Get to know the SAYS22 finalists in the International 13-18 year old category

This year’s Song Academy Young Songwriter competition attracted over 850 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.  We’ll add more Q&As as we receive them.  Stay tuned!

TOXIC TIME BOMB – AEJ, 18 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? Anna-Elea: In school we had a lesson about plastic pollution in the oceans. After doing some further research, I got so frustrated with the current situation that I decided to write a song about it. I asked myself how the band The Police feel about their song “Message in A Bottle” today? We believe the formerly romantic notion of throwing bottles (with messages) into the sea is no longer acceptable.

What got you into writing songs? Anna-Elea: My friend Josefine and I have been singing together for several years. Our headmaster in school introduced us to the idea of writing songs and taking part in songwriting competitions.

What does songwriting mean to you? Anna-Elea: Songwriting is a form of introspection. By thinking about new ideas and topics, you actually learn more about your own personality and your perception of the world.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? Anna-Elea: My favourite part of the song writing process is, of course, when the song is finally finished! Up to that point, it’s an emotional roller coaster ride which ranges from euphoria (Wow, I’ve found a cool chord) to absolute horror (Oh no, this song is never going to work).

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Anna-Elea: I usually try to find a melody and let the music speak to me. It’s as if the music suggests the words or the topic of the song. With “Toxic Time Bomb” it was a bit different. The idea of writing about plastic pollution was there before the melody.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. Anna-Elea: We first wrote an acoustic version of the song on the piano. Later we teamed up with a local musician who owns a studio and happens to play drums, bass and guitar. We did all backing vocals ourselves.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Anna-Elea: Since our song “Toxic Time Bomb” uses citations from “Message In A Bottle” we would be thrilled and honoured if former members of “The Police” listened to the song were willing to do a collaboration.

What made you enter #SAYS22? How did you hear about it? Anna-Elea: We learned about the competition through surfing on the internet.

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? Anna-Elea: My tips for young songwriters are: Find something that’s constantly bothering you. Think of an interesting way of delivering your view on it. Find people who help you to produce the best version of your idea. Make yourself heard.

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? We like the song “Talking To The Devil” by NEAV and “Wasted Potential” by Lindsay Liebro. Both artists appear to have a similar take on music, so this might work well in a collaboration.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? Anna-Elea: We are grateful that there is such a possibility as the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition. Young talents are encouraged to create art and send a message to an international audience. So thank you very much!

HEROES HAVE SHADOWS TOO – ISAAC STAINES, 17 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? It was a time in my life where someone very close to me had let me down, and really disappointed me, I was very sad and angry for a long time. Part of my process of healing was to write songs and that’s why I wrote ‘Heroes Have Shadows Too’. I also wrote it because I know it is an emotion that isn’t hugely written about yet happens in the majority of peoples’ lives, people close to them hurt them.

What got you into writing songs? I’ve always been musical since I was young and was making little shows with friends and family for friends and family and eventually it just evolved.

What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting is a very healthy thing for me – the two main factors being spiritual and emotional health. I’m a very spiritual person and writing songs has such a sort of anointing on it. It also helps me deal and process my emotions. Most situations that I’ve been through in my life I’ve written a song about – I write down my feelings in the form of not just lyrics but chords and melodies too. I also simply love it, I find the most enjoyment out of creating and crafting a song!

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process? The first strain of ideas. It’s like one explosion setting off 1000 more, the first idea explodes in my head and immediately my head is full of beauty within music and the chords and lyrics and then I’m already thinking about production and then a video to go along with it. It’s that first explosion that is my favourite part in the songwriting process.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I have two ways of writing, a lot of the really good songs that I write come spontaneously – I will have been thinking through something in my life and then I will just sit down and write a song about it. Or, I have a few people that I songwrite with a few times a fortnight and a lot of the time those specific sessions will produce some bangers!

