How 'The Walking Dead' Found Its Cheerful Torture Tune 'Easy Street' -- And Scored a Chart Hit

Gene Page/AMC
Norman Reedus and Austin Amelio on The Walking Dead.

The song, featuring Jim Bianco & Petra Haden, debuted on Billboard’s charts the week after the episode aired.

Anyone who has watched The Walking Dead, AMC’s hit show about a group of people struggling to survive in a world overrun by zombies (or walkers, as they're called on the show), will tell you that between undead fights and gruesome deaths, the show doesn’t have many lighthearted moments.

So you can imagine the surprise of Jim Bianco -- the writer and producer behind the happy-go-lucky track “Easy Street” -- when he received word that his song was chosen for the Nov. 6 episode “The Cell.”

Bianco says Walking Dead producers were accepting song submissions from various music licensing companies for an episode where the song would be played up to seven times. “Easy Street” was sent over as an option. “They were looking for super upbeat, positive, fun songs to juxtapose the torture scene that goes on,” Bianco said.

Though the song was created about a year ago, Bianco says show producers chose his song two weeks before the Nov. 6 episode aired. “I was exhilarated when I got the email,” Bianco told Billboard. “I had just uploaded the song to iTunes three days earlier. It was that new,” he said. The song didn’t have much of a life before the episode -- Bianco and vocalist Petra Haden were planning to include it on the upcoming EP for their band, Collapsable Hearts Club.

In “The Cell,” Norman Reedus’ character Daryl is imprisoned and tortured while Bianco’s “Easy Street” plays on a loop. The juxtaposition of “Easy Street” and the seriousness of the scene added a layer of humor to the somber episode, which helped the song go viral, leading to countless parodies and memes inspired by the song. Bianco was floored. “I woke up the next morning [after the episode aired], and my computer just exploded,” Bianco said. “There was so much stuff that was beyond the scope of anything I’ve experienced before.”

The song, which plays about seven times throughout the episode, entered Billboard’s Pop Digital Song Sales chart at No. 21 and the Digital Songs ranking at No. 50 (both dated Nov. 26) with 13,000 downloads sold in the week ending Nov. 17, according to Nielsen Music. It sold another 8,000 the following week.

The song also landed at No. 4 on Spotify’s weekly Viral 50 chart dated Dec. 3. Additionally, the song brought in 607,000 U.S. streams in the two tracking weeks since its debut on Nov. 10.

Bianco has been making music independently for about 15 years, releasing three solo albums before collaborating with Haden in the Collapsable Hearts Club. But Bianco says the popularity of the song was unlike anything he could’ve imagined. “Usually when you have success, you have something to do with it, but for a song of this magnitude on a show like The Walking Dead, it’s out my control. It’s bigger than me at this point,” Bianco said.

Bianco says he and Haden are working on an upcoming EP for the Collapsable Hearts Club, which he hopes to release in 2017. He added that the success of “Easy Street” has helped give the band national attention, and they’re jumping at the opportunity.

“It’s amazing how it’s taken on this crazy life of its own,” Bianco said. “I couldn’t be happier about it. I’m just watching and laughing along.”