“Eddie came up with the hook (title), and I thought that if we could write lyrics as brilliant as the title, then we could end up with a song that could get Tajci a spot on Eurovision, as well as a song to pitch to major artists. We wrote the song as a relationship song between two people going through some difficult times, trying to look for a window in the wall,” Tom said, characteristically taking the spotlight off of himself. Tajci didn’t get the spot, and the song found a spot in Tom’s extensive tape catalogue with roughly 1,000 other songs. He liked the song, but never pitched it too hard because he couldn’t place it with an artist looking for a “relationship” song.
The blood, sweat and tears Tom put into a song that didn’t sell are just “water” under the bridge as far as he’s concerned. In other words, he didn’t let it get him down. A Nashville resident for almost four decades, Tom has written countless songs, not giving up even when “sure things” didn’t work out.
“I have kept at my craft through the thick and thin. In 1989 I signed a staff writing deal with Reba McEntire’s publishing company, Starstruck Writer’s Group. The first major artist cut was with a group on Capitol Records called Mason Dixon. They had their CD completed, shrink wrapped, and ready to ship. Capitol then hired a new label head and he decided that the group would no longer be on the label, and so my first major cut never was released. Then, Kenny Rogers recorded a song of mine but it didn’t make the final cut to go on the CD. Artists usually record more songs than they need, and my first two cuts with major artists didn’t go through. It can get you down,” Tom said, adding that he is a positive guy and tries not to get too low or too high. Those two deals would have been big, but he’s recorded over 600 independent artists’ cuts.
Some of his high points include winning the grand prize in the 2000 John Lennon songwriting competition, writing Ducks Unlimited’s national theme song in 1988, and Alabama’s Jeff Cook and William Shatner recording three of his songs while Tom hung out with them for a week in a castle. He also wrote two songs with Rick Williams of Overland Express for the iconic Chattanooga band’s new album. “I grew up with Overland, and it’s been a thrill to write with Rick. He’s a talented and great guy,” Tom said.
Four years after shelving “Window in the Wall,” in May of 2020, Tom watched the riots on television, his heart breaking as he wondered “if the world had forgotten how to love, if we were blinded by the hate we let inside.” Words from “Window in the Wall” in his head, he immediately called his best friend and co-writer Eddie and convinced him they needed to rewrite the lyrics; two weeks later they were in the studio demoing the song. Even though they both realized they had something special, something that could make a difference in the world, Tom couldn’t find any takers.
His family and friends, including his cousin Cyndie Morris who lives in Bremen, Ga., listened to the demo back in June, and loved it. Undergoing breast cancer treatments, Cyndie happened to meet Olivia Newton-John at her clinic, and they became friends; Olivia was also battling the disease. Cyndie didn’t ask Tom if she could share the demo with the star; she just did it. And Olivia said it touched her heart and asked if she could record a duet.
“Are you mad at me?” Cyndie asked after telling her cousin someone named Olivia wanted to record the song.
“At that point, I didn’t care who recorded my song. This Olivia can put her dog on the recording, I didn’t care. So I texted Cyndie back and asked her what Olivia’s last name was so that I could issue her a mechanical license for using the song. I was at the gym that day working out and Cyndie replied, ‘I think she still goes by Newton-John.’ I almost dropped the weights on my foot,” Tom said.
The single and the video were released in January, with Olivia and her daughter, Chloe, singing the important words with passion. The video immediately hit No. 1 on the iTunes chart, and Olivia has been on “The Today Show,” “ET-Entertainment Tonight,” “The Talk,” as well as many more radio and TV shows.
Olivia told Tom this song brought her out of retirement. She believes that the world needs to hear the song’s message, and that the song can heal, bringing people together to listen and look at both sides.
“Needless to say, I’m very grateful and very excited about the possibility of this song making a difference,” Tom said, knowing,
“This isn’t who we are
It’s time for us to start…
Looking for a window in the wall
Maybe we can see the other side
And find we’re not so different after all.”
by Ferris Robinson