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With Second Original Tune, Disney's New Mousketeers Flaunt Hidden Talent: Songwriting

Club Mickey Mouse "Something to Fight For"
Courtesy Photo

Club Mickey Mouse "Something to Fight For"

Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, JC Chasez, Britney Spears, and even Ryan Gosling got their start as part of Disney’s The Mickey Mouse Club, which last aired 23 years ago. But a new generation of Mouseketeers may soon be showing them up when it comes to songwriting.

“The main difference is that the majority of the music on Club Mickey Mouse is original music, heavily influenced by the Mouseketeers themselves,” says executive producer Tijana Srdanov. “We have one cover song, but the Mouseketeers collaborated with each other and professionals to create some amazing original sounds.”

With their new 90s-inspired single, "Generation M," live on Facebook today (Oct. 5) Srdanov tells Billboard that Club Mickey Mouse is all about honoring the individual performance backgrounds of each of the Mouseketeers -- selected for their social media influence as well as their talent  -- and notes that this crop is more involved in the song creation process than ever before. 

“I remember the first day of rehearsal when all we had were simple music beds (rough, instrumental versions of a song) and the kids just dove right in writing lyrics, getting in the studio with our in-house music producer, collaborating with him on the direction the music should go in,” she recalls. “They created original tracks in a matter of days - it was incredible and beautifully authentic.”

Club Mickey Mouse cast members are teaming up in-house producer Jose “Choco” Reynoso (Method Man, Wu-Tang Clan), writer and music coach Nathan Ramos, and the official Club Mickey Mouse Mentor, Todrick Hall. “My role is to help the kids bring their ideas, musical concepts and choreography to life,” says Hall. “I'm just there to fine tune their choices, help be a sounding board to help them choose, and help them stay motivated.”

Srdanov says the premise behind this installment of the MMC is to tap into the notion that the kids themselves should be creators. Therefore, the show does its best to be as hands-off as possible: “They are songwriters, composers, lyricists, and choreographers,” she says. “Some of them are great musicians but have never stepped foot into a dance studio. Some are great dancers with no official vocal training. My job is to help strengthen their weaker talents and help them all shine on their own personal level of brightness,” adds Hall.

Hall, a YouTube star himself, tells Billboard that he can easily relate to the cast. “A lot of them have built their brands already in the entertainment world. I'm just trying to help orchestrate a fully cohesive group and lead them all in the same direction,” he says, jokingly referring to himself as being “a Mouseketeer shepherd.” 

Last month the new class of Mouseketeers premiered the music video for their first original song, “Something To Fight For,” which they co-wrote in a conference room by “filling up all the white boards with themes and ideas and storylines,” says Club Mickey Mouse star, Leanne Tessa, 17. Hall helped the cast create music "by reminding us that we need to feel what we want the audience to feel,” says Mousketeer Big Will Simmons, 17.

"Something to Fight For" and "Generation M" are two of four original tunes that will come from the show. There is also the new theme song, which is "a mix of new and old,” Srdanov explains of the recently reworked “Mickey Mouse Club March.” “Because Club Mickey Mouse is such a unique reimagining of the original show, we felt it was important to bring a fresh perspective to the track,” the show’s EP says, noting that the reworked theme gives “every Mouseketeer a moment to shine.” But in order to play homage to the old school MMC and the Mousketeers before, many of the theme song’s traditional lyrics were purposely kept in place. 

Cast member Ky Baldwin, 16, says they “were given backing tracks to write, to which is a different approach for me, as I normally write alone.” 

Simmons tells Billboard that every song starts with a concept that the producers want to convey, and builds from there. “Then we begin thinking about things like, how we feel about the concept, what would connect with our audience, and of course, how to represent it in the best Disney way,” he explains.

“Being the rapper in the group, my process is a little different,” says 18-year-old hip-hop and spoken word artist, Regan Aliyah. “I start out by just vibing out to the tracks and freestyling. I write down any key lines I said and build off of those. I keep repeating everything, then slowly add on, line by line, word by word. Once I come up with a full rap, I connect it with the rest of the song to create some magic,” she says, adding that they are allowed to edit any instrumentals if we want to add a beat or effect.

Whether it’s becoming the next Timberlake, which 16-year-old Gabe De Guzman jokes that he “for sure is,” or wanting the world to see them as an honest and emotion-filled artist, like Brianna Mazzola, 17, the new Mouseketeers have big musical dreams, and Hall thinks the stars of Club Mickey Mouse should have no problem living up to all the hype: “I can’t wait to continue helping them grow into the superstars I know that they are all destined to be.”

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