New York-based COPILOT Strategic Music + Sound recently partnered with Boston ad agency Small Army to create an original song as part of the annual Be Bold, Be Bald! cancer fundraiser, which encourages participants to wear a bald cap for one day, November 2nd, 2012, to show their solidarity with those who must deal with the disease every day.
Participants of all ages get friends, family and co-workers to sponsor them for the day. In the past four years, the event has raised more than $500,000 for 36 different cancer organizations. This year, it is currently supporting 28 organizations.
Be Bold, Be Bald! was started by Small Army through their nonprofit division, Small Army for a Cause. After Small Army's co-founder, Mike Connell, passed away from cancer in 2007, his fellow co-founder, Jeff Freedman, hired Steve Kolander to take over Connell's role as Creative Director. To promote their 2012 fundraiser campaign, Kolander and his team wanted to write a song to accompany an inspirational two-minute video featured on the Be Bold, Be Bald! website: http://www.beboldbebald.org/
and in a :30 TV spot. A full-length version of the song, titled, "If You Believe," will also be available on iTunes for further fundraising.
"When I saw the film, I fell in love with the story and the organization Be Bold, Be Bald!," explains Ravi Krishnaswami, COPILOT Partner who co-wrote and arranged the song. "I survived cancer earlier in my life, endured chemotherapy, and remember losing my hair for a summer. Contributing to this very worthy cause was a perfect fit both on a personal and creative level."
Kolander, a former Creative Director at JWT Atlanta and recording artist on Polygram Records, has a longstanding relationship with Krishnaswami and COPILOT Partner Jason Menkes. The three have worked together on numerous projects, including a TV campaign for YouFit Health Clubs via Small Army.
"Working with COPILOT is like working with my own band back in the day," says Kolander, who wrote and performed the "If You Believe" track. "We get to talk like musicians and partners instead of agency and vendor. It's a true collaboration and there aren't any egos. We're just musicians trying to create something different, something special. I think we hit it out of the park. It sounds like an authentic song, not a manufactured jingle, which is exactly what we wanted. You can't get it out of your head. But unlike most commercial songs, you don't mind this one swirling around in there."
"Steve approached us with a sketch of the song, including mandolins, guitars and handclaps," adds Krishnaswami. "After living with his ideas for a few days, I found a bit of musical DNA in there that felt right for the film. Having collaborated on original songs for several other spots, we both knew that we had an opportunity to turn the riff into a song that told our hero's story and brought an emotional depth to the film."
Moving forward with Kolander's mandolin sketch, Krishnaswami then spent time arranging and adding his own instruments to the band, such as guitars, uke bass, and ukulele. From there, he expanded the structure to be more songlike and included some natural transitions that helped tell the story better. A string quartet arrangement was also created for the quieter sections.
On the lyrics and vocals front, Kolander sent two completely different approaches: one that was grand and anthemic, including the hook "If You Believe," and another that was more story-like and conversational. Krishnaswami began cutting and pasting the two, using the anthemic parts for the chorus and the conversational elements for the verses. Taking vocal sound references from Krishnawami, Kolander then recorded lead vocals and harmonies.
"It's a treat to work with someone fluent in the shorthand of songwriting like Steve," remarks Krishnaswami. "He's often able to envision and advocate for a thoughtful, music-driven campaign. This collaboration was unique in that Steve and I both played more active roles - he on the composition and recording side, and me on the decision of how lyrics and vocals could be used in the song. With the film being longer than a traditional ad, we were able to write a more fully realized song from the start, rather than expanding a shorter piece. It was great to have the creative freedom to keep working until we were happy with the track."
"This is the kind of project you hope for," concludes Menkes. "A beautiful story, beautifully told. We knew that working with Steve would be collaborative and creative, but to focus our talents on such a good cause is a wonderful bonus. I lost my grandmother to cancer, so this campaign really resonated with me."
Client: Be Bold, Be Bald! / Small Army for a Cause
Production Company: Esposito Originals, Boston, MA
Director: Max Esposito
Executive Producer: Kristyn Ulanday
Where shot: Boston, MA
Ad Agency: Small Army Agency, Boston, MA
Creative Director: Steve Kolander
Art Director: Rachel Bukstein
Executive Producer: Monica Belling
Music Producer: Steve Kolander
Postproduction Company: Finish Editorial, Boston, MA
Colorist: Rob Bessette
Editor: Maarten Apeldoorn
Music Company: Small Army, Boston, MA & COPILOT/New York, NY
Composer: Steve Kolander
Co-Writer/Arranger: Ravi Krishnaswami
Executive Producer: Jason Menkes