Describe your setup that you used to write #SAYS22 entry? I have over the years busked week in and week out and saved up enough to have a small studio in my bedroom – it includes all the essentials, guitars, mics, midi keyboards, pianos and a drum kit.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? ‘ I have three artists that I would love to collaborate with;
1. Fleetwood Mac – my favourite band of all time, they are all very old and rarely play together so it would be a hard situation.
2. Ed Sheeran – Ed has an insanely unique way to tell stories and you can definitely feel the emotion in every word of every one of his songs.
3. Charlie Puth – I’d love to be able to simply sit with Charlie for a while and pick his brain on music theory and production, two areas I think he has a lot of skill in.

What would you say to someone 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them? All I would say is who cares? I know it sounds strange but if you’ve got a connection to your song, you like it and know it’s good, who cares if it goes far or not. If you like your song and your craft that is all that matters. In saying that, this competition is a great way to put it out for others to hear your emotional process, hear your story.

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? My favourite entry so far is from Sonic Daze (Don’t Rile The Young). I like this song because it’s different to everything else in the competition, most of the songs in here are break up songs and they are great but there are always so many break up songs in music at the moment. Being teenagers most of us haven’t really experienced a really bad break up in our lives yet but we are the next generation and we can use this song as an anthem. I would like to collab with them because I believe we have similar intent – both of our songs are different and unique compared to the majority of the lovey dovey or break up songs, we are working toward something new.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I simply think it’s a great worldwide competition that showcases some of the talent and skill of all ages around the globe. It gives the young people a platform where at times we aren’t necessarily heard in the music Industry (our actual songs and the message behind them).

WASTED POTENTIAL – LINDSAY LIEBRO, 17 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I was inspired to write “Wasted Potential” after I did poorly on an AP Physics test. I had always been an academically “gifted kid,” but I felt that title slipping away from me. My whole life, everyone has told me how smart I am, and it almost felt like I would be wasting my potential by pursuing music instead of a more traditional career.

What got you into writing songs? I wrote my first song in 2nd grade, and I would say I was inspired by artists like Taylor Swift who created the soundtrack for my life.

What does songwriting mean to you? For me, songwriting is a way to express emotions, a way to sing the things that are hard to say, and a way to connect people around the world. I think songwriting is magical and cathartic and something I will never stop doing.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process? My favorite part of the songwriting process is sharing it with others and having them resonate with it. It’s so fulfilling and special to have that connection between the artist and fans.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Most of the time, I’ll just pick up my guitar, play a few chords, and sing whatever comes to mind. Usually, my subconcious will start creating the lyrics based on whatever is currently going on in my life.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I wrote this song in my bedroom! It started off with just a verse and chorus, and I instantly had a feeling this song was special. My producer knew there was something there too, so we finished it up. This song took me the longest to write, but it was so worth it.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? My ultimate dream collab would definitely be Taylor Swift. I’d also love to be able to produce with Jack Antonoff and Dan Nigro.

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 tell them to do it! I think it’s really important to put yourself out there as soon as you can because you never know who will listen to your song and think there is something special about it.

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 would be so excited to work with any of the entrants! Some of my favorites include:  Boy – Summer Brennan, California – Ally Cribb, Crossroad – Marthe, Heroes Have Shadows Too – Isaac Staines, Lost – Monique Raso, Phases – Peter Pulst, Sundays – Lily Welch

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I’ve never been part of an international competition, so I think it is such a cool experience to be a finalist along with other people from around the world!

THE SKY & I – JANE CALLISTA, 14 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your song? I was inspired to write my song based on my personal experience and what I feel in daily life as a 14-year-old performer (singer, TV host, musical actress).

At this age, many people would ask me, “What would you like to be when you grow up?”

I love singing as well as songwriting, and my family have always been supportive of me and my dreams. Still, some people are often skeptical of me and what I can do–what I want to do because of my young age.

So, this song serves as a reminder for myself that there is no limit to what I can do and achieve. Just like the sky; it has no limit to it. Hence the title, “The Sky & I”.

What got you into writing songs? I got into writing songs so that I could be able to express what I feel and what I see in my daily life into lyrics and melodies.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process? My favorite part in songwriting is finding and writing the rhymes to complete the lyrics, as well as exploring all the possibilities of melodies that match the sequence of chords to find the one I like best.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. The setup I used for the process of writing my #SAYS22 entry was a voice recorder, note pad on my simple mobile phone and piano.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I usually start my song by writing the melody of the chorus by strumming various chords with my ukulele or piano.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? It would be a dream come true to be able to collaborate with Taylor Swift or Charlie Puth. They’re amazing singer-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? A tip from myself to my fellow young songwriters who would like to join next year’s competition, is to always be yourself because that is your own superpower that you can express through your original songs.

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? They are all great musicians, but one of the entries that I enjoyed listening to the most would be “Think Myself to Death” by Joey Wilbur.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? What I like about the Song Academy Songwriter Competition is, it gives the platform and opportunities to unleash the potentials of young songwriters like me all around the world.

OCEAN CHILD – SUMMER STARLING, 17 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? What inspired me to write “Ocean Child” was my love for those catchy heart-warming staple classic songs made for everyone to welcome into their lives. I wanted to project a valuable message that lasts forever through a form of storytelling where the lyrics just fall into place which they sort of did when I wrote the song.

What drew me to the tropical setting was my collection of memories from traveling all over the world throughout my childhood and how I’ve in some way found a connection between my travels and my journey of growing up. Sometimes when I’m in certain places it feels as if time has stopped and I get to observe and reconnect with life. Another inspiration behind the setting was the place I imagine the type of song I mentioned earlier to be played in, friends and loved ones sitting around a bonfire with guitars under palm trees and reconnecting with what matters the most through music.

Everything sort of flowed in the songwriting process and I had a magical sense of connection to it which I think is something you can sometimes tell when you listen to songs, how much the artists believe in the lyrics and understand the meaning behind them. The key takeaway of the song as I explained more thoroughly in my entry form is the importance of staying connected to what you love, wish and dream to the extent of it being a source of guidance and confidence throughout your journey rather than something that holds you back from reaching your true purpose. I also wanted to bring to light the value of love and meaningful relationships with people and multiple aspects of life as they are just as powerful and can support and motivate you when challenges surface. As one grows the complexity of life tends to do so too and I wanted this song to be a reminder of all the treasures that are yet to be found if one chooses to believe in it, not only for whoever listens to it but also to remind myself. If I could only choose one song to sing in front of the biggest audience in the world right now it would be this one. The song is written directly from my heart and one I wish to reach as many others as possible.

What got you into writing songs? Since my first knowledge of music, I’ve longed to write songs and placed a huge emphasis on the creation of music. But what kept me from it was a drought of a place to start from along with uncertainty in the path I saw ahead of me career-wise. Then, as my interest in Taylor Swift’s music and undeniable proficiency expanded, I gained clarity and confidence in my calling and above all songwriting. Her music is nothing but brilliance. She is an artist who has demonstrated that she can do the impossible, achieve anything and outperform herself continually, and that never fails to inspire me.

From then on my everlasting songwriting has been in full speed and I’ve continued to gain a broad variety of influences along the way such as John Mayer, The Killers, and Tears for Fears, all exceptional artists I look up to in different ways. Writing in itself is such a magnificent way of expression and I love that there are so many ways to write. What makes songwriting so endearing is that the addition of music and melody that follow provides an expansive understanding of the songwriter’s intention behind the lyrics. In other words, the combination of lyrics, melody, and music holds the ability for listeners to engage with the songwriter’s perspective of this world and beyond, and the ability to provide that intimate connection is something I choose to pursue.

What is your favorite part of the songwriting process? One of my favorite parts of the songwriting process is the spark that ignites when a song is just bursting out of me and I get into a flow of songwriting in which I in the best way lose all sense of time and my awareness is solely found within the song. It was one of those moments that paved the way for my song Ocean Child, and it’s one of the parts of songwriting that fuels my motivation to proceed with it more than anything. Sincerely though, I value the whole process of songwriting. Even when I can’t seem to find the right rhymes or stand in the uncertainty of where to lead a story, I know that it’s a part of the process that strengthens me as a songwriter and leads to amazing songs. Songwriting is all worth it to me and something I will always do!

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? There are multiple ways for me to start songs in which all that lovely spark can occur. Sometimes I only write the lyrics and then proceed to add melody and chords with my guitar. On the contrary, there are also times where the process embarks oppositely with me playing the guitar first and then adding melody and lyrics, or all at the same time. It can honestly strike me anywhere at any time, right when I’m about to fall asleep, after I wake up, in school, as I’m cooking, and that’s one of the best parts of it. At those times when I can’t spend much time on it, I try to memorize it as best as possible by fetching a pen and paper, recording a voice memo or video, writing it down on my phone, I’ve even admittedly taken notes on my arm as well!

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I sat in my bed one evening with my fairy lights turned on in my bedroom and used a diary and a pen to write the song. I wrote most of the song, both lyrics, and melody, and came up with the whole structure in one sitting and then later on completed it with the addition of the guitar as well.
A funny story behind the so-called diary is that I think I bought it intending to write about my everyday life and thoughts as diaries are made for but ended up mainly writing songs instead. The diary holds a special place in my heart because I wrote my first songs in it and there’s just something so special about writing songs manually to me. It feels so intimate and the handwriting adds a layer of personal context.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I intend to collaborate with many of my favorite artists, writers, and bands but one of my dream collaborations would be with John Mayer. John Mayer is another artist that has notably inspired and interested me as a singer/songwriter. The first song I mindfully listened to by him was “Edge of Desire” from the album Battle Studies. What I found the most captivating about it and what I now see in many other songs of his as well is how cleverly he adjoins the instrumental ambiance to his astonishing lyrics and consoling voice. I once read a statement saying “this guy is an emotion” and it speaks for itself. There’s a sense of home and attachment to one’s soul he so fluently incorporates into his music that I aim to channel in my songwriting and musical arrangement. Whenever I view his live performances I acquire an urge and motivation for improvement in my guitar skills as well, as I intend to improve at playing instruments whilst singing. There are so many lyrics of his I know off the top of my head that display his clever songwriting such as “I want you in the worst way, is the gate code still your birthday?”, and to be in the same room as him and adjoining our strengths as songwriters and musicians would be an absolute dream!

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 just go for it! It is a perfect chance to display your creativity and individuality! Focus on having fun rather than putting too much pressure on yourself and remember that there are no right or wrong ways to write songs. Another tip is if you can’t decide between different songs to apply with, add both of them. You never know how others will receive the song and what you may dislike about it someone else might love.

What are your favorite 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? There are so many amazing entries from this year’s competition. I’m blown away by all the creativity and so happy that all these young songwriters have chosen to share their gifts and express their originality. It makes me beyond grateful to be a part of this community. Some of my favorites are “All in” by Daniel Mcarthy, “Belladonna” by Ruby Cooke, and “Topiary” by Oscar Meades. One entrant I’d like to collaborate with is Daniel Mcarthy. I thoroughly enjoyed the uplifting and comforting atmosphere of his song and it reminds me of the music I usually listen to. His message about letting nothing stop you if you see it through you and going all out and being all in is something I stand for as well and the way he delivered it through the songwriting and melodies felt genuine and encouraging. I think my favorite lyric is “Just go out and sparkle, let the whole world marvel the way I do about you”, such a great line to hold near. It’s overall a really sweet and enjoyable song full of heart with memorable lyrics. Both of our songs have acoustic elements and share similar themes and for that reason, I think our sounds and songwriting styles would collide very well if we’d collaborate!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I admire plenty of things about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition. First and foremost is that it’s something made possible for every young songwriter no matter how experienced one might be or where you come from. It’s been more than a joy to listen to the other contestants’ entries and it has made me realize what a wide and colorful spectrum songwriting truly is. Another aspect of the competition I appreciate is how motivating and helpful Song Academy is in the process, from all the information and great variety of resources to the possibility of actual feedback. It is no secret that the people behind this are passionate about songwriting and have the entrants best interest at heart. The competition has been an exciting experience so far and I’ve felt taken care of along the way. This is a wonderful community I’m happy to be a part of!

