Singer-Songwriter, Musician, and Producer
Shadow: Regie Hamm
Job: Singer-Songwriter, Musician, and Producer
I made sure to record my time with Regie Hamm as he taught me how to be well versed in writing number one hits. He got his first publishing deal when he was 18 and from there went on to write 18 number one hits spanning from 1994 to 2001. It seemed every song he wrote turned into a gold record. With Grammy and Dove nominations, winning SESAC’s Songwriter of the Year award four times, and signing with Universal Records, Regie was living the dream. However, as the years rolled by Regie was exposed to a different viewpoint through hardship and struggles. Only when he surrendered everything he had was he was able to uncover the true meaning of life.
At the pinnacle of his success, about to go on tour with the Goo Goo Dolls, Regie and his wife traveled to China in 2003 to adopt a baby girl. He had just released a record of his own that was in the top 15 on the pop charts and was climbing to the number one spot. They were thrilled and enamored with the success of his song and with the thought of becoming parents for the first time. However, the life they had pictured began to unravel as the plane touched down in China.
“It’s all about relationships. You start from the bottom and come up together. Some of the people I waited tables with are now superstars. You don't discount anybody because you never know where they could end up.” ~ Regie Hamm
After a traumatic time in China, Regie got back to the United States only to find out the single they thought was a huge success had fallen off the charts. At the same time the little girl they adopted was extremely sick. After a 5-year journey they discovered their daughter, Isabella, had a severe genetic condition called Angelman Syndrome. The next several years were filled with devastating medical bills, a career in shambles, and an unknown future for his family. In the process Regie lost his career. He lost all his money. He lost his beautiful house. All the fame and fortune vanished just as quickly as it came. Although what he had left with was far more valuable than any material possession he ever had. He had the support of an amazing family, made up of a loving wife and two adopted Chinese children, and a deep faith in God. Once he got to that point of realizing that was all he needed is when he was able to write a song that that changed the whole trajectory of his life.
The turning point came during the most popular season of American Idol. Both Regie’s wife and daughter were hooked on the show. His daughter loved all the terrible auditions but became disinterested when the singers started doing well. Meanwhile, his wife stayed interested in the show and found out they were running an American Idol songwriting contest. The chosen song would be performed at the finale by the winner of American Idol. Along with the recognition, the songwriter would be flown out to see the performance of the winning song live at the American Idol Finale, receive a $10,000 stipend, and the song would become an iTunes single. At the time when his wife bought this idea to him, Regie was trying to get jobs doing jingles for a mere 500 dollars just to be able to feed his family of four.
About to give up, Regie decided to write one more song at the request of his wife for the American Idol contest. He wrote the song from his perspective of where he was in life at the time with lines like, “holding onto things that vanished into the air, left me in pieces,” talking about the idols in his life related to his career, money, and fame. He expressed his discovery in the words “all that I needed was there all along,” “as close as the beat of my heart.” All of the lines were referring to his faith and family. He wrote the song to remind himself to embrace every moment rather than trying to live in the past or the future. On the day of the deadline he turned in his song with the ten dollar entry fee.
Three days later he received a call saying his song had made the top twenty list. Even though it was exciting news he didn’t think much of it because he’d had more failures than wins in the last few years. Those 5 years of straight disappointment led him to believe this situation would not be any different. Then he got another call saying he had won the American Idol songwriting contest. Out of 42,000 entries his song had been chosen by the judges and by America through online voting!
Regie was flown out for the two-night finale during the peak year of American Idol when the David’s were going against each other: David Cook against David Archuleta. This was the most watched American idol episode in history which cut off right before Ryan Seacrest could announce the full name of the winner. As a result people were directed towards iTunes to find out who won the ‘American Idol’ title. At that time no one could fathom the gravity of iTunes with the American Idol mania attached it. People started buying the winning song as soon as they listened to it and in less than 8 hours, 80,000 downloads had been made. There were even videos coming out on YouTube of kids putting up covers of the song the same night the show had aired. A kid in Hawaii uploaded an ukalali version within an hour of the song being released because he had been listening to it non-stop since first hearing it. The single also had over 1,100 comments within twenty-four hours of its release (to put that into perspective most of the time when a new single drops there is maybe one hundred to two hundred comments).
