Shannon Sanders acknowledges that some of the country’s current political turmoil may have helped inspire “Fight On,” his first single with his Nashville Urban Choir, whose video is premiering exclusively below. But the singer, songwriter and producer says the hip-hop/gospel-blending track became more of a “musical chicken soup” to encourage him and his colleagues in their creative pursuits.
“I think at some point I must have needed that,” Sanders tells Billboard. “I think it probably started as the business started to change and all of us had to make choices about whether or not we would stay in it or find something else. A lot of people went to other industries or tried to do other things — the running joke in Nashville is there were more musicians working at Home Depot than any other city in the world.”
The song, Sanders continues, is “about the decision to persist, to fight on — like, ‘The game is changing, we don’t know how it’s gonna shake out or what it’s gonna turn into. This is what I do, and I’m not going anywhere.’ It was time for the song to not just be my musical journal and home remedy but something to offer to the masses to heal whatever may be ailing them and offer motivation in this musical form to them.”
“Fight On” is Sanders’ first single recorded with the NUC, a collective of Music City singers he put together as an on-call unit for sessions. Producer Dave Cobb is a fan, and the choir has appeared on albums by Robert Randolph, Rival Sons and Kaleo. It was also spotlighted in a 2018 CMA Awards performance with Chris and Morgane Stapleton, Mavis Staples, Maren Morris and Marty Stuart. “It’s just people I know,” Sanders says, “and a lot of them wind up being some of the dopest voices in the city. I just branded it the Nashville Urban Choir, and that way it has some added cache, and the phone continues to ring.”
“Fight On” is also the first product from Sanders’ new deal with Blue Rose Music, for whom he plans to release a selection of songs this year — sung by both himself and other artists. “This is really a producer initiative, not about me as an artist,” says Sanders, who’s also working on India.Arie’s new album. “I happen to sing and ‘Fight On’ happens to be me singing, but the (Blue Rose) deal is more like me as a Calvin Harris or David Guetta, doing their own records as producers but featuring other artists. It won’t always be me singing; You’re gonna hear from some people in the choir and people from around the country.
“There’s so much untapped talent — hip-hop, pop, whatever — that I’m excited to be able to expose now and give a shot. And there are things that have lived on my hard drive, like ‘Fight On,’ that’ll now have an opportunity to see the light of day. I’m really looking forward to all that.”