In our webcam chat, Pharrell reveals how he kept "getting poked and prodded to get it right" by producers who weren't satisfied with his attempts: "It was like, 'This is good, but it's not great. This is great, but it ain't incredible. Ah, it's not quite incredible, but you know what, we also need undeniable.'"
Ultimately, his finished tune was so undeniably great that it reaped him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.
Pharrell is no stranger to awards, having won seven Grammys over the years, including four just last week for Producer of the Year, Album of the Year as a featured artist on Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories," and Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance with Daft Punk for 2013 megahit "Get Lucky." And two years after his gig composing and producing the music for the 84th Academy Awards alongside composer Hans Zimmer, he returns to the Oscars this year as a first-time nominee.
How he got there is a compelling story he shares in our chat as he reveals the triumphant moment when he believed he got "Happy" just right and sent it off to be judged by the film's co-producer and Illumination Entertainment CEO Chris Melandandri and Universal Pictures music chief Mike Knobloch.
"It was a Friday, I'll never forget," he says. "I told them listen to the song on the way home, but do me a favor, listen to it twice. Back to back. Don't hesitate. As soon as it's done, hit repeat. If you don't like it, then I won't hear from you. If you do like it, give yourself the weekend, and let me know what you think. And on Monday, I got an email from him that said, 'Not only do I love it, but me and my wife went and drove and listened to it in the car, and we listened to it over and over again, and the studio loves it. Congratulations, this is the record'."
It's no secret that Oscar voters warm to songs that are featured within a film, propelling the story forward, rather than playing out over rolling end credits. Pharrell's track does that in spades, as the protagonist Gru (voiced by Steve Carrell) dances along to "Happy" through the streets with sheer joy. It surely played a part in grabbing Oscar voters' attention, and upon seeing the final product, Pharrell says he couldn't have been happier. "Me and my wife, we were teary eyed" Pharrell admits. "Nine times I tried to get that scene and song right. … I could not believe, I was so honored that Gru was walking to my song."