After watching a screening of Breakthrough, 20th Century Fox’s faith-based theatrical release that tells the true story of a young man who survived 45 minutes without a pulse after being submerged in an icy lake, UMG Nashville president Cindy Mabe was so touched by the subject matter that she wanted to support the film in any way that she could.
"I was so moved and inspired by the film and the storyline that I wanted to help give it a bigger voice and just be a part of the message of this film," Mabe tells Billboard. "I just kept thinking our artists would really bring inspiration and purpose through their music as an extension of this film. After I finished watching the film and wiping my eyes, I spoke with Fox and [the film’s producer] Devon Franklin to see if they would be into the idea of a soundtrack, and they loved the idea."
The Breakthrough soundtrack, out Friday (April 5) on Mercury Nashville, features a number of country music superstars recording original material for the project, such as Carrie Underwood and Darius Rucker, but it is two of the lesser known acts, Mickey Guyton and Adam Hambrick, that have received a great deal of the buzz for the album. Much in the same way UMG's Mabe was touched by the film, both Guyton and Hambrick were immediately struck with the inspiration to record their songs upon being approached. For Guyton, it involved her own medical emergency.
"Prior to writing my song ("Hold On", cowritten with Karen Kosowski and Victoria Banks), I had ingested some chips that caused a full-on allergic reaction," Guyton explained to Billboard prior to a Nashville screening of the film, which opens wide April 17. "I had to have an EpiPen, an ambulance came, and I was deathly ill. I have never been allergic to anything in my life. Even after the allergic reaction was treated, I was still sick for an entire day.” Despite her doubts that she and her co-writers would come up with anything useable given how bad she felt, they wrote the song in 30 minutes. “That allergic reaction was just like a godsend, which is crazy because the song is for a faith-based film,” she says. “It just feels like God has played a part in it."
For Hambrick, his participation involved a last-second trip to a random guitar store while on a radio tour to finish his contribution, "Looking Out for Me.”
"The deadline was coming up to submit the song and if I wanted to be a part of the soundtrack. I was running out of time,” Hambrick says. “I was in Minneapolis in the middle of a snowstorm, and I Ubered to a really cool little guitar shop, picked up an old Gibson in there, and I went [into] one of their amp rooms and I didn’t come out until I finished the song. It came out super fast too, because I finished the song that afternoon. Two days later, I recorded it with my producer Andrew DeRoberts, and then another three days later it was mixed and mastered.”
Those behind the film hope their soundtrack can follow in the path of other recent releases that successfully teamed country artists with faith-based material, such as 2017's The Shack, which featured a new duet from Tim McGraw and Faith Hill among its offerings. That album earned 180,000 equivalent album units, 58,000 of which came in album sales.
Franklin has understood the importance of a film's soundtrack since he first began working in Los Angeles.
"I got my start in Hollywood as an intern for Will Smith, [who] was a triple threat—even before he began the transition from television star into film, it all started with his being a music star. The music is everything, and we knew that from day one that we began thinking about the film. Music was a very integral part throughout the development of the spirit of the movie."
Franklin even took a cue from those early days with Smith, in realizing that a film's star being featured on a soundtrack can lead to both gaining more exposure. Once he discovered that Breakthrough's star Chrissy Metz (NBC's This is Us) was a strong vocalist herself, he jumped at the chance to incorporate her on the soundtrack.
"I went to her during production and said, ‘If we can pull this off, would you be interested in singing a song for the soundtrack?’ She said, ‘Oh my goodness, it will be a dream come true.’”
Metz's song, the Diane Warren-penned ”I’m Standing With You,” opens the album. Metz was trying her hand at songwriting and performing at the moment that her big break on This is Us came around, so she is viewing this opportunity as a chance to revisit that experience and expand upon it.
"I enjoyed recording the song so I started to think that maybe I could make a little time to do more," Metz tells Billboard. "I've actually been to Nashville and a couple songwriters came out a couple weeks ago to LA, and I think we have about six songs that we've written. I think I'll probably start with a five- or six- song EP, maybe perform in some intimate settings where it doesn't matter if one person or a hundred people show up."
"It's just something I've always wanted to do, so this has sort of reignited the flame for me,” she says. “And I'm just going to do it.”
Breakthrough [Music From & Inspired By The Motion Picture] Track Listing:
“I’m Standing With You” – Chrissy Metz
“Hold On” – Mickey Guyton
“Love Wins” – Carrie Underwood
“Breathe Again” – Lauren Alaina
“Big Old Shoulders” – Darius Rucker
“Colorful” – Jukebox the Ghost
“Play it Again” – Pigeon John
“Looking Out For Me” – Adam Hambrick
“People Need People” – Maddie & Tae
“This is Amazing Grace” – Phil Wickham feat. Lecrae
“Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” – Taylor Mosby feat. Kirk Franklin