“ily”: How Surf Mesa scored a global hit with some help from TikTok and a 53-year old pop song

Elizabeth MirandaSurf Mesa’s single “ily (i love you baby),” is based around a snippet of Frankie Valli’s 1967 hit “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”  Surf randomly found the snippet —  sung by Emilee Flood — while on Ti…

By ABC Audio on November 6, 2020

Elizabeth MirandaSurf Mesa's single "ily (i love you baby)," is based around a snippet of Frankie Valli's 1967 hit "Can't Take My Eyes Off You."  Surf randomly found the snippet --  sung by Emilee Flood -- while on TikTok one day.

"It was just like a 15-second video. She was on her bed singing the chorus of 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You,'" he tells ABC Audio. "And I was just immediately intrigued by her take on it."

Surf, born Powell Aguirre, downloaded her vocal, turned it into a song, uploaded it to Soundcloud...and then record labels came calling.

"I remember I was home in Seattle...I woke up to...an email from this label," he recalls. "I thought they were calling because they were the [copy]right holders of the original [song] and they were going to sue me!"

"And so I got on the phone with them and I was like, 'Look, it was just, like, a fun thing.' And they're like, 'No, no, no -- we're not here to get you in trouble! We want to make this thing happen!"

O.K., so now that "ily" has happened -- what does 86-year-old Frankie Valli think of it?

"I know that he's aware of it and there's been discussion between his manager and my manager of doing some sort of video content piece," says Surf. "I think that'd be really cool!"

For now, he'll settle for all the great feedback he's getting from fans.

"They're definitely saying how it's brought a smile to their face and it's the only thing they're listening to in quarantine, which is, like, really fulfilling for me, honestly...," says Surf.

"It's really cool to have music be as personal [to them] as it is to me, especially when it came from my laptop to theirs."

By Andrea Dresdale
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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