This year, fans will hear a new voice as part of ESPN’s promotional campaign for the Masters, thanks to four-time Grammy Award-winning artist India.Arie in a brand new rendition of the iconic song “Georgia On My Mind.”
In a new spot that will debut during the Duke-UNC college basketball telecast (Saturday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN), the song serves as the soundtrack to footage of historic moments from the Masters, beautiful scenic views of Augusta National, and current key players.
The track, which was recorded exclusively for the campaign and released Thursday night, captures the reverence and beauty that the Masters inspires.
“We chose India as she brings a new sound and compelling voice to our Masters creative work,” said Senior Vice President, Marketing, Laura Gentile. “In addition, India has a close personal connection to Georgia, which was important to us. As soon as we heard a sample of India’s work we knew she would give a big nod to Ray Charles’ version, with a modern and fresh approach. Her track has exceeded our expectations.”
Front Row spoke to Arie, a longtime resident of Georgia, to learn more about the new song and her connection to sports:
When you heard that ESPN wanted to collaborate around the event in Augusta, what were your first thoughts?
Well, my first thought was – “why did they ask me?” Not that I don’t think I’m worthy of re-making the song “Georgia On My Mind,” but why do they want a new one?
I’m honored to do this song with this institution of the Masters. I can’t exactly articulate what feels right about it, but I thought long and hard before I said yes and it feels good. – India.Arie
What personal connection or inspiration did you draw upon for this interpretation of such an iconic song?
I’m very connected to my heritage as a black American with roots in the south. I just knew that I needed to be me, and my producer Aaron Lindsey helped me to interpret the sound to match who I am as a musician. Also, I referenced the Ray Charles version first and really took the parts of the record that touched me the most.
I’m honored to do this song with this institution of the Masters. I can’t exactly articulate what feels right about it, but I thought long and hard before I said yes and it feels good. It feels right, I love the way the record turned out, and working with the team at ESPN has been really lovely.
Do you have any personal memories or stories about the Masters?
To be honest, all that I ever remember thinking was “There’s a world-class sports event in Augusta?” It was so close to home, that I couldn’t help but to feel sort of territorial and surprised.
What are your favorite childhood memories of your dad, former ABA/NBA and Michigan State star Ralph Simpson, during his playing days?
My father is the reason that I feel connected to athletics at all. For any sport, I funnel that through being the child of a world-class athlete. I have lots of memories but the main ones are being in the world and having people say “that’s Ralph Simpson’s daughter” or having a tall man walk up to me and say “I knew your father, he was very good to me.” It always makes me feel really proud and it makes me feel like I was born with the focus and drive of an athlete so I apply that to my career every day.
What was behind your tweet to NBA star Russell Westbrook?
That was a while ago, but he was on Twitter singing several of my songs and really knew all of the words. I loved that. The words to my songs are the foundation of my life’s work. Then I told him about my father – I don’t remember him answering back. LOL.
— India.Arie (@indiaarie) July 29, 2016
Several years ago, Good Morning America host – and former SportsCenter anchor – Robin Roberts collaborated on a song,”Beautiful Day.” They reunited on GMA last month, as seen in the video below.