YELLOW, WITHOUT ME & THINK MYSELF TO DEATH BY JOEY WILBUR, 17 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist songs? All of my songs are based on my own personal experiences. “Think Myself to Death” is by far my most personal song. At first, it was meant to be a song for just me, as a way to express my emotions. I was scared to play it anywhere because of how personal it was to me, but I really hope my song can help someone as much as it helped me. “Without Me” is a song I wrote during the end of a messy relationship. I was torn between letting this person go, and trying to hold on to them. I knew that trying to keep them was bad for me, but that person meant so much to me, and I didn’t want to let them go. “Yellow” is a happy song I wrote about the beginning of a new relationship, where you just love everything about that person.

What got you into writing songs? I started writing songs when I was about 12 years old. I’ve always loved music, and wanted to see if I could create something like what I had heard on the radio. After a few tries I was able to make something that a 12 year old me was happy with. After that, I enjoyed it so much that I just kept doing it.

What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting is one of the most important things to me in my life. It has become an outlet for my emotions, and very therapeutic for me. If I am ever stressed or upset about something, writing a song about it will usually make me feel a lot better, while giving me time to think about it in a healthy manner.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I enjoy having the creativity to do and say whatever I want. I like starting a song from one line that I had saved in my phone notes, and watching it grow as I write, record, and produce it myself.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Usually a song will start with just a one line lyric or idea that I will think of during the day. I will then start writing with that one lyric and go from there.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I usually write my songs in my bedroom. I’ll start with a lyric, and write a guitar part that fits the vibe of the song that I plan to create.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I have always been a huge fan of Ed Sheeran. He inspired me to pick up the guitar and start writing. I also love Jeremy Zucker’s music, who has more recently influenced my writing.

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 your most personal songs that you are proud of. Make something true to you, and other people will relate to it. The judges are looking for good songwriting and want to see something that is real to the songwriter.

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 like Lindsay Liebro’s song “Wasted Potential”. Her music is exactly the type of music that I would listen to on my own. She is very talented!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I like that it gives the opportunity for young songwriters to get their name out there. Not a lot of organizations focus on that, so as a young artist, I really appreciate what they are doing.

TETHERED – THE SEASIDE FEELS, 13 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? Our inspiration for this song was a sad story we heard, about a teenager who killed himself when his girlfriend left him. We thought how tragic it was to feel you couldn’t live without someone, even when the relationship was obviously unhealthy and even toxic.

What got you into writing songs? As identical twins, we’ve always made music together. Songwriting together was a natural progression of that. We didn’t sit down at any point and say “let’s write a song”. We just do it when we feel an idea is worth exploring.

What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting is a way to have fun together, to create something unique that expresses our thoughts and feelings. It’s a special thing for us to do together.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? We usually start with lyrics, well really poems. Then Venice will usually be the one to come up with a melody. But sometimes it’s the other way round. Sometimes one of us has a melody in her head and the words come after.  We always jot lyrics in notebooks and often they don’t come to more than a few lines. Sometimes they become complete poems but never songs. Then sometimes it all comes together. We never push it, we just let things happen and have fun doing it.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? We’d love to collaborate with the band The Rare Occasions, or Cavetown. We love their music and think maybe they would like us! We also love the folk indie band, the Oh Hellos and would love to work with them. We cover some of their songs when we play sets around Dubai.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Anyone thinking of entering next year should absolutely go for it! You have nothing to lose!

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? We love all the finalists’ songs. It would be really cool if there were finalists in the UAE we could meet up with!

