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!

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

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.

Make the first four lines agree with your title
The great songwriter Ralph Murphy says it very well in his books on the laws of songwriting – if the first four lines of your first verse can link back to your title then you’re onto a winner. Take for example Roar by Katy Perry:

I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath,
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess,
So I sat quietly,
Agreed politely,

Now you’re gonna hear me roar.

You create an expectation, and then you fulfil it. By doing this, you never lose sight of the message of your song, you keep in mind what you’re trying to say by always referring back to the title, thus never losing your listeners’ attention or the concept you’re expressing in your song. It also helps emphasise the message of the song and helps people remember it!

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.

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 ahhs 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) and try and think about hooks for your own song, either lyrically, melodically or instrumentally.

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!

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.

We’re looking forward to listening to your songs! 

 

 

We’ve created a playlist full of inspiring songs across different genres for broadening young people’s knowledge of popular music.  Have a listen and more information on each song is shown below.

Click here for the Spotify playlist

Click here for the YouTube playlist

POP

I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston (1974)

“I Will Always Love You” was originally written and recorded by Dolly Parton, who achieved commercial success with it, reaching the top spot of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart not once, but twice. She also wrote arguably her best known song, “Jolene”, on the same day. It is a traditional love song and the lyrics reflect that!

Whitney Houston’s version was recorded for the film “The Bodyguard” in 1992. It is considered to be a pop song with elements of soul and R&B music. The tempo is 134bpm and it is in the key of A major.

Love Story – Taylor Swift (2008)

“Love Story” was written and recorded by Taylor Swift, and she co-produced it with Nathan Chapman. It was the lead single from her second album. The song was inspired by the storyline of Romeo & Juliet but also a situation that Swift was in herself with a love interest and her family. She took inspiration from the plot of Romeo & Juliet but changed it to a happy ending, instead of the tragedy ending of the original.

It is one of the best-selling pop singles in the United States. The tempo is 120bpm and it is in the key of D major.

Thriller – Michael Jackson (1984)

“Thriller” is one of the best-selling singles of all time, and was written by English songwriter Rod Temperton. It has a very theatrical theme, as Jackson was a huge fan of film. It was originally titled “Starlight” but after some discussion with the production team (including Quincy Jones) the title eventually ended up being “Thriller”.

The closest genre is disco/funk. The tempo is 120bpm and it is in the key of C# minor.

Crazy in Love – Beyonce ft Jay-Z (2003)

“Crazy in Love” was written by Rich Harrison, Beyoncé Knowles, Shawn Carter (Jay-Z) and Eugene Record (included as a writer of the original song the song samples, “Are You My Woman? (Tell Me So)” by The Chi-Lites.

It is a pop song with elements of hip hop, funk and R&B. The tempo is a moderate 110bpm and it is in the key of F major and D minor (the relative minor of F major).

We Found Love – Calvin Harris ft Rihanna (2011)

“We Found Love” is a song recorded by Calvin Harris and Rihanna, but was written and produced solely by Calvin Harris. The song mainly revolves around the main hook “we found love in a hopeless place”, and Rihanna’s vocal is fairly relaxed, contrasting with the high energy beat.

It is considered to be in the electro house/pop genre. The tempo is 128bpm and it is in the key of F# major.

Shallow – Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper (2018)

“Shallow” was written as the lead single from the soundtrack to “A Star is Born”, which stars both Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. It was written by Lady Gaga, Andrew Wyatt (Miike Snow), Anthony Rossomando (Dirty Pretty Things) and Mark Ronson. It is a love song written about the relationship between the two leads in the film.

It is considered to be a pop/rock power ballad. The tempo is a moderate 96bpm and it is in the key of G major.

Leave Right Now – Will Young (2003)

“Leave Right Now” was written by Eg White (who has been on the judging panel for several Song Academy Young Songwriter competitions!) and performed by Will Young. It is reportedly written about unrequited love and was one of Will Young’s most successful songs.

It is considered a pop song. The tempo is 84bpm and it is in the key of F# major.

Bad guy – Billie Eilish (2019)

“Bad guy” was written by Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas O’Connell. The theme of the song is Eilish talking to her partner and taunting him for being a ‘bad guy’. The lyrics are tongue in cheek and the vocal is almost spoken.

It is considered to be an electro pop song. The tempo of the first half is moderately fast at 132-138bpm and the second half slows down to 60bpm.

Losing You – Solange (2012)

“Losing You” is a song recorded by Solange Knowles (Beyoncé’s sister!) and written by Solange and Dev Hynes. The song is described by Knowles herself as “eclectic with ‘80s references and African percussion influences”. It received almost universally positive reviews from music critics and is Solange’s most popular tune to date.

It is considered to be a dance pop song. It is at a tempo of 114bpm and is in the key of C major.

Shape of You – Ed Sheeran (2017)

“Shape of You” is a song written by Ed Sheeran, Steve Mac and Johnny McDaid, but the original songwriters of “No Scrubs” by TLC are also credited due to certain similarities in the songs. It was the best selling song of both 2017 and the decade in the UK, and peaked at number one in 34 countries.

The song is considered to be pop with influences from dancehall and tropical house. It is at a moderate tempo of 96bpm and is in the key of C# minor.

Someone Like You – Adele (2011)

“Someone Like You” was written by Adele and Dan Wilson for Adele’s second studio album “21”. It is a song about heartbreak and the end of a relationship, and Adele’s coming to terms with it. The song contains only a piano and a vocal, and was critically acclaimed, especially after a performance at the Brit Awards that pushed the song to the number one spot in the UK.

It is considered a soul/pop ballad. It has a slow tempo of 68bpm and is in the key of A major.

Get Lucky – Daft Punk ft Pharrell Williams (2013)

“Get Lucky” is a song written by Daft Punk, Nile Rodgers and Pharrell Williams. It won “Record of the Year” and “Best Pop Duo/Group Performance” at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards and is one of the best selling singles of all time.

It is considered a disco/pop song, and it has a tempo of 116bpm, composed in the key of F# minor.

