Daddy Daughter Heart
By Tonya Little
Watch out world, there’s a new little star popping onto the scene. Many people in the Red Dirt Scene are familiar with Chad Sullins, who hails from Stillwater and headed the band Chad Sullins and the Last Call Coalition for many years before going solo a couple of years ago. What you might not know is his young daughter, Presley, shares his desire to sing and write songs. Chad and Presley recently finished a special project, being released today, called Daddy Daughter Heart. Presley wrote the song Daddy Daughter Heart on January 30th 2016, right after her 7th birthday.
"Daddy was coming home from playing shows to spend the day with me and I decided that I wanted to write him a song. Whenever I started writing it just came out and I was writing as fast as I could because the words were flying out of my mind. I sang it for him as soon as he got there and then we took our guitars to the park and played it over and over and flew kites," explained Presley.
Presley actually wrote the song in about 20 minutes sitting on the bathroom floor on a teal rug. She sang it to her daddy, and then they played it together another five or six times that day.
“They went to the park and she told him she felt like it was supposed to have a John Prine vibe to it. I will never forget him laughing when she said that,” said Presley’s mother Aleisha.
Chad played a gig at the Sandites Bar in Tulsa on February 11, 2016, just shortly after Presley wrote her song. After his set Presley got to go on stage and present her dad with an award for Entertainer of the Year. Later that evening Chad and Presley debuted the song on the band bus for the friends and family that were present. It was a special night because it was the first time they sang it together for an audience.
But it didn’t just stop there. Presley wanted to record her song and release it to the world. So they came up with a plan. Presley started a GoFundMe account which launched on March 9, 2016, with a goal of $1500. It actually reached its goal in 7 days with 34 people making donations for her project, with her Nan and her Nanny being her top supporters. Presley and her parents were blown away by how supportive and giving everyone was in helping make Presley’s dream a reality. The next step was getting it recorded.
“She recorded her vocals that she used on her final cut in Nae Nae's dining room that we transformed into a recording studio for the day. Chad brought all of his recording equipment to Grove and we used my Macbook and garage band to record her vocals. It was where she was most comfortable and they ended up sounding the best. It was finally the way she wanted it, simple and without a bunch of other instruments and stuff mixed in,” explained Aleisha. “I’d also like to include a special thank you in there to Nae Nae and Brian for listening to her sing it a million times the day before, getting ready to record it!”
Something that stuck out as amusing to Presley that happened during the recording was when Chad unpacked all of his equipment, he realized he forgot a pop filter, an attachment for the microphone that helps to filter the sound. So he improvised and made one from a wire coat hanger, and Presley cut the bottom of a pair of her tights to wrap around it. It worked like a charm, and that memory now sticks out to the young musician. Once the song was completed and recorded Presley decided she needed a music video to go a long with it. They contacted photographer and videographer Tony Thompson for the job.
“When Aleisha contacted me about the project, I was excited and curious about what Presley, who I have known since she was a baby, had come up with. We agreed to have an initial planning meeting at Starbucks one afternoon for Presley to go over her vision for the video. With Aleisha sitting at a separate table, I sat across from Presley as she read from notes, written in crayon in a little notebook she had prepared for the meeting. It was adorable,” said Thompson. “She is a very smart, creative girl who knows what she wants. Aleisha is so good at fostering that creativity in Presley. I like the way she allows Presley to be her own person and allows her to be part of the whole process, so that she learns and grows from it.”
The video was recorded and edited over 3 days by Tony Thompson in Payne County, various locations including the Territorial Plaza in Perkins.
“Shooting the video was laid back and fun. Presley took direction well and was easy to work with. I did have some input that ultimately shaped the video in ways, but for the most part, we stuck to Presley's vision. My ideas just visually enhanced what she already had in mind,” said Thompson.
The finished product is nothing short of beautiful. The song is charming and sweet, and if it doesn’t melt your heart, I don’t think there is any hope for you. Presley's voice is high and clear, sweetly child-like as it should be at her age, which is the perfect contrast for Chad's deep and rough textured sound. The dialogue between Presley and Chad is ridiculously cute and is sure to put a smile on your face. The lyrics are simple and straightforward, but offer the depth of genuine emotions and authenticity.
Presley worked long and hard on this project, step by step, learning and growing and creating along the way. It’s something that will forever be a part of her and her parents, something they can treasure forever.
"I am proud to see her writing songs that are from the heart and about real things. Things that she feels and that she's saying because it means something you know, not just saying stuff to try to write a song that people would like or listen to. Everyone is sitting around name dropping and writing songs about beer, tailgates, and whatever else it is that supposedly makes people spend money on records and my 7 year old wrote a song about something that she feels and probably a lot of other kids do too. I would never choose this life for her on purpose. If it's in her blood then nothing will stop her from doing it. I hope that she grows up to be whatever she wants to be, and I hope that she ends up happy. That's all that matters," said Chad.
It was definitely a special project for a dad to get to work on with his daughter, especially one that she came up with but that fit right into the mold of his life.
"Chad and Presley's relationship is very unique. They have a very special bond and there is so much honesty and reality between them that most kids don't get from their parents. You see people that have a life around their friends and other adults and then you see a whole different character that they play with their children. They don't have that. He is who he is and she knows who that is. She knows that he smokes and drinks and that he had a heart attack and almost died from the chaos of the road life. She knows that he struggles with finding balance in things and she also knows that every day that she gets with him is better than the alternative of him dying that day. He has a soft spot that she fills and she gets a different part of him than anyone else in the whole world does. This song is special to me because they love each other unconditionally. I love seeing that,” said Aleisha.
Presley is proud of her song and the adventure it took to get to the finished product. She also worked hard at handwriting thank you notes to all of her backers for the project, sending them cards to download the song a week or so earlier than it would be released to the public.
"When I first wrote it and we played it, I thought, this is magical getting to sing this with my Dad. I want to record this and then it grew into a project and a video. It is something that I will always remember doing and something that I will always have. I think that it will be cool to play for my kids someday,” said Presley. "I don't know what I want to be when I grow up yet, but I know that no matter what it is I will always write. Maybe not always songs, but I will always write. It clears my head and it is the best way that I can express myself.”
You can check out the video right here, debuting for the first time. You can also go to Itunes and find the song ‘Daddy Daughter Heart’. You can also click on the title of this blog post and it will take you to Presley's Music Facebook page for more information.