Newsflash: The President and CEO of Subaru of America is a hip-jop fan! Last spring, I got a call from the folks who produce special events and meetings for Subaru. They were having a big shindig in Las Vegas in June to cap off a week of dealer meetings. CEO Tom Doll had written a spirited lyric intending to pump up attendees at the after-party. He had a lot to say and thought rap would be a good way to get his message across. After all, most dealership owners and Subaru corporate personnel are middle age or younger. Classic rock just doesn’t cut it in 2019. Let’s face it even contemporary country offers dirt-road dope beats!
Naturally, Tom’s staff wanted to make sure this came off well, so we got a call. I’d write and produce the track, and Tom would rap his song “Are You Ready to Be A Star”.
Stars a have special significance at Subaru. In 1953, five Japanese car companies merged and adopted a “Subaru” cluster of stars as their official logo. In the West, the cluster is known by the Greek name Pleiades; in China it’s known as Mao; and in Japan it is called Subaru, meaning “to gather together.” Subaru was the first automobile brand to use a Japanese word as its name.
So, what should this track be? How “street” could you make a top auto industry exec sound? How far can we push him? It turns out, pretty far! I sent him song samples to get an idea of what he liked. Big surprise… drum roll… it’s Jay Z! Surprised and delighted, I set out to build a Rick Ruben inspired, guitar driven, old-school track complete with power chords and turntable scratches. Tom was fearless. He let us go for it.
I made a demo for him to practice with. He told me he’d drive around, boom car bouncing, blasting the track while he rapped and sang along. (I wonder if he has sub woofers in his BRZ?)
I met up with Tom and his team at Threshold Studio near the Javits Center in Manhattan during the NY Auto Show. Tom was available to us for about an hour. Time was tight but Tom was relaxed. I got the impression that this was the best part of his day.
We jumped into the recording room. Tom got on the mic sharply dressed in a suit and tie. (Remember, he was between meetings at the Auto Show!) I stood nearby to coach and conduct. We did two or three passes and a few fixes and that was that. But, he did not want to leave. Turning to his assistant he said: “Let’s do one of these things every year. This is fun!”
The final touch was adding a top-line vocal hook sung by the great LaJuan Carter. Here’s a taste!
The event was held at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. I was on tour with the Bacon Brothers that week so I hired my good friend and colleague John Menniti to music direct and Chondell LeLand to sing the hook. I try to work with John, his musicians and singers whenever I’m in Vegas, so I had every confidence that Tom and the production team was in good hands.
Japanese companies start the work day with ceremonial hand clapping and shouts called tejime. It’s a sequence of 3-3-7 claps. So, Tom hit the stage as MC 3-3-7, complete with DJ and backup dancers while wearing shades, cargo shorts and a Subaru bucket cap. Tom is not shy!
I wish I could have been there. By all reports it was a great night.
Extra special thanks to Mr. Tom Doll for his fearless confidence, open heart and joie de vivre. To Tom’s staff at Subaru and Bruce Humes and his production crew at Tall Tree Productions, thanks for inviting us along. Like Tom said, let’s do one of these things every year!