In an episode of Smallville, Lana Lang said, “Life is about change, sometimes it’s painful, sometimes it’s beautiful, but most of the time it’s both.” Well after being part of Discover Wisconsin for so many years, deciding to change our theme song wasn’t something we took lightly. After making that difficult decision, we set out to find a Wisconsin-born artist to take that journey with us. Through many submissions (and even more great bands and artists) to choose from; we found that Milwaukee native, UW-Oshkosh alum, singer, songwriter, and outstanding individual Tony Memmel was the perfect fit.
Why did you decide to audition to write the next Discover Wisconsin theme song?
A friend of mine told me that Discover Wisconsin was going to be updating its theme song and was looking for an artist with strong ties to the state to write and record it. He sent me the application, and I got right to work on it. Having been born and raised in Wisconsin, I felt I knew the subject matter well and could do the project justice if given the opportunity, so I applied.
Now you wrote an entire song titled “The Good Land”, and part of that song is used for the show’s opening; what was the biggest challenge in this process?
There is a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into recording and releasing a song. The writing came together rather quickly, but solidifying the exact message and being at the center of branding a new era for the longest-running travel television show in the United States is a big job.
What is your favorite lyric in the song?
I like them all, but if I had to choose, I’d say it’s between, “The good land is great, tonight.” Or, “This is an anthem for those who don’t see rocks, but see the climbing walls. Who look for more and never say they’ve seen it all.”
Even though you recently moved to Nashville, why do you continue to call Wisconsin “home”?
Wisconsin was my first home. It’s where I grew up, where I learned my values, where much of my family still lives. The nature of my work as a professional touring musician demands that I spend most of my life on the road, so home has had to become a fluid concept.
I have friends in and ties to all 50 states, and many countries around the world. My wife, Lesleigh, plays in my band, and is my business partner and best friend, so home is where we are together. We are ambassadors of the grand old Badger State on a global scale.
Biggest thing you miss about not being in Wisconsin?
My family. Though, cheese is a close second.
Where did your connection to music come from and how did you learn to play guitar?
I’ve always loved music, but my true passion began to develop when I was 13 years old. My friend, Max, from school was a phenomenal guitarist. I loved to be around him, and to listen to him play. Eventually, I got the idea that I wanted to be able to play like him, and that we should start a band. After convincing my parents to split the cost of an electric guitar with me, I started saving my pennies, and eventually purchased my first guitar.
I was born missing my left forearm and hand, and taught myself to play by constructing a homemade cast out of duct tape that secured a guitar pick to the end of my arm so I could pick and strum the strings. It took eight years of trial and error before I finalized the cast design that I use now, and found the adhesive that makes my playing possible… Gorilla Tape.
You represent the Lucky Fin Project. Tell us about that organization.
The Lucky Fin Project (LFP) is a non-profit organization that exists to raise awareness, and celebrate children and individuals born with symbrachydactyly and other limb differences. It has been one of the great joys of my life to serve as an ambassador for the LFP.
My work as an LFP ambassador has taken me all over the country, and I’ve had the privilege to meet a great many families. It has been a keystone of my mission to emphasize A-bility over Dis-ability, and to show children (as well as adults) that all things are possible if you set your mind to them and don’t give up.
Tony Memmel’s accolades include: 2013 WAMI Award for Singer-Songwriter of the Year, 2014 VH1 and Republic Records “You Oughtta Know” Finalist, and 2013 CNN iReport Editor’s Pick. He also tours nationally and works with youth through adult groups to develop customized clinical programs that focus on overcoming adversity, vocational craftsmanship, artistic integrity, and entrepreneurial spirit. Learn more at www.TonyMemmel.com, and download The Good Land (Discover Wisconsin Theme Song) on iTunes. The Good Land was recorded at Blast House Studios in Madison, WI.
The Good Land
This is an anthem –
Yeah, it’s a chorus for the ones
Who don’t see rocks but see the climbing walls,
Who look for more
And never say they’ve seen it all,
Who raise their voices,
The ones who sing this song:
Windows down, let’s take a ride.
Blow my hair back, drive.
Heartland beating, It’s alive.
The Good Land’s great tonight.
A hymn unending –
An ode to interstates and roads,
And those who cannot live without them;
Whose hearts are pumping fuel,
And minds are engines revving.
Raise your voices!
Come on and sing this song: