YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – It’s a Wednesday night in a lower West Side Youngstown warehouse and The Vindy’s are rehearsing the song “Are You Ready.”
“Oh don’t you know who runs this town,” belts out lead singer Jackie Popovec, in a voice that’s been compared with Amy Winehouse. “Walkin’ up, we shut it down.”
On the same evening as the rehearsal, on ESPN’s ACC Network, Popovec’s voice, with the same lyrics and hard-driving melody, were being used in a 30-second promotional spot for ACC women’s softball.
“This was the goal,” said Popovec, of getting the song on a national network. “I always had this in mind. But for this actually to come to fruition, you cross your fingers on that. I’m so happy that it is what is now.”
“Are You Ready” began with a hunch of Craig McConnell, who was working for Pittsburgh’s AT&T SportsNet, producing special projects for Pirate’s games, specifically Friday Night Rocks.
“My job was to scout regional bands and musicians to find out who were the best ones, the best talent, reach out to them and try to work on a concept of a sport open,” said McConnell, who’s now a sports producer at KDKA-TV.
McConnell saw a video of The Vindy’s, liked their sound, and sent them an email.
“Hey I really like your vibe,” McConnell recalled of the email he wrote. “I like your music. Could you create a song? And I kind of gave them an outline of what we were looking for.”
Popovec knew exactly was McConnell was looking for and what he would like. It was a song she was already working on.
“Rick Deak, my guitar player, and I had this very Carrie Underwood, Super Bowl, fight song in mind.”
So “Are You Ready” was written specifically as a sports promo. It was first used by AT&T SportsNet to promote its Friday Night Rocks events for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Then, the Youngstown Marathon used the song in a promotion, followed by the football program at Baldwin High School near Pittsburgh. In February, the ACC Network launched its women’s softball promotions with “Are You Ready” as the music bed.
“After listening to over 40 tracks, I knew this was the one,” said ESPN Marketing Director Jill Husak, who made the decision to use Are You Ready in the softball promo. “It was really the strong female vocals and the lyrical connection with ‘Are You Ready.’ It really created that anticipatory hype and energy that we wanted to launch the softball season.”
McConnell knew early on that the song had the potential to go big. “I even told them, ‘This could be used on a bigger scale.’ I’m not at all surprised that it’s reaching the heights that it’s reaching.”
Popovec says she’s even thinking about the next song.
“I have ideas in the wheelhouse for a Youngstown fight song,” she said. “I would love to hear that being played at Beeghly Center for the basketball games. But thoughts in mind for another fight song? Yeah, sure. Why not?”