The “Every Time I Close My Eyes” crooner, 64, took the stage at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona on Sunday, February 12, right before the big game. For his performance, he used a custom guitar designed by Sue Tsai.
The producer’s take on the classic tune began as an acoustic-only rendition that brought several audience members to tears, including Philadelphia Eagles coach Nick Sirianni. About halfway through the song, Babyface was accompanied by a backing track with backup singers and additional instrumentation.
“This was not on my bucket list and it was not anything I ever imagined I would do,” he said on Friday, February 10, in a video interview with the NFL alongside his fellow pregame performers. “So to get that call [I ask,] ‘Are you sure? Me?’ but I am so honored.”
In the interview, the “Two Occasions” singer went on to gush about working with the Abbott Elementary star, 66, and the country singer, 44. Lee was chosen to perform “Lift Every Voice and Sing” while Stapleton was tapped to sing the National Anthem.
While coming up with his plans, Babyface admitted he had a lot of ideas for what he could do with the patriotic song.
“The whole thing is that I have to think … ‘What kind of arrangement are you going to do? Do you want [there] to be a choir? Do you want this? Do you do you want to do urban? Do you want this and that?'” he reflected to Entertainment Tonight on Tuesday, February 7. “I just thought the best way for me to do it is to just pick up my guitar and sing it the way that I would have sung it when I was a kid.”
However, the 12-time Grammy winner joked that his pregame performance “will differ a lot” from the first time he sang the song in front of an audience back when he was a sophomore in high school.
“I’m not gonna try to do anything amazing,” he teased at the time. “I’m just gonna keep it simple and heartfelt.”
Babyface, for his part, also shared he hoped he could keep his nerves in check for the big performance but ultimately planned on doing his best.
“Whenever you sing any of these songs, whether it’s ‘America the Beautiful’ or ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ you get judged by it all the time,” the songwriter said at the time. “So [the] only thing I can do is just be honest and be heartfelt and put the same love into it.”