BLUE – AMANDA FAGAN, 18 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  I wrote “Blue” during a low point in my life. I had cut ties with someone very close to me because I knew it was the best thing to do for my situation. It was painful to watch that person move on, seemingly forgetting me so soon. This song is packed full of the emotions I struggled to understand. Should I be happy my old friend was moving on? Was I jealous? Did I do the right thing, ending what we had? Or was I just sad and caught up in the nostalgia? One thing I knew for sure was that I was blue.

What got you into writing songs? In 2011, my dad used to compile new songs he’d find on a CD and play them on the way to school for my sister and me. At six years old, one song on the disc stood out to me especially: “Mine.” It was a song off of 20 year-old Taylor Swift’s newest album, “Speak Now.” After that, I just knew I wanted to sing and write like her. My Dad signed me up for voice lessons shortly after and I got a music book full of Taylor Swift songs. In the following years, my Dad would surprise me by hiding “Red” and “1989” in my school bag on the days the albums were released. I’d learn to play ukulele, guitar, and piano in middle school and soon enough I was writing song after song. The reason Taylor Swift’s songs always stood out to me were because she told stories through her music. I wanted to do that too.

What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting means everything to me. Music is a beautiful thing. It’s a gift to be able to write it, sing it, or even listen to it. Songwriting has been a good outlet for my bottled up emotions and creativity. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, music calms me down. When I’m having problems with those close to me, I write about what’s pent up inside of me. When I’m anxious on a Monday morning at school, I find a spot before class to fiddle around on my guitar. Or sometimes I just want to tell a story, whether it be a fictional one or a true one I heard from a person passing on the street, from a face I might not meet again. There are endless possibilities when it comes to songwriting. Let your creativity shine.

What is your favorite part of the songwriting process.  My favorite part of the songwriting process is the lyricism. Not only am I a songwriter, but I also love creative writing and poetry. I think that’s why the words are always the part I look forward to most.

How do you usually start a song?  How do you find that spark? I usually start the song with this question in mind: what story am I trying to tell? I don’t have a pattern of lyrics first or music first. I make it up as I go. I can’t say for sure where the spark comes from. The other day I was walking my dog, got an idea of a melody and lyrics in my head, and sprinted home to record a voice memo, singing the same line over and over in my head so I wouldn’t forget it. I have hundreds of voice memos like that on my phone. I get home and work off of what I have recorded. What’s the story? Do I want to change the key? What instruments? What genre? Anything goes.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry.  I used my home studio which consists of my Mac desktop computer, a Rode mic, a mic stand, some sound insulation items I bought online, a midi box, and Logic Pro X. I also had some musicians play instruments in my song. My best friend of 18 years (she’s known me since I was born), Grace, helps me in the production area. She is my producer and my best friend.

Who would be your dream writer/band/artist to collaborate with?  My dream artist to collaborate with would have to be Taylor Swift. I love her writing style and I feel like our music is very similar in genre. I’d love to make a song with her that sounded like something off of her album “Folklore.” I love the vibe and aesthetic of the album.

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 had to say something to someone thinking of entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year, I’d say to go all in! Push your nerves aside and submit your song. Don’t compare your value as a songwriter based on a contest. Do it for fun and for the experience! There are countless talented songwriters in the world, all writing about different emotions and in genres. Even if your song doesn’t win, you get the chance to be creative and make something beautiful; you get the chance to discover fellow songwriters and listen to cool music you probably wouldn’t have found otherwise.

What are your favorite 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?  There were so many incredible entries. Some of my favorites were “Yellow” by Joey Wilbur, “Heroes have shadows too” by Isaac Stares, and “California” by Ally Cribbs. All of them had amazing voices. I loved the story Ally’s song told, the simplicity yet beauty of Isaac’s song, and the upbeat banger that Joey made. The song makes you want to jam out and dance! I think it’d be really fun, collaborating with any of them.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I love that the Song Academy Young Songwriter competitions give young songwriters an opportunity to be heard.

