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Tkay Maidza & Young Franco On Soundtracking A New Era Of Australian Football With Original A-Leagues Theme Track

In an Australian sporting landscape largely underpinned by rock music, the newly rebranded A-Leagues are pivoting in a different direction. With round one of the A-League Men kicking off this week, complete with a landmark new broadcast deal, Australia’s premier football competitions also have a new soundtrack.

Those behind this new track ‘Real Nice (H.C.T.F)’ are three young and emerging artists, who are highly representative of the diverse and inclusive nature of football in this country. Producer Young Franco has been rising up the ranks in recent years, and he recently landed a track made with Denzel Curry on the soundtrack of the FIFA 22 game. A strong endorsement of his ability to soundtrack the global game indeed.

Meanwhile, Tkay Maidza was recently twice nominated for ARIA Awards and is widely recognised leading the charge at the forefront of Australian hip hop. They’re joined by emcee Nerve for the track, while Melbourne City’s Marco Tilio and Sydney FC/Matildas goalkeeper Jada Whyman also feature in the music video (out tomorrow, 20th November).

‘Real Nice (H.C.T.F)’ is a hard-hitting, football-referencing, catchy and rhythmic effort. It is also an entirely appropriate track for a new era.

Music Feeds caught up with Young Franco and Tkay Maidza to chat about the track, and all things Aussie football this week.

Music Feeds: Can you tell us a bit about your own experiences with the game up until now?

Young Franco: So I grew up in Brisbane. And when I was a kid, I just got put into soccer – football, soccer. And so it wasn’t really a decision I made for myself but it was great because I ended up really, really liking it and now I have sort of lifelong friends from it. My family still works and volunteers at our local club, Easts FC in Brisbane. Then I moved down to Sydney and continued playing, now at another club which is called Easts as well. And then Mondays is mixed football with my sister. So still actively playing and like watching and participating.

Tkay Maidza: And for me, soccer was the first sport that I played when I was younger when I just moved to Australia. So I played for around three years, and that’s when I met one of my best friends. We were probably the worst players on the team, but that was why it was funny and enjoyable for us. My brother still plays now, and he’s just been drafted for the Adelaide United youth team, so it’s kind of crazy that we’re doing theme song the same year that he’s made that step in his own journey. I’m really proud of him, I remember watching him play whenever I was in Adelaide.

MF: Have you had a chance to think about the fact that it’s pretty bloody cool that Australian football now has its own original song, and that you guys actually made it?

TM: Yeah, I think it’s a super dope opportunity, I mean imagine being asked to write the theme song for anything, just in general. With music, you always think about writing songs primary for yourself, and then you really hope someone listens to it. But to be given the opportunity to do something where it’s very something that your parents watch and listen to, and what a lot of your friends that you grew up and the general public are big fans of. I think it’s sick.

YF: I feel like it’s hasn’t hit me yet. It’s been sort of all systems go to get this song out there. Also when I was writing this song, I didn’t want to put any kind of pressure on myself. So I didn’t really think about whether or not this is going to be a big deal, because that doesn’t really help your process. In the moment when you’re writing a song, you sort of need to be like, “well, I’ll just write the song. This is just what I normally do”. So yeah, I don’t think it’s hit me yet, but I’m super super excited for it to be out in the world.

MF: The game of football at the elite level in Australia, I think most would agree, has suffered a bit in recent years… suffered behind a paywall for a while, suffered from low crowds. It really feels like we’re entering a new era now with the rebrand to the A-Leagues. How do you guys think that this track reflects this rebirth of football in Australia?

YF: I guess we’re in a position where we’re doing shows and we’re performing and going overseas and stuff. I feel like we’re really lucky to be in a position where we are the generation of fans that are now pursuing a career in music. So this is the next move forward for football, and with us creating music right now and having songs and charts, is a good representation of the game. This isn’t an old song that’s like getting used again and again, and again. This is something that’s new and fresh for this new era of the A-Leagues.

MF: Yeah, definitely. How about you Tkay? Is there any part of the song that you think in particular is particularly reflective of where we are now with football in Australia?

TM: The way I see is that if you’re like us, you’re part of dance music and hip hop, you’re always looking to create something new. I think the reason why we were chosen for this campaign, was because we’re always looking at the future, always looking to bring something new and different. The world of football and music in Australia are both really diverse, and there’s a lot of that flavour in this song. That was how I felt going into it, realising this is a big job, but also understanding that it made sense to do what feels natural to me because there’s a reason why we’re all here.

MF: Just on the song itself, it’s full of things like crowd noise and clapping sounds, and the lyrics are a bit football-centric as well. How did you guys find it, treading a line between making sure there were sort of references in there and things for fans to hear and hang on to and be excited about, but also make it a catchy and quality song at the same time?

TM: I think when it came to this, all of that came naturally because we were just doing something we are genuinely excited about. I think when we were going back and forth with everything, and if we just didn’t feel good about something, we wouldn’t do it. Because we wanted it to be authentic, and not look back in a year and be like, “wow, why did I do that?” So I feel like we were just really trusting our instincts and being like, ‘how would I do this in a way that feels authentic, authentic to me?

YF: Totally, and I definitely started with some trash ideas. That’s great about Tkay, she’s such a fantastic lyricist, so we kind of bounce ideas back and forth. I would ask her, “what do you think about something along the lines of this?” And then she would put it into a way that didn’t feel silly or would make it feel like we weren’t selling anything we like, so it was about genuine inspiration more. We took that inspiration from the world of football, and then just let our instincts take over from there.

MF: Just before we wrap up, Tkay I wanted to touch back on something you said earlier today, which was about your move to Australia, and that the first sport you played was football. I think that’s a pretty common story, especially compared to other sports in Australia, I think football is really an accurate cross-section of multiculturalism in society. It’s certainly been my experience as well. How do you think that you’ve made this song in a way that I guess reflects that very people-driven part of football, not just the act of playing the game itself?

TM: Well, we are both from like different backgrounds, our parents are from different countries. And same goes for Nerve as well who features on the track. You’re bringing so many different people and as you said, it’s that common thing that like soccer tends to bring people together. There’s not a lot of sports that can do that, where everyone just knows the rules, and you know there’s a certain type of person who loves football. I genuinely love using football references in my life and my music so it’s ingrained in me in that way.

YF: Yeah, it’s definitely about creating something that reflects the way football is always bringing people together. And as Tkay said, it is the world game. Not many sporting codes are that international in the way football is. It is played by the most people around the world, and it does bring people together. You know, from everywhere. We hope that this song reflects that.

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