The first time Sean Magee heard the hit song “Stay With Me,” he immediately recognized the sounds of another popular tune – “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.
So Magee, 22, of Raleigh used his musical skills to create a mash-up of the two songs’ melodies. The video, in which Magee sings and plays the piano, has gotten about 89,000 views on YouTube since he posted it seven months ago.
People magazine recently featured the video. Magee certainly wasn’t the only one who noticed similarities between the songs, but his piano skills and smooth voice clearly show the same melody.
Last month, “Stay With Me” singer Sam Smith and Petty reached an agreement over the song. Petty will receive royalties from the Grammy-nominated single. Smith is nominated for six Grammy Awards, which air Sunday.
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Magee, who graduated last year from Elon University with a degree in music technology, has been playing the piano since he was 5. He said his strength was always the technical side of music, understanding how to structure a song better than he could read sheet music.
“I really like the mathematical aspect of it and the nature of patterns,” he said. “I focused a lot on ear training, hearing chord intervals and recognizing patterns.”
Pop music features a lot of similar chords and structures, Magee said. “Stay With Me” features a slower version of the melody of “I Won’t Back Down.”
Through Magee’s brush with fame, he said he has learned an important lesson as an aspiring musician: It’s best to be original.
Now, Magee has his sights on Los Angeles after making a five-song album with two music videos – an effort he hopes to partially pay for through a fundraiser he plans to launch Feb. 16 on Indigogo, an online crowdfunding site.
“This will be my first project with an actual budget, so I think by working with people who are way better than me at mixing and producing, I’ll come out with a better product,” he said.
Magee has mostly focused on the behind-the-scenes work of making music, like running sound boards. Launching a fundraising campaign will allow him to focus more on the creative side of things.
Gerry Diamond, Magee’s piano instructor and mentor, said Magee picked up on music theory quickly. He anticipates his student will go on to a successful career in music.
“If anybody should make it in this industry, it’s this guy,” Diamond said. “He’s got the talent, but he’s just such a good person.”