Every year we get asked the questions “what type of song should I enter into The Young Songwriter competition?” and “do you have any songwriting tips?” so we thought we would put together some ideas and guidelines to help you write a winning song!

We believe the key way to raise your songwriting game is practice – write more and more songs and get feedback on how you’re doing.  Take on different ideas and challenges.  Write songs on your own and collaborate with others who have different skills sets to spark ideas off each other.

As well as running The annual Young Songwriter competition, we inspire many aspiring young songwriters throughout the year and help make sure their songs are the best they can be by offering an insightful song feedback service, weekly online and in-person songwriting clubs in term-time and online/in-person holiday workshops throughout the year.  Being part of a vibrant community helps to raise everyone’s songwriting level.  In addition, across our social media platforms we offer songwriting tips and challenges to accelerate your songwriting progress.

The main things that we listen out for when judging The Young Songwriter competition entries are originality, captivating melodies, evocative lyrics, a coherent structure, a catchy chorus, emotive performances, clever use of rhyme, invention, a sense of anticipation, and strong concepts.  The songs can be in any genre.

It’s important to say at the outset that songs which break all the rules and defy any expectation  can be the biggest hits of all! Therefore, in as much as there are so called ‘rules’, feel free to bend and break them if you feel inspired to!

The power of songwriting is that no matter what inspired the songwriter to write a song, the listener interprets the song in their own unique way, and finds strength from the message and connection.

 

Here are some elements of the songwriting process which we think are important:

Have a strong theme/concept

One of the key components, and biggest challenges, of songwriting is trying to express common, relatable feelings in an original and interesting way. The more inventive you can be when describing your feelings or experiences (for example, the pressures and joys of growing up and living in our society), the better. It’s a great way to boost self-respect and self-identify through song, and to talk about issues you are passionate about in an engaging way.

Young Songwriter competition entries cover a huge spectrum of topics, from personal experiences and feelings, to wider issues involving the writer’s communities, or even the entire world. Looking back on prior years, a popular theme was the state of the planet and awareness of environmental issues such as climate change. Another theme that came up a lot was mental health, with songs exploring anxieties, depression, drugs, death and high expectations. We also received many entires that explored the need be who you are, embrace your individuality and go for your dreams. Many songs took a stand for equality and freedom from barriers. Love and heartbreak always feature highly in Young Songwriter entries, with many different spins: we broke up, we’re breaking up, we’re about to break up, we’re not going to break up, I wish I could break up with you, we didn’t break up, I wish I had someone to break up with. Also, songs about the pain of toxic relationships and unrequited love.

But not all songs have to be dramatic and poignant – many people wrote songs about aspects of everyday life, like nature, sunlight, boredom, society, the stars, anything! Through lyrics and harmony the seemingly banal can sometimes be lifted onto another plain. It is great to be able to find inspiration in ordinary things, and it’s an amazing skill to be able to present those things in a way that people find exciting.

 

Come up with an interesting song title

A song title is almost like a book cover, so make it interesting! Compare a heartbeat to a flashing light or the feeling of losing fear by roaring it away – the more inventive the concept around the ordinary, the better. Think of recent hits Dark Horse, Wrecking Ball, Pompeii – interesting titles and concepts talking about everyday feelings to do with fear, love and empowerment. It can also be a good way to start a song, having a strong title that sets the theme of the song can inspire more lyrics around it!

We’ve had many interesting song titles in The Young Songwriter competition past entries, including; Biting Into Ice, Concrete Sheets, Sneaks & Geeks, Dead Plants, Like Lava, T-shirt, Packet Full Of Noodles, Armour, Paperclips, Shine in the Darkness, Blue Fingertips, Burnt Peaches, Lies In Makeup, Sungrazer, Hijacked By Parasites, Reset, Little Alchemy, Dopamine, Me Myself and I, Mrs Ocean, Keyboard Warrior, Battlecry, Muddy Clear, Growing Gills, Swim Against The Stream, Muddy Boots & Messy Hair, Ode To Ego, Painting With Colour, Helvetica, Puppeteer, Head Full Of Clouds, Same Blood, Mindless Town, Can’t Buy Forgiveness, Cat And Mouse, Fading Rainbow, The Taste Of Dust.

 

Have a good song structure

Here’s an example of a great song structure:

Introduction — An opening passage, either instrumental or vocals without lyrics

Verse I — Introduces the song’s message and sets the scene

— 4 to 8 bars long

Pre Chorus — Link between the verse and chorus
— Builds up both melodically and lyrically

— 2 or 4 bars

Chorus — Main message of the song
— Catchiest part and most memorable part of the song (normally includes a ‘hook’)
— Most dynamic part of the song

Verse II — Continuing the explanation of the song

— Solidifying the message and introducing new imagery

— Lyrics change, melody stays broadly the same as verse 1, but you can tweak it a bit to keep it interesting!

Bridge or Middle Eight — A contrasting section that brings the song to a new level

— Rhythmically and melodically the song changes

— Looking at the message from a different view point
— Can build up tension leading up to the climax of the song

Chorus — Repeat (can add hooks to the outro of it)
Outro — The closing passage. It can be instrumental or vocal

 

Write engaging lyrics

Young Songwriter finalists write lyrics that show the listener a scene unfolding rather than simply telling the listener how they feel. American songwriter Jason Blume, who has had hits with Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys, says whilst there are no rules to songwriting, there are tools to help you craft that perfect hit. And all you need is a simple AID – action, imagery, detail.

Action:

Use verbs (action or doing words) to help illustrate what is going on in your song. For example, instead of saying ‘I miss you and I’m sad’, try and show what missing someone and being sad looks like :

  • ‘I wipe the tears falling from my eyes’
  • ‘I clutch a tear stained picture of you’
  • ‘I drove by where we first met’
  • ‘I couldn’t walk through the door where we said our last goodbye’

The action words are ‘wipe’ ‘clutch’ ‘drove’ ‘walk’.

And instead of saying ‘I love you’ or ‘I’m in love’, why not show what a person in love does?

  • ‘I wrote our names inside a heart, engraved upon a tree’
  • ‘I hand picked and carried home 100 flowers for you and put a vase in every room’
  • ‘I sing your name like a favourite song’

The action words are ‘wrote’ ‘picked’ ‘carried’ and ‘sing’.

Write a list of action words down before starting on your next song and try and use at least 5 of them in your next song to show what your feeling.

Imagery:

Blume says ‘whilst you cannot see heartbreak you can see the images and actions that convey that a person is heartbroken’:

  • ‘She fell to her knees, laying flowers on his grave’
  • ‘He kisses her photo’
  • ‘His tears hit the floor like a waterfall of pain’

The images are ‘knees’ ‘flowers’ ‘grave’ ‘photo’ ‘tears’ ‘floor’ ‘waterfall’. Blume also states that by including ‘tangible items’ and nouns in your lyrics like ‘furniture, clothing, a car, a house, a specific place, food’, you enable your audience to enter your song.

Along with your list of action words, try and write down a list of images and every day nouns to try and include in your next song.

Detail: 

This is the third part of AID that will help you to show your listener what is going on in your song. This time we’re searching for adjectives (describing words) and adverbs (describing verbs) to help the listener visualise your song more clearly. For example, if we were to go one step further with some of our examples from the Imagery section above and add a bit more detail to the floor, or the grave, you have something like this…

  • ‘She falls to her knees on the cold, muddy ground and lays white lilies on his grave’
  • ‘He tenderly kisses the photo of their wedding day in his old rocking chair
  • ‘His bitter tears slowly hit the wooden floor of his kitchen, like a cascading waterfall of pain’

Even with a few additional adjectives and adverbs, the scenes are much clearer to visualise; you can hear the creak of the old rocking chair, you can taste the bitter tears that fall onto the floor and see him in the kitchen, you can feel the cold muddy ground that she falls to – instantly you have transported your listener directly into the scene of your song, as if they are there with the singer, watching over what is happening.

So next time you’re stuck for lyrics, all you need is a little AID to help you on your way!

 

Play around with new melodies and chord sequences

Play around with different combinations until your find the melody you’re looking for. Choose a key for your song and then try out the I, IV and V primary chords as well as the  II III, VI and VII chords.

Make sure your chorus stands out from your verses with different melodies and chords.

Hooks
It has been said that the most successful ABBA songs have 5 hooks in each of their songs. A hook is a musical idea, melodic instrumental part, rhythmic phrase or a vowel/consonant sound or word repeated, that catches the ear of the listener to draw them into the song and helps to create its ‘catchiness’. According to popular commercial music today, the more hooks you can introduce throughout the song, the catchier it will be, because it’s constantly enticing the listener and, most importantly, keeping them interested. Listen to the start of Dancing Queen and the vocal ‘ahh’s and piano part before the hooky first line of the chorus, or Jessie J’s Price Tag (It’s all about the money, money, money/We don’t need your money, money, money). Other songs with simple but strong hooks include One Kiss by Calvin Harris featuring Dua Lipa, or Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen.

A lot of hooks are incredibly simple and may even be made by manipulating vocal parts, cutting them up or re-pitching them in an interesting way, songs that do this include Latch by Disclosure featuring Sam Smith, or Stay High (the Hippie Sabotage remix of Habits) by Tove Lo. Try and think about hooks for your own song, either lyrically, melodically or instrumentally. They can be incredibly simple and consist of a couple of notes, or a bit more interesting, just make sure they stick in your head!

 

Rhythm

Rhythm is an important part of many songs, it’s what makes people dance, or makes them nod their head and tap their feet. A solid rhythm can be a hook in itself, and it will lay the foundation on which to base the rest of your song around. It will also determine what kind of song it is, is it a fun, dancey song that makes you want to dance, like Get Lucky by Daft Punk? Or is it a slow, wistful song that people will sway along to, like Imagine by John Lennon? It could even be a fast, uptempo song that sounds exciting and triumphant, like Feel The Love by Rudimental ft John Newman.  If the aim is to make the listener dance, try writing a song to the BPM of 120. If you’re writing a romantic acoustic song, experiment with different time signatures like 6/8 as this will get people swaying along to your song!

Another thing to experiment with is using triplets, it can open up a whole new world of melodic and rhythmic possibilities! A good example that we mentioned in the previous section about hooks is Latch by Disclosure featuring Sam Smith, you’ll hear the hi hat doing triplet rhythms where traditionally for that genre you would expect an even number of hi hats (either quarter notes, eighth notes or sixteenth notes).

Beats and rhythms also don’t have to be perfectly on beat, and often a beat that makes you want to dance will be a ‘swing’ or ‘shuffle’ rhythm, this is a technique that changes the length of notes to create a more uneven but interesting rhythm. An example of a swung rhythm is Ex’s and Oh’s by Elle King, hear how some of the hits are slightly late which gives a driving feel to the song.

 

Production

The Young Songwriter competition entries are mainly judged on the song itself rather than the production, but there are some entries that use the production to help present their song in a stronger way. For example, a more pop/electronic entry might rely on solid drum sounds and more bass than an acoustic entry. Both are totally acceptable approaches and it’s important to note that you do not need incredible production skills and a top mix in order to submit a successful song, many of the best songs ever written would still be just as good whether they were produced fully or just played on one instrument!

 

Recording

We receive many different styles of recordings, many people record themselves at home, even in their bedroom with a phone! We understand that not everyone has access to recording studios or fancy equipment, and much like the production, if your song is strong it will shine even without an expensive or time consuming recording process. The most important thing is that the recording is clear enough for our judges to hear the individual parts, try to avoid recording in noisy environments that may make your recording difficult to hear, or distract from the song itself. You can record elements separately and combine them in a DAW (SoundTrap, Logic, Pro Tools, Reaper, Ableton or any other suitable software) or record with one microphone in one go, whichever you feel most comfortable with!  If recording onto voice memos be sure to sing as clearly as possible as the judges don’t want to miss out on hearing your amazing lyrics. That goes for all recordings.

 

THE POWER OF SONGWRITING IS THAT NO MATTER WHAT INSPIRED THE SONGWRITER TO WRITE A SONG, THE LISTENER INTERPRETS THE SONG IN THEIR OWN UNIQUE WAY, AND FINDS STRENGTH FROM THE MESSAGE AND CONNECTION.

 

Remember to check out our insightful song feedback service to make sure your songs are the best they can be before entering The Young Songwriter 2022 competition!  Entries can be sent from 1st February to 31st March 2022.  We also run online songwriting clubs and holiday workshops throughout the year.  In addition, across our social media platforms we offer songwriting tips and challenges to accelerate your songwriting progress.

 

 

 

Songs reveal the hearts & minds of young people after a year in lockdown.  Impressive originality, creativity & musical bravery displayed.  Young creators across the world unite.

Star Judges include Fraser T Smith, Tom Odell, Miranda Cooper, Chris Difford,
Calum Scott, Midge Ure, Tom Grennan & Michelle Escoffery

Drumroll please! The winners of the hotly contested Song Academy Young Songwriter (SAYS) 2021 competition have now been revealed. This year’s competition attracted over 1,000 entries from aspiring young songwriters aged 8-18 across the world, both experienced young songwriters and those who’ve written their first song.  As in previous years 70% of entrants were girls.  13% of entries were in the international categories and 70% were from 13-18 year olds.  Entries from the UK/Ireland were widespread with 65% outside London.

The Young Songwriter competition stands for the craft and art of songwriting in its purest form, enabling young songwriters to aspire to the very best melody, lyric, structure, concept, harmony, mood and impact a song can have. It inspires young people to think about and speak up about things that are important to them personally, in their community and in the wider world and get their voices heard. It’s a supportive community where young people feel brave and can express themselves, celebrate individuality and be themselves. The benefits from this unique community are far reaching, especially the positive boost to mental health.

What makes a sensational song is ultimately subjective. The winners were selected as they stood out for being special and original. Emily Phillips, renown songwriter and chair of The Young Songwriter 2021 judging panel said, “Chairing the judges this year was an exciting and stimulating experience!  To hear the feedback and thoughts of such renowned writers, producers and artists was fascinating.  The selection process was hotly debated as strong opinions clashed over different genres of music, reinforcing the fact that this is not an exact science but equally, that the winning songs were recognised and applauded for their artistry, inspiration and craft.  The standard was very high this year, so a huge congratulations to the winners and runners up!”

Michelle Escoffery, President of the PRS Members’ Council and SAYS21 judge, said:  “The Song Academy Young Songwriter 2021 competition is an incredibly valuable platform for helping the next generation of music creators develop their skills and build confidence in the profession. This year’s submissions have been filled with some fantastic original and interesting new music, that really captures the imagination and most importantly, reflects the resilience displayed by these songwriters over the past year. I want to thank all of the applicants for sharing their creations with us and a huge congratulations to those who have made the top three in each category. I look forward to seeing what you all do next and wish you the very best of luck in your careers.”

Goto the Song Academy SoundCloud account to listen to the finalists’ songs!   The Young Songwriter 2021 live showcase will be held at The Tabernacle, Notting Hill, London on Saturday 25th September 2021.

Fraser T Smith (songwriter, producer and SAYS21 judge) says “With so much going on in the world, it’s never been more vital for young people to be able to channel their energy and emotions into something positive, which is what The Young Songwriter competition encourages and facilitates through songwriting. Every young person has something to say, a story to tell, or a message to share – that’s why Song Academy is so important to our community.”

The SAYS21 winners were announced on a live stream with SAYS21 judges Tom Odell, Emily Phillips, Hannah V and Janet Devlin joining the live stream. Have a listen to Tom Odell talking about how he writes his songs and tips for young songwriters.

TOP 3 SAYS21 SONGS – 13-18 YEAR OLDS, UK/IRELAND

1st Place.  ALL IT TAKES – HETTA FALZON
2nd Place. WE’RE NOT LONELY ANYMORE – LEXIE CARROLL 

3rd Place.  LAYING ON MARS – BENJAMIN FRERE

TOP 3 SAYS21 SONGS – 8-12 YEAR OLDS, UK/IRELAND

1st Place. GIRL IN THE DRESS – LOIS BROOKS
2nd Place.  FIREFLIES – LILY CRIDDLE
3rd Place. ILLUSION – JOHNNY BEAU

TOP 3 SAYS21 SONGS – 13-18 YEAR OLDS, INTERNATIONAL

1st Place.  STARDUST – KELTY PARKER
2nd Place.  LOST MYSELF – JO MACKENZIE
3rd Place.  PEOPLE LIKE YOU – PIP LEWIS

TOP 3 SAYS21 SONGS – 8-12 YEAR OLDS INTERNATIONAL

1st Place. MY FRIEND IN MIAMI – VENICE AND BELLE HERRERA
2nd Place.  COLOURFUL – EVANGELINE DURUPT
3rd Place. TALK – BENJAMIN MAGRO

Listen to all Top Finalists songs on the Song Academy Soundcloud account

Quotes from The Young Songwriter 2021 finalists:

Benjamin “It doesn’t matter how wealthy you are or how much equipment you have. Someone who just has a guitar and a voice has just as much opportunity and chance as someone with a full size music studio.”

Charlie “allows people from all areas and walks of life to share their music with people and spread messages and emotion through music. There is also such an incredible judging panel and team behind the competition and it’s great to see that they are all just as excited as the entrants.”

Jacob “What I like most about The Young Songwriter is the community it creates between songwriters.”

Hetta “It’s a really cool way to listen to what other people your age are writing and I’ve discovered so many songs that I love just from the Song Academy playlist. I also like how it is judged purely on the song and not the quality of recording or production which means anyone can enter.”

Hatty “This is a fantastic platform for songwriters to be heard and to learn from.”

Morietnez “Inspires us to be brave to express our feelings and be ourselves.”

James “I like how the competition pushes young people and encourages creativity, allowing songs that might not otherwise be out there, a chance to shine.”

Conor “It’s really open minded with the music it takes into the competition. There is a list of genres, from rock to rap! It’s really incredible, and a great experience!”

Faye “I love how it gives a supportive space for young songwriters like me from all over the world. I also really like how we can listen to each other’s entries to hear the diversity and uniqueness of each individual song writer.”

Venice & Bella “It’s easy to enter and you don’t have to record in a fancy studio or have expensive equipment. It’s genuinely about the song and you feel truly heard.”

This year’s panel of award winning judges includes:

Fraser T Smith (Stormzy, Dave, Adele, Drake, Sam Smith), Tom Odell, Chris Difford, Tom Grennan, Michelle Escoffery, Calum Scott, Hannah V, Dan Gillespie Sells, Janet Devlin, Eg White (Adele, Duffy, Take That, Pink), Sacha Skarbek (James Blunt, Miley Cyrus, Adele, Jason Mraz, Duffy), Paul Adam (Dannii Minogue, Amy MacDonald & A&R Director at Island Records), Emily Phillips (Rizzle Kicks, Florence and the Machine, Sigrid, John Newman, Madison Beer, SOAK), Miranda Cooper (Girls Aloud, Sugababes, Pet Shop Boys, Alesha Dixon), Simon Aldred (Sam Smith, Rag’n’Bone Man, Avicii) and Iain Archer (Bugg, Sea Girls, Lisa Hannigan, Liam Gallagher, James Bay, Snow Patrol, Niall Horan).

Rowena Atkins, Founder of Song Academy, says “Song Academy inspires young people to speak up, express themselves, celebrate their individuality & get heard. By connecting them to a vibrant community of their peers who all love writing songs, as well as exposing their songs to key players in the Music Industry, we help to build young people’s confidence, self-esteem and drive to achieve their potential. As well as nurturing the next generation of music & creative leaders.”

QUOTES FROM SPONSORS KOBALT, SOUNDTRAP AND YAMAHA

Willard Ahdritz, Founder & Chairman of Kobalt says “It’s very important to support, inspire, and celebrate young creators as they start on their path in music. We are happy to be involved in this competition as it provides great opportunities and education for the young contestants. I know many of them will go on to have bright careers in music!”

Leanne Barrell, Marketing Manager of Yamaha says, “At Yamaha, we believe that music can empower everyone to express themselves, build friendships and make a positive impact in the world, so naturally we’re delighted to support The Young Songwriter 2021 Competition. It’s a great opportunity for young people everywhere to get inspired and share their music on a global stage. This is all about the future, and we can’t wait to hear the songs of a whole new generation of musical talent.”

Per Emanuelsson, Director of Soundtrap says “The annual Young Songwriter competition is a premiere event introducing many students from around the world to the art of creative expression through song, and is therefore an event close to our heart. Soundtrap is pleased to sponsor the 2021 Young Songwriter competition and advance the mission of helping students find and share their voices.”

For further media information, photography, videos, interviews, etc., contact Rowena Atkins, Founder of Song Academy at rowena@songacademy.co.uk or on +44 7710 023743

NOTES TO EDITORS:

SONG ACADEMY – helping every child find their voice

Founded 12 years ago, we’re dedicated to the future of music & the wellbeing of young people aged 8-18. We enable young people to express themselves and have their voices heard. From their first song to developing their first album. We nurture young writers, artists, musicians, producers & creative thinkers, empowering young people at a formative time of their life.

We believe that songwriting and music can transform the lives of young people by helping them find their voice. Young people are growing up in a competitive, fast changing & potentially isolating environment, which can cause various pressures and lead to issues with their mental health. Through songwriting young people can communicate their thoughts and feelings and connect to others. This creative and therapeutic process helps young people discover & develop their identity, overcome challenges, feel empowered by speaking up and advance their creative and social skills. The songs they write have the potential to spark debate, help their peers and shape their future.

Song Academy runs after-school clubs, holiday workshops, school workshops, birthday parties, song feedback reports and an annual international Young Songwriter competition. As a result of our programmes, we have seen a direct correlation in the increase and advancement of confidence, self-esteem, creativity, motivation, well-being and technical songwriting ability of our members.

NEXT OPPORTUNITIES:

Summer Holiday Workshops

Song Feedback Reports

Autumn Term 2021 weekly songwriting clubs

Create your own top trumps card, celebrate your creative talents and get to know more about aspiring young songwriters around the world!  The Song Academy Top Trumps Young Songwriters new initiative aims to connect young songwriters aged 8-18 around the world, sparking new collaborations, showcasing their creative talents and nurturing new leaders in the Music Industry.

We’re launching a new Top Trumps Young Songwriters initiative on Instagram & Facebook to encourage connections and collaborations between young songwriters around the world and have a bit of fun!

If you’d like to create your card please tailor the image below (right click to download it) and email your card to contact@songacademy.co.uk.  Plus please share with your followers and tag us (Instagram song_academy Facebook songacademyUK).

We can also create your card.  Please email a photo/avatar and answers to the following questions to contact@songacademy.co.uk:

Top Trumps File: Your name!
Favourite genre:
Musical Hero:
Instruments played:
Lyrical genius (out of 100)
Melody Master (out of 100)
Production Wizard (out of 100)
Number of songs written:
Life Motto:

We’re looking forward to seeing your cards and connecting you to our vibrant community of young songwriters!

Songs reveal the hearts & minds of young people after a year in lockdown.  Impressive originality, creativity & musical bravery displayed.  Young creators across the world unite.

Star Judges include Fraser T Smith, Tom Odell, Miranda Cooper, Chris Difford,
Calum Scott, Midge Ure, Tom Grennan & Michelle Escoffery

Drumroll please! The top 3 finalists of the hotly contested Song Academy Young Songwriter (SAYS) 2021 competition have now been revealed. This year’s competition attracted over 1,000 entries from aspiring young songwriters aged 8-18 across the world, both experienced young songwriters and those who’ve written their first song.  As in previous years 70% of entrants were girls.  13% of entries were in the international categories and 70% were from 13-18 year olds.  Entries from the UK/Ireland were widespread with 65% outside London.

The Young Songwriter competition stands for the craft and art of songwriting in its purest form, enabling young songwriters to aspire to the very best melody, lyric, structure, concept, harmony, mood and impact a song can have. It inspires young people to think about and speak up about things that are important to them personally, in their community and in the wider world and get their voices heard. It’s a supportive community where young people feel brave and can express themselves, celebrate individuality and be themselves. The benefits from this unique community are far reaching, especially the positive boost to mental health.

What makes a sensational song is ultimately subjective. The top 3 finalists songs were selected as they stood out for being special and original. Emily Phillips, renown songwriter and chair of The Young Songwriter 2021 judging panel said, “Chairing the judges this year was an exciting and stimulating experience!  To hear the feedback and thoughts of such renowned writers, producers and artists was fascinating.  The selection process was hotly debated as strong opinions clashed over different genres of music, reinforcing the fact that this is not an exact science but equally, that the winning songs were recognised and applauded for their artistry, inspiration and craft.  The standard was very high this year, so a huge congratulations to the winners and runners up!”

Michelle Escoffery, President of the PRS Members’ Council and SAYS21 judge, said:  “The Song Academy Young Songwriter 2021 competition is an incredibly valuable platform for helping the next generation of music creators develop their skills and build confidence in the profession. This year’s submissions have been filled with some fantastic original and interesting new music, that really captures the imagination and most importantly, reflects the resilience displayed by these songwriters over the past year. I want to thank all of the applicants for sharing their creations with us and a huge congratulations to those who have made the top three in each category. I look forward to seeing what you all do next and wish you the very best of luck in your careers.”

Goto the Song Academy SoundCloud account to listen to the finalists’ songs!   The winners will be announced on the 29th June and The Young Songwriter 2021 live showcase will be held at The Tabernacle, Notting Hill, London on Saturday 25th September 2021.

Fraser T Smith (songwriter, producer and SAYS21 judge) says “With so much going on in the world, it’s never been more vital for young people to be able to channel their energy and emotions into something positive, which is what The Young Songwriter competition encourages and facilitates through songwriting. Every young person has something to say, a story to tell, or a message to share – that’s why Song Academy is so important to our community.”

TOP 3 SAYS21 FINALISTS – 13-18 YEAR OLDS, UK/IRELAND

ALL IT TAKES – HETTA FALZON
LAYING ON MARS – BENJAMIN FRERE

WE’RE NOT LONELY ANYMORE – LEXIE CARROLL

TOP 3 SAYS21 FINALISTS – 8-12 YEAR OLDS, UK/IRELAND

FIREFLIES – LILY CRIDDLE
GIRL IN THE DRESS – LOIS BROOKS
ILLUSION – JOHNNY BEAU

TOP 3 SAYS21 FINALISTS – 13-18 YEAR OLDS, INTERNATIONAL

LOST MYSELF – JO MACKENZIE
PEOPLE LIKE YOU – PIP LEWIS
STARDUST – KELTY PARKER

TOP 3 SAYS21 FINALISTS – 8-12 YEAR OLDS INTERNATIONAL

COLOURFUL – EVANGELINE DURUPT
MY FRIEND IN MIAMI – VENICE AND BELLE HERRERA
TALK – BENJAMIN MAGRO

Listen to all Top Finalists songs on the Song Academy Soundcloud account

Quotes from The Young Songwriter 2021 finalists:

Benjamin “It doesn’t matter how wealthy you are or how much equipment you have. Someone who just has a guitar and a voice has just as much opportunity and chance as someone with a full size music studio.”

Charlie “allows people from all areas and walks of life to share their music with people and spread messages and emotion through music. There is also such an incredible judging panel and team behind the competition and it’s great to see that they are all just as excited as the entrants.”

Jacob “What I like most about The Young Songwriter is the community it creates between songwriters.”

Hetta “It’s a really cool way to listen to what other people your age are writing and I’ve discovered so many songs that I love just from the Song Academy playlist. I also like how it is judged purely on the song and not the quality of recording or production which means anyone can enter.”

Hatty “This is a fantastic platform for songwriters to be heard and to learn from.”

Morietnez “Inspires us to be brave to express our feelings and be ourselves.”

James “I like how the competition pushes young people and encourages creativity, allowing songs that might not otherwise be out there, a chance to shine.”

Conor “It’s really open minded with the music it takes into the competition. There is a list of genres, from rock to rap! It’s really incredible, and a great experience!”

Faye “I love how it gives a supportive space for young songwriters like me from all over the world. I also really like how we can listen to each other’s entries to hear the diversity and uniqueness of each individual song writer.”

Venice & Bella “It’s easy to enter and you don’t have to record in a fancy studio or have expensive equipment. It’s genuinely about the song and you feel truly heard.”

This year’s panel of award winning judges includes:

Fraser T Smith (Stormzy, Dave, Adele, Drake, Sam Smith), Tom Odell, Chris Difford, Tom Grennan, Michelle Escoffery, Calum Scott, Hannah V, Dan Gillespie Sells, Janet Devlin, Eg White (Adele, Duffy, Take That, Pink), Sacha Skarbek (James Blunt, Miley Cyrus, Adele, Jason Mraz, Duffy), Paul Adam (Dannii Minogue, Amy MacDonald & A&R Director at Island Records), Emily Phillips (Rizzle Kicks, Florence and the Machine, Sigrid, John Newman, Madison Beer, SOAK), Miranda Cooper (Girls Aloud, Sugababes, Pet Shop Boys, Alesha Dixon), Simon Aldred (Sam Smith, Rag’n’Bone Man, Avicii) and Iain Archer (Bugg, Sea Girls, Lisa Hannigan, Liam Gallagher, James Bay, Snow Patrol, Niall Horan).

Rowena Atkins, Founder of Song Academy, says “Song Academy inspires young people to speak up, express themselves, celebrate their individuality & get heard. By connecting them to a vibrant community of their peers who all love writing songs, as well as exposing their songs to key players in the Music Industry, we help to build young people’s confidence, self-esteem and drive to achieve their potential. As well as nurturing the next generation of music & creative leaders.”

QUOTES FROM SPONSORS KOBALT, SOUNDTRAP AND YAMAHA

Willard Ahdritz, Founder & Chairman of Kobalt says “It’s very important to support, inspire, and celebrate young creators as they start on their path in music. We are happy to be involved in this competition as it provides great opportunities and education for the young contestants. I know many of them will go on to have bright careers in music!”

Leanne Barrell, Marketing Manager of Yamaha says, “At Yamaha, we believe that music can empower everyone to express themselves, build friendships and make a positive impact in the world, so naturally we’re delighted to support The Young Songwriter 2021 Competition. It’s a great opportunity for young people everywhere to get inspired and share their music on a global stage. This is all about the future, and we can’t wait to hear the songs of a whole new generation of musical talent.”

Per Emanuelsson, Director of Soundtrap says “The annual Young Songwriter competition is a premiere event introducing many students from around the world to the art of creative expression through song, and is therefore an event close to our heart. Soundtrap is pleased to sponsor the 2021 Young Songwriter competition and advance the mission of helping students find and share their voices.”

For further media information, photography, videos, interviews, etc., contact Rowena Atkins, Founder of Song Academy at rowena@songacademy.co.uk or on +44 7710 023743

NOTES TO EDITORS:

SONG ACADEMY – helping every child find their voice

Founded 12 years ago, we’re dedicated to the future of music & the wellbeing of young people aged 8-18. We enable young people to express themselves and have their voices heard. From their first song to developing their first album. We nurture young writers, artists, musicians, producers & creative thinkers, empowering young people at a formative time of their life.

We believe that songwriting and music can transform the lives of young people by helping them find their voice. Young people are growing up in a competitive, fast changing & potentially isolating environment, which can cause various pressures and lead to issues with their mental health. Through songwriting young people can communicate their thoughts and feelings and connect to others. This creative and therapeutic process helps young people discover & develop their identity, overcome challenges, feel empowered by speaking up and advance their creative and social skills. The songs they write have the potential to spark debate, help their peers and shape their future.

Song Academy runs after-school clubs, holiday workshops, school workshops, birthday parties, song feedback reports and an annual international Young Songwriter competition. As a result of our programmes, we have seen a direct correlation in the increase and advancement of confidence, self-esteem, creativity, motivation, well-being and technical songwriting ability of our members.

NEXT OPPORTUNITIES:

Summer Holiday Workshops

Song Feedback Reports

Autumn Term 2021 weekly songwriting clubs

This week it is #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek, hosted by @mentalhealthfoundation. The theme this year is connecting with nature, so we’ve decided to create a Spotify playlist of songs about nature that may help you think about the world around us and see the benefits of nature when it comes to mental health. We are also huge believers that songwriting can help young creators express themselves and has a direct, positive affect on mental health, so why not combine the two and write a song about nature or the world around us?

In today’s world, feeling relaxed and being creative isn’t easy. There are so many technological distractions which can easily cut young people off from the real world and encourage them to live in a disconnected social media world, plus big events like COVID-19 and climate change have created fear and uncertainty in our daily lives as well as uncertainty about the future. Imagine a young person had something they wanted to share but didn’t know how to express it, or they were afraid that their creativity would be laughed at or frowned upon, or they feel isolated and that no one believes in them. Maybe they are starting a new school and have worries but feel embarrassed or unable to talk about them directly, or perhaps they’ve lost someone close or argued with a friend and don’t know how to express their emotions.

This is where songwriting can help. Music and especially songwriting is a powerful tool that allows people to express emotions, as well as relate to the emotions of others. Songs are written from the heart, mind and soul – whether joyful or sorrowful – and the very act of composing and writing lyrics and melodies can be very cathartic. The Ancient Greeks believed if you had sorrow and you wrote it down in a song for Apollo he would take away the pain! Many musicians and therapists believe that songwriting is a great way to discover and process feelings of all kinds – hope, fear, joy, sorrow, excitement, anxiety – which can all be uncovered as children learn to play with words and melodies. The physical act of writing down what they are feeling can help children deal with their worries and fears as well as express wishes, hopes and dreams.

Music therapist Barbara Dunn said that ‘songwriting is a way to give voice to the essence of who we are, to understand and express ourselves and, to some extent, our relationship to the community and world that surrounds us’. If we can get more young people engaging with their feelings and thoughts, and transforming them into a song with a message that is personal or universal, then maybe they’ll grow up to believe, as John Lennon once penned, ‘there’s nothing you can do that can’t be done, nothing you can sing that can’t be sung’.  Everything is possible.

Song Academy is dedicated to the wellbeing of young people and the future of music. Through our songwriting programmes and The Young Songwriter competition we enable young people to express themselves and be heard. From writing their first song to developing their first album, we nurture young writers, artists, musicians, producers & creative thinkers, empowering young people at a formative time of their life.

Have a listen to our Spotify playlist of songs about nature. Click here to listen to the playlist on Spotify.

What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong.  Earth Song by Michael Jackson.  Sun is Shining by Bob Marley & The Wailers.  Go To The Woods by Dar Williams.  One World by John Martyn.  (Nothing But) Flowers by Talking Heads.  Truth to Power by OneRepublic.  Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell.  Eyes Wide Open by Gotye.  Pass It On Down by Alabama.  Rocky Mountain High by John Denver.  Going Up The Country by Canned Heat.

For those young people who’d like some help developing their songwriting talents or writing their first song, we have an exciting programme of online songwriting workshops running this Half-Term & in the Summer holidays.  Another opportunity we provide is an excellent song feedback service throughout the year.

 

Songs reveal the hearts & minds of young people after a year in lockdown.  Impressive originality, creativity & musical bravery displayed.  Young creators across the world unite.

Star Judges include Fraser T Smith, Tom Odell, Miranda Cooper, Chris Difford,
Calum Scott, Midge Ure, Tom Grennan & Michelle Escoffery

Drumroll please! The top finalists (top 10 for the UK/Ireland categories and top 5 for the International categories) of the hotly contested Song Academy Young Songwriter (SAYS) 2021 competition have now been revealed. This year’s competition attracted over 1,000 entries from aspiring young songwriters aged 8-18 across the world, both experienced young songwriters and those who’ve written their first song.  As in previous years 70% of entrants were girls.  13% of entries were in the international categories and 70% were from 13-18 year olds.  Entries from the UK/Ireland were widespread with 65% outside London.

The Young Songwriter competition stands for the craft and art of songwriting in its purest form, enabling young songwriters to aspire to the very best melody, lyric, structure, concept, harmony, mood and impact a song can have. It inspires young people to think about and speak up about things that are important to them personally, in their community and in the wider world and get their voices heard. It’s a supportive community where young people feel brave and can express themselves, celebrate individuality and be themselves. The benefits from this unique community are far reaching, especially the positive boost to mental health.

What makes a sensational song is ultimately subjective. The top finalists songs were selected as they stood out for their creativity, invention & courage with lyrics & melodies illuminating our imaginations. Congratulations also go to all SAYS21 entrants for creating an impressive community of young songwriters, up for sharing and developing their creative talents.

Goto the Song Academy SoundCloud account to listen to the finalists’ songs!  The top 3 finalists of all categories will be announced on the 1st June.  The winners will be announced on the 29th June and The Young Songwriter 2021 live showcase will be held at The Tabernacle, Notting Hill, London on the 20th November 2021.

Fraser T Smith (songwriter, producer and SAYS21 judge) says “With so much going on in the world, it’s never been more vital for young people to be able to channel their energy and emotions into something positive, which is what The Young Songwriter competition encourages and facilitates through songwriting. Every young person has something to say, a story to tell, or a message to share – that’s why Song Academy is so important to our community.”

TOP 10 SAYS21 FINALISTS – 13-18 YEAR OLDS, UK/IRELAND

ALL IT TAKES – HETTA FALZON
CLAPHAM JUNCTION – JOE LEVER 
DROWNS ME OUT – TAIA THOMPSON
HONEY – NETTLE
HOW TO BE VULNERABLE – EMILY SEMPLE
I CAN’T BREATHE – HATTY YAP
LAYING ON MARS – BENJAMIN FRERE
TALKS TOO MUCH – LEONA MAE 
TWO TWO SEVEN- ALEKS KOSTOV
WE’RE NOT LONELY ANYMORE – LEXIE CARROLL 

TOP 10 SAYS21 FINALISTS – 8-12 YEAR OLDS, UK/IRELAND

DEEP WATERS – TWINKLE ANSAR
DID I – ISLA CAMPBELL 
FIREFLIES – LILY CRIDDLE
FOLLOW ME – LUKE PENDER 
GIRL IN THE DRESS – LOIS BROOKS
GOLDEN DAYS – LILY CARROLL 
ILLUSION – JOHNNY BEAU
SLOWLY – SAMBELLE PRINCE 
TEARDROPS – NELLY BINGHAM
VOICES – MACY O’NEILL 

TOP 5 SAYS21 FINALISTS – 13-18 YEAR OLDS, INTERNATIONAL

GOLDEN YEARS – YOB
LOST MYSELF – JO MACKENZIE 
PEOPLE LIKE YOU – PIP LEWIS
STARDUST – KELTY PARKER 
THE ASTRONAUTS’S SONG – MICHAEL ABIMANYU KAENG

TOP 5 SAYS21 FINALISTS – 8-12 YEAR OLDS INTERNATIONAL

COLOURFUL – EVANGELINE DURUPT
GRAFFITI ON THE WALL – ALEXIS G. ROLEY 
MY FRIEND IN MIAMI – VENICE AND BELLE HERRERA
TALK – BENJAMIN MAGRO 
WHO AM I – TAMARA YASIN

Listen to all Top Finalists songs on the Song Academy Soundcloud account

Quotes from The Young Songwriter 2021 finalists:

Benjamin “It doesn’t matter how wealthy you are or how much equipment you have. Someone who just has a guitar and a voice has just as much opportunity and chance as someone with a full size music studio.”

Charlie “allows people from all areas and walks of life to share their music with people and spread messages and emotion through music. There is also such an incredible judging panel and team behind the competition and it’s great to see that they are all just as excited as the entrants.”

Jacob “What I like most about The Young Songwriter is the community it creates between songwriters.”

Hetta “It’s a really cool way to listen to what other people your age are writing and I’ve discovered so many songs that I love just from the Song Academy playlist. I also like how it is judged purely on the song and not the quality of recording or production which means anyone can enter.”

Hatty “This is a fantastic platform for songwriters to be heard and to learn from.”

Morietnez “Inspires us to be brave to express our feelings and be ourselves.”

James “I like how the competition pushes young people and encourages creativity, allowing songs that might not otherwise be out there, a chance to shine.”

Conor “It’s really open minded with the music it takes into the competition. There is a list of genres, from rock to rap! It’s really incredible, and a great experience!”

Faye “I love how it gives a supportive space for young songwriters like me from all over the world. I also really like how we can listen to each other’s entries to hear the diversity and uniqueness of each individual song writer.”

Venice & Bella “It’s easy to enter and you don’t have to record in a fancy studio or have expensive equipment. It’s genuinely about the song and you feel truly heard.”

This year’s panel of award winning judges includes:

Fraser T Smith (Stormzy, Dave, Adele, Drake, Sam Smith), Tom Odell, Chris Difford, Tom Grennan, Michelle Escoffery, Calum Scott, Hannah V, Dan Gillespie Sells, Janet Devlin, Eg White (Adele, Duffy, Take That, Pink), Sacha Skarbek (James Blunt, Miley Cyrus, Adele, Jason Mraz, Duffy), Paul Adam (Dannii Minogue, Amy MacDonald & A&R Director at Island Records), Emily Phillips (Rizzle Kicks, Florence and the Machine, Sigrid, John Newman, Madison Beer, SOAK), Miranda Cooper (Girls Aloud, Sugababes, Pet Shop Boys, Alesha Dixon), Simon Aldred (Sam Smith, Rag’n’Bone Man, Avicii) and Iain Archer (Bugg, Sea Girls, Lisa Hannigan, Liam Gallagher, James Bay, Snow Patrol, Niall Horan).

Rowena Atkins, Founder of Song Academy, says “Song Academy inspires young people to speak up, express themselves, celebrate their individuality & get heard. By connecting them to a vibrant community of their peers who all love writing songs, as well as exposing their songs to key players in the Music Industry, we help to build young people’s confidence, self-esteem and drive to achieve their potential. As well as nurturing the next generation of music & creative leaders.”

QUOTES FROM SPONSORS KOBALT, SOUNDTRAP AND YAMAHA

Willard Ahdritz, Founder & Chairman of Kobalt says “It’s very important to support, inspire, and celebrate young creators as they start on their path in music. We are happy to be involved in this competition as it provides great opportunities and education for the young contestants. I know many of them will go on to have bright careers in music!”

Leanne Barrell, Marketing Manager of Yamaha says, “At Yamaha, we believe that music can empower everyone to express themselves, build friendships and make a positive impact in the world, so naturally we’re delighted to support The Young Songwriter 2021 Competition. It’s a great opportunity for young people everywhere to get inspired and share their music on a global stage. This is all about the future, and we can’t wait to hear the songs of a whole new generation of musical talent.”

Per Emanuelsson, Director of Soundtrap says “The annual Young Songwriter competition is a premiere event introducing many students from around the world to the art of creative expression through song, and is therefore an event close to our heart. Soundtrap is pleased to sponsor the 2021 Young Songwriter competition and advance the mission of helping students find and share their voices.”

For further media information, photography, videos, interviews, etc., contact Rowena Atkins, Founder of Song Academy at rowena@songacademy.co.uk or on +44 7710 023743

NOTES TO EDITORS:

SONG ACADEMY – helping every child find their voice

Founded 12 years ago, we’re dedicated to the future of music & the wellbeing of young people aged 8-18. We enable young people to express themselves and have their voices heard. From their first song to developing their first album. We nurture young writers, artists, musicians, producers & creative thinkers, empowering young people at a formative time of their life.

We believe that songwriting and music can transform the lives of young people by helping them find their voice. Young people are growing up in a competitive, fast changing & potentially isolating environment, which can cause various pressures and lead to issues with their mental health. Through songwriting young people can communicate their thoughts and feelings and connect to others. This creative and therapeutic process helps young people discover & develop their identity, overcome challenges, feel empowered by speaking up and advance their creative and social skills. The songs they write have the potential to spark debate, help their peers and shape their future.

Song Academy runs after-school clubs, holiday workshops, school workshops, birthday parties, song feedback reports and an annual international Young Songwriter competition. As a result of our programmes, we have seen a direct correlation in the increase and advancement of confidence, self-esteem, creativity, motivation, well-being and technical songwriting ability of our members.

NEXT OPPORTUNITIES:

Half-Term Songwriting Workshops 

Summer Holiday Workshops

Song Feedback Reports

A must for aspiring young songwriters!  Develop your songwriting skills.  Be inspired.  Meet like-minded young people. Write great songs.

Bookings are now open for our popular online songwriting workshops over half-term & the Summer holidays! Songwriting workshops for beginners, intermediates & advanced young songwriters.  Small groups of like-minded young creatives get inspired by Song Academy professional songwriters & take on songwriting briefs to express themselves with lyrics & music….writing their own original songs. Collaborative technology used with Zoom and Soundtrap to create an excellent online experience.  Builds confidence & creative skills……and great fun!

Two types of songwriting workshops:

  • Want to write a song with others? Join a group of up to 8 young people to write a song from scratch together. Then start writing your own song. 3 hour workshop
  • Want to write your own song? Join a group of up 4 young people and write your own original song over 3 days (2 hours each day). 6 hour workshop.

All groups have young people the same age and songwriting/musical experience.

CHECK OUT DATES & HOW TO BOOK YOUR PLACE. Don’t miss out! Limited places available.

Testimonials:

“A perfect holiday activity – creative, fun, great group of kids, inspiring leaders and a fantastic song written & performed in such a short time. Bravo!” Emma, Mother
“I’ve come away with loads of ideas to try out with my new songs. Plus I’m going to start writing some with the friends I’ve made!” Anya, aged 16

This year’s Song Academy Young Songwriter competition attracted over 1,000 entries from aspiring young songwriters aged 8-18 across the world, both experienced young songwriters and those who’ve written their first song. The judges were extremely impressed with the originality, creativity & musical bravery of the songs.  We interviewed each of the finalists to get to know them and learn more about how they write songs.

Faye Nicole – Walk Again 

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  ‘Walk Again’ is written about my experience with scoliosis, which was a very traumatic and personal aspect of my life. When I was 9, I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis, which is a curvature of the spine that can cause a lot of issues, depending on the severity and what stage it’s at. The plan was for me to undergo 2 rounds of surgery over a 3-week period in order to correct the curve. When I was 11, I had my first operation. I was in hospital for the following 2 weeks, and I was confined to a bed or a wheelchair as I couldn’t walk or do anything independently. During this period, I was preparing for the final round of surgery, which unfortunately didn’t go as planned. The operation had to be aborted due to potential nerve damage in my left leg. Waking up, I remember faintly hearing doctors around me talking about a ‘3rd operation’ and saying that they ‘couldn’t finish it’. At that point, the thought of going through it all over again was almost unbearable. I was kept in the intensive care unit for around 4 days so that they could increase the blood flow to my spine. I wasn’t allowed out of bed, I barely ate anything, and I was so mentally and physically drained. All I could think was ‘will I be able to walk’? The shape of my spine didn’t matter to me anymore, as long as my legs still worked. The final round of surgery was thankfully successful. I still had to re-learn how to walk, and the recovery was long and frustrating. But it wasn’t until about three years later that I realised I had such a unique story that deserved to be shared, and what better way to do that than to channel my creativity and put it into a song?

What got you into writing songs?  I started writing songs as a way to express what I had been through. Not only my experience with scoliosis, but the events that have shaped me throughout high school and the impact that had been left on me after facing challenges that I never thought I’d face. I got such a good feeling from turning my personal struggles into something that other people could listen and relate to, so song writing became a necessity for me.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  Definitely lyric writing. Creating unique ways of expressing my thoughts and finding interesting metaphors and interpretations of a concept has to be the part of the process where I feel like I have the best opportunity to really deliver a powerful message.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  When I was writing ‘Walk Again’, it was pretty much just me, my pen, my song book, and my piano. I wanted to write it in a stripped back, authentic environment, so that I could get the rawest emotions out and focus my energy on powerful, passionate lyrics.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I usually start with messing around on the piano to find a chord progression, and then I try to visualise an emotion that matches the music. After that, I’ll try to find a part of me that personally connects to that emotion based off experience, or I’ll put myself in the shoes of someone else. Once I have the rough feel of the song, I’ll start humming along until I find a decent melody and I kind of sing whatever words come to mind. If the words fit, I keep them. Otherwise, I change it around until it sounds and feels right.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  If I could choose one, it would have to be Boy in Space. Something about his music is so captivating and it inspires me to incorporate different sounds and concepts into my own originals.

What made you enter #SAYS21? How did you hear about it?  I heard about The Young Songwriter Competition back in 2019, and I started entering it since then. Especially this year, since I’ve been experimenting with different song writing styles, I saw it as an opportunity to put some different stuff out there and just see what happens!

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  I would say to just give it a shot! There’s no reason to hold back on putting yourself out there, and the worst that could happen is that you don’t progress, but continue to work on your craft, only to improve and give it another go next year. The first step to getting ahead in anything is to just try. If you don’t try, you’ve already set yourself back. So definitely don’t be afraid to enter, you’ve got nothing to lose!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I love how it gives a supportive space for young songwriters like me from all over the world, the opportunity to put our music out there and see what happens! I also really like how we can listen to each other’s entries to hear the diversity and uniqueness of each individual song writer.

Joa – Golden Years 

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  I got the inspiration to write this song after a conversation I had with my friend. We were talking about the covid-situation, and how we felt that we had to sacrifice a lot. “the old people live while the young once, we die, is this supposed to be the time of our lives” concludes our conversation. I couldn’t stop thinking about what we talked about and had to write something about it.

What got you into writing songs?  I started writing when I was about 14. I’ve always loved music but never really liked my voice specifically, so when I started writing I finally found something that I felt comfortable singing. I write songs when I feel like my head is about to explode and I’m overwhelmed by thoughts and questions.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  My favourite part of writing a song is when the pieces fit together. Going from a few melodies and lines to a complete story. I also love when I come up with a chorus and the rest of the song comes naturally.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  I wrote the song at my keyboard in my room and wrote it down of my phone. I also recorded it at my room in Garage band.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I usually start with a melody. I’ll sit down and the feeling I have at that moment will often reflect the melody. When I come up with a melody is often a chorus, and I will try different chords on the piano to find a verse and pre chorus. I find the spark when I often have a lot on my mind, and writing becomes a way of clearing my mind.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  I have listened a lot to Empire of the sun lately and it would be a dream to write with them. I think they have a unique way of writing and interesting, magical melodies. I also love Ryan tedders songs and what he has written, so it would have been super interesting working with him.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  Go for it!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  It’s an easy way of getting in touch with young songwriter all around the world.

Jo Mackenzie – Lost Myself 

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I wrote my finalist song “Lost Myself” about feeling disillusioned about the person you’ve become after years of trying to fit into a mold that isn’t you.

What got you into writing songs?  I started writing songs when I was seven years old and was inspired by songwriters Elton John, Taylor Swift, and Billy Joel.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  My favorite part of the songwriting process is when parts click together. For example, when I figure out the right way to transition from the verse to the chorus or how to spice up the second verse in a fun way.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio? The whole process is like a puzzle and finishing it and getting to see the whole picture is super fun and satisfying. I wrote “Lost Myself” in my bedroom studio.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I first started out by recording myself playing a drum loop. I then used Ableton Live to chop it up and add other elements. I started to freestyle over the loop and from there I built up the rest of the song. This is exemplary of one of the ways I start songs. Sometimes, I will get an instrumental loop going to write over. Other times, I just like to sit by the piano and think about my day and what I’m feeling. I will then usually play chords and start to sing whatever comes to me at the moment.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  My dream collaborators are Jack Antonoff, Taylor Swift, Elton John, Grace Vanderwaal, Conan Gray, and Lorde.

What made you enter #SAYS21? How did you hear about it? I entered #SAYS21 this year because I also participated last year (my song “Suicide Season” made it to the top 3!), and it was a great experience. If someone was wondering if they should enter SAYS, I would tell them that it’s a great way to showcase their art and listen to other young artists’ songs.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I think my favorite thing about SAYS is that it’s a platform for young artists to be heard by successful and talented judges and artists.

Julie Kuhl – Where Seabirds Scream

What inspired you to write your finalist song?   Last year I started a stay abroad in England but after a couple of months I had to go back to Germany because of the corona pandemic. It was very painful for me because it has always been my dream to live in England. I wanted to come back as soon as possible. My plan was to return in 2021 but I got a rejection from the school I wanted to go to, because of the Brexit. Out of my frustration I wrote that song.

What got you into writing songs?  In a way I have been inventing music since I was a little child. I always made up stories in my head and chanted them to myself. Mostly in fantasy languages – there are some really funny pieces my parents secretly recorded. Later I tried out different instruments and started writing songs on my guitar. When I was 13 I went to an Ed Sheeran concert which inspired me a lot. In the following weeks I wrote many songs and making music became a very, very important part of my life.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  My favourite part in the song writing process is expressing myself through music. When harmonies and lyrical words reflect the way I feel it’s very healing for me. I love processing my feelings through music.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  I wrote that song lying in my bed without any purpose. When I played it to my guitar teacher he really liked it. We recorded it in the next lesson, it was actually just a kind of sketch but I realized, I liked it that way. So I didn’t change anything and the final song ended up very pure.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  There is not one way how I start to write a song. Usually I need to be alone in my room. But I find a lot of my song ideas and small lyrical pieces when I’m somewhere outside for example when I’m going for a walk. But the important thing is I have to be on my own so I can let my thoughts flow.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  There are many! It’s hard to decide. The first two musicians who come into my mind are Phoebe Bridgers and Arlo Parks. They inspire me a lot. It would be also great to work with the Giant Rooks. Not to be forgotten: Ed Sheeran. He really inspired me when I was younger.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?

I can just say believe in yourself and enter with a song you are happy with, eventually that’s the most important thing. Don’t be afraid to express your feelings because that doesn’t make you weak. It is brave!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I love that you support us young musicians. I feel very seriously taken as a musician and such a competition is a big motivation. It is great that everyone has the opportunity to take part. It’s all very well and easily organized. Thank you so much for giving me the feeling to get a step closer to my dream.

Kelty Parker – Stardust 

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  This song was inspired by a boy I went to school with who committed suicide shortly after I met him. When I attended his funeral, it felt clear to me that he died largely unknown and misunderstood. The funeral did not represent any part of him correctly and left me haunted for weeks afterward. I didn’t quite understand why I felt the loss so deeply but as I processed it, I realized that it was because I felt the same way I think he did. I felt like a cosmic beam stuck in a reality in which I would never truly be seen or understood. I think many people resonate with this hopeless feeling of unfulfillment with the realities of everyday life; it seems to be a cloud that never quite lifts. This song tells the story of what it feels like to be burdened with something unique to offer the world but also the heaviness of that burden — “our seeds so magnificent they were treacherous to sow.”  These lyrics are some of the dearests to me I have written, because they tell the story of me, my friend from Chemistry, and all those who feel unseen in their brilliance as they live in a dull world.

What got you into writing songs?  We always had a guitar in the house and once I started learning how to play it was impossible for me not to create songs, and I fell in love with writing. Throughout my life, songs have been a place where I can explain how I’m feeling to myself through rhythms and melodies. Once I start a song, where it is meant to go feels natural to me and always comes from a raw place of struggle, anger, or pain.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  My favorite part of the songwriting process is when while writing I come across a lyric that completely explains to myself how I am feeling. Oftentimes, accidentally I will be playing guitar and find a perfect line that rhymes, and this rythme just so happens to be a truth I hadn’t even yet known until after I had written it down.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  I wrote Stardust in my basement shortly after my friend’s funeral in my writing journal. After writing it and editing it, our family friend who is an incredible musician, David Zach, helped me further produce it and diversify the melody.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I often get a sick feeling in my stomach when I feel I need to write something and am not writing it. I usually write my first draft of a song in 10-20 minutes and often write when I feel as though no one or nothing will be able to settle me except for words on paper. I start my songs with an idea- it is usually based on feelings of injustice, anger, depression, or the feeling of being deeply misunderstood.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  Matt Maeson is my favorite artist. I feel deeply connected to each one of his songs and I have never felt so understood by any artist. My dream would be to create music as honest and raw as his that has such a powerful effect on people.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  I would push anyone considering entering this competition to do it. For the longest time, I was terrified to even share my songs with my friends or family because to me my songs are somewhat of a diary. All the things I can’t find words for I can somehow find rhythms for, and it is in my songs where I am maybe the most vulnerable and true version of me. There is something so courageous about being willing to share your work but also something so gratifying. Art was meant to be shared. A tip I would give would be just to be as honest and genuine with your lyrics as possible. The more vulnerable lyrics are the more powerful they affect and connect with others.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I love that the Song Academy Young Songwriter Competition is an international competition. I also love that since it is an amateur competition it feels like the youth’s talent is more applauded, seen, and not looked over. It is a community in which I feel encouraged to continue writing, creating, and sharing.

Lily Welch – Grey 

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  Quarantine. It was so hard being isolated from all of my friends and family and even doing simple things like going to the movie theaters and traveling. The more and more I sat with myself I felt empty, alone and grey. In any situation when I don’t know what to do, I write a song. The words flowed out of me so easily because I had so much I wanted to share about the experience.

What got you into writing songs?  In 3rd grade I would keep numbers of journals with lyrics in them. I would bring them everywhere with me and I would write about things I didn’t even know much about. Once I started to really learn to play many instruments my dad bought me a loop pedal and an amo which I would use everyday. It was like the possibilities of what I could make with my words and music was infinitive. I fell in love with songwriting then and still to this day it is my biggest passion.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  Definitely the lyrics. I love this part; I could sit in my room for hours and write about so many things. Another fun part is putting the lyrics and music together. Once it all clicks together, that’s it. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  My bedroom is my sanctuary, my studio. I always use pen and paper to write a song. Occasionally if I have an idea in the middle of nowhere I will write it down in my phone, but I really prefer to write it down, get it in my brain, and have that hard copy forever. Every song I write starts with me and guitar. Even if it ends up being on piano or ukulele it always starts with a piece of paper and guitar for me.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  Often, I will have days or a moment where I just FEEL like writing a song. It will come easily to me and I can knock out a rough draft within an hour. Other times, I’m stumped on what to write about and nothing comes to me. So it really just depends on the day or the experiences I’ve had.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  People always ask me this question and it is a hard one to answer. I have so many artists I look up to and would love to collaborate with them. My number one will always be Taylor Swift. The way her words resonate with me is really a cool thing. I can relate to so many of her songs, she’s incredible. Other artists I would absolutely love to work with are Bon Iver, Noah Kahan, Billie Eilish, and Matt Maeson and Khalid.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  You just have to go for it. One’s music can really affect someone more than you think!

 What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I like how it gives young people an opportunity to share their talent and songs with everyone.

Malvina Kavita – Ghosts In Our Hometown 

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  Due to the pandemic, my plans to move out for college were pushed back and I found myself still at my parents’ house in my hometown.  I felt like I was in this strange place in between childhood and adulthood grieving the life I had imagined for myself.  No matter how much I wanted to move on, I couldn’t.  I realized I felt like a ghost stuck between two worlds unable to fully let go of the past.

What got you into writing songs?  I became fascinated with songwriting after learning that my favorite musicians wrote their own music, but I never considered it was something I could do myself.  I spent so much time watching interviews of my favorite musicians talking about their writing process that, when I got an idea for a song, I somewhat knew how to proceed.  Once I wrote my first song, I was able to get over the mental block that I couldn’t write songs, and I kept practicing and honing my skills every chance I got.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  My favorite part of the songwriting process is that it’s different every time.  I have never written two songs exactly the same way, and I think a lot of the excitement comes from seeing how it all comes together.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  I wrote this song out on pen and paper sitting on my bedroom floor with a guitar.  I have experimented with lots of different ways of writing, but I think starting with something simple allows you to really focus on lyrics and melody.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I start songs in a lot of different ways.  Usually, I have a general idea of the topic I want to write about in mind.  From there, I will either pick up and instrument and try to find a chord progression that matches the tone I’m looking for, or I brainstorm words, phrases, and feelings that correspond to that topic.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  I would love to collaborate with Taylor Swift, because she is one of the people who inspired me to try writing songs and I still learn so much from analyzing her work and work ethic.  I would also love to work with Brandi Carlile, Bon Iver, and HAIM, who all inspire me greatly.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  I would just go for it and try not to overthink it.  Having others hear and judge your work can be a vulnerable experience, but it is so worth it and will make you a better songwriter in the long run.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I like that it focuses on young writers and that it’s open internationally!

Michael Abimanyu Kaeng – Astronaut’s song 

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I love reading about space exploration, planets, and what happened beyond our solar system. One day I watched a video about the Challenger explosion in 1986 and the 73-seconds tragedy stuck in my mind. I imagined myself being an astronaut when the space shuttle was about to launch. There would be hundreds of feelings in that very moment. Love, fear, courage, hope, pride, and what else?

What got you into writing songs?  I write songs to express my thoughts, ideas, feelings and emotions. Music and words complement each other. There are some feelings that words cannot describe as distinctly as music does.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  I love the early stage of the song writing process which is finding the soul of the song in one or two lines of melody. This is my favourite part as well as the most challenging. Once we got the soul of the song the next parts would effortlessly flow.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio? It was Yamaha PSR 970 and myself.  I use the piano sound to make the outline of the song. After that I added various tracks such as flute, string and percussion.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I start with understanding my thoughts or emotions. As in my No, 3 anser, the next step is finding the spark in one or two lines of main melody.  For me the main melody is usually in the chorus or in the beginning of the song.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  Keyboard master Cory Henry

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the SAYS competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  I would say how SAYS competition unites the world. I am a student in Jakarta but immediately connect to hundreds/thousands fellow young songwriters from other countries. No doubt. Join it.  My tips would be “Be true to yourself in writing your music!”.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter Competition?  I really appreciate the fact that SAYS Competition publishes all the song from the contestants. We can learn and have fun with the songs.

Morietnez Azra Mashuri – Best Friend 

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  I felt really sorry for him because a simple thing could change the way we feel about others, especially close friends. So I decided to write this song and let you know that communication is an important thing in any sort of relationship.

What got you into writing songs?  Well I was in junior high at that time and my music teacher gave the whole class an assignment to make their own song. The idea I had was from my friend’s love story which she felt friendzoned by her “boy friend”. I wasn’t that confident and was very shy to listen to my own song. 2 years passed by and there was this talent event called Bintang SMA who are looking for a senior high student around Indonesia to star in Pocari Sweat commercial. I decided to sign up because I felt it was a very good opportunity. I thought it would be great to show something different. I wanna show that I am not just a singer but I also write songs. Then I wrote the song Prince Charming, inspired by some high school love story issues  and gladly I made it to the top 10 Bintang SMA Pocari Sweat. I am so proud of myself seeing that now I am not just a singer but I can write my own song.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  Definitely the idea and the story plot. I grew up watching Disney movies and fantasizing in my room. When I was little I used to write stories on my laptop and imagine what would happen to my stories if they were  in real life. Now the idea that I imagined for years could be poured to my songs.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  It’s basically my pencil, my songwriting book, then I grab my guitar, and strum the chords that suits with the idea of my song. The final process is to record it in my home recording studio.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I was inspired by a story or something that I felt, saw or heard about which can come from me, my friends, my family and even the world’s situation. So it basically came from something inspiring then I took my time to focus on it and the idea just pops up.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  I would really love to collaborate with BTS, Amen! I’ve followed them since the early 2020, and I fell in love from the moment I heard their newest single. I’m not only loving their appearance or their style, but their personality and songs really touched me. At first I wasn’t into them because I thought they were just some Korean boy band group who sing and dance just like the others. But when I listened to their songs, it was just a whole new thing. They aren’t just artists, they actually care about other people especially their fans and motivates people to love themselves. They made a campaign about their Love Yourself album and spoke in UNICEF. That made me inspired and I wish I could collaborate with them someday.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year?  Do you have any tips for them? I am a singer who always sings for a song cover. It’s good,  I learn lots of  genre music but at some point I felt something was missing. I need to show who I  really am. That is when you sing your own song. So I would absolutely recommend them to be confident and enjoy songwriting from a young age. This environment is making us creative,  build more confidence and definitely be proud of your own song. Being the winner is not the key to it, but to always make your own creation because no one knows someday it would be a masterpiece. Keep making your own song!!  Don’t be shy to express how you feel, let the world hear you and always be inspired by little things in your life!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  What I like about this competition is it has a good and conducive environment that can gain our creativity, brave enough to express our feelings,  build confidence and the most important thing is being ourselves.

Pip Lewis – People like you 

What inspired you to write your finalist song? “People Like You” was written during the height of the pandemic and lockdown, and I found that many people were growing despondent about both the situation of the world and towards themselves. I have faith in the good of humans, so the underlying message of the song is “if there are good people like you, then everything’s going to turn out fine”.

What got you into writing songs? A combination of my love of listening to music, and personal struggles I was going through at the time. I started to write about a year after I moved from the UK to the US; it was a difficult time for me and it was a useful outlet of negative emotion.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I absolutely love finishing songs because I get to hear what I was formulating in my head. My songs often look kind of weird when they’re written down, so hearing them as a tangible finished product – as they were intended – is so rewarding.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio? I sat down and wrote “People Like You” in twenty minutes in a Logic Pro session, and then built the arrangement around the lyrics. The following day, I recorded the top vocal and harmonies with the mic and interface I have in my bedroom. Then I sent my demo to my producer, Mylo Bard!

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Honestly, I don’t find the spark. I just wait for it to come to me, and that can take a while! It’s frustrating to hear professional songwriters say “you should write songs even when you don’t feel like it”. Personally, I’ve written my worst songs when I don’t feel like writing them. “People Like You” was created because a spark came to me, and it turned out to be my most successful song to date.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Gosh, there’s so many. I’d love to collaborate with Bon Iver (Justin Vernon) or Phoebe Bridgers. Then again, there are people like Mavis Staples, FINNEAS, Tom Odell, Madness, Maggie Rogers, and MARINA, too. Can you tell how indecisive I am?!

What made you enter #SAYS21? How did you hear about it? I entered in 2020 and made it to the Top 10 with my song, “Missing in Action”. I wanted to enter for the last time before I turn 19!

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them? Go for it! Music changes lives, and it could be your song that does so. My only tip would be don’t overthink it! If you have something you love and want to share with the world; do it!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I love the support that it provides young artists. It’s such a one of a kind experience and an awesome opportunity. I’m so grateful to be amongst such amazing songwriters.

This year’s Song Academy Young Songwriter competition attracted over 1,000 entries from aspiring young songwriters aged 8-18 across the world, both experienced young songwriters and those who’ve written their first song. The judges were extremely impressed with the originality, creativity & musical bravery of the songs.  We interviewed each of the finalists to get to know them and learn more about how they write songs.

Alexis Roley – Graffiti On the Wall

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  I like art.  My mom, my aunt, my cousin and my twin sister, Lauren, would always want to go to New York and ride the subway and visit the museums and parks. I’ve not been able to go, so I imagined what it would be like to be in the subway.

What got you into writing songs?  My grandfather likes to write songs and has a home studio, and I like to write, so it was like a perfect fit.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  I like writing lyrics.  Sharing stories, while singing, is fun.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  I have a songbook that I write in.  Much like a journal, but what I write about are stories that can become songs. My grandfather has a machine (Focusrite Scarlett 4i4) that he used to put my song in GarageBand.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I think about my problems and the problems in the world around me, and my family and other certain topics, and start to put the words on paper.  I have a band called the Kusinz, with my twin sister, Lauren and my ten year old cousin, Brooklyn, and we love getting together playing each other’s songs.  We like to challenge each other.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  My grandfather, Boppa and my great uncle, Scott, who is a singer songwriter in Nashville.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year?  Do it!!

Do you have any tips for them?  Follow what you like and keep on writing no matter what happens or whatever anyone says.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I like that the SAYS gives me a chance to prove myself as a songwriter.  And I love the idea that it includes so many kids from around the world.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Antea Turk – Dream

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  My dreams inspired me to write this song.

What got you into writing songs? I always have a passion for songwriting.  I always find them fun to do because I can tell a story and also express my feelings.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part of the song writing is the lyric writing because I can write about my dreams.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  It started when I played a melody on my keyboard and then I added the lyrics after that.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I usually start writing a song by finding inspiration from other people’s songs.  Since I have a fun personality, I like to twist the song to make it fun.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  BENE, the singer from New Zealand.  My favourite song is “Glitter” because it is a fun song.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  Just send your songs so it will be heard by other people, we never know if it will end up winning or not, at least we have tried. Tips: try to record in voice notes whenever or wherever you have an inspiration for a song.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I like that the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition now separates the International category into 8-12 years old and 13-18 years old so kids have a bigger chance of winning.

Ava Rosenberg – Crazy Eyes

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  To be totally honest I don’t know why I wrote Crazy Eyes. All I really remember is, it was the first love song I ever wrote. I guess I was just messing around with the lyrics and then it hit me. This could be a song. A bunch of people ask me for the inspiration of Crazy Eyes and I just foolishly answer, it is about my dog. Of course, this is not true but that was the first thing that popped into my mind when asked the question. Maybe this song is about a past life or someone I made up in my mind. To tell you the truth, I think about the inspiration for this song every day.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  My favorite part of song writing is hearing the rhymes come together. I also like rehearsing what I wrote and realize that a rhyme is “fire”.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  The set up I used was pen to paper for the most part. When there was enough on paper and the melody became clear in my mind I would record to voice memo. I then took the completed acapella to my song teacher who helped translate it to piano.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I just make something up in my head. Usually it is based on an event, a song title, a person, or I once wrote a song based on a picture I painted. So my spark comes from everywhere.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  My dream artist to collaborate with is Taylor Swift.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  I think a person should not question their song, be confident and enjoy the experience.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I really like that it is international and that I am able to submit my song along with so many other kids my age. I can’t believe there is a place to do this. I am also amazed about how popular SAY21 is in the UK/Ireland.

Benjamin Magro – Talk

What inspired you to write your final song?  I got lonely during school lockdown. I missed my friends terribly and I became increasingly close to my dog Chip. I used to talk to him like a friend. Then one day during a lesson I just thought of some lyrics and a melody.

What got you into writing songs?  I wrote my first song and I realised it made me happy. It was a good way to express my feelings.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  Melody and Song Structure – I like humming a melody and writing the lyrics.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  It was first during a maths online lesson with pen and paper then recorded in a studio.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  First I get the melody in my head, and I hum it over and over again. I then I start writing lyrics about some feelings I am having, about messages I want to send out to the world.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  Mine would be Maroon 5.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  I say go for it and do your best. Wait for the moment when you get inspired, when you get the spark and enjoy doing it. Don’t hassle too much about the competition, and don’t rush yourself. You need to find the right time. When I wrote my song I wasn’t thinking of the competition. I did it for myself.

What do you like about the Song Academy Songwriter Competition?  It gives young children a chance to express themselves and show their talent. In my country there aren’t plenty of opportunities for the art of song writing but mostly singing. It also helps us to learn and inspire ourselves from each other.

Evangeline Durupt – Colourful

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  Being at my cabin in Port Alice with my family and my best friend.

What got you into writing songs?  My mom.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  Once I’ve got my tune and the first line, then I can just write and rhyme! It brings up different emotions and I always love to see what comes out of it.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  Just pen and paper! And of course my ukulele.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  When I have a big emotion, I pick up my ukulele and start playing. Or if a tune comes into my head I try to get it out.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  Taylor Swift!

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  I would say keep going with your idea for a song there’s no right or wrong way to make music.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I get to hear other young songwriters’ music and feel inspired to write more.

Luna Kup – Fantasy

What inspired you to write your finalist song? A dream actually. I had this dream, where the melody to this song was actually playing. When I woke up, I decided to write a song with that melody. The lyrics are what I thought a girl would feel about liking someone a lot, but it is all in her mind, and I just really liked how the melody went with that theme.

What got you into writing songs? So for my first birthday in quarantine, I got a guitar. I was really inspired by Taylor Swift since I had more time to listen to music due to quarantine and summer. I wanted to make songs like Taylor Swift’s older albums, especially the Fearless one. Once I got started, I just couldn’t stop writing songs and it turned out that I really enjoyed it!  After a few songs, I found my own style of music. This was when I really got into songwriting.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I think it depends. Emotionally, my favorite part of song writing is writing lyrics. “Creatively,” my favorite part is coming up with new chords and melodies. For me, I can’t have a song without lyrics and I can’t have lyrics without a song. Most of the time, the idea and the lyrics of the song relate to something I am going through at the time. Whether that week had been really good, or I have a new crush, or that week was just not the best week. Now, for coming up with chords and melodies, I feel there is no limit. I like how there are so many possibilities for chords. Overall, it just depends on what my favorite part is either emotionally or creatively.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio? My setup is just me and my guitar, ukulele, or piano and google docs.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I usually start the song by either coming up with the melody first or the lyrics. And that just depends on how I feel during the week or day. On days when I’m not having the best time coming up with a melody, I just take a break and write some lyrics and then the melody and chords come to me. On other days, I just start experimenting with chords, and then the lyrics come to me later. I think I find the spark when the song actually relates to something I’m going through at the time. I like writing out my feelings through song instead of a journal. With singing my feelings through a song, I’m not limited to only pencil and paper. I can use my voice in a way where I don’t have to speak, speak, speak, and go on and on.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Taylor Swift. Definitely.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them? I would say to enter the songs which you personally like the most, but still show who you are and your voice and your songwriting.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I like how there are all different types of music and there are so many places around the world that the entries are from. I also like how you can use SoundCloud to show your songs. Most of all, I like how the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition gives children from all over a chance to share their songs with others.

Lynette Lee Lyn Xi – So Young 

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  I was inspired by my brother on his birthday as a gift .

What got you into writing songs?  I just love singing and writing songs.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  My favourite part of the process is singing. I hope one day I could be a professional singer.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  I just used a pen, paper and ukulele .

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  When something pops out of my head I will just write it down.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  I would like to collaborate with Blackpink but they are k-pop singers and I don’t know korean.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  I would say it’s a great idea because we could let the world hear our beautiful voices and songs. Do not be afraid, just be brave!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  It’s really a great competition that brings all good songs together. Thanks to Song Academy!

Smile – Singing Butterflies

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  We were thinking about flowers and meadow, because it was spring at that time.

What got you into writing songs?   We took a singing class together, and our teacher had an idea, that we should write a song, and we really wanted to do that.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  Basia: Playing the instrument was the best part for me. LeiIa: I liked the process of composing music.  Ada: Playing with music software was very fun!

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kited out studio?   We were using a pen, keyboard, microphone, computer, speakers and audio interface.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?   First thing that we found was the chord progression, but we changed the key later to fit the melody better.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  Girls: With Miss Karolina!!! (the teacher).  Leila: I would love to record a song with Sofia Carson, I like her voice very much.  Basia: I’d like to sing with Zuza Jabłońska (polish singer).  Ada: Ariana Grande!

What do you like about Songs Academy Young Songwriter competition?
Basia: This competition is really cool! Leila: We are very happy that we could participate in the competition with people from other countries and we were able to listen to their music.
Ada: It was a lot of fun!!!  Temat: Being a top 10 Finalist of The Young Songwriter 2021 competition

Tamara Yasin Who Am I 

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  I always wanted to know who I am. This song is just my personal thoughts and questions.

What got you into writing songs?  I am lucky to be born in musical family. My mom is a music professor. Music always been around me and it made me feel better. I “wrote” my first song about Prince when I was less than 3 years old.  Before pandemic in our house we constantly had music classes, music camps, concerts.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  I liking making up the melody. Melody is what makes a song a song, not a poem, not a story.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  It is all started with ukulele. I wrote this song while I was improvising; singing and playing ukulele. Then I wrote it on the paper and showed it my mom. My mom really liked it and we recorded an acoustic version of the song. I submitted that song to the songwriting  competition for National Association for Music Education ( USA) and to my big surprise that song became a winner. I received a monetary award and invested all the money into professional production of this song. Sometimes dreams come true!!!

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I just think about something and then start singing. Sometime it is just an improvisation and sometime it becomes a song. Sometimes I write songs for specific occasions: I wrote a song for my cousin’s wedding, for my father’s, grandma and grandpa birthdays.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  I would love to collaborate with Paul McCartney, Katy Perry and Pacek and Paul (songwriters for the Greatest Showman and Dear Evan Hansen)

What made you enter #SAYS21? How did you hear about it?  I use Soundtrap to create compositions. I saw the announcement about SAYS21 on Soundtrap.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  Just believe in yourself and don’t give up on your dreams.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?​  I really like to listen to all other songs and I think having a competition is a great motivation to continue to write songs.

Venice and Belle Herrera – My friend in Miami

What inspired you to write your finalist song? Our friend at school told us she’s moving to Miami. As British expats in Dubai, we’re meant to be used to saying goodbye to friends, but sometimes it still feels hard. Our mum is really positive and when we told her she just said “Well, now you’ll have a friend in Miami”… We just looked at each other and knew it was a great song idea.

What got you into writing songs? We’re identical twins and have been making up songs, poems and stories together since we were tiny (we’re 12 now!). Songwriting just seems like a really fun and natural way for us to put things into words, like losing friends, or the pressures to conform, or sometimes more whimsical things like nature and folklore.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? Definitely the initial ideas phase. It gets a bit boring when it comes to recording it and Venice gets frustrated playing the same thing over and over on her guitar or ukelele!

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio? We just use a pen and paper to work out the lyrics while Venice plays around with the melody. Then we sing the harmonies and put it together. It’s usually a fairly fast process.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Inspiration comes from books, feelings, things happening in our lives, nature… lots of things can give us the initial spark, then we play around and see if there’s a good song in it. Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn’t.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? We have a lot of fairly obscure, old time influences, but one band we’d love to work with is definitely First Aid Kit. They’re sisters, like us, they sing beautiful harmonies and we love their folkish country style.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them? If you are hesitating, just do it and see what happens. Don’t feel bad if you’re not shortlisted, because there are hundreds of entries and the competition is amazing. But listen to the finalists and see if you can find inspiration from them. But also, don’t try and sound like anyone else, just do you!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? It’s easy to enter and you don’t have to record in a fancy studio or have expensive equipment. It’s genuinely about the song and you feel truly heard.

 

This year’s Song Academy Young Songwriter competition attracted over 1,000 entries from aspiring young songwriters aged 8-18 across the world, both experienced young songwriters and those who’ve written their first song. The judges were extremely impressed with the originality, creativity & musical bravery of the songs.  We interviewed each of the finalists to get to know them and learn more about how they write songs.

Alice Maxwell – Sometimes

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  During lockdown, I had noticed how hard it had been for many, whether taking public exams, or coping on your own, as my granny had experienced. However, my song isn’t just based on the difficulties in lockdown but also a general message that goes out to everyone that ‘it’s not whether you are knocked down, but whether you get back up again.’ The aim of my song is to prove that there is always hope at the end of the tunnel and difficult times will mostly always get better. My step Grandpa passed away just over two years ago and I notice in my Grandma that she will always miss him, but instead of feeling sad about his passing away, she can feel happy about the amazing things that he did in his life. I hope that everyone can find their own interpretation to my song, and that maybe it can give them just a little bit of hope.

What got you into writing songs?  When I was 8/9 years old I decided that I wanted to start teaching myself the ukulele, so, as a result, I used my pocket money to buy one from the music shop near me. After time I improved at playing it, and that same year, I wrote a song for our talent show in Year 4. Ever since then, I have enjoyed writing songs, and have subsequently taught myself the guitar on my dad’s old one and have now taught myself the piano on my keyboard, in which I have written my song ’Sometimes’ that I entered into the competition this year.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  I think that may favourite part of writing a song is, once I have found the melody to my verse, progressing the song and thinking about how I am going to keep it interesting throughout the rest of the it. I also love to watch it come together as a whole once I have come up with the 4 different melodies.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  To write my entry, I simply used my notebook and write down the chords and lyrics as I went along. To record, I used my microphone I recently got for Christmas, in which I set up in the shed at the back of out garden to act as a mini recording studio!

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I usually start my song with a chord pattern and then actually I usually think if my theme after that as I just want to get going! After finding the chord pattern to my verse, I add a melody on top, in which I sing.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  Probably Amy Winehouse as she is such a talented song writer and singer!

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  I’d say that you should write a song on whatever you feel passionate about, as it helps you to write the song enormously!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I love how it gives your song/songs a proper chance to be heard!

Brydie O’Hanrahan – Never Said My Goodbyes 

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  What inspired me to write my song was music from famous singers and people because it is the story for my song.  What got me into writing songs was my favourite singers such as Queen, Elton John, George Michael, ABBA and David Bowie.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  My favourite part of the writing process was creating the lyrics because I could be free with my word choice.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  To write my song it all started with me just writing the lyrics in a piece of paper and then I recorded it with Jessica Steele with professional gear.  How I found that spark to write the music was I listened to different singers and how they structured their songs and that helps me find the tempo and the lyrics to the song.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? My dream celebrity to collaborate with would probably be Queen or Elton John.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  What I would say as advice to the people who are thinking of entering next year is start writing your music now so you have the rest of the year to perfect it and write as many songs as possible so you have a wide range of songs that you can enter into the competition and even if you don’t make it through you still have songs that you could show to producers or use for auditions. There is so many positive outcomes from creating songs.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  What I like about this competition is we get to listen to other people’s music so we have inspiration moving forwards with other songs we create in the future.

Charlie Prince – I’ve Gotta Be Me 

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  What inspired me to write I’ve gotta be me is because of people telling people to act a certain way or look a certain way but everyone is unique and does not need to blend in with the crowd

What got you into writing songs?  My sister actually started writing songs first and I really wanted to give it a go so I tried it and now it’s my new favourite hobby

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part about writing songs is when you get to record yourself singing and then listen to the song you have made.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  To write my song, I had my computer, some headphones and some paper and a pen. That really is all it takes to write a meaningful song

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I used lots of different techniques; for example, I picked out 5 items in my room and put them together and see what song title you can make and then carry on from there!

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?   If I had to choose one artist to collaborate with, I don’t know if I could choose! I like so many artists and music genres!

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  I would say go for it, and the tip I would give them is write about something you feel strongly about so you can do what you enjoy and spread a powerful message at the same time.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I like how the age limits to enter are very far apart so you could be writing a song for fun (at 8) or you could be writing a song for an entry for college (at 18)

Cora Harkin – Rumour

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  It was something I noticed that goes on in school. People will gossip and make up stories or exaggerate about people. It’s not right and I wrote this song about that.

What got you into writing songs?  When I started playing the guitar I just started messing around with chords. The first song I ever wrote had 2 chords – Am and C, I since went back to that song and added two more chords! I then began to learn the piano and I do the same with the keys. I like English in school and I like creative writing and writing poems so that always helps with my lyrics.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  I love performing the song live to an audience when it’s finished. It gives you confidence in performing your own song. I can’t really make a mistake because it’s my song and however I play it is the way it goes!

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  this song, ‘Rumour’, I kept it very simple. I just started playing my guitar and singing. I recorded what I had on my phone. I then had to go back and edit it, as it was about 7 minutes long, I do go on a bit! I then tried it on the piano and thought it sounded richer, so I just recorded myself playing and singing on my phone and uploaded for the competition. It’s very raw with no production, no professional recording gear and no edits. If it wasn’t for Covid restrictions and lock down I would of liked to perhaps go to a studio and add some production and effects. But I still think it stands up as it is.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  Most of the songs I’ve written have been based on what I see around me. This song is about a situation I noticed at school. I usually have a riff and then I structure the song around that. I’ve quite a few riffs now, who knows what songs they will turn into. I usually get inspiration quite late at night. Something will spark and I’ll grab my guitar and see what I can do before my family start telling me to be quiet because they want some sleep!

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  Definitely Queen – I’m a huge Queen fan. I’d love Brian May to lay down a guitar solo on a song I wrote. I’ve recently been getting into Oasis, my dad loves Oasis. I’d love to write Liam Gallagher a song.  Mother Mother are also really cool. I’d definitely like to write a song with them.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  Definitely go for it as it is good motivation to finish a song. I have many unfinished songs and competitions are a good way to finish the song. Song Academy’s competition is UK wide and it allows a wide audience to hear your song. My tip would be to keep writing and write what you like, and stuff you relate to.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I like the motivation to finish a song and submit it for people to hear. I also like the feedback and tips you get to help develop as a song writer. It’s a good way to bring like minded people together on one platform and share creativity.

Eleanor Crickmore – Dance Floor 

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  I like composing songs so I just got an idea and developed it.  I come from a very musical background

 What is your favorite part of the song writing process?  When it all comes together at the end and you add the finishing touches

 How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I begin with de chorus and a tune and then make the lyrics and the verses.

 Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Taylor Swift or Clean Bandit.

 What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  Make sure the song is catchy and memorable

 What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  It gives people a chance to share their music to places that they wouldn’t reach if they didn’t enter.

Ellie-Rose Heimans – Out Of Touch

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  The strangeness of the lock down inspired me to write this song. Life has felt very disconected and I’ve been missing my friends and grandparents.

What got you into writing songs?  I love poetry and music and my music teacher was impressed with my song so she entered me into this competition .

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I loved writing the lyrics. It was really fun seeing the sing come to life and collaborating with my little sister who played the drums. I also love performing.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio? I wrote it at home on my piano.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I start with the chord progression, then i play it over and over until the tune starts coming to me.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  Paul McCartney

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  Definitely enter because you never know and it feels really great to be part of this song writing community.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  It gives young people a chance to explore their talents. I loved hearing my song up on Soundcloud along with all the other entries. It feels so professional!

Isla Campbell – Did I? 

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  I wrote my song from the perspective of being a victim of bullying. I wanted to raise awareness for situations like this, whilst also writing something that can be interpreted in different ways.

What got you into writing songs? I’ve always loved music, not only listening to it but playing too. I play piano and I like to sing. I like to work out songs that I like by ear and sing along.  I also aspire to the singers that I listen to like Koffee and Tiana Major 9. Because of this I’ve naturally got in to writing my own songs.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I think writing the lyrics, because it is the part of the process where I get to express my feelings the most.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I started with pen and paper then I transferred the lyrics onto notes on my phone. I used my electric piano in my bedroom. I then slowly started to transfer onto Garage Band for the backing whilst also recording my chords straight from the piano. I recorded my lyrics with a microphone that we have connected to my computer (I did all of this in my bedroom!).  I start with a topic that’s important to me and sometimes I’ll start with a poem. I’ll establish my chords and start to write the lyrics.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  I would choose Koffee because of her pure talent and the fact that she also writes songs about things that are important to me.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  I would really recommend entering the competition, it’s a really fun and exciting process, and you learn so much! I wouldn’t worry about the amount of time it takes, because in the end the song you come out with is a reward in itself and something you should be very proud of. My tip is to write from the heart.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  It’s a fun and rewarding thing to be a part of. It’s helped me create something that I’m proud of and inspired me to write more.

Jack Strickland – On Top Of The World 

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I wrote On Top Of The World because I was thinking how great it is to have people who care for you, love you, and how it makes you feel on top of the world.

What got you into writing songs?I became interested in songwriting when I started to learn   the piano. I found all these chords and so, I found chord sequences and created melodies over them. The satisfaction and happiness that I got made me love songwriting.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  My favourite part of the songwriting process is when you find the chorus of the song. The music seems to come to life at that moment and the other parts of the song fall into place.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  For my SAYS21 entry, I wrote on the piano with my pen and paper.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  Usually, I find a chord sequence on the piano and then I create a chorus. Then I find the other parts like the verse, and bridge section for example. Next I find the meaning of the song and find it’s message and the story of the song.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? My dream artist to collaborate with is Paul McCartney. This is because he is such an accomplished songwriter who has made some unbelievable songs. He writes great melodies and is a very good musician. The way he writes to me is very inspiring.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  I would say that Song Academy is great to do because it gives you something to feel good about and that you can feel proud of your creations. A good tip is to have fun and be happy about your achievements no matter how far you get in the competition.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I like Song Academy because you can meet and hear other songwriters that are your age that are also inspired by music.

Johnny Beau – Illusion 

What inspired you to write your finalist song? Having spent so much time on my own in lockdown I had lots of thoughts running round my mind as I was revising for exams. This inspired me to write a song based on the ideas of having thoughts running through my mind that I didn’t want. So as I wrote the song it made me feel better!

What got you into writing songs?  Music is all around me at home from opera to jazz and soul music . I love vocalists such as Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell because they know how to express feelings in their music.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  When I have finally found the right chord that connects the verse to the chorus.

Describe your set up to write #SAYS21 entry.  I used a piano and pen and paper. I like to be able to play the instruments that are on my songs.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark I have a little book by my bed and sometimes at night I get Ideas and put them in the book. I get ideas from other artists about how to use lyrics and the styles of singing.

Who would be your dream artist/band to collaborate with?  My dream artists to collaborate with would be David Bowie

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering? Do you have any tips for them?  It’s a really good way of getting a song finished! My advice would be don’t over complicate the chords sometimes the simplest songs are the best.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?   It’s a great way to get creative especially during lockdown.

Lauren Withall – Be Proud 

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  I wanted to be more confident in myself and I wrote some lyrics about this, and about how it’s important to just be proud of who you are.

What got you into writing songs?  I feel like it’s a really good way to channel my emotions, and I love writing. English is my favourite subject in school, and song writing is a bit like poems. When I got a guitar I began to write my own songs and my teacher really encouraged me.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  When you get a brainwave it’s always fun to be scribbling down idea.

Describe your set up to write #SAYS21 entry.  Just a pen and paper, and my guitar and piano, the old fashioned way!

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I scribble down ideas then I do a bit of a mind map and string all the pieces together, and then have a brainwave!

Who would be your dream artist/band to collaborate with?  Sigrid, she is a Norwegian singer and she writes all her own really cool music.  I also like Haim they have got a very casual style, they live in LA, their music is the kind of thing you hear in a beach bar it’s very catchy.

What would you say to someone thinking of entering? Tips?  Go for it! Be Brave. Be Proud, to quote my own song! You might doubt yourself along the way and think that other people’s songs are much better but you just need to believe in your song and have lots of fun with it.

What do you like about the competition?  I think it gives freedom for people to open up their voice and let themselves be heard through music, it’s a wonderful opportunity.

Lily Carroll – Golden Days 

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  The inspiration for my song is the feeling when a day feels truly golden. When you’re with friends and family and great things are happening you forget the things that have happened in the past and this is what my song is about.

What got you into writing songs?  When I was younger I would always write songs whenever I had time but I never really thought anything of it until lockdown when I really had time to write. During lock down it was definitely the thing I did most and was probably my main coping mechanism and certainly still is.

What is your favourite part of the song writing proccess?   I really love that with song writing there are not boundaries what so ever. My favourite part of the process though is definitely that initial spark as I think that’s what really keeps the magic of writing alive. Also the satisfaction of turning something that has happened which wasn’t necessary a positive experience into a song I’m really proud of is always going to be magical.

Describe your setup that you used to write your entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  When I write it usually starts with a pen and paper for the lyrics and voice memos for the melody. I just think this is the easiest way of doing it and it doesn’t involve any fancy tech. Sometimes when an idea comes to me I know I only have a really short amount of time to record it before I forget it and voice memos is awesome for this. I also fiddle around on the guitar and piano a lot because I think it definitely helps build on ideas and also sparks new ones to; plus it’s really fun!!

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  Normally if I’m in a moment that’s really special or something that’s happened that’s impactful to me I get ideas in my head. I also love to read quotes and common phrases that people use because I think the way people communicate is always going to be an inspiration for songs. I think that you can get inspiration from anywhere, you just have to look beneath the surface to find it.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  Definitely Taylor Swift and Niall Horan! I think they are both legends and the way that they write and perform is out of this world!!

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering? Do you have any tips for them?  I would definitely advice them to enter, I mean why wait! I would also say to them to enjoy the whole process of creating a song because songs live forever.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?   I love the way it’s a friendly competition and you get to hear everyone else’s music as well, I think that makes it very interesting and fun.

Lily Criddle – Fireflies

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  I was finding lockdown difficult and was missing my friends. Music always makes me feel better and so I started the song just playing around on the piano. I love the image of fireflies in the night and thought it would be fun to base the song on this. As I was feeling sad, I tried to put my feelings into the song imagining some sort of heartbreak.

What got you into writing songs?  We love and play music in our family. I have been coming up with songs since I was five. As soon as I learnt to play piano, I started writing more and recording some of them.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I love writing the lyrics because there is so much space for creativity. You can express yourself and invent different stories.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio? I wrote the song playing on the keyboard in my bedroom and put it down on paper. Once the song was finished, I recorded it in our small home studio.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I begin by playing around on the piano and ideas tend to just appear. Sometimes I have an idea already in my mind that can be used to fit into the song.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  I really like Cavetown (Robin Skinner) and would love to meet and collaborate with him. I love the relaxed vibe that calms me down. It is incredibly interesting music that keeps me immersed.

What made you enter #SAYS21? How did you hear about it?  I was a finalist last year with my song “Don’t You Worry” and wanted to try again. I enjoy sharing my music with other people.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  The Song Academy competition is a really great opportunity to have your music heard by lots of people. I would say don’t be afraid to be yourself and have your own style – do what you want to do!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  It’s great to have the chance to show my music and get to hear so many great songs from other people.

Lois Brooks – Girl In The Dress 

What inspired you to write your finalist song? The internet where girls are always dressing up glamorously for ‘likes’ and ‘followers’, instead of just trying to be themselves.

What got you into writing songs? – I’ve grown up listening to all types of different artists, and they have inspired me to write my own songs.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? – I like the part when all my ideas start coming together.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio? – The lyrics to “Girl In The Dress” was just written into my lyric book, I then played around at the piano trying some different chords. My dad has a studio where he helped me record and develop the song.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I sometimes lay in bed and melodies and lyrics will just pop into my head, I then write these ideas into my lyric book.  I will then experiment at the piano with some chords and see if I can get the melodies to fit.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I would love to have sung with David Bowie, the song I would have liked to sing with him would have been Heroes.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? I would say go for it because it is really exciting to find out if you got into the final 30 and it is very interesting listening to all the other entrants.

Do you have any tips for them? Don’t worry if all your lyrics don’t rhyme and try to write about something that is important to you or write about how you feel about something.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? It’s an opportunity to have professional song writers hear your songs.  It’s also really good to hear other people of a similar age and what their songs sound like.

Luke Pender – Follow Me

What inspired you to write your finalist song? What got you into writing songs?  After learning the piano and the guitar, I started experimenting with chord progressions and melodies. I really enjoyed it, and then started to write lyrics.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  I really enjoy ‘layering’ songs, adding harmonies and additional instruments to the basic song.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  I record my piano playing, guitar and vocals on garage band, before adding additional instruments via the app.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I normally start with interesting melodies and chord progressions and then start to think of lyrics to match.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  Paul McCartney… Living legend!

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  Go for it, it’s great fun and motivates you to write songs. I would say to write about your own experiences and things you enjoy.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  It’s great to be part of the competition, listening to the other artists and to see what people think of your work.

Macy O’Neill – Voices

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  When I wrote “Voices’ I used the song as an outlet for all my feelings. I felt like no one ever listened to me and I felt this song gave me a bit of a voice.

What got you into writing songs?  This amazing songwriting adventure started last year when I thought I could write a song about how hard the NHS were and still are working and ever since then I fell in love and couldn’t stop.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  My favourite part of the songwriting process has got to be finding the melody and chords.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  I first started with my piano and some bad quality phone audio recordings but soon I developed it onto my microphone at home and into Logic Pro X.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I usually start a song by getting onto the piano and playing random chords and deciding what I like or sometimes I just randomly think up some words and a melody and then I have to figure it out on piano.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  The artist that I would love to collaborate the most would have to be Elton John as he is a legend and all of his songs are amazing. Also I feel I could learn a lot from him and he could help me develop my songwriting career.

What made you enter #SAYS21? I entered #SAYS21 because I wanted people to listen to my music and feel something and maybe make someone’s day better; I never thought I would get this far.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them? I think the one thing I would say to people wanting to enter a competition such as this is when you’re writing a song write from the heart. Don’t try and write things that you think other people like, write things that come from you and not from anyone else.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I like that the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition gives young singers a voice and get some a bit of recognition for all the hard work and passion that they’re pouring in to their songs and I think that’s very admirable.

Maeve Thumim – Waiting 

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  Lock down. I was bored, I wasn’t allowed on a screen and I was listening to music, and I thought: why not write a song?!

What got you into writing songs?  I love music, and these are some of my favourite artists; Billie Eilish, Jorja Smith, First Aid Kit and Christine and the Queens.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  When you have to jumble it up a bit like a jigsaw puzzle to make it fit together.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio? At first it was a pen and paper, then my brother (who is into beat making – he has a mic) helped me produce it and he made a beat.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  Iusually  start by writing a list of words that I want to write about, and  go on from there.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Jorja Smith or Christine and the Queens.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them? The worst that could happen is that you don’t win. I’d say that you should totally enter.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? That it is a great opportunity.

Matilda Gant – New Horizons 

What inspired you to write your finalist song? For my finalist song I was inspired by the quote “Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today” – Will Roberts.

What got you into writing songs? I got into writing songs as it was a way to express how I am feeling, allowing me to do it through something I love.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part is when you get an idea and feel a rush of excitement to start writing.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio? I use my songwriting notebook and pens. I also use a microphone called Tonor and of course my trusty piano.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I usually start a song with a topic or theme that is personal to me. If I have nothing then I use quotes or other techniques to spark a song.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  I would like to collaborate with Tom Walker. I love how heartfelt his music is.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them? I would say don’t hesitate. If you write a song you may think it’s rubbish but others might not. You should find the courage to enter it, you never know how good it might be. You’ll never know if you don’t try.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I like how inclusive and supportive everyone is. It is a happy and safe environment to be in. I feel encouraged and confident to share my songs.

Nelly Bingham – Teardrops 

What got you into writing songs?  Because I grow up with so many different styles of music all around me, I’ve been able to create my own fusion of sound. Before writing as a solo artist, I wrote with my friend Greta and we had such a good time! I continued writing by myself and it seemed I was loving it even more. I had found a hobby that reflected who I was.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  I love the first part. The part where it is quarter-past eight in the morning, you’re brushing your teeth and you randomly start singing a song you have never heard of. As the day goes on, you can’t get it out of your head. Then, when you’re brushing your teeth at quarter-past eight in the evening, you decide to write it down.

Describe your set up that you used to write your #SAYS21   ?I wrote my song in my bed with a biro and a single piece of paper. Then when it came to recording, my dad has a section of our flat where he records music.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  For most of the songs I write, certainly this one, I don’t need to experience anything in particular. I just pick an emotion, for example sadness, and go from there. For me I don’t need to really feel an emotion but when I write the song, it seems as though I do feel that feeling. Most people may think this is a strange method. It works well though.

Who would be your dream artist/ writer/ band to collaborate with?  Now this question excites me! Well… I think it has to be Taylor Swift. She is such an amazing artist and her style is quite similar to mine. If I could collaborate with a band I would say Walk of the Earth. They are the cleverest musicians I have ever heard.

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  The inspiration of my song is a mysterious one. I love to sing, dance and love. My parents are also very musical and I was very lucky to grow up in a house brimming with music. The theme is about a person who has been left by her partner, quite a common choice for a song. I suppose the inspiration may come from my parent’s separation. It was the worst thing to hear but music is my hope to battle through the tough times. When I write my songs I am transported to another world. A world that belongs to me where I make the rules. This song is my first shot to a career in music. That is probably the thing that has inspired me most of all.

What would you say to someone entering next year? Do you have any tips for them?  Go for it. If this is you and you get joy from doing this, then you’re on the right path. Let the music flow through you and… be proud of yourself for even entering and participating. Tips: take it easy and believe in yourself.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  It is a great kick-start for budding young musicians like me. It has pushed me to put myself out there, boosted my self-confidence and has made me create a brilliant piece of music. For those reasons I would like to say: thank you and even if I don’t win I’ll be back next year.

Niamh Gallen – Sing Good Vibes

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  My passion for singing and how it makes me feel. I wrote my finalist song in the middle of the 2020 COVID lockdown, so as you can imagine, moral was pretty low. I then thought about how singing and song writing makes me happy, then maybe I could try making others happy through my music.

What got you into writing songs?  Well, I have always thought it’s really cool that just a pen and paper can turn into a beautiful song filled with all different kinds of sounds and words. A song can make me other people feel happy and uplifted.  When I sing, I feel like I’m on top of the world and nobody on the entire planet can pull me down. As I mention in my song, singing makes me feel alive, I can set all my emotions free through writing my songs.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? Probably when it starts in my head as a tune and I can feel the song coming alive as I start to think of the lyrics. All based on that one note that starts off if in my head. Writing beautiful mixture of notes and words makes me happy and most importantly it makes me feel complete.

Describe your set up that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  It really was just me at my desk writing with a pen and paper and my guitar.  Strumming along on my guitar as I say and sing the words to see if they will fit in to the song. I then began choosing which notes would suit the type of song.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  Usually it depends on how I am feeling at the time.  If I am having a happy day or down day, I think about how that made me feel and try and express it in my songs. Song writing is my everything, without it I don’t really know how I would be able to express my emotions.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  My dream artist would be Rihanna or Pixie Lott because I love all their songs. I would love to sing with them.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  If you feel that spark to write, just go for it.  I never thought I would be one of the finalists. It does not matter what other people thing about your song, as long as it makes you happy that’s all that matters.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I think it is a huge help to anyone who loves writing songs and a great opportunity to show your songs to the world and share your voice. Really inspiring to know that lots of other people out there are just like you who love singing and write songs.

Queenie Stanbridge – Braveface

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  I was feeling hurt and betrayed by a good friend, but I didn’t want to make the situation any worse by saying how I truly felt. Those feelings didn’t go away and I still felt sad, so I played my faithful Am chord and the song came pouring out and I felt much better.

What got you into writing songs?  I have always loved singing and my parents reliably inform me that the first song I made up, at the age of 3, was to the chorus of a northern soul classic “What” by Judy Street, my version was about butterflies and caterpillars.

What is you favourite part of the song writing process?  My favourite part of the songwriting process is coming up with a good melody that fits with my idea for the song. I like this part because it is the very first step before the song begins and I find it really satisfying.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  I wrote my song at my piano with a pen, paper and a lovely view from my window. Once I had finished the song I used garage band to produce my entry with a bit of help from my Dad.

How do you usually start the song? How do you find that spark?  I usually start the song at my piano and play around with the melody. The spark can come from anywhere, whats going on in my life or around me, what I’m feeling, nature, the seasons.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  My dream artist to collaborate with is Neil Hannon from the Divine Comedy because he is an amazing singer songwriter and his songs are really quirky and the words are so clever.

What made you enter #SAYS21? How did you hear about it?  I entered #SAYS21 because my music teacher Mrs Byrne sent me an email about it and I thought ”what an amazing opportunity to to enter my music”and for it to be heard by professional songwriters.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  If I knew someone who was thinking about entering, I’d say don’t be afraid to be yourself or stand out from the crowd.

What do like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter 2021 competition?  I really enjoyed listening to the other entries because it was very inspiring and it has inspired to write some more songs.

Raine Surla – Unique 

What inspired you to write your song? I was inspired by my best friend and just the idea of friendship and how special it is.

What got you into writing songs? I always loved listening to music and I wanted to see if I could do it to.

What is your favorite part of the song writing process? When it all comes together at the end.

Describe the set up that you use to write your entry. I just used pen and paper and my keyboard.

How do you usually start a song?  I think about something that means a lot to me and try to put it to music.

Who would be your dream artist to collaborate with? Olivia Rodrigo

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year?  Give it a go – you have nothing to lose.

What do you like about Song Academy? It gives you a chance to write more songs and learn how to write more advanced songs.

Rose Rowntree – I Dream Of You 

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  As in the words in the song, ‘there’s this boy who I kind of like’.

What got you into writing songs?  I started loving songs while learning to play the guitar and I thought I could write my own songs.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? Sitting on my bed with my guitar and creating the melody.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  When things happen to me I want to tell the story with music.

Who would be yo ur dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Ariana Grande and Oasis, totally different but both cool. Also Olivia Rodrigo.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  To give young people the chance to put their song out there.

Sambelle Prince – Slowly

What inspired you to write your finalist song? What inspired me was the kind people around me.

What got you into writing songs? I love to sing songs that I feel link to my experiences so writing my own is perfect for me.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part is writing the middle 8 because it is usually the opposite subject of the song which is very exciting and intriguing to write the carefully thought lyrics.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper of a fully kitted studio? To write my entered song, I used some coloured pens, some sheets of paper and the song academy app.

How do you usually start a song? I usually start a song with many different exercises. Sometimes I will get some words from a magazine or book and link them to create a song theme, or I will just think of an experience I have had and incorporate them into a song.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I would collaborate with Lizzo because her songs really dive me lots of energy and make me feel happy. Her songs are also very catchy and are what I am aiming for my songs to make people feel, even if they are sad, they still give off hope.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song academy young song writer competition next year? Do you have any tips for them? If I were to give them advice it would be to write your songs from the heart.

What do you like about this competition? I like that this competition is very fun to compete in but is also a challenge and motivates you to impress the judges. I think that it is a good experience learning what it feels like to be very committed.

Skye Bishop – Butterflies 

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I am a competitive runner, and I run track and CX for my club, Thames Valley Harriers. Before races, I get very nervous. I wrote this song in order to help me with the Butterflies I get in my stomach before each race.

What got you into writing songs?  I’ve been writing songs since I was 8.  I’m not sure why I do it. I just enjoy making music and the lyrics allow me to express myself.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  At times, songwriting can be frustrating, so I leave the song and come back to it a few days later. But sometimes the words just roll out perfectly. That’s such a good feeling.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  Both, I started it at my piano, then worked at it during one of Song Academy’s song writing courses and then finished it off in the studio. I am always changing words at the last minute.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  Can happen anywhere, often it’s in the car or at my piano.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  Taylor Swift

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  Enter! It’s great fun. Especially the final concert.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I really like the live performance at the end of the competition. It’s so much fun.

Thommy Bailey Vine – Together For Christmas 

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  The fact that none of us were able to get together for so long, which made me so sad, but also that we could still be together virtually, even if it’s not the same.

What got you into writing songs?  I really love singing and I’ve wanted to be a songwriter for a long time.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  Recording the song, even if it takes a long time to get it how I’d like it!

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  I had a pen and paper and my guitar. I started by strumming a chord sequence, then I wrote the melody and lyrics. My uncle bought me a distortion pedal last year, so it was awesome to be able to put that sound in as the song builds.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I usually start a song by finding a good chord sequence on either my guitar or the piano, and the melody just seems to happen in my head, then I find lyrics for it.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  Taylor Swift or Olly Murs

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  Believe in yourself and keep writing songs!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I like that people get to listen to my songs and see who I am. It’s great to hear other young people’s songs too.

White Cloud – Modern Romeo & Juliet

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  I have been studying Shakespeare and my favourite play is Romeo and Juliet which was the inspiration for this song.

What got you into writing songs?  When I was younger I used to play around on the piano and compose music.

When is your favourite part of the song writing process? Writing the lyrics

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS21 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio? It was pen and paper as well as a small keyboard on my desk on the landing at home during lockdown.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Brad Meldhau as my pianist, a Miles Davies/ Chet Baker trumpeter and Mo Pleasure on the bass.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Believe in yourself.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I love that everyone has been included and everyone can listen to each other.