RISE – MONIQUE RASO, 16 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist songs?  My song Rise is an uplifting ballad all about not giving up and having the strength to keep on going and being that light to carry on through difficult times.  Lost is all about finding your way out of confusion and knowing that everything will be ok and work out in the end.

What got you into writing songs?  I attended a songwriting workshop and at the end of the day we had to share our very own first original and since then became inspired.

What does songwriting mean to you?  Songwriting means so much to me, it’s a way of expressing my emotion and writing thoughts and life experiences into lyrics. It’s a way to convey messages to the world. Also, the enjoyment of completing a song is pretty cool!

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  I love playing around with chords on the piano and then finding a melody to go with it and the lyrics. Then after, to go the studio to get the song recorded is lots of fun!

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  Firstly I start writing down how I am feeling at the current moment or storytelling through life experiences or even the scenery around me and brainstorm and come up with lyrics from that. Then after I play around with some chords on the piano and start singing some melodies over the top and see what comes together.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I first wrote my song acoustic on the piano then later teamed up with a producer Nick.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  Celine Dion. I absolutely love her music and she is such an inspiration and known for her big ballads. In her songs you can definitely hear her emotions and the messages she is sharing to the world.

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, take every opportunity you can. Believe in yourself and the message you have to share within your song. It is an amazing platform where your music can be found and listened to. Have fun with it!

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?  Everyone is all so amazing and have such incredible originals!   In terms of collaboration, Isaac Staines – ‘Heroes have shadows too’.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  It encourages young songwriters all around the globe to have a go at making then submitting their original music and sharing it! It gives us a chance for listeners to hear our stories and the messages behind our song that we have to say and inspires us to keep writing.

ATOMIC BOMB – CALISTA HARMS, 17 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I wrote this song in quarantine when the world was feeling like it was at its darkest. Almost as if it in its entirety was ending. So I wanted to try my best to put a lighter spin on that in my song by taking this theme of the world ending and turning it into a sort of everlasting romance. with my two characters sharing this mentality throughout the entirety of the song that say well the world might be ending but at least I have you

What got you into writing songs? I’ve been a Taylor Swift fan since I was little and always wanted to live a life similar to hers so I started songwriting when I was about 12 and I’ve just fallen in love with the craft

What does songwriting mean to you? For me songwriting is an outlet I’m not a person who I consider to be very skilled with words or even just general writing so it feels like songwriting is my only outlet to truly explain how I feel in a moment.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? For me my favorite part of songwriting is the crafting of the story, I can use aspects of my life, things that I have gone through and placed those troubles and woes onto another person in this fictional world that I have created. So that seems to be the most fun part for me

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? It’s different every time but recently I’ve been starting with chords and that seems to be the way I go about the process.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I didn’t use any fancy Recording studio I just went to a spot in my house that had good acoustics and recorded using Voice Memos.

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? One song I loved was Boy by Summer Brennan. I feel like we have a similar style to our voices and I love the song she wrote. It would be a dream to collaborate with her.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I love how this contest allows for so much room for creativity and gives us access to share our creative thoughts and ideas with others as well as have a safe space to do so. I would 100% recommend this contest and what I really particularly liked was that I could listen to the other contestants’ songs which I thought were all amazing.

DONE & LIKE A GHOST – MALAIKA WAINWRIGHT, 15 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist songs? I was inspired to write “Done” by a friend who was frustrated about constantly receiving mixed signals from a friend she was interested in as a boyfriend. I was inspired to write “Like a Ghost” by the tricks our minds can play on us when we have strong feelings for someone.

What got you into writing songs? I have been playing classical piano since age 4 and I started writing little melodies around age 8. Later, when I started listening to more pop music, I also started writing my own songs.

What does songwriting mean to you? I see it as a form of expression and increasingly as a fun activity to share with friends.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? Coming up with interesting melodies.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I usually start with a certain topic in mind. Sometimes it is an inspiration from real life, other times it is just a story I create.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I wrote both songs on the piano and later recorded them in my home studio, using Logic Pro X with various instrument and effect plug-ins.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band 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? Do you have any tips for them? Write about a topic you are passionate about, so that you write with maximum motivation.

