Get to know the SAYS21 finalists in the 8-12 year olds UK & Ireland category

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

Alice Maxwell – Sometimes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brydie O’Hanrahan – Never Said My Goodbyes 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charlie Prince – I’ve Gotta Be Me 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cora Harkin – Rumour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eleanor Crickmore – Dance Floor 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ellie-Rose Heimans – Out Of Touch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isla Campbell – Did I? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack Strickland – On Top Of The World 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Johnny Beau – Illusion 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lauren Withall – Be Proud 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lily Carroll – Golden Days 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lily Criddle – Fireflies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lois Brooks – Girl In The Dress 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke Pender – Follow Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Macy O’Neill – Voices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maeve Thumim – Waiting 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matilda Gant – New Horizons 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nelly Bingham – Teardrops 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Niamh Gallen – Sing Good Vibes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Queenie Stanbridge – Braveface

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raine Surla – Unique 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rose Rowntree – I Dream Of You 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sambelle Prince – Slowly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skye Bishop – Butterflies 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thommy Bailey Vine – Together For Christmas 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

White Cloud – Modern Romeo & Juliet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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