Round Round – Sugababes (2002)

“Round Round” is a song written by Sugababes (Keisha Buchanan, Mutya Buena, and Heidi Range), as well as one of our very own Young Songwriter competition judges Miranda Cooper, alongside Niara Scarlett, Brian Higgins, Tim Powell, Nick Coler, Shawn Lee, and Lisa Cowling. It also includes a sample from “Tango Forte” by Dublex Inc. who are also credited as writers.

It is regarded as one of the songs that changed the direction of British pop music, with “Sound of the Underground” by Girls Aloud (another Miranda Cooper co-write) sharing that accolade. It originally started with a drum track that Brian Higgins had that Miranda Cooper sung a chorus from one of her unreleased songs over.

It is considered to be a dance/pop song at a tempo of 127bpm, and written in the key of F# minor.

Hands Up – Merk & Kremont ft DNCE (2018)

“Hands Up” is a song written by Young Songwriter competition judge Emily Phillips alongside Merk & Kremont, Simon Says!, Eugenio Maimone, Joe Jonas, BullySongs, Josh Record & Ant Whiting.

It features DNCE, with their singer Joe Jonas singing the song. It is an energetic and upbeat pop song with disco and rock elements and has been certified platinum.

It is considered a pop/rock song and has a tempo of 108bpm, written in the key of E minor.

Heal – Tom Odell (2013)

“Heal” was written by Tom Odell, one of the judges of the Young Songwriter competition. It is about wanting to heal from past experiences and needing someone (or something) else to take it away for you. It’s a heartfelt piano ballad.

It is considered to be a pop song at 110bpm, written in the key of Bb minor.

Happiness – McFly (2020)

“Happiness” is a song written by McFly (Danny Jones, Dougie Poynter, Harry Judd and Tom Fletcher) with Jason Perry, Jordan Cardy (aka Rat Boy) and Oberdan Oliveira.

It is an upbeat, happy sounding and soulful pop tune with a big chorus. The intro and chorus are built upon a bright sounding brass sample that reoccurs throughout the song, reinforcing the major, happy sound to the song.

It is considered a pop song. It has a tempo of 106bpm and is in the key of F major.

ROCK

Somebody That I Used to Know – Gotye ft Kimbra (2011)

“Somebody That I Used to Know” was written by Wally de Backer (Gotye) and also credits Luiz Bonfá for the use of a sample from his 1967 song “Seville”. It also interpolates the first few notes from the nursery rhyme “Baa Baa Black Sheep”. Lyrically it is about becoming distant with a romantic partner that you used to be close with.

It is Gotye’s most successful song and has been certified multiplatinum in ten countries, having sold more than 13 million copies worldwide.

It is considered to be an art pop song. It has a tempo of 129bpm and is in the key of C major.

Tempted – Squeeze (1981)

“Tempted” is a song by the band Squeeze, written by Song Academy judge Chris Difford alongside Glenn Tilbrook. It has been synced in films, adverts, TV series and video games, including adverts for Heineken and Burger King as well as in the video game Rock Band.

Chris Difford wrote the lyrics to the song in a taxi on his way to the airport when he started to write down what he saw. It has been covered by many great artists and still receives airplay today.

It is considered a pop rock song, played at a tempo of 95bpm and in the key of F# minor.

Mr Brightside – The Killers (2003)

“Mr Brightside” is a song written by Brandon Flowers, Dave Keuning, Mark Stoermer and Ronnie Vannucci Jr. It was released in 2003 and was fairly successful, but its 2004 rerelease was when it really became popular.

Lyrically the song is about a paranoid man suspecting his partner of being unfaithful, and only has one verse that is repeated. In July 2019, the song had spent a combined total of 209 weeks in the top 100 chart, and it is a staple of many DJ and cover band sets across the world.

It is considered to be an alternative rock song. It has a tempo of 148bpm and is in the key of Db major.

Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen (1975)

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is a song written by Freddie Mercury, it is considered by many to be the greatest rock song of all time and has been downloaded or streamed over 1.6 billion times.

It is unusual for a hit single as it doesn’t feature a chorus, and moves between contrasting sections that dip into several genres including progressive rock, opera inspired sections, hard rock and progressive pop.

It is considered to be a rock song. The tempo and key changes and modulates throughout.

Paranoid Android – Radiohead (1997)

“Paranoid Android” is a song written by the band Radiohead. The lyrics were written by the band’s singer Thom Yorke after a night he had spent in a Los Angeles bar.

It is comprised of four distinct sections that were edited together using tape, and the original version was over fourteen minutes long. It was eventually edited down to around six and a half minutes long after cutting out an organ solo.

It is often mentioned in lists of the best rock songs ever. It is considered to be an alternative rock song, both the tempo and the key changes throughout.

Counting Stars – One Republic (2013)

“Counting Stars” was written by Ryan Tedder whilst waiting for a studio session with Beyoncé. He said it was inspired by a song that had an “indigenous folk sound” that “struck him like lightning”. Lyrically the song is about the stresses of life and how to deal with them whilst laying awake at night.

It is considered to be a folk/pop song with the tempo starting at 104bpm before riding to 122bpm. It is written in the key of C# minor.

Friday I’m In Love – The Cure (1992)

“Friday I’m In Love” was written by Perry Bamonte, Boris Williams, Simon Gallup, Robert Smith and Porl Thompson.

It is upbeat and happy sounding despite starting as a slower song. After writing it, Robert Smith convinced himself that he had inadvertently stolen the chord progression and melody, so he called around and played the song to as many people he could, none of whom confirmed his suspicions, reassuring him that it was his own melody.

It is considered an indie/alternative rock song and has a tempo of 136bpm. It was recorded in D major, but the studio version sounds slightly higher after Robert Smith forgot to turn off the vari-speed on the tape.

The Chain – Fleetwood Mac (1977)

“The Chain” was written by Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie, John McVie and Stevie Nicks, and is the only song on the Rumours album that credits every band member as a writer.

The song is made up of “previously rejected materials” and was spliced together from various other songs using tape during the recording process, which one of the reasons all of the members are credited as writers. Despite the method in which it was created, it still has a basic rock structure with distinct sections.

It is considered to be a folk/country/hard rock song. It has a tempo of 150bpm and is played in the key of E minor.

When Doves Cry – Prince (1984)

“When Doves Cry” was one of two songs written by Prince after being asked by the director of the “Purple Rain” film, Albert Magnoli, to write a song that would fit with a particular scene that dealt with parental difficulties and a love affair.

It was Prince’s first Billboard Hot 100 number one hit. The arrangement of the song is unique in that it does not feature a bass line.

It is considered to be an experimental pop/rock song. It has a tempo of 120bpm and is in the key of A minor.

Stuck in the Middle with You – Stealers Wheel (1973)

“Stuck in the Middle with You” was written by Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan, performed by their band Stealers Wheel.

It is written about a music industry cocktail party and is a parody of Bob Dylan’s musical style, it is often wrongly attributed to Dylan. The song was used in the 1992 Quentin Tarantino film “Reservoir Dogs”, which introduced the song to a whole new audience.

It is considered to be a country/folk rock song. It has a tempo of 124bpm and is in the key of G major.

Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd (1979)

“Comfortably Numb” is a song written by David Gilmour and Roger Waters for their band, Pink Floyd. It is one of their best known songs, in particular for its two guitar solos.

The lyrics are part of the concept of the album, The Wall, and are about an embittered and alienated rockstar who is being medicated in order to perform at a show, inspired by Waters’ experience during a Pink Floyd show in 1977.

It is considered to be a progressive rock song. It has a tempo of 127bpm. The verses are in the key of B minor, whilst the chorus has been described as using a modal interchange of that key’s relative major, D major, and Mixolydian of D.

Wonderwall – Oasis (1995)

“Wonderwall” is a song written by Noel Gallagher for his band Oasis. It is arguably the band’s most popular song and according to Noel “it’s a song about an imaginary friend who’s gonna come and save you from yourself”.

It was recorded at the iconic Rockfield Studios in Wales, Liam Gallagher sings the lead vocal.

It is considered an alternative/pop rock song. It has a tempo of 87bpm and is in the key of F# minor.

If We Were Vampires – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

“If We Were Vampires” is a song written by Jason Isbell.

He wrote it after his wife convinced him to stop watching TV and write a song, as he was due to go into the studio soon. He said he knew the song would be very moving for people when he realised how moving it was for himself the first few times he tried to play it to people.

It is considered an alternative country/Americana song. It has a tempo of 97bpm and is in the key of F Major.

When the Sun Goes Down – Arctic Monkeys (2006)

“When the Sun Goes Down” is a song written by Alex Turner for his band Arctic Monkeys. It starts off with a simple guitar and vocal arrangement and suddenly develops into a harder rock full band sound, before reverting back to the guitar and vocal arrangement of the intro for the song’s outro.

The lyrics address difficulties of the people living in a deprived area of Sheffield, and reference the song “Roxanne” by The Police.

It is considered to be an indie rock song. It has a tempo of 168bpm and is in the key of B minor.

Johnny Got a Boom Boom – Imelda May (2009)

“Johnny Got a Boom Boom” is a song written by Young Songwriter competition judge Imelda May. It was the lead single from her second studio album “Love Tattoo”.

It launched Imelda May into mainstream success after a “Later… with Jools Holland” performance. Imelda May explained in an interview that the song was born out of boredom, and that she was in another band but wanted to write her own material.

The song is considered to be a rockabilly song. It has a tempo of 110bpm and is in the key of A minor.

Loner – Yungblud (2019)

“Loner” is a song written by Dominic Harrison (aka Yungblud) Karl Michael, Matt Schwartz and Robbie McDade. It has a very anthemic, alternative feel, and showcases Yungblud’s grungey yet pop sensibilities, with huge hooks and a confident, snarling vocal performance.

It has a traditional band sound with modern production, it utilises distortion and big drum sounds to bring energy and fullness to the song.

It is considered to be an alternative/indie song. It has a tempo of 99bpm and is in the key of Db major

HIP HOP/RAP

Gangsta’s Paradise – Coolio ft L.V. (1995)

“Gangsta’s Paradise” is a song written by Artis Ivey, Jr., Larry Sanders and Doug Rasheed, but Stevie Wonder is also credited for the use of a sample from his song “Pastime Paradise” from “Songs in the Key of Life”.

The song has various religious overtones including Bible passages and choral vocals. The first few lines of the lyrics were freestyled by Coolio, and he said the rest came very quickly in one sitting. He also claims that divine intervention played a part and he was a vessel for the song.

It is considered to be a hip hop/gangsta rap song. It has a tempo of 80bpm and is in the key of Ab major.

Own It – Stormzy ft Ed Sheeran & Burna Boy (2019)

“Own It” is a song written by Michael Omari (aka Stormzy), Ed Sheeran, Fred Gibson and Damini Ogulu. It is the second collaboration between Stormzy and Ed Sheeran after their song “Take Me Back to London”.

The lyrical themes revolve around “empowering and uplifting a female love interest” using wordplay and the production has a dancehall feel.

It is considered to be a hip hop/rap song. It has a tempo of 104bpm and is in the key of G major.

Man Don’t Care – JME ft Giggs (2015)

“Man Don’t Care” is a song written by JME and Giggs, it utilises impressive wordplay and rhythm to deliver the vocal over a simple beat that loops throughout.

The lyrical theme revolves around being successful and being the best at what you do, effectively taunting any opposition.

It is considered to be a grime song. It has a tempo of 140bpm and is in the key of E major.

One Dance – Drake ft Wizkid & Kyla (2016)

“One Dance” is a song written by Aubrey Graham (aka Drake), Paul Jefferies, Ayodeji Balogun, Noah Shebib, Errol Reid, Luke Reid, Kyla Smith, Corey Johnson and Logan Sama. This includes writers on the original song “Do You Mind (Crazy Cousinz Remix)” that was sampled by producer Nineteen85 for the bridge of “One Dance”.

It is Drake’s first dancehall single as a lead artist, following his feature on the single “Work” with Rihanna. The lyrical theme is about love and relationships in the context of being in a club or dancing with a love interest, with the vocalists each singing from a different perspective.

It is considered to be a dancehall song. It has a tempo of 104bpm and is in the key of Bb minor.

Down with the Trumpets – Rizzle Kicks (2011)

“Down with the Trumpets” is a song written by Jordan Stephens, Harley Alexander-Sule (a Song Academy judge!), Dag Nabbit, Darren Lewis, Iyiola Babalola and Will Davies.

The song utilises a bed of samples and beats supporting a strong rapped lyric for the verses and a simple repeated hook for the chorus.

It is considered to be a hip hop/rap song. It has a tempo of 115bpm and is in the key of E minor.

Milkshake – Kelis (2003)

“Milkshake” is a song written by Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams, otherwise known as The Neptunes. It is Kelis’ highest charting single to date and the lyrics utilise euphemism and playground style wordplay along with a simple, catchy melody to bring the whole song together.

It is considered to be an R&B/dance song. It has a tempo of 113bpm and is in the key of C# minor.

Take What You Want – Post Malone ft Ozzy Osbourne & Travis Scott (2019)

“Take What You Want” is a song written by Austin Post (aka Post Malone), John Osbourne (aka Ozzy Osbourne), Jacques Webster (aka Travis Scott), Louis Bell, Andrew Watt and Billy Walsh.

It is a fusion of modern trap style music and guitar based rock, reminiscent of the sounds of Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne’s band. The lyrics explore a relationship where one person has let the other person down, and describes the resulting feeling of defeat and sadness.

It is considered to be a trap/rock/hip hop/rap song. It has a tempo of 140bpm and is in the key of C# minor.

It’s Like That – Mariah Carey ft Jermaine Dupri & Fatman Scoop (2005)

“It’s Like That” is a song written by Mariah Carey, Jermaine Dupri, Manuel Seal and Johntá Austin, with additional credits going to Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels and Jason Mizell for the use of a Run-DMC sample.

Lyrically, the song is about wanting to relax and have a good time, without giving into stress or hard times. It combines ad libs and rap sections with Carey’s sung vocals.

It is considered to be a hip hop song. It has a tempo of 86bpm and is in the key of Ab minor.

Jump Around – House of Pain (1992)

“Jump Around” is a song written by Lawrence Muggerud and Erik Schrody. The beat was originally produced for Cypress Hill, but rapper B-Real didn’t want to record it at that time, Ice Cube was also offered the beat but turned it down, before it was finally taken by House of Pain.

One of the most recognisable parts of the song is the “squealing” noise that occurs in almost every bar. The exact origin of the sample has not been confirmed but there are rumours as to where it came from.

The song is considered to be hip hop. It has a tempo of 107bpm and is in the key of E minor.

Old Town Road – Remix – Lil Nas X ft Billy Ray Cyrus (2019)

“Old Town Road” is a song written by Montero Hill (aka Lil Nas X) and Klowa Roukema (aka YoungKlo). It features a prominent sample of a banjo from the Nine Inch Nails song “34 Ghosts IV”, resulting in a writing credit for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

Billy Ray Cyrus collaborated with Lil Nas X on the remix after Lil Nas X tweeted saying he wanted Cyrus on the song.

It is considered to be a country rap song. It has a tempo of 68bpm and is in the key of G# minor.

Yeah – Usher ft Lil John & Ludracris (2004)

“Yeah” is a song written by Christopher Bridges (aka Ludacris), James Phillips (aka LRoc), Jonathan Smith (aka Lil Jon), LaMarquis Jefferson, Patrick Smith and Sean Garrett.

It is considered the first song to mix mainstream R&B with southern crunk music, with lyrics revolving around clubbing and nightlife, the simple hook underlines an undeniable chorus.

It is considered to be an R&B/crunk song. It has a tempo of 105bpm and is in the key of G minor.

Stop Killing the Mandem – Novelist (2018)

“Stop Killing the Mandem” is a song written by Kojo Kankam (aka Novelist). It is very politically motivated and describes the struggles faced by black people through an epidemic of violence on London’s streets. The title came from a sign that Novelist had painted for a Black Lives Matter march.

It is considered to be a grime song. It has a tempo of 140bpm and is in the key of Db major.

Intergalactic – The Beastie Boys (1998)

“Intergalactic” is a song written by The Beastie Boys (Michael Diamond, Adam Horovitz and Adam Yauch) alongside producer Mario Caldato, Jr.

The song received a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group in 1999, and reached number 5 in the UK charts. It is a good example of The Beastie Boys’ trademark style of hooks mixed with rapped verses where each member takes turns to do their own verse.

It is considered to be a hip hop/rap song. It has a tempo of 104bpm and is in the key of E minor.

Doo Wop (That Thing) – Lauryn Hill (1998)

“Doo Wop (That Thing)” is a song written by Lauryn Hill. It was her debut single, and has received widespread critical acclaim. Lyrically, the song is said to serve as a warning to African-American men and women who are caught in “the struggle”. The lyrics also promote egalitarianism between the sexes.

The musical style is heavily influenced by the soul and doo-wop genres.

The song is considered to be a hip hop/doo-wop/R&B song. It has a tempo of 100bpm and is in the key of A major.


If you know any musical & creative young people who’d like to develop their songwriting talent and connect to kindred spirits, ask them to check out our online songwriting clubs running from 14th September.

Song Academy Summer Collaboration Competition

Open for submissions – entry deadline is 24th August

We’ve had the tagline ‘Express Yourself’ since we founded Song Academy 11 years ago and we want to write a song to celebrate it! We’d like as many young people as possible to contribute to the lyrics, melodies, composition & music video, as possible. This collaborative project will be masterminded by some of the Song Academy young ambassadors. We’d love you to be part of our collaboration & have your voice heard.

Songwriting brief: Please write a song with the title ‘Express Yourself’. Song Academy is about helping every child find their voice. We believe that writing songs is a powerful way to express yourself and communicate what you’re feeling. Songwriting is good for the soul and happiness in life! We’re leaving the brief fairly open so you can be as creative as you want, but we would love for your songs to align with Song Academy’s mission, which is helping every child find their voice, supporting youth’s mental health, helping them to express themselves and championing the benefits of music! We’re looking forward to hearing your songs.

Who can enter? Anyone aged 8-18 year olds, solo or group entries welcome. It’s free to enter!

How to send us your song: Please email your submission before the 24th August to expressyourself@songacademy.co.uk, we can accept SoundCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive or WeTransfer links. You can submit in any format, whether it’s audio or video, or even just some lyrics in a text file!

Please also post your song (or a snippet of your song!) as an audio recording/video recording/music video via Instagram, Facebook, YouTube or TikTok, tagging Song Academy (Instagram and TikTok @song_academy; Facebook and YouTube @songacademyUK). Plus the hashtags #expressyourself #songacademycollaboration.

We will pick our favourite submissions and if you are successful, you’ll be invited to a Zoom call on Wednesday 2nd September, 2pm BST with some of the Song Academy young ambassadors and Song Academy team to create the finished song, along with other writers!

We’re looking forward to listening to your songs!

Who are The Song Academy Young Ambassadors?

Here’s a reminder…

Sebastian Croft

Andrea Turk

Cassa Jackson

Gus Harrower

Joshua Shea

Katie Kittermaster

Tabitha Jade

Roman Lewis

Jenk Oz

Miriam Nyarko

Natalie Shay

Kevin Jones

Ronnie Warwick

Lottie Jenkins

It’s only July and 2020 has already been a rollercoaster year for many of us, with all sorts of ups, downs, twists and turns. We thought it would be good to look back on the incredible past few months we’ve had at Song Academy, and all the positives that have come from not just 2020’s Young Songwriter Competition, but everything else we’ve done.

We figured the best way to do that would be with a video that sums up our last few months, we hope you enjoy it!

 

None of this would have been possible without YOU and we want to thank all of you who entered the competition, attended a songwriting club (online or in real life!), liked or commented on our posts, or told a friend about what we do. We’ve been able to build up an amazing community of Young Songwriters and we hope to keep on building it! Our mission is to help every child find their voice… we’re excited about the future. Next opportunity to get involved are our online songwriting workshops in August!

We’re calling creative & musical young people to join our online songwriting workshops this August! With 11 years experience developing songwriting programmes, these workshops are perfect for those wanting to write their first song or those already developing an album of original songs.  Develop your songwriting skills and collaborate with kindred spirits.

Choose from 3 types of workshops, to develop your lyric writing, melody improvising, composition and production skills:

3rd, 4th, 5th & 6th August
Group songwriting workshops (groups of 8) writing a song together over 3 hours.
– Songwriting workshops (groups of 4) writing an individual song over two days (3 hours per day).

10th, 11th, 12th & 14th August
Production/Songwriting workshops (groups of 4) getting feedback on a song you’ve already written and having help developing the production of your song over two days (3 hours per day).

Workshops are tailored for different age groups (8-10, 11-12, 13-15 & 16-18 year olds) and different levels of songwriting experience.

Please share with all the young songwriters & musicians you know.

Don’t miss out!  Book a place.

We’re delighted to announce the top 3 songs in The Young Songwriter 2020 competition, International category! Drum roll……..the top 3 songs in alphabetical order are:

Cloud 9 by Nadia Ahadi

Suicide Season by Jo MacKenzie

Ten by Jordyn

The winner will be announced at a special Instagram live event on Saturday 20th June from 2 – 3 pm BST.  Stay tuned to our social media channels – Instagram, Facebook  and Twitter  for latest news on special VIP guests joining us.

We caught up with Nadia, Jo and Jordyn to talk about all things songwriting!

NADIA AHADI (17 years old from Jakarta, Indonesia) 

What inspired you to write your song?  I’ve always thought about writing something about cheering people up during a tough time. Everybody goes through it, yet so little people want to talk about it. Writing a song about it will encourage people to open up and build a more supportive community.

What got you into writing songs?  From hearing my favourite artists write about things that they are deeply passionate about, I’ve always wanted to try seeing how I would express my personality through music as they have done it. I also enjoy writing poems or short stories, so I figured combining my love for writing and music would allow me to expand my creativity, especially if the songs are about things I deeply care about and would like to share without directly stating it, as I know people are going to take different interpretations of it.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process?  When I find the right lyrics and chords that deliver the message of the song in a way that is easy to listen to and catchy as well. It was also thrilling to be able to work with my arranger and see how she envisions the song in her own way that I appreciate and enjoy. Producing a song in a studio was a new experience for me, so I learned a lot more about how the music and song itself would come together.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS20 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  Writing Cloud 9 was actually me first learning chords on the ukulele while typing out possible lyrics on my phone. This was all done on the floor inside my room. I had no idea why, but just sitting down on the hard wooden surface gave me reassurance that even though I was on the lowest height and position, my mind was able to wander off to the highest of heights, and I was able to focus and give myself enough pressure and drive to create without being too comfortable, which would probably happen if I was sitting on the warmth my bed.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  It usually depends on what I feel and what state of emotions I am in, so it is sometimes difficult to find the spark. However, if there is either a high or low moment in life I would want to either remember or get out of my mind, I would write songs as a memoir or a coping mechanism for the things that happen. I would start out by either writing notes about a certain theme, how I felt, then I’d find a tune on an instrument and associate that with modified lyrics.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?It’s difficult to choose, but it would probably be Sabrina Claudio or Phum Viphurit because I’ve always enjoyed listening to all of their songs which never bore me. Since they both are artists from different genres, it would be a great opportunity to get a share of their writing or thought process when creating songs that produce varying styles but equally uplifting outcomes.

What made you enter #SAYS20? How did you hear about it?  I first heard about it from my friend (Andrea Turk) and decided to give myself a try. I’ve never been in any songwriting competitions before so I thought this would be a good experience to start off with, even if I didn’t win.

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 do it. Don’t be afraid and put an immense amount of pressure on yourself because that kills the joy and fun of making your song to only meet the qualities of others. Do it because you love writing and you love the experience. I would say write a song that means a lot to you, a song that contains a special message that a lot of people could take into consideration and gain appreciation for.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I like that this competition allows various young achieving artists around the world an opportunity to express their various styles of music, finding that each writer’s song consists of different messages that can communicate itself in various ways, inspiring others in the process as well. It’s incredibly interesting to see a wide range of cultures coming together to share their same passion for music and songwriting.

JO MACKENZIE (16 years old from Kansas City, USA)

What inspired you to write songs? When I was 8, I remember watching the Disney Channel show Austin and Ally and was so inspired to write songs. My best friend and I then wrote a bunch of songs and tried to perform them whenever we could. From there, I learned how to play piano and guitar, and also began producing with Logic and Ableton at 11. I then released my first song “C.U.R.E.” when I was fourteen and have been releasing music since.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process?  Regarding the songwriting process, writing the production elements is one of my favorite parts of the process. Another favorite part of mine is being able to sit down and work through emotions via songwriting.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS20 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  For the three songs that were chosen as finalists, two were recorded in my bedroom (I Should Come With A Warning Sign and Suicide Season) while the other one (Just Like the Rain) was recorded in a studio. However, all of them were written by myself in my bedroom!

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? My inspiration can come from anywhere. When I was younger, I really loved classic/soft rock n roll, such as Elton John and Billy Joel. To this day, other artists also inspire me, as well as real-life experiences and stories. It might be a cool lyric, an intense feeling, or an interesting chord progression that inspires me to write a song. The spark can come from anywhere!

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?My dream collaborations would include Jack Antonoff, Ricky Reed, Jason Evigan, Taylor Swift, Lorde, and Maggie Rogers.

What made you enter #SAYS20? How did you hear about it?  I entered #SAYS20 because it seemed like a great opportunity for young songwriters to find their voice and share their creations. I found it while actually looking for songwriting competitions, and I honestly wish I had found it when I was younger, for it is really cool!

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 someone was thinking about entering the SAYS competition next year, I would highly encourage it! My advice would be to write a song from the heart and do your best to get a quality recording of it. However, the most important part is the songwriting and not the production/recording quality.

What do you like about The Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I like how the SAYS competition gives young writers a voice and place to promote and celebrate their work.

JORDYN (17 years old from Sydney, Australia)

What inspired you to write your song?  10 was inspired by the street I grew up on. I was looking at old photos and a few images really stuck out to me; little plastic cars, chalk, playing in the garden. The song took shape really quickly and I think that was because I didn’t have to create the images, they were already there in my memories and all I had to do was translate them into words.

What got you into writing songs? The first song I wrote was a present for my mum and it was about how much I love her (cliche I know, but I was 10). After that I didn’t write again until my mum pushed me to. I had hit a wall and was bored singing covers, but I didn’t know what else I could do. Without my mum pushing me to write I don’t think I would have started again, or at least not for a while, and I would not be the artist I am today.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process?  My favourite part is the satisfaction I feel  when I finish a verse or chorus or find the perfect chord. Songwriting is a lot of trial and error and improvisation so when I find the chord or the words I’m searching for it’s the best feeling, especially if I’ve been stuck.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS20 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  I have a ‘music area’ in a study that I share with my dad and on the wall behind my desk I have a collage of my favourite artists and songs. I find writing in this space rather than on my bed or somewhere else helps me stay focussed and on track.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I usually start with chord progression that I pay on repeat and improvise over or I’ll start by listing keywords or phrases and create some rhymes to build upon. I think that having a strong foundation for a song (lyrical ideas, chords etc) is really important… I find that when a progression or a phrase sparks something in me, those songs turn out the best. I have stacks of half-written songs that I just haven’t clicked with.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?I would love the chance to write with Julia Michaels. She has had so much experience as a songwriter before she made a name for herself as an artist and has worked with so many successful artists. Getting the opportunity to learn from her would be a dream.

What made you enter #SAYS20? How did you hear about it?  My mum saw the competition on Facebook and we thought it would be a good opportunity for me to keep active since all of my gigs have been cancelled.

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 if you are thinking about doing it, just do it! There is no harm in submitting your song, especially when you have the chance to be heard by some amazing people and possibly win great prizes. It can be daunting at first, but once you enter a competition a whole new world opens up for you and you find so many more opportunities to put yourself out there.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I really enjoyed listening to everyones songs! In other competitions I’ve entered, I haven’t had the chance to hear other entries. I feel like hearing everyone else’s songs made it feel less like a competition but more of a community and exchange, which was really nice given the disconnection we are all experiencing at the moment.


The winner will be announced at a special Instagram live event on Saturday 20th June from 2 – 3 pm BST.  Stay tuned to our social media channels – Instagram, Facebook  and Twitter  for latest news on special VIP guests joining us.

We’re delighted to announce the top 3 songs in The Young Songwriter 2020 competition, 13-18 year old, UK & Ireland category! Drum roll……..the top 3 songs in alphabetical order are:

Black Heart by Kitty Dodd-Noble

Lights of the Sky by Lilith Bee

Obsession by Hetta Falzon

The winner will be announced at a special Instagram live event on Saturday 20th June from 2 – 3 pm BST.  Stay tuned to our social media channels – Instagram, Facebook  and Twitter  for latest news on special VIP guests joining us.

We caught up with Kitty, Lilith & Hetta to talk about all things songwriting!

KITTY DODD-NOBLE (17 years old from Dorking, Surrey) 

What got you into writing songs?  I got into writing when I was about 9, I use it as a therapy more than anything else really. It is a really weird feeling comparing how I physically feel after writing a song and prior. It’s like an actual physical weight has been taken out of me and I feel better.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process?  My favourite part would definitely be writing the lyrics. I really love poetry. I also think that when I have something in my head that I need to get out, by looking at different angles of what’s going on (which I do when writing lyrics).

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS20 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  I have a small setup in my room with a couple ROKIT 6s, an AKG 414, a komplete control midi controller and a focusrite box. So all fairly simple but does the job. I’m doing music tech A level, so each time I do something I learn more. Always learning more!

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  It’s really hard to describe. It’s a sort of body sensation. I get a lot of adrenaline and get very excited. Without this feeling I do find it hard to write a track because it’s not really real. I don’t know, the songs that I try to write are never as good as the ones I feel.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?I really love Amy Winehouse. I think her lyrics are so beautiful. She wrote with such art and such truth. I think even if you have never felt what she talks about in her songs, you still feel it with her. This is what I want to evoke in my songs too.

What made you enter #SAYS20? How did you hear about it?  I’m at Hurtwood House and my teacher sent an email round. But also… I went to Sauveterre with Rowena’s daughter so that’s where I heard about it originally.

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 mean, why not? Got nothing to lose, you can only gain something. I think everything you do in music (and in life I guess) is a learning curve. There’s always more to learn. So if you get the opportunity then why not?

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I think it’s great. It gives young people a place to put their music up and get some professional feedback.

LILITH BEE (15 years old from Surbiton, Kingston-Upon-Thames, London)

What inspired you to write your song?  The song is inspired by emotions and how quickly they can change seemingly randomly and without any warning. The lyrics of the song are made to juxtapose each other to show this exact change.

What got you into writing songs?  I got into writing songs from the peace I found in listening to music. Because I enjoyed listening to music so much I decided I’d like to create some of my own.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process?  My favourite part of the writing process is refining the piece through harmonies.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS20 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  When writing any song, initially it all starts with a few chords and something to record my ideas . Once the song is fully established in terms of the melody and chords, we record the final version in a professional studio.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  Any song idea will come when either making up a chord sequence or just randomly to mind. (Truthfully most of them are “singing in the shower” songs at heart).

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?My dream artist to collaborate with would be the Argentinian band SIAMES as their songs are my favourites to listen to.

What made you enter #SAYS20? How did you hear about it?  I find it interesting to see what other people think of my songs and if they are really any good at all. The best way to determine this is through competitions. ( and who doesn’t want to seek a little closure).

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?  Advice I would give is to write the song that YOU want to write. Write something that you will enjoy listening to and writing.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  What I like about the competition is that it doesn’t focus so much on how great you are as a singer ( as I know there are better singers out there than me) but rather your skills in actually writing something original and unique.

HETTA FALZON (15 years old from Wells, Somerset)

What inspired you to write your song?  Obsession was inspired by previous songs I had written, the majority of which were about heartbreak. I wanted to write a prequel to those songs. I realised for your heart to be broken so deeply you must have loved been loved just as deeply, and Obsession explores this lovely side of love. The focal idea in the song is opening up to somebody because something that in that past had been so often just lustful might even be love.

What got you into writing songs?  I had grown up surrounded by music. When my dad left, songwriting became an outlet for me to rationalise the situation. Songwriting helps me understand not only myself but those around me with various perspectives.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process?  I love writing lyrics because in the lyrics is the message and in the message is the raw emotion. If you strip back a song to only the lyrics it should still be powerful. I also think my favourite part of the process is finding that one moment in the song where everything falls into place and from there the rest comes naturally.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS20 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  I sit at the piano and I mess about. If I find something I like then I’ll record it onto my phone. It’s all very simple and low-tech but it means I really focus on the song rather than the production.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I can never write a song by deciding to sit down and write a song. Usually I am inspired by things I see or hear outside of my house and I immediately record these ideas into my phone. I will then sit at the piano later on and play around, developing these ideas.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?I’m a sucker for effective lyrics. To collaborate with Dermot Kennedy would be insane, his music definitely influences my songwriting. In his music the instrumentation takes a back seat and exposes his lyrics. Similarly, most of the songs I write are acoustic as I feel the focal point should be the text.

What made you enter #SAYS20? How did you hear about it?  I discovered Song Academy when searching for courses for young songwriters and for the past few years I have followed the Song Academy competitions however not taken part as I had little confidence in my songwriting, however this year with recommendations from school, I decided to give it a shot.

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?  It is impossible to write a song that everyone will like. I spent a long time trying and I realised it doesn’t matter what other people think of my music because I write it for me, and if somebody happens to like it too then that’s cool but if they don’t it doesn’t mean it’s a bad song. If I had any advice it would be to write the song that you’d want to listen to. If others do too then that’s just a bonus.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  It gives so many more people opportunities because you don’t need to have an incredible voice or  be a great producer or have expensive equipment. It’s about the song. You just have to be musical.


The winner will be announced at a special Instagram live event on Saturday 20th June from 2 – 3 pm BST.  Stay tuned to our social media channels – Instagram, Facebook  and Twitter  for latest news on special VIP guests joining us.

We’re delighted to announce the top 3 songs in The Young Songwriter 2020 competition, 8-12 year UK & Ireland category! Drum roll……..the top 3 songs in alphabetical order are:

A place to play by Skye Bishop

No Place by William Massie

Triple Threat by Riley Stevenson.

The winner will be announced at a special Instagram live event on Saturday 20th June from 2 – 3 pm BST.  Stay tuned to our social media channels – Instagram, Facebook  and Twitter  for latest news on special VIP guests joining us.

We caught up with Skye, William and Riley to talk about all things songwriting!

SKYE BISHOP (11 years old from Kensington, London) 

What inspired you to write your song?  Watching David Attenborough’s amazing documentaries, and learning about climate change at school.

What got you into writing songs?  I’ve been writing songs since I was 8. I enjoy making things rhyme and try to create new melodies and sounds in my head. I love messing around at my piano.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  Recording the song and being in the studio. I make a lot of last minute changes when I start recording it.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS20 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  I just wrote it with a pen and scrappy piece of paper during lunch at home. I had the idea during my music lesson on a Sunday morning and came home and immediately started writing it.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I usually start with an idea – a theme, something personal to me and then I try and tell a story about it and then work to make the lyrics work together. Then I start singing the different lines over and over again until it sounds right.

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

What made you enter #SAYS20? How did you hear about it?  I love Song academy – I have entered it for the last three years.

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?  Give it a go!  The great thing about song writing is that there is no right or wrong.

What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition? Who out of the other entrants (it doesn’t have to be a finalist!) would you like to collaborate with?  I really liked Alice Maxwell’s song ‘Dreams’.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I love the whole thing. It makes my Easter holidays really exciting and I love how it gives people my age the opportunity to be heard.

WILLIAM MASSIE (12 years old from Teddington, London)

What inspired you to write your song?  I’d been noticing a lot on the news about refugees and children being forced to leave their homes and I started to imagine how devastating it must be and how they must be so brave to get through it. I decided to write a song about the issue, to honour these families, as there is no place like home.

What got you into writing songs?   My Mum says I was born singing. I started playing the piano when I was around 6, but I wasn’t keen on reading and following the music that my teacher would give me, so I started writing my own music and coming up with my own songs.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process?  I know it sounds cliche, but I love the whole thing. I love the feeling when you come up with a lyric in the middle of the night, the feeling when you play what could be the chord sequence to your next song, and the smile on my face when I finish writing and rush downstairs to play it to my family for the first time.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS20 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  To write ‘No Place’ I used a pen and paper (a lot of post-it notes lying all over my bedroom!) and my keyboard.  I then used my laptop to record and mix it.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Normally when I start to write a song it’s either me thinking of a lyric in bed at midnight, or recording a melody on my phone in the park. Sometimes it’s when I’m reading about worldwide issues in geography, R.S. or on the news etc.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  If I could collaborate with any artist it would be sooooo hard to choose, but I’d probably go for Oak Felder. Oak Felder is a songwriter and pop record producer and has been nominated and won grammy awards. He likes to make his music just using a laptop and basic recording equipment.

What made you enter #SAYS20? How did you hear about it?  I entered last year when I saw an ad in the Stagecoach magazine. I loved the experience and was so keen to enter again this year. Its a great focus especially right now in lockdown!

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?  For someone entering the competition for the first time, I would tell them that if they ever think of a lyric, or a melody, or a riff, don’t wait until later to write it down or record it in music memos. Do it then. Do it in THE moment. There have been so many times where I’ve thought of something, not written it down, and then forgotten it. And it kills me to know that that idea could have been my best song yet, and that I’m never going to be able to use it. There is no time that’s not a time for writing music.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  What I like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition is how it brings like-minded people together and how it allows us to share our music with others and get feedback on it and find ways to improve our music next time we write a song.

RILEY STEVENSON (11 years old from Fulham, London)

What inspired you to write your song?  I’ve always wanted to be a triple threat!

What got you into writing songs?  I loved singing so I wanted to try writing my emotions on paper

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process?  My favourite part of the songwriting progress is writing the chorus because it’s normally catchy and more fun to write because it’s the main message.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS20 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  My Setup was just a pen and paper and a guitar.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I normally get started by thinking of the topic and then normally I have loads of ideas in my head about the melody and lyrics

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? My dream artist to collaborate with would be Grace Vanderwaal.  I love the music she creates with her ukulele.

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 go for it and give it a shot you never know!  Write on what you have a lot in common with.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I like that you can express yourself and it’s for all ages.

The winner will be announced at a special Instagram live event on Saturday 20th June from 2 – 3 pm BST.  Stay tuned to our social media channels – Instagram, Facebook  and Twitter  for latest news on special VIP guests joining us.


The winner will be announced at a special Instagram live event on Saturday 20th June from 2 – 3 pm BST.  Stay tuned to our social media channels – Instagram, Facebook  and Twitter  for latest news on special VIP guests joining us.

Bored at home? Missing going to gigs? Need inspiration?  Then the Song Academy Sunday Songwriter Streams are just what you need! You’ll get a chance to hang out with some amazing songwriters & musicians, learn a thing or two and connect to kindred spirits.

Next up is Joshua Shea and Katie Kittermaster!  Joshua Shea is an actor, director and songwriter who portrayed Young Newt Scamander in the film Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and Devin in the latest series of The Royals. His debut short film ‘Apotheosis’ has just been released on YouTube.  Joshua’s original song ‘Picture on the Mantelpiece’ was selected as a top 10 finalist in The Young Songwriter 2018 competition.  Katie Kittermaster is a super talented singer/songwriter from Kent who’s opened for some amazing artists including Olly Murs, Jools Holland and Ronan Keating and has toured with Keith Duffy, Brian Mcfadden and Lucy Spraggan! Katie’s song ‘T-Shirt’ was awarded runner-up in The Young Songwriter 2018 competition.

Don’t miss your chance  to get to know them & learn how they write songs, collaborate with others and get creative. They’ll be playing music, chatting about how they write songs and where they get their inspiration from.  Plus they’ll answer questions from you guys about songwriting and anything music related!

We cannot guarantee that questions asked during the stream will be answered but we will try to make time for them! If you really want a question answered the best way is to comment on our Instagram post or submit to any stories asking for questions!  Song Academy instagram account:  song_academy

Looking forward to having you part of this Sunday’s Songwriter Stream!

Bored at home? Missing going to gigs? Need inspiration?  Then the Song Academy Sunday Songwriter Streams are just what you need! You’ll get a chance to hang out with some amazing songwriters & musicians, learn a thing or two and connect to kindred spirits.

Announcing our upcoming live streams with our Song Academy Young Ambassadors starting this Sunday 24th May from 5-6pm, once a week over the next 6 weeks!

This will be a chance for you to get to know our Young Ambassadors & learn how they write songs, collaborate with others and get creative. They’ll be playing music, chatting about how they write songs and where they get their inspiration from.  Plus they’ll answer questions from you guys about songwriting and anything music related!

We cannot guarantee that questions asked during the stream will be answered but we will try to make time for them! If you really want a question answered the best way is to comment on our Instagram post or submit to any stories asking for questions!  Song Academy instagram account:  song_academy

Who are The Song Academy Young Ambassadors?

Here’s a reminder…

Sebastian Croft

Andrea Turk

Cassa Jackson

Gus Harrower

Joshua Shea

Katie Kittermaster

Tabitha Jade

Roman Lewis

Jenk Oz

Miriam Nyarko

Natalie Shay

Kevin Jones

Ronnie Warwick

Lottie Jenkins

Stay tuned to our Instagram acount, song_academy or Facebook/Twitter channcels, SongacademyUK for latest news!