Story Behind the Song: Lady Antebellum, ‘Compass’
In October of 2013, Lady Antebellum released the song "Compass" as a single from their Golden album; the song appears on the deluxe version of the record. The country trio scored a No. 1 hit on the country charts with the song, and a Top 50 hit on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 -- especially exciting because the song was not written by the typical Nashville songwriting names.
Instead, "Compass" was written by pop tunesmiths Mikkel Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen, Ammar Malik, Ross Golan, Daniel Omelio and Emile Haynie. Below, Golan -- whose podcast, And the Writer Is ..., will be all about country music during the week of Nov. 6 -- talks with The Boot about how "Compass" came to be, and why there are so many writers credited on the song.
It was a writing camp of, kind of like an all-star writing camp ... They've been going on for maybe 5-10 years in the pop world, and essentially what that is is, you put together a group of writers who are all friends with each other, or they all do different things, and the guess is, they'll all work together well ... They're a week long: You get there at 10 o'clock in the morning, and seven days later, whatever you got out of that camp is what you get ... It's literally overnight camp, but for adults who write songs.
So, all of us get into these grooves of -- If I came in every day for seven days with some of the best songwriters in the world, you be I'm up all night just trying to think of, what's the next idea I could come up with, and my co-writers are all feeling the same way. "Compass," in particular, Ammar Malik -- who is maybe the best melody writer I've ever worked with -- he came in, and he picks up, he brings his guitar. His guitar is from the 1930s, so you have this little, twangy, kind of not-modern-sounding, not-clean-sounding guitar, and he just started strumming this idea.
He had kind of the first line and a half of the chorus, and the two of us really hashed it out. And then Mikkel ... he walked in and was like, "Well, what if you change the chords here in the chorus?" By the end of the song, what happens at these writing camps ... nothing's sacred, so people just walk in and they say, "Hey, what if you changed that?" And everyone's like, "Yeah, that makes it better!" There's no ego -- nobody's sitting there saying, "Wait a minute, this is my song; I can't change it."
I think we all walked away from that feeling ... like that was one of the more enjoyable weeks ... I ended up working with the guys from Lady Antebellum [later on], and ... they were super generous. The artists in country are just -- they're the best.
I think when we heard [Lady Antebellum's version of "Compass"], we knew that it was special ... The tour before, I had bought tickets to go see Lady Antebellum, because my wife is a huge fan. So, for me, on a personal level, the fact that I can have that for my wife -- and my dad is a huge country music fan and never understood ... it wasn't until they could see "Compass" in a karaoke book that [my parents] really understood that I had made it. To them, that that was the song that showed them that I could be a professional songwriter.
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