May 5, 2016 9:00 am ET
“It kind of floored us.”
That was the reaction of Doug Williams – and his music partner/wife Telisha Williams– after first reading a songwriting submission from a 12-year-old girl named Mariah Moore.
The couple, who make up the country duo Wild Ponies, had been serving as mentors in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum‘s Words and Music program, which nurtures school-age songwriters, when they received Moore’s lyrics. The East Nashville-based musicians were so impressed with the adolescent’s work that Moore now holds a co-writer credit on the contemplative title track of Wild Ponies’ new album, “Radiant.”
The song premieres today on Speakeasy.
“[We were like,] ‘I don’t want to let this go,’” says Telisha Williams, who, along with Doug, spoke with Speakeasy by phone while they were heading back to Nashville after a show in Washington, D.C.
Although the Williamses wrote all of the music, as well as contributed a verse, Doug is insistent that the idea behind “Radiant” is “100 percent [Moore's].”
“The core of the song is the line ‘I want to know how to be so radiant,’” says Telisha. “That is hers as it was written by her.”
Doug also praises Moore’s imagery in the lyric “When the earth and sky align/A mountainside of fireflies/I don’t know why my feet are on the ground/Watching tiny lanterns fly.”
“I think [that line] is one of the best lines of maybe any song I’ve heard, ever,” he says. “It’s about looking at that mountainside and seeing the fireflies on that mountainside, and then blending into the stars above and just wondering where your space exists in there and how it’s all connected. That was her. The real brilliance of the song is definitely hers.”
But “Radiant” could have missed its moment in the sun if it hadn’t been for the diligence of the Country Music Hall of Fame, which assisted in getting the Williamses back in touch with Moore, now 15 and a resident of Shelbyville, Tenn. It took them about a year and a half after first getting Moore’s lyrics – “we did the program with her in May of 2014 and we didn’t really find her until the end of 2015,” says Telisha – to find their teen songwriter again.
“By the time we tracked her down, we were getting desperate because we already recorded the song,” says Doug. “We were like, ‘We don’t know if we’re going to be able to put the title track on the record,’ because, even though we legally could, I didn’t want to do it without her permission.”
The album “Radiant,” which is a follow-up to Wild Ponies’ 2013 LP “Things That Used to Shine,” is out May 13 on No Evil Records.
Listen to the song “Radiant” below: