Celeste’s contribution to the Golden Globe-nominated song “Hear My Voice” started with WhatsApp messages recorded in her bathroom.
That’s just one of the revelations in a half-hour conversation with the U.K.’s latest singing sensation, her co-writer Daniel Pemberton and the legendary Sir Elton John, released today by “The Trial of the Chicago 7” distributor Netflix.
“Hear My Voice” concludes the Aaron Sorkin film about the controversial 1969 court case involving Tom Hayden (Eddie Redmayne), Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen) and other protestors caught up in the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
The song is up for a Golden Globe on Sunday night and been short-listed for the Oscar song category. She also performed the song on last night’s “Late Show With Stephen Colbert” and it’s on the deluxe version of her album “Not Your Muse,” which debuted at no. 1 on the U.K. charts Jan. 29.
Sir Elton praised “Hear My Voice” as “a wistful kind of song about ‘what do we do now, where do we go from here.’ It was so beautiful to hear something so poignant after seeing something that set your emotions on fire.”
Celeste said that she had been “sitting at home during lockdown” last April when Pemberton, composer of the score for “Chicago 7,” messaged her about a possible collaboration. “Daniel and I just started speaking over text, and a little bit over the phone.
“He had already come up with the lyric ‘hear my voice’… and when I heard that from Daniel, I had more of an idea about how this song should feel, something written in the spirit of protest, run parallel to the key themes of this movie. So I started recording melodies and writing down bits of lyrics at home. I literally recorded the first vocal in my bedroom and in my bathroom.”
Pemberton tells Variety that Sorkin’s first choice for an end-title song was the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” so he was “doing this slightly surreptitiously” in an effort to convince the writer-director that an original tune would be better (not to mention the likelihood that licensing a Beatles song would be prohibitively expensive).
“We were so locked down, people couldn’t even go to Celeste’s house to record, so the first [versions] were WhatsApp messages recorded in the bathroom, which weren’t of the high technical standards we needed,” he quips in the Netflix video.
“I found that something I could really relate to, find myself within this piece of music and within the story,” Celeste said, “was the feeling of frustration in seeing that injustice which you still see playing out in today’s society in many different ways. That’s how I found my way in, and connected to my own emotion within all of that.”
For Pemberton (pictured below with Celeste), “it was trying to encapsulate the film into a really simple idea. Why do people protest? Because they’re not being heard. Because no one’s listening to them, and they want to be heard.” Sorkin, he added, “wanted there to be a sense of hope and optimism that would actually empower people, rather than just feel we can’t beat the system.
“We were writing, going back and forth with it,” Pemberton said of the process with Celeste, “and by the time we finished it, the world around us had changed.”
“It started happening in front of us,” Celeste said. “We saw people take to the streets. This is probably the first time I’ve ever written a song so direct… that speaks about that subject in such a direct manner.”
Pemberton and Celeste recorded the conversation on Friday in Abbey Road after filming their “Late Show” segment. Pemberton’s new arrangement featured a 20-piece string section and was based on the finale of his score. The composer could be seen playing piano in the four-minute segment.