composition and prepare it to be presented again to the celebrity guest. The guest then selects their favorite, which they record and release immediately.
Here’s what happened on the season two premiere of Songland…
TIM HALPERIN from Omaha, Nebraska
- Original song: “Losing You” – heavy, mid-ballad that opened up in the chorus
RYAN: “It definitely has more of a rock feel.”
CHARLES: “That doesn’t scare me at all. I mean, we are unapologetically a pop-country band.”
DAVE: “I think just getting the lyrics to match the music. The music feels pretty heavy and the chord progression is cyclical around this minor chord and we’re all on edge musically.”
SHANE: “That line talking about throwing punches, I have an aversion to that line even though I know it’s a metaphor. But you could easily clean it up by just saying, ‘Girl, I’ll go down fighting if you want me to.’”
STEVEN BATTEY from Augusta, Georgia
- Original song: “Feels Good to Me” – groovy, mid tempo with complex chorus
CHARLES: “Feels like you could do a big, old One Republic beat on that.”
RYAN: “I’m going to throw a little corkscrew at you. I don’t think you have a chorus. When you do sections of songs with descending chords, specifically this type of vibe (plays chords), it’s all leading to something. And all I want to hear is (plays chord) and land it somewhere.”
DAVE: “For us, when we launch into three-part harmony, there needs to be a few more simple melodies to land somewhere. And so, I think that’s what I’m looking for, too.”
MADELINE MERLO from Maple Ridge, British Columbia
- Original song: “I’ll Drink to That” – uptempo summer anthem
CHARLES: “That’s a really great verse melody. I really dig it.”
DAVE: “The groove is killer. I mean, I feel like we’re always looking for, like, these kind of show opener And the lyrics are so funky.
SHANE: “A fun line is that ‘found 20-bucks stuck in my jacket pocket.’ But in the country world, we’ve heard this.”
RYAN INNES from Thatcher, Arizona
Original song: “Long Way Home” – tender, heartbreak ballad
Ryan had formerly been a part of Team Legend on The Voice.
CHARLES: “I love the verses, but there isn’t a chorus. It need to go somewhere. There’s something really great in there, in this.”
ESTER: “It could be like a teenage love and they find each other again.”
RYAN: “The verse melody is a 10, the chord progression is a 10, the movement, the concept is a 10. The point of it is trying to figure out how to craft it for Lady A.”
TIM with Ryan Tedder
RYAN with Ester Dean
MADELINE with Shane McAnally
TIM changed “Losing You” from straight-up pop to a pop-country song.
Hayley Orrantia joined him to demo the song as a duet
HILLARY: “Full body goosebumps. When that harmony comes in on that chorus, wow!”
ESTER: “I hear that on the radio.”
DAVE: “That chorus was huge, Ryan. It’s killer.”
MADELINE changed the title to “Champagne Night.”
DAVE: “That’s so fun!”
CHARLES: “You know when it gets hit city? ‘Doubles and bubbles to get in all kinds of trouble.’”
ESTER: “I thought I was in a club!”
RYAN: “That was just Shane doing what he does best, firing on all cylinders.”
RYAN added strings to his arrangement of “Long Way Home.”
CHARLES: “That chorus melody. You literally took that up an insane notch.”
DAVE: “I believe in this song, man, I believe in you. I think you belong doing this.”
SHANE: “I love the lyric, ‘Even when I’m slow, it’s just the long way home.’ Something so simple as that, I got chills.”
LADY ANTEBELLUM chose MADELINE MERLO’s “Champagne Night.”
Lady A’s recording of “Champagne Night” is now available to download or stream, and the light-hearted and fun music video is already up on YouTube.
Next week, “Despacito” singer Luis Fonsi is the celebrity guest on Songland.