Seldom does a spiritual theme have such a secular payoff, but that is the circumstance ASCAP and BMI celebrated Tuesday afternoon (March 3) with back-to-back parties in Nashville for the writers of Faith Hill's 2008 Christmas hit, "A Baby Changes Everything."
Photo Credit: Marilu White
The song's writers are Tim Nichols, a BMI member, and Craig Wiseman and his wife, the Rev. KK Wiseman, both ASCAP affiliates. ASCAP and BMI are performance rights organizations that collect royalties for songwriters.
Nichols and the Wisemans were sampling the lures of a casino in Tunica, Miss., Nichols told the ASCAP celebrants, when Mrs. Wiseman happened to mention the theme of one of her sermons: a baby changes everything.
For seasoned songwriters, hearing such a strong and obvious lyrical "hook" was like drawing a royal flush.
Last year, "A Baby Changes Everything" spent three weeks at No. 1 on Billboard's adult contemporary chart. Taken from Hill's first Christmas album, Joy to the World, it became her 13th No. 1 single.
But "A Baby Changes Everything" was far from being an overnight success, Craig Wiseman said. He noted that he and Nichols wrote the song a month after they had completed "Live Like You Were Dying," which would go on to become a No. 1 single in 2004 for Hill's husband, Tim McGraw, and subsequently won a Grammy for best country song.
The writers pitched "A Baby" to Hill in March of 2004. Originally, she planned to include it on her Fireflies album, which came out in 2005, but ultimately she decided to hold it, much to Nichols and Wiseman's chagrin.
For the next two years, she and McGraw were busy touring, which meant the song still lay unheard.
The writers agreed it was worth the wait. "It was an amazing journey," said Wiseman. "There's always a lot of hope."
ASCAP's John Briggs presented each of the Wisemans a guitar, just as BMI later would do for Nichols.
Rev. Wiseman was modest about her part in creating the hit. "If you spew enough words out at Grammy-winning songwriters," she said, "you, too, can be a No. 1 songwriter."
Expressing her gratitude to the songwriters, Hill said, "I really understand what you give up by allowing a song to be held that long. ... Never have I recorded a song that's received so many comments from so many people. ... Songs do change people's lives, and I believe this song is capable of that."
When Nichols spoke about conceiving the song in a casino, Rev. Wiseman hastily interjected that they were there "looking for sinners."
"Merry Christmas and welcome to BMI," said Jody Williams to the revelers who crossed the street from ASCAP to attend the second party. "It was a Christmas single, but it's still cold outside. So we'll pretend there's four shopping days 'til Christmas."
Williams is BMI's vice president of writer-publisher relations and the regular host of its No. 1 fests.
Declaring that Nichols is "simply one of the best [songwriters] ever," Williams pointed out that he has won 17 BMI awards for his compositions.
Williams was similarly effusive about Hill's niche as a country artist with crossover appeal. "[She's] redefined the entire landscape of music," he said. "When Faith sings, we listen."
Hill repeated her appreciation for the song, which was the only new one she included in her album of holiday classics. "It's one of the most rewarding and wide-ranging songs I've ever recorded," she asserted.
After making her remarks, Hill offered her microphone to Dann Huff, who co-produced the song with her and Byron Gallimore. When Huff shook his head, indicating he had nothing to add, Hill quipped, "He feels everything that I'm saying."
Rev. Wiseman said she couldn't find a "better preacher" for her sermons than Faith Hill.
"It's been a wonderful life," said Nichols. "Not that it's over."
View photos from the No. 1 parties.