SAYS17 Winner, Taylor Gayle aged 12 from Nashville, USA

Congratulations to Taylor, SAYS17 Winner of our international category with her original song ‘Sophia’s Song’.  Here’s a bit about Taylor and her songwriting.

What inspired you to write ‘Sophia’s Song’? This song is about my God-sister, Sophia. When Sophia was 5 months old her father passed away unexpectedly. Her mother is my Godmother and my mother’s best friend, so I have always called her my God-sister. This song is what I think it must be like growing up without a Daddy, so I wrote this song for her.

How long have you been writing songs?  I have been writing songs my whole life starting with recreating nursery rhymes into my own songs but writing songs that I thought people might want to listen to, for about 2 ½ years.

How did you get into songwriting?  I got into songwriting because I am a singer and love to perform. I love singing great cover songs by other artist but the next natural step was to write my own songs to share my music as an artist. I think songwriting helps you define who you are as an artist better than just singing cover songs. So when I was 10 I started writing regularly and have not stopped since!

What does songwriting allow you to explore and achieve?  Since I am a younger singer songwriter, songwriting allows me to create stories that I haven’t lived in my life, in addition to writing about my limited life experiences. I can watch TV, observe life, listen to stories and they somehow in my head merge with melodies and songs come out. The most rewarding thing is when you meet someone after a show and they let you know your music touches them or they totally related to the song you wrote/sang or they tell you they felt like you were singing just to them. Songwriting has really helped me grow as an artist and I love it.

What’s your favourite part of the songwriting process?  Finishing a song and really liking what you wrote.

What’s the most difficult part of the creative process of songwriting for you?  That’s easy, starting a new song. There are so many ways to start a song and I always have so many ideas in my head that it can be hard to just decide to start one of your ideas and begin. The other difficult part is the insomnia that can happen if you have a song stuck in your head that you just have to finish before being able to go to sleep.

Do you start with lyrics or melodies/chords?  All of the above, it just depends on the song. Sometimes I write the chorus first, other times the first verse or the melody shows up first. Other songs I have been playing around with a new chord progression and then the words show up in my head and I start to write a song that way.  Then there are the times that I have a line stuck in my head  that I just love and that is what starts a new song. It really depends on the song, basically it is never the same.

What do you like about Song Academy and our Young Songwriter competition?   I was really excited to be able to enter an international competition that focuses on people under 18. Since I am 12, I am often not old enough to enter competitions or do a lot of things I want to do with my music because I am “too young”. So thank you for letting international entries this year and focusing on kids!

Who are your three favourite artists/songs?  Picking only 3 is really hard. Aretha Franklin is my idol and has been since I started singing so I have to say her. Ed Sheeran is a songwriting genius and so talented as a singer, so he has to be on the list too. Lately I have been really inspired by Melanie Martinez, so that’s my third. I wish you would have asked for 10, that would have been a lot easier!

15 years from now you will be…  Hopefully a world-renowned artist. I am definitely going to be a professional singer/songwriter and I dream big!  I would love to tour the world and fill large stadiums with people that are moved by my music. I want to write meaningful songs that touch people or make their day a little better. I would also like to have other major artists cut my songs. I know not all the songs I write are for me as an artist and it is really cool when you hear someone sing a song you wrote.

What’s your favourite thing to do when you’re not writing songs?  The obvious answer is singing for me but outside of music I love to cook and draw, , so really anything creative. I am also an adventure junkie, I love ziplining, roller coasters, playing laser tag etc.

Have a listen to all our top ten SAYS17 finalists


Our SAYS17 winners will be announced on the 8th May at 12pm on our Twitter channel.

Come & watch the top young songwriters from across the UK and Ireland perform @WestfieldLondon, Southern Terrace in the Young Songwriter 2017 competition live showcase on Sunday 4th June, 2-5pm. Around 50 performers including winners, finalists & highly commended entrants, aged 8-18 will perform! #savethedate #newgeneration #talent #youngsongwriters #freeevent

Full line-up to be announced shortly.