Songland season 2 continues tonight on NBC featuring country music superstar Martina McBride. In the episode, songwriters will pitch their compositions to the the guest artist and the panel. Afterward, songwriter/producers Ryan Tedder, Shane McAnally and Ester Dean work with the artists. Martina will then choose one song to record.
Everything you need to know about tonight’s episode featuring Martina McBride:
“I’m excited to be here at Songland to find my next song,” says Martina, whom Ryan calls “country royalty.” She says, “I’m really coming into this with an open mind. The most fun thing for me at this point in my career is to be open to whatever comes along that moves me.” Martina loves telling “incredible stories” and songs that are “big anthems.”
The Artists Pitch their Songs
CKAY – Heroes – A winner of Showtime at the Apollo, the New York City based singer-songwriter got her start in R&B. Her song is about not answering to anybody and being your own person. She started in opera and appeared on “Showtime at the Apollo.” CKAY has been writing songs since 16 years of age. The countrified song boasts a pop beat. Much like Martina, CKAY is a belter. Martina imagines the song as a sing-a-long. Ryan thinks her chorus is a pre-chorus. He demonstrates an alternative, that seems to change the song significantly, but we’ll see! Martina thinks “Heros” should be directed outward, rather than just about a relationship. The panelists compare the song to something Adele would sing.
H A L I E – Girls Like Me – This Thayer, Missouri native started writing songs at 12. She’s got music in her blood: Her great great great grandpa’s cousin was Jimmie Rodgers and brother Michael Tyler has penned tunes for Jason Aldean, Lo Cash, and Dierks Bentley (Somewhere on the Beach). She moved to Nashville two weeks after graduating from high school. She tears up as she shares her love for music and insists that she has no plan b. Her song is about overcoming self-doubt. The tune is very pretty, reminiscent of the stuff Taylor Swift did during her country years. But, as Martina notes, the theme is not suitable for a mature woman who has been through it all. Martina compliments the melody, but immediately begins tweaking the lyrics with the panel. Martina and Ester are already scribbling down new lyrics.
WOLVES – Miracle – Marc Avery and Sean Carney make up this Los Angeles duo. They call their pop alternative music “Surf Trap.” Marc penned the song while thinking about his mom, a hard working single parent. “Marc writes from his heart,” says Sean. Marc writes and sings the songs, while Sean handles the beats and guitar parts. The song is heavily R&B, almost churchy. No reason it couldn’t be countried up, however. There is a “dock of the bay” lyric which is maybe a tribute to Otis Redding? And the chords are similar to the sixties soul classic, as well. Maybe TOO similar. HELLO LAWSUIT. Martina likes the “feel of it.” Ryan and Ester play around with the melody a bit. However, Martina thinks the lyrics are a downer. “There needs to be some hope in here,” she says. The rest of the panel agree with her. Marc is OK with a re-write. Of course, he just wants his song on the radio.
Jeffrey James – We Can Be (Heroes) – Originally from Brownsburg, Indiana, his great-uncle wrote the renowned Hal Leonard Guitar Method book. Jeffrey wrote and recorded his latest EP London in the British city. In high school, Jeffrey was the dance captain of his show choir, and also on the basketball team. Currently, he makes a living writing songs for himself, and others. He calls the song he brought to Songland “motivational.” Indeed, it has the big, anthemic feel Martina likes. Jeffrey’s got a solid blue eyed soul sound going for himself. Ryan is fascinated by the chord changes, while Martina wonders if “heroes” is the right word. The panel thinks the hook is confusing and needs to change. “Why are we heroes?” Ryan asks. “You need a new b section and hook,” adds Ester. Ryan thinks “we” should be changed to “I.” Martina agrees. We previewed this performance HERE.
Martina McBride Makes her choice
Martina chooses H A L I E, Jeffrey James and CKAY to move on to the producer rounds. WOLVES are eliminated. Martina loved the feel of the song, but she felt it needed to be “completely deconstructed” to work. Oh, and maybe that it totally ripped off “Dock of the Bay?”
Ryan Tedder produces Jeffrey James’ We Can Be (Heroes) – Ryan wants to rewrite some of the verse lyrics so that they “read logically,” and to punch them up, generally. The message is a little too preachy, he thinks. The goal is to feel more emotion, but remain authentic. Jeffrey adds a lyric that Ryan believes makes the song stronger. Ryan wants to ditch the synth strings, and track a guitar. “We need to get a little country in there,” he says. He insists that Jeffrey’s original version is “very much intact.” Jeffrey is thrilled with the changes. “I can imagine Martina singing the hell out of this song,” he says.
Shane McAnally produces CKAY’s Heroes – Martina doesn’t want to lose the “anthemic feel” of the song. Shane believes he can heighten it. The two work on the lyrics in the verses. “What makes a hero a hero?” Shane wonders. “They save the day.” He wants Martina to sing “I don’t need those things. I just need someone to stand next to.” Shane brings in some “big drums” and strings.
Ester Dean produces H A L I E’s Girls Like Me – Martina put Ester with Halie because “I thought you had a real strong connection to the lyric.” Also, she loved Ester’s hook, in which Martina talks to all the daughters of the world. Ester wants to rewrite the lyric to make the song relatable to all women. However, the theme is similar to another song Martina already recorded. So, they need to keep the concept fresh. “We’ll make this song bigger in production,” Ester says. What advice does Halie get from her mom, who is the same age as Martina? “I think we need to put that in there,” says Ester. “Like a mother’s letter to her daughter.” Ester teaches Halie how to craft the melody first, so the words don’t get in the way.
The Artists present their newly produced songs
Jeffrey James – We Can Be Heroes – The new version is more ballady, with the piano in the forefront. Ryan added a gospel choir to punch up the song’s gospel feel. The lyrics are clearer and have more space. Simplifying the message, while punching up the anthemic quality gives the song a classic quality. I haven’t been thrilled with Ryan’s output so far this season, but he definitely improved Jeffrey’s song. Martina compliments the production. Everyone agrees that adding the line “stronger than we know” made all the difference. “It feels so new to me,” says Shane, “I have a totally different feeling from when you came out to sing it before.”
CKAY – Heroes – “I think this is a happier sweeter melody” says CK about the new version of her song. Indeed, the chorus is catchier and memorable. The lyrics have been completely rewritten. Like Jeffrey’s song, the message is much clearer. Martina notes the tempo is faster. “Don’t try to fix me,” is now the message of the song.
H A L I E – Girls Like Me – Ester and Halie changed the lyrics to reflect an older woman’s point of view. Miranda wipes her eye–she’s visibly moved. I think it’s a boring song, but Martina is crying, so what do I know. Ryan notes that Ester is brilliant at taking apart a song, and putting it back together in a better way. She never wastes an element!
Martina invites all three songwriters to pitch her more songs. “But there was one song from the very beginning that I felt a connection with,” she says. Make Martina cry, she’ll pick your song!
Martina chooses Halie’s Girls Like Me. The young songwriter freaks out like she just won a million bucks, or something. She might have if the song does well. “Giving this opportunity to a young, up and coming songwriter is everything,” says Martina.
Check out Martina’s version of H A L I E and Ester Dean’s “Girls Like Me”