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.