We've only recently begun dusting off the Best Original Song contenders section and filling it out with prospective players in the upcoming Oscar race (though the ranking is arbitrary for the moment). You can bet the wonderful “Lost Stars” from “Begin Again” will be a force, and I imagine Stephen Sondheim's original offerings for “Into the Woods” will be in play, too. But another song that deserves to be in the thick of it is “Land Ho!,” Keegan DeWitt's title track from Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz's Sundance sensation.
Inspired by songs like Go West's “The King of Wishful Thinking,” Fine Young Cannibals' “She Drives Me Crazy” and Terence Trent D'Arby's “Wishing Well,” as well as films like “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” DeWitt set out to craft something that felt of another time. It's tongue-in-cheek, but it still gets at the heart of the movie, and it gave DeWitt a chance to have a lot of fun.
“One of the things we were drawn to about those films is they're kind of from this era where music supervisors would just essentially hire a single musician or two or three musicians to write pop songs especially for a movie, which I guess sort of happens now, but not as much,” DeWitt says. “I kind of liked the idea of approaching it as though I was Kenny Loggins and somebody was cutting me a check to write pop songs for a movie, like it was 1983 and I was on a beach somewhere trying to write a song for a Paramount film or something.”
However, DeWitt, who also performs with Nashville-based indie band Wild Cub, didn't really feel comfortable singing the song himself. Stephens and Katz brought up the fact that at the wrap party, the film's property manager, Ólöf Rún Benediktsdóttir, had a few drinks with the cast and crew and sang a couple of songs at a karaoke club and just blew everyone away with her voice. They figured, why not give her a crack at it?
“One of the other regularities of those 80s hit songs was just random female vocalists,” DeWitt says. “Like, whoever the producer may have been dating at the time ends up singing the song and you're like, 'Wait, who is this?' They have no other songs. Ólöf is based in Iceland, so I sent her a version of the song with some guide vocals on it and she cut all of her vocals and sent them to me, and I laid them in.”
The result is a delightful, poppy tune that goes hand in hand with the film's themes of seizing the day, no matter how late in life you may be. Says Stephens and Katz, “We asked Keegan to distill the spirit of the movie into one three minute pop song and that's exactly what he did.”
Have a listen to “Land Ho!” below. The film is currently playing in limited release.