There was so much traffic directed on the “Time of My Life” that it caused the server to crash. In all of iTunes history, Regie’s song has been the only one to crash Apple’s server. When Apple finally fixed the problem after 24 hours there had been 100,000 downloads of the song. It went straight to number 3, jumping the Madonna and Coldplay hits. They hadn’t planned on “This is the Time of my Life” to be the single but with all the action on iTunes they had to put it on the radio. “Time Of My Life,” went to number 1 on three different charts and stayed at number 1 on the AC chart for 16 weeks which at that time was the longest running pop song by a national song writer, ever. It earned Regie Song of the Year honors for 2009. The song was everywhere. It was used on the hottest shows and events that year such as Americas Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance, the NBA Finals bumper, and the Beijing Olympics.
The Beijing Olympics were the most meaningful because 5 years prior Regie and his wife were in Beijing adopting their daughter, and they had gotten hats that read, “2008 Beijing Olympic” after finding out the country had received the contract for the games. They made a pact with 4 other families who were also adopting children that they would all bring their girls back to their birthplace to watch the games in a few years. The hats would be a sweet memorabilia for them to come back. Although after Isabella was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome and their family lost everything it was no longer an option.
One night while Regie was working in his house studio his wife called him frantically from the living room. Normally that meant Isabella was having a seizure or some kind of fever spike so he rushed to her voice. Regie was surprised to find his wife standing in front of the TV. She didn't know what to say so she just played what she was watching for him. On the television was Yao Ming, who is from the same rural province in China as their daughter. He was closing out the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing by doing an interview of the recent earthquake disaster. The interviewer then tossed the closing remarks to Bob Costas who said, “From all of us here in Beijing, this is Bob Castos saying good night.” As soon as those words had been uttered the lyrics of “Time of my Life” began to play as a shot of hundreds of little Chinese girls, not much older than Isabella, flashed on the screen. “Time of My Life” went on to close the Olympic games seven times. Oprah Winfrey called it the “theme song of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.” Even though Regie’s family wasn’t able to be at the Olympics in person, they were there in spirit. That's the beautiful thing about songs, they can go places you can’t. They can be reimagined in ways you didn't even think about.
When all was said and done one single song put Regie in a better place than he was before losing everything. The money earned from the song allowed him to get out of debt to the hospitals and the IRS as well as donate to a cause for Angelman Syndrome. The ambition, drive, and talent he had thought would save him wasn’t what he needed. What he needed most was the love and truth he had only seen in obstacles he and his family had overcome.
Spending time with Regie was moving. The way he told his stories through music was even more impactful. It was exciting getting to sit in the same space were some of his greatest pieces of work were written. I got to watch the procession of ideas on a whiteboard that are moved to paper that is moved to an instrument. Regie Hamm hits a chord with all people. While in his recording studio, he showed me a little about music but taught me a lot about life that I hope to carry with me through obstacles. Regie’s story is one of surrender to a God who he thought had forgotten him.
Spending time with Regie was moving. The way he told his stories through music was even more impactful. It was exciting getting to sit in the same space were some of his greatest pieces of work were written. I got to watch the procession of ideas on a whiteboard that are moved to paper that is moved to an instrument. Regie Hamm hits a chord with all people. While in his recording studio, he showed me a little about music but taught me a lot about life that I hope to carry with me through obstacles. Regie’s story is one of surrender to a God who he thought had forgotten him. To find out more about Regie’s incredible story read his book Angels and Idols.
- Be completely present
- Don’t loose site of what truly matters in life
- When your wife asks you to do something you do it
- Surrender your worries and your life to the Lord
- Don’t take a moment for granted
Tips of the Trade:
“You create a career through relationships. Something happens to that person and maybe you get to ride along with them.” ~ Regie Hamm
“Young people put too much pressure on themselves to find the perfect job whereas their job may not even be created yet.” ~ Regie Hamm
“Writers hate to write; they just love having written. Writing is one of the most intimate of tasks. All your insecurities and limitations are up close and personal.” ~ Regie Hamm
“The first rule of songwriting; it’s all nothing until it’s something.” ~ Regie Hamm
“I’d been allowed to view the pinnacle of the entertainment mountain and see it for what it was: dust” ~ Regie Hamm
“You can’t see the circle while you’re making it, but it is happening in every random event and mundane movement. Our choices and chances are inextricably linked to a larger purpose whether we want to believe it or not.” ~ Regie Hamm
“Sometimes you have to lose everything to gain perspective.” ~ Regie Hamm
“Only through surrender to something higher and greater can you ever truly experience the grand mosaic that is in a constant state of immaculate design.” ~ Regie Hamm