Two days before Phillip Phillips sang "Home" on the "American Idol" 11th-season finale, one of the song's writers had heard some rumblings, but he still wasn't sure his work would get massive exposure.
"I didn't believe it would happen," says Greg Holden, who co-wrote the song with a virtual stranger, Drew Pearson. "As soon as Ryan Seacrest said, 'And now performing the song, "Home,"' I said, 'Holy shit,' and cracked open a beer. Phillip did such a great job bringing the song to life."
Fans of Phillips and "Idol" responded by making "Home" the second-biggest seller of any "Idol" coronation song. That version of "Home" sold 278,000 copies in its first week, second only to Ruben Studdard's "Flying Without Wings," which moved 286,000 copies in its first full week - all of them physical sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan. (David Cook's "The Time of My Life" is the biggest seller overall, moving 1.5 million downloads and peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.) During its second week, "Home" sold 102,000 copies, bringing its total to 380,000.
More than formats have changed since Studdard won the second season of "Idol," particularly in the area of coronation songs. Studdard's cover, for example, was his version of a British and Irish chart-topper by U.K. boy band Westlife; Fantasia Barrino's "I Believe" was a number co-written by former "Idol" contestant Tamyra Gray and sung by several finalists; Cook's "The Time of My Life" was the winner of the show's own songwriting competition; and Scotty McCreery's rendition of "I Love You This Big" came from a well-respected team of R&B producer Lil' Ronnie, pop singer/songwriter Esther Dean and country singer/songwriter Brett James.
Pearson is an engineer and writer who co-wrote Zac Brown's track ("Where the River Goes") in the 2011 film remake of "Footloose." His unlikely partner, Holden, is a British singer/songwriter based in Brooklyn whose previous success came from a hit charity single called "The Lost Boy" that scored the No. 2 spot in the Netherlands. The combo's huge success with "Home" suggests a new chapter in "Idol" coronation song history - suddenly, the opportunity to write an "Idol" smash is now being offered to relatively unknown songwriters published by independent companies.
Holden (inked to Razor & Tie Music Publishing) and Pearson (published by Check Your Pulse, administered by Downtown) were brought together for a single songwriting session six months ago after Peter Lloyd, the A&R executive who set up Razor & Tie's Los Angeles operation, moved over to Pulse and proposed pairing the two tunesmiths.
The duo's lone composition was "Home," which primary lyricist Holden says was written in three hours one day and recorded as a demo later in the afternoon. Exactly where "Home" might land was anyone's guess - it only wound up as part of Holden's own live shows in Europe this spring because it provided an uptempo contrast to the abundance of slower ballad material from his two solo albums.
While Holden was performing "Home" throughout Europe - and charting with "The Lost Boy" in Holland - Kat Kim at Pulse was plugging the upbeat song for other placements. Somehow it was heard by Interscope Geffen A&M chairman and "Idol" in-house "mentor" Jimmy Iovine, who took an instant liking to the track. As a result, Phillips selected the song for his final performance.
While Phillips will undoubtably be singing "Home" on the American Idols Live! tour this summer, Holden is returning to Los Angeles in July for more co-writing sessions. He has also received offers to work in Nashville this fall, according to Razor & Tie Music Publishing VP Sharon Tapper, who signed Holden shortly after she joined the company last year.
Holden does have his limitations, however. No matter how much he is begged, he absolutely refuses to release his own recording of "Home" anytime soon. "I'm still going to keep playing it in my shows," says Holden, who also performs the song in several YouTube videos.
Right now, however, he's content to let Phillips have the spotlight, at least for that particular tune. "I don't want to step on anybody's toes," Holden says. "I've got plenty of other songs to push." ••••