By STAFF REPORTS
Chas Evans estimates that he has composed music for over 1,000 songs over the past decade. But he never composed music heard on the big screen. This is until now.
The East Central Community College music teacher sat with family and friends at a theater in Pearl, Mississippi on April 8 as the sound of his work played throughout the theater and his name appeared in the closing credits.
The first names to scroll under “Music” were Chris White and Chas Evans.
The film is High Expectations, and Evans wrote the music and melody for the theme song of the same name. White wrote the song’s lyrics and also wrote and produced the film.
The drama stars Kelsey Grammer, winner of the Emmy and Golden Globe of Fame for the sitcom Cheers and Frasier; singer-turned-actress Ally Brooke, best known as a member of the all-girl singing group Fifth Harmony in her acting debut; and Taylor Gray, who was the voice of Ezra Bridger in the Star Wars Rebels animated television series.
Touted as the best American football drama in decades, High Expectations only played in theaters one night, April 8, in order to be eligible for major film awards. It will soon be available again on major movie streaming platforms.
White is credited with bringing Evans’ music to the big screen. And it all happened by chance.
Evans has a website called musicformylyrics.com. When White went looking for someone to put music to his lyrics, he came across this website and, on a whim, sent the words to Evans.
“I write music for people literally all over the world who can’t or don’t write music,” says Evans, who resides in Conehatta with his family. “Through my website, people send me lyrics and I write the music, verses, chorus or whatever they need. I send them an idea and if they like it, we move on and let’s make a song out of it. I get about 300 visitors a week to my website.
“Chris happened to find my website and sent me his lyrics. I wrote the music and melody and sent it back. He not only liked it, he loved it. He jumped from His return email was in all caps!”
Evans has worked with clients from Australia to Uganda to the UK. Once he receives the lyrics, as well as the desired music genre, suggestions and ideas, he composes a free sample for the client.
“People don’t want to pay for something they don’t like,” says Evans. “I’d rather see if our styles work together first so it’s not a bad experience for either of them. I usually send free samples of me playing acoustic guitar and singing through their lyrics and if they like it, we go from there.
After Evans received White’s enthusiastic response to his rendition of the song “High Expectations”, he proceeded to write the song in full. An accomplished guitarist, he originally wrote the song for guitar, but White preferred piano.
“I don’t play the piano well, so I wrote it on guitar first, then programmed it on piano,” says Evans. “The same with the version that has the cello. I have some great digital instruments in my studio that I use when venturing out from guitar.
Evans therefore electronically programmed the piano and cello music, then turned to Brazilian singer Grettchen Scraderbrock to record the vocals.
“Normally I’ll sing a lot of the lyrics I’m writing the music for, but Chris wanted a female voice,” comments Evans. “I have used Grettchen on several projects. She did a great job with the demo and Chris was head over heels in love with the finished product.
When White launched the movie High Expectations, he gave Brooke her first acting role as Sofia, a key figure in the film. So it was natural for the former Fifth Harmony member turned solo artist to sing the song in the film.
Evans says working with Brooke was the highlight of the whole experience for him. He had already pre-recorded the music when the two met at MadLife Studios in Woodstock, Georgia to record the songs.
“I met Chris and Ally and the producers a few times via Zoom, and then Ally and I met at the studio,” Evans explains. “It was a once in a lifetime experience with an extremely kind and talented person. She told me she heard the song for the first time before her movie audition and cried. It was so powerful for her.
For eight hours, the duo recorded two songs. One with Brooke singing in English with piano and cello and one in Spanish with Evans on guitar. Evans led Brooke through the different takes of the two songs until he knew they had the “one”.
“At the beginning, I was super nervous to be in the studio and direct someone with so much talent,” he explains. “But once I got in there, it was like I had always been there. The producers said, ‘Are you sure you’ve never done this before?’ And I said, ‘No.’ I think my experience in East Central and with The Collegians (the college student rock band) really helped me work with Ally.
“It’s a beast of burden. She walked into the studio and sang all the time. No breaks. No lunch. She’s a professional.
In High Expectations, Gray plays Jack, a professional soccer player who plans to join a rival soccer team after his father (Kelsey Grammer) kicks him out of the team he coaches. Jack suffers from anxiety and has a stroke before tryouts. His girlfriend Sofia (Brooke) is an aspiring music therapist and singer who wrote this song “High Expectations.” It comes over the radio and calms Jack down enough for him to give it a try.
“The song plays a powerful role in the story,” says Evans. “There’s also what I call the picnic scene where Ally sings in Spanish and it’s actually my guitar you hear. Ally plays guitar in the movie and I coached her on how to sound like she’s playing the guitar by teaching her basic finger movements.
Evans says Icelandic film score composer Veigar Margeirsson scored the film and was able to take much of his melody from the theme song and weave it throughout the film to tie the film together.
“It was my very first time working on a film, but hopefully it won’t be the last,” Evans says. “I hope this project opens more doors. After almost a decade of songwriting, it’s a testament to those musicians who are disenfranchised when they don’t get it right away. If you keep pushing yourself and working hard, that big break could happen to you.
“I feel lucky and honored to be part of this project. I tell people that I finally put the notes in the right order,” he says with a smile.
Evans got validation for his hard work on the song “High Expectations” when he saw the film premiere on April 8. Along with his wife and co-workers and several in-laws, Evans finally heard his work on the big screen.
“Chris would send me drafts of the film and ask my opinion on certain aspects, but I hadn’t seen it on the big screen,” says Evans. “Seeing the actual finished product with the high definition picture and beautiful sound was surreal. Seeing my name in the credits legitimized all the hard work, not just on this song, but over the past 10 years.
“I hope it wasn’t a once in a lifetime thing. I want to do it again. And of course having my family with me and cheering them on at the end when the credits were rolling was just a special feeling.
In addition to teaching guitar at ECCC, Evans also leads rock-n-roll band The Collegians. A Chunky native and graduate of Newton County High School, he studied guitar in East Central under the late Tom Carson.