A 21-year-old Tyler native was honored with a gold record for writing a song featured on John Legend’s 2020 album, “Bigger Love.”
“Conversations in the Dark” was written by Chance Peña and was later sent to singer-songwriter John Legend, who picked up the song, which became the lead single from his album, which won a Grammy for best R&B album.
The gold record was presented to Peña to commemorate RIAA Gold Certification of more than 500,000 copies of the Columbia Records single. Gold awards are earned by artists who have met rigorous standards, and recipients join the ranks of the most iconic recording artists.
Peña wrote the song in Manhattan with Jesse Fink, Kellen Pomeranz and Gregg Wattenberg, who also wrote and produced the song. Peña is also in the song’s background vocals with Wattenberg and Fink.
In a session with the co-writers, Fink came up with guitar progressions, which sent the writers into work mode and by the end of the day, half the song was written. The next day, the song was finished.
By the time the song was finished, the group called the song “Break Your Heart,” like the tagline of the chorus, which reads, “Swear on everything I pray to that I won’t break your heart,” Peña said.
The idea was for Peña to release the song on an extended play record, but he never did.
“I was trying to figure out what my artistry was and I was like, ‘I don’t know if this is what I want to put out yet.’ I just sat there,” he said.
One day, Wattenberg reached out to Peña to ask if they could pitch the song to Legend.
“I was like, ‘absolutely, do it,’ because I didn’t think it would happen. You hear something like that and you’re like, ‘OK, sure.’ What are the odds? But cool opportunity, nonetheless, let’s see,” Peña said.
Peña shared the news with close friends, but soon forgot about it and didn’t think anything of it. He was coming home to his parents’ house when he got a text from Wattenberg, who wanted to speak over the phone.
“So John liked the song, he recorded it like the same day he heard it,” were the words Peña heard.
Peña said the moment felt surreal and he did not believe any of it.
“The same way I felt when the initial opportunity was proposed, I was like, ‘how is this happening? This is wild,’” he said, adding the moment is indescribable.
“That stuff you think that’ll be awesome, or that’s a goal, but then you actually do it, it actually happens and you just don’t know what to make of it. It’s something you strive for and you put all these blood, sweat and tears into hoping that one day, to have something like this achieved, it just feels unreal,” Peña said.
Peña said he never planned to get a RIAA Gold Certification or to have an album he contributed to with Legend win a Grammy, but writing on a Grammy-winning project was a goal, as well as getting a gold record on his wall.
“It’s not like I was 8 years old like, ‘I want John Legend to sing my song!’ It’s like I want to bring music to the world, and that’s the goal, but all these little things go with it,” Peña said.
The Grace Community School alumnus said his love for music began in Tyler when he was 5 years old just beating on a guitar. Around 13 or 14 years old, Peña said he began to take that passion seriously and began to play at local bars and restaurants, such as Juls and Stanley’s Famous Pit BBQ.
At 15, Peña made an appearance on NBC’s “The Voice,” Season 9, where he competed on Adam Levine’s team. It was after “The Voice” that Peña realized he could turn his passion into his career.
“This song was the lead single on the Grammy-winning album, and that’s the one I wrote with my friends and that’s pretty crazy,” Peña said.
“Conversations in the Dark” was also featured in the TV series “This is Us,” in which Legend made an appearance, throwing a private concert for a character in the show and his date, where Legend performed the song.
Peña said the inspiration of the song came from a person you can get lost in the day with.
“It may sound cliché, but you don’t care what you’re doing, as long as you’re with that person, it’s a great day and you’re not worried about anything else. That kind of love, that’s the idea,” he said.
Peña said the coolest thing about writing the song was that the process of writing it flowed so well, adding everyone in the room was on their game, and they all complimented each other so well, he said.
Peña is working on new music and plans to release an EP with more than four songs but less than eight, he said, and he keeps writing with new people every day.
Peña said he’s doing what he did on “The Voice” but on a different scale. He said he hopes his story inspires others and teaches persistence and a firm belief in one’s self. He said his ultimate goal is to bring music to as many ears on the earth as possible.
Peña still returns to Tyler to visit his family and said always has to visit Don Juan’s Mexican Restaurant and Chuy’s Tex-Mex, since there’s not one in Los Angeles. He also visits his parents’ gym, Rise RX Fitness.