Kirk Franklin accepts the GRAMMY for Best Gospel Performance/Song for "Wanna Be Happy?" at the 58th GRAMMY Awards on Feb. 15
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The Making Of Kirk Franklin's "Wanna Be Happy?"
(The Making Of GRAMMY-Winning Recordings series presents firsthand accounts of the creative process behind some of music's biggest recordings. The series' current installments present insight and details about recordings that won 58th GRAMMY Awards.)
(As told to Lisa Zhito)
I can tell when it's time for me to work on an album because it's almost like I feel myself pregnant with music and ideas. That's kind of how "Wanna Be Happy?" came to the table for me.
I had this idea for the first line of the song for a couple of years, but I didn't take it any further, so it stayed there. When it was time to work on this new album, [Losing My Religion], that's when I moved forward with the rest of the idea. It's like being ready to work on another project makes the juices flow so that you are in the space where you can feel what a verse should be, feel how long it should be, feel what the hook should be. It's like God is giving you what you need at that time.
What's so funny is that the melody was so natural, it wasn't until a few days later that somebody on my team told me that it was an Al Green vibe. Normally when I do a sample, I'm aware of the fact that I want to use a sample. So the line "If you're tired of being the same, if you're tired of things not changing" felt so natural to go there with the melody that I wasn't even aware that I went there! I never did get a chance to reach out to him to tell him I was sampling "Tired Of Being Alone."
"Wanna Be Happy" was recorded last April at the studio that I work out of in Dallas, Luminous Sound. It probably took three or four days. I always like to take a song and teach it to the singers and see how it feels without production first. If it feels good raw, it's going to feel good when the production gets on it. I like to play the song on the piano, teach the singers and let there be nothing in the room but me and them. If the spirit of the song fills up the room when it's just me and them, then I know we've accomplished something special.
I have a great team around me. [My co-producers] Shaun Martin and Max Stark are incredible at helping me execute my vision and making it really dope.
It was my idea to put the tuba on there. I've always liked that tuba. Keith Crouch used to do that a lot with old Brandy songs. He would use a lot of brass patches, and I've always loved that.
I also wanted that juke joint piano on the church breakdown. When you get to the part that goes, "When you say yeahhhh … yeahhhhh … yeahhhhh …," it's got that real juke joint piano vibe. And I wanted a lot of strings.
You never really know how people are going to respond to a song. You hope, but you never really know what's going to happen. So when people did respond to this song, I was so grateful and appreciative.
("Wanna Be Happy?" earned Kirk Franklin the GRAMMY for Best Gospel Performance/Song at the 58th GRAMMY Awards. The song is featured on 2015's Losing My Religion, which peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard 200.)
(Lisa Zhito is a Nashville-based writer and teacher. Most recently, she wrote about the making of Chris Stapleton's GRAMMY-winning album Traveller for GRAMMY.com.)