Songwriter Tommy Sims addresses ‘The Voice’ song mixup

“The Last Tear” was originally recorded by Garth Brooks in 2007 as “Leave A Light On”

Earlier this week, we reported on the social media controversy surrounding The Voice contestant Kyla Jade’s choice of song for Originals Week.

Jade sang a song called “The Last Tear” for her finale performance on NBC’s singing competition show. Jade and the producer of the track believed the song to be a previously unreleased piece from songwriters Tommy Sims and Randy Goodrum. The only problem? It had been recorded before. And not just by anyone. It was released by America’s top-selling solo artist, Garth Brooks. Now, songwriter Tommy Sims is weighing in, explaining the history behind the song and how a miscommunication led to the claim of the song as “original” to Kyla Jade.

Brooks released the song as “Leave A Light On” in 2007. It was one of four new tracks on the multi-disc diamond-selling The Ultimate Hits collection. Brooks has gone on record as explaining his love for the song as a message to his fans, asking them to “leave the light on” for him while he retired to raise his children.

In an exclusive statement to TMU, Tommy Sims explains that the song had been a part of Universal Music’s catalogue of songs for more than ten years before Brooks’ recording. (NBC is part of NBCUniversal, so the network had easy access to clearances.)

“Kyla’s exact version of the song has existed in Universal Music’s publishing database for nearly 10 years prior to the Garth Brooks release,” explains Sims. “Garth is the one who changed the arrangement, lyric and title from its original state when he recorded it some 10 years after my original demo version was recorded.”

Sims also went on to explain that the theme of finale week — original, unreleased songs — was not communicated to him by The Voice producers at any time during the rushed process to get the song prepped for live television and an iTunes release.

“I received a call at roughly 4 o’clock on the Thursday afternoon before Monday’s first finale show […] The only discussion from that point on involved timing and logistics because it had to be recorded soup to nuts, mixed, mastered and delivered to the show by 5 clock Saturday afternoon to be ready for Monday night’s performance and iTunes release,” Sims says of the timeline.

“At no time was I made aware that the criteria for this particular song was that it [had to have not been] recorded before. James [Waddell, producer of the track] and Kyla never felt the need to make me aware of this because they genuinely weren’t aware of a previous Garth Brooks version.”

Sims also claims that producers for The Voice have yet to issue him a contract outlining any guidelines for song requirements. In response to his statement, TMU sent follow-up questions regarding any rectifying actions The Voice may be taking to clarify the song’s history. Producers for The Voice have not responded to those questions, and Mr. Sims did not address them directly in our amicable back-and-forth.

While Jade’s stunning performance landed her in a respectable third place during this cycle of the show, Mr. Sims made it clear that she is a victim of this communication error. If all other contestants sang unreleased material during the finale week, Jade accidentally choosing a song previously recorded by Brooks — and producers letting it go to air as an original — may have hurt her chances at taking the top prize.

Clarifying, TMU has never believed there was any intentionality by any party in allowing “The Last Tear” to go to air mistakenly labeled as a completely original tune. In our original reporting, we were unable to ascertain the origins of the song, which Mr. Sims clarified was first written and demoed as  “The Last Tear” in the late 90’s, before Brooks recorded it and renamed it “Leave a Light On” for his album in 2007. We simply reported on what was presented on the broadcast and the social media reaction. You can read Tommy Sim’s statement in full below.

Dear Matt,

This is Tommy Sims, the co-writer of Kyla Jade’s “The Last Tear”.

While I appreciate your interest in shedding some journalistic light on our good friend and amazingly talented vocalist, Kyla, my co-writer and Hall-of-Famer Randy Goodrum, my engineer/co-producer James Waddell and myself, I thought I would write you in the hopes that you’d appreciate a bit more fact in your assessment of how the song came to be billed and performed as Kyla’s “original song” for the TV show, The Voice.

Where your original article piece goes awry is in stating or alluding that Kyla, myself and the co-writer took the Garth Brooks version and purposely changed the lyric, arrangement and title in order to sell it to the Voice producers and the public as an original song… when in fact, if you’d simply done a bit more research you would have discovered that Kyla’s exact version of the song has existed in Universal music’s publishing database for nearly 10 years prior to the Garth Brooks release and that in fact Garth is the one who changed the arrangement, lyric and title from its original state when he recorded it some 10 years after my original demo version was recorded. As is his habit, Garth has done this before with another song of mine originally called “The Wind” when he changed the arrangement and re-titled the song as “Drifting Away”. Garth Brooks is the only singer in my 30 + year career as a songwriter that I’ve ever allowed to do that.

The version Kyla sings is identical to the letter, lyric and arrangement of my original demo version. The only thing I changed is the key so that it was more suited for a female voice as I had [sung] the original demo, obviously in a male’s key. That original demo is the version Kyla and my engineer-co-producer heard. They were both completely unaware that the Garth version existed as it was one of several new songs on a compilation project and was never released as a single.

For my part, I haven’t owned a television for nearly 10 years and I have never seen the actual television broadcast of The Voice show before. I’d only ever seen clips of the show that my engineer began showing me on youtube earlier this season of Kyla and some of the other performers singing other songs of mine in the show that had been previously recorded before.

I received a call at roughly 4 o’clock on the Thursday afternoon before Monday’s first finale show while on a 3-week retreat in Arizona, that one of the singers on the show, i.e. Kyla Jade, wanted to perform one of my songs during the show’s finale, and the show producers wanted to know if I’d be interested in producing the song or simply let the show’s musical producer deal with it. Because my engineer and I have worked with Kyla prior to the show I thought it would be nice to work with her directly on the song.

The only discussion from that point on involved timing and logistics because it had to be recorded soup to nuts, mixed, mastered and delivered to the show by 5 o’clock Saturday afternoon to be ready for Monday night’s performance and iTunes release. At no time was I made aware that the criteria for this particular song was that it never have been recorded before. James and Kyla never felt the need to make me aware of this because they genuinely weren’t aware of a previous Garth Brooks version. All I ever knew about the TV show and other ones like it is that the contestants sing covers of previously recorded songs every week. Because of the rush to get to LA, book the session and complete the song within 36 hours, I hadn’t received any paperwork that would have outlined criteria or terms for this song. In fact, I have yet to receive a standard producer’s contract that might have detailed [these] criteria.

And by the way, when a songwriter hears the term “original song’” the only thing we ever think about is a possible plagiarism suit. “Is someone going to claim that we didn’t really write this song or that we borrowed so extensively from another song that ours can’t rightfully be considered an original?” At no time did I think I’d be involved in answering to some diabolically orchestrated plot to try and pass off one of my songs as an original in order to get it into a TV show. I’m simply not that interested. In fact, a bit more research might have revealed the fact that I left the music business some 7 or 8 years ago. Virtually [ceasing] all activity and involvement after 25 straight years of writing and producing with the exception of completing a pair of projects I’d begun with a couple of long-time clients and friends prior to taking my sabbatical. But I do understand the need in journalism to be first in breaking a story. I do get the importance of that. But it would be nice for Kyla’s fans to know the true facts here, albeit, not as sensational and not as much of a “headline, scoop” moment. No hard feelings my friend. I wish you all the best in your journalistic journey.

Cheers,
Tommy Sims

Author: Matt Bailey

Matt Bailey is podcast producer and writer located in the Northeast. Since 2013, Bailey has produced more than 160 episodes of his own online radio show, Talk For Two. In 2016 alone, he interviewed Kevin Bacon, Crystal Gayle, Bob Barker, and Gilbert Gottfried, among several other stars. As a Correspondent for The Music Universe, his focus is Broadway, country music and concert reviews.