Rachel Platten Talks Meeting Brian Wallach, ALS Advocacy, ‘Fight Song’ – Billboard

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It’s been nine years since Rachel Platten released her ode to resilience, “Fight Song,” yet the song, to this day, has remained empowering for people worldwide who are overcoming obstacles.

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That’s why when Platten met Brian Wallach and his wife, Sandra Abrevaya, she was moved to tears by their story. Wallach, a former Obama campaign staffer, was diagnosed with the progressive neurodegenerative disease ALS when he was just 37 years old and was given six months to live. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, impacts the muscles that control eating, walking, speaking and more. Approximately 5,000 people are diagnosed with ALS each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly six years later, Wallach and Abrevaya have defied the odds and made incredible steps to advocate for ALS patients and even spurred a legislative process that eventually led to President Joe Biden’s December 2021 signing into law of the Accelerating Access to Critical Therapies for ALS Act, which authorized $100 million a year for ALS research and expanded access to medications being studied in clinical trials to those who have been unable to participate.

Platten, however, didn’t know all of this when she and her husband Kevin Lazan first met the inspirational couple. In fact, they bonded while their children were playing in the swimming pool during a recent Hawaiian vacation. “It was such a lovely surprise. I just thought that I’d met some friends, you know, and our daughters became friends quickly. I had extra pool chairs and I gave them some of my chairs,” the singer tells Billboard. “We had a lot in common and we connected on an emotional level. It felt like way more than just a vacation friend, and it was beautiful how it turned out.”

While chatting, Abrevaya told Platten of her husband’s story, and the 41-year-old singer was awestruck by Wallach’s positivity and the love radiating from his family. “He’s such a charming guy. He’s delightful,” she says. “It’s become hard for him to talk and vocalize and his wife and his oldest daughter are the only ones remaining that can understand him. His daughter who’s only seven years old can translate for him. It’s so beautiful. Watching her love him with her eyes and the way she’s translating him with such love was the most special thing I’ve ever seen.”

At one point, Abrevaya mentioned No Ordinary Campaign, a recent documentary that highlights Wallach’s remarkable journey and how he took control of the fight for his life. That’s when Platten offered for “Fight Song” to be used in the film. “I was a little shy and vulnerable about it,” she recalls with a laugh. “I was like, ‘Guys, I don’t know if you know who I am, but I have this song.’ They’re like, ‘No, no, we know who you are. We’re really excited about it. We’ve been trying to play it cool.’ Brian actually listens to the song often.”

The version of the documentary that includes “Fight Song” was recently screened at Santa Barbara International Film Festival for the first time and is set to be featured at SXSW in Austin, Texas, this weekend (March 12).

“I’m so grateful that I wrote ‘Fight Song’ in this burst of courage and determination as a younger version of me,” Platten says of how her hit track has grown into a pillar of strength for people like Wallach. “I wrote it 10 years ago with this grit. I refused to give up on myself. It’s funny how when you write something so true and resonant and so personal that the meaning can be universal.”

See below for a heartwarming clip of No Ordinary Campaign, in which “Fight Song” soundtracks the support for ALS fighters and their families. Katie Couric, Phil Rosenthal and Jeff MacGregor serve as executive producers of the Christopher Burke-directed documentary.



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