When a major label pop artist (“the biggest pop star in Australia”) who’s worked with the likes of Dianne Warren, Flo-Rida, Babyface and Snoop Dogg, selects a 100% Australian track as the lead single for their next incarnation, it’s a big deal.
When you consider that the track beat out demos from some of the world’s biggest international songwriters, came together in just a few hours, and followed a brief from one of the country’s highest rating TV shows, it warrants a mention.
Selected on first listen over singles penned by some of the globe’s biggest names (we can’t name names, but you’ll find them peppered throughout the pointy end of the charts this week), Jessica Mauboy’s new single ‘Fallin’’ was written by the all-Australian lineup of Ivy Adara, Peter James Harding (aka Thief) and Louis Schoorl.
The track, written for the upcoming second series of Seven drama The Secret Daughter (which Mauboy stars in), debuted at #1 on the Australian ARIA Singles chart, #1 on iTunes, and is currently #15 on the ARIA Singles chart.
When TIO speaks to Louis Schoorl to find out just how three Sydney-based songwriters came to write a major label pop song in an LA studio, he has just stepped out of a studio session at his part-time Los Angeles home.
“Because she’s such a sweetheart, she always wears her heart on her sleeve,” Schoorl says of Mauboy. “She wanted to do more music that showed love and emotion; and that’s what we set out to do throughout this year.”
As TIO found out, Sony Music had tasked Schoorl with sourcing the original demos for the next Secret Daughter soundtrack – a daunting directive given its predecessor’s #1 ARIA debut back in October.
In between collecting demos to take back to Mauboy and Sony Music’s Denis Handlin (AO) in Sydney, Schoorl met with songwriter/artist Ivy Adara and Peter James Harding (aka Thief) in LA.
“They were all in town and we decided that we were going to get together to write this song for Jess, which was really weird because we are all Sydney-based and ended up being together in LA at the same time,” Schoorl laughs.
Schoorl says the trio were given a brief of a Secret Daughter storyline to work with. Knowing that, lyrics like first line, “Something about the way you drive me up the wall”, and pre-chorus confession, “Cause I don’t want to want you like I do” give a pretty good hint at where the drama, and Billie Carter (Mauboy’s character), will be heading in Season 2.
Luckily for Mauboy, the trio’s in-studio dynamic was less dramatic. “We listened to a whole bunch of songs that inspired us and I grabbed the guitar and started fiddling around with some chords and a riff,” Schoorl remembers. “It began with that guitar riff that you can hear, that starts the song.
“Then Ivy and Thief (Peter Harding), they started finding melodies and humming and singing, and the whole thing came together.”
The track, an alluring ‘60s Dreamgirls ballad with a radio-ready bassline, could have sat beautifully on the soundtrack of Mauboy’s feature film hit The Sapphires. And that was precisely the intent.
“We wanted to do something throwback-y, but then with a modern twist,” Schoorl says. “You get the big drums and the bass that sit underneath it that make it modern, and makes it feel ‘now’. But the song itself, if you had just the guitar vocal, it feels like a ’60s retro song.”
From concept to recorded demo, ‘Fallin’’ took less than a standard work day. The three songwriters entered the studio at 1pm and left at 8pm. Ivy Adara, an X Factor Australia alum, and emerging talent in her own right, recorded on the demo and came back a week later to change two of the melodies.
“[Adara] can actually stand up to Jess and sing a song that Jess can sing,” says Schoorl. “That’s why she was in the session as well because she could really sell the song in the way that an amazing artist like Jess could sell the song.”
When Mauboy and Denis Handlin heard the track, there was no contest between ‘Fallin’’ and the other shortlisted demos.
“When Louis first played me this demo I just knew he, Ivy, and Peter had written The One,” says Mauboy. “It’s such a heartfelt song. It’s the song I now sing to my partner Themeli every night.”
“Jess and I knew straight away ‘Fallin’’ was a special song that would be a fantastic first single for her forthcoming Secret Daughter 2album,” adds Handlin. “Jess has once again delivered a brilliant vocal performance and the reaction from her fans has been amazing.”
While Schoorl admits the time between writing ‘Fallin’’ and having it selected by Mauboy was abnormally fast – “Even the best songwriters on the planet will write 100 songs and maybe 20 come out” – it took Mauboy over a month to free up her schedule to record the track.
Adara joined Mauboy on the track as a backing vocalist and when it was premiered live on The Voice Australia late last month, it shot to the top spot on the iTunes Singles Chart.
“That girl… I think she’s the biggest pop star in Australia,” gushes Schoorl. “[…] Her personality comes out a lot when she performs, she loves it and enjoys it. Everybody wants to work with her and help her get bigger, better; that’s the kind of personality she has.”
Schoorl calls the journey of ‘Fallin’’; “an incredibly organic and completely unpredictable process.” Perhaps part of that is because of the average lifespan for a demo recording.
“I did a song a month ago that’s coming out next week […] But then another song I did with Astrid S – she’s a Norwegian artist – that came out last month, and we wrote that two-and-a-half years ago.”
While the pieces may have fallen nicely into place for Jess Mauboy’s latest, Schoorl knows better than anyone that a career as a songwriter rarely follows suit.
“Some of the best songs I’ve been a part of that I absolutely love, with amazing artists, they have just changed direction with it or decided on a different style, and then the song just doesn’t ‘fit’ anymore.
“Jess and I have written a whole bunch of songs together that haven’t been released because they didn’t suit the project – Guy Sebastian and I have written songs that might never come out.”
Fallin’ is currently #25 on The Industry Observer’s Australian Radio Chart, having move d up from #33 last week.