Do you ever wonder who writes the theme songs for weekly sports programs? Well, Helmut VonLichten wrote the opening theme for Thursday Night Football on CBS. He also collaborated with Jay-Z to produce the opening theme song for Super Bowl XLIV, which the Saints won over the Colts in February 2010.

Working with Jay-Z? Producing songs for the Super Bowl?

Not too shabby.

“Well, we wanted to do something that incorporated the theme to the NFL on CBS for Sunday, and somehow modernize it and incorporate something that was relevant as far as pop music goes,” VonLichten explained on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones, referring to his work with Jay-Z. “So basically we were thinking, ‘Why don’t we mash up a song with the theme?’ So that’s just a process we kind of go through and find stuff that’s popular at the time and see what will mash up well melodically and chordal-wise. That song worked, and obviously the lyrics worked perfectly as well. Basically, I got the tune and I sort of did a demo and we got it to Jay-Z and he dug it. (We) took it from there.”

VonLichten also worked on Super Bowl XLVII with Queen and even produced material for the 2015 Final Four.

“It’s opened up a lot of doors and it’s so much fun,” VonLichten said.

Such as Super Bowl 50, perhaps?

“There’s talk of that, and we’ll see what happens,” VonLichten said. “I’d love to do something, but nothing in stone at this point.”

Gregg Giannotti found that hard to believe, especially since Super Bowl 50 is only a couple of months away. Could VonLichten produce something that quickly?

“We’ve got things that we’re talking about and throwing around,” he said, “but you never know. Things come down to the wire. You know how this business works.”

As VonLichten explained, the creative process is more feel than formula.

“Basically, my assignment is to create a brand,” he said. “Ideally within one or two seconds, the listener is going to go, ‘Ah, Thursday Night Football,’ or ‘NFL on CBS.’ So in musical terms, that gives me about six to ten notes of melody to come up with. Other than the assignment of that, it’s sort of up to me to run with that. Sort of my palate and my sound is able to catch this sort of rock-hybrid stuff, and I sit down at the piano and basically watch NFL highlights, and it’s a visceral; it’s not a real intellectual sort of process. It’s literally sitting down and pounding six to 10 notes out on the piano over what could be weeks or months. It’s just a process. And then I’ll send stuff back and forth to the guys at CBS and see what strikes them and what seems like it’s going to work. It’s just sort of a process going back and forth.”

Brian Jones wondered if VonLichten could produce something specifically for Gio and Jones. VonLichten asked, appropriately, if they wanted a bravado theme.

“Yes, I have the bravado,” Jones said. “I don’t know what Gio has.”

“I’ll see what I can pound out,” VonLichten said, laughing. “I’d love to hear my stuff on your show.”


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