“Nothing More” Wins Gold for Fairfield Alumni during NBC Winter Olympic Broadcast
The nearly 32 million viewers tuned into NBC-TV’s coverage of the XXII Olympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony from Sochi, Russia, last Friday night, heard the music of Fairfield University alumni Tim Warren ’03 and Eric Donnelly ’01 (pictured, left-right) being played at the highlight of the evening broadcast. The two musicians, who co-founded the critically-acclaimed indie-folk-rock band The Alternate Routes, had their new song, “Nothing More,” featured during NBC's coverage of the lighting of the Olympic Torch. And the Routes, who perform both as a duo and as a full band that includes Fairfield alumnus Kurt Leon ’07 on drums, are finding their careers in skyrocket mode. Tim and Eric tour the U.S. and Canada with another indie star, Ingrid Michaelson, in the spring. And “Nothing More,” written to help support the organization Newtown Kindness, was featured in its entirety in last December’s holiday episode of the popular CBS television series NCIS. The Alternate Routes, with Tim, Eric, Kurt, and Mike Sembos on bass, were on the road last weekend performing in Philadelphia when the NBC Winter Olympic Winter Games’ broadcast took place. Tim and Eric shared their thoughts on that experience – and their Fairfield University roots - in a recent e-mail interview conducted while the two were in Los Angeles, preparing for yet another live performance.
Was there any advance notice from NBC that your song was going to be used on the Olympics opening ceremony broadcast?
TIM: We had signed the necessary paperwork granting NBC the rights to use the song, but we didn't know when, how, or even if they might use the song. The days leading up to the games, I caught myself thinking about the possibilities even more than I thought I would. Our two contacts at NBC were great to work with, and I give them a lot of credit for finding the song and taking such a cool leap with it.
ERIC: It was pretty surreal. We knew that NBC had asked for permission to use the song, but they couldn't tell us any specifics due to the fact that the Olympics is something that is covered in real time. And with the time change in Sochi, it wouldn't be likely they could give us a heads up if there were going to use it. So we said ‘yes’ and crossed our fingers.
When did you become aware that your song was part of the broadcast?
ERIC: The night it aired, we were playing a show at a club in Philadelphia. We got off stage and headed over to the ‘merch’ table when our phones started to go crazy. That is a night I won't forget.
TIM: I forget now who told me first, but I just remembered hearing over my shoulder that NBC had used the song as part of the opening ceremonies somehow. My immediate reaction was to get through the selling-part of the night and check the clip out as soon as I could. We were out with the full band, which really increased the excitement. It was a milestone for everybody, and as word circulated around the club, and people were able to see the clip, it became a night I’ll never forget, either.
How did you two feel after realizing what had just happened?
ERIC: I was excited. I was even more excited when I saw the footage. They did a great job. The footage is beautiful. It's the lighting of the torch! And the impact has been great. There are lots of different kinds of exposure these days, and you never know exactly how something is going to resonate with people. The thing I have most noticed from the Olympics placement is how strongly people who know us and the fans who have been supporting us reacted. It was pretty amazing. It was like we all had done something special. And I suppose we have. I think the fact that everyone found out at the same time enhanced that feeling even more.
TIM: The days after the spot aired were unprecedented for me. The biggest change I noticed in myself was that I felt like we had achieved something special, and it really gave me confidence back that’s easy to lose in the day-to-day work of trying to present your music to people for a living. For that reason, I'm grateful to all the people who have reacted to the song and shared it with others. As a songwriter, you're always trying to connect with people. The fact that certain people thought enough of our work to feature it in that way is encouraging in ways I'm still discovering. And I got a glimpse into how many folks are pulling for us out there, and for that I'm also really grateful.
The song was developed to help support Newtown Kindness. Can you explain how that connection came about?
ERIC: Over the summer, we were approached by Newtown Kindness, an organization founded in the memory of Charlotte Bacon, one of the young girls who lost her life in the Sandy Hook tragedy. The mission of the organization is to promote and recognize acts of kindness in children, an amazing sentiment considering what they had been through. We were honored to be asked, and wrote 'Nothing More.'
TIM: Newtown Kindness is a really special organization run by people in Newtown who have been through the unthinkable. The people I've met at the meetings have really changed me. We were asked to write a short piece for a web video they were making, and that concept became a complete song with lyrics, and the reaction ever since, for us has been unprecedented. This whole thing has felt like we were asked to tap into something that was bigger than ourselves. The message of the song has opened doors and reached people in the world and in the industry in ways that have amazed me. The power of certain ideas and words to affect people is the reason I started writing songs. Being a part of that organization and their endeavors has humbled and inspired me to no end.
ERIC: The thinking behind ‘Nothing More’ was to try and capture the simplicity and beauty of the message, and to get out of the way. From the beginning, it felt like we were a part of something bigger than ourselves. Having lost loved ones to violence, I think I understood a small glimpse into the incredible challenge it is to try and channel the positive out of something so negative. The mixed emotions of celebrating someone you love, while dealing with the unthinkable is something I keep in mind every time we play the song. It is an honor and a responsibility I do not take lightly. I was inspired to keep the song unapologetically joyful and simple, and to honor their message.
ERIC: Our final comment is just to say that we are grateful for all the support we have received from the Fairfield University community over the years. From the friends we made, teachers who we keep in touch with, and new people who we seem to come in contact with all of the time, Fairfield University is a huge part of our story. Tim, Kurt, and I are all alumni, and we recently started working with another Fairfield Alumnus, Erik Olesen ’88, who has been in the business for years and is now doing independent radio promotion, among many other things. I was even temping at the box office at the Quick Center for a few months this fall, while I was in town getting ‘Nothing More’ ready to release. I think the coolest part of having our song played during the Olympics opening ceremony is that it felt like a lot of people who stuck by us for a long time were just genuinely happy for us.