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? “Lost” by Monique Raso is my favorite entry. I would also like to collaborate with her.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? The fact that younger, less experienced musicians are given a chance to present their music.

FALLING IN LOVE – MICHAEL ABIMANYU KAENG, 17 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? It was simply the complicated feeling when I fell in love, but the girl I liked had not said yes yet.

What got you into writing songs? My passion for music and the need to express my feeling

What does songwriting mean to you? To me it means telling a story. The music and lyric work together to convey my message.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? Finding the mood or nuance I want to share, whether it is from music or lyrics

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I start with finding the theme in shape of some basic notations.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. My piano when composing, followed by arranging it using my keyboard

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Jamie Cullum

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 a very good opportunity to show your music to the world (literally). My tips would be to be honest to yourself when writing a song.

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? Boy – Summer Brennan (love her voice)

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? Opportunity to listen to songs from young composers from all over the world.

TALKING TO THE DEVIL – NEAV, 18 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? A relationship I was in at the time was being threatened by someone else for jealous means. I didn’t understand how someone could act in a way that could hurt others so much so I decided to write the song as a form of therapy.

What got you into writing songs? Ever since I was very young, I would make melodies and silly lyrics. I think once I got into high school, songwriting became therapeutic for me, almost like writing in a diary.

What does songwriting mean to you? I have realised songwriting is as much a need for me as breathing air. It is therapy for me and I love to express myself in that way, hopefully helping others through experiences similar to the ones I write about.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? The whole process is so much fun but my favourite part of songwriting would have to be when the song is complete. You can have something that you created that represents a moment in time, an emotion or a story, like a little time capsule.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I am very much a ‘melody’ person so I usually start off by playing random chords or singing random notes until something sticks and I write lyrics over the top. Other times, there will be an idea that I feel a need to write about and so the song kind of just flows from there.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I just grabbed my electric guitar and hit record on my voice memo app on my phone and went for it. The song was later adapted to piano as it suited the song better.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I would love to work with David Byrne (formally from Talking Heads). I think he is just incredible and has made an amazing lifelong career out of music, always adapting and collaborating stay relevant. He has created lots of different types of music across many 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 tell them to write what feels good, don’t force the song to be something that it is not.

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? My favourite other entries would have to be Daniel McCarthy, DSWRV and Sisi.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I love the opportunity that the competition gives anyone and everyone who wants to be heard. I also love how we are given the opportunity to hear other new and young artists that we would have probably never have heard of otherwise.

THE SOUND OF LONELINESS & DIMPLES – SEDA PARTIZPANYAN, 18 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist songs? I think, the two songs both came to me naturally, like they were always meant to be.  “The Sound of Loneliness” was inspired by me accepting myself fully, embracing the thought of my authenticity and rejecting the fear of being alone, healing. For many years I thought that loneliness was something unnatural, as if I was supposed to always be surrounded by people, but growing up I realised that it wasn’t the complete truth. It’s okay to be alone. “Dimples” is one of the most intimate songs of mine. Though I am still very young, this song is about my feelings, the way I view the world. For me, love is something soft and gentle, delicate even, so the song “Dimples” was inspired by my perception of love in its purest form.

What got you into writing songs? My childhood left me with many bad memories, as well as my teenage years. Never being supported, being ignored and alone, – I never had lots of friends, I never had the opportunity to do what I wanted to do. Writing songs became the ultimate, only way for me to express my thoughts, my feelings, songwriting was my only friend. At first, I simply wrote songs for myself, to make it easier for me, but as years went by, a desire to support others like me who are struggling, who feel lonely and unloved, that desire transformed to the primary reason why I continued writing songs.

What does songwriting mean to you? For me, songwriting always feels like healing. Besides, I always find myself exploring emotions, feelings from different points of view while writing songs, so it’s a process of maturing in a way.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part of the song writing process is the first few words that appear to me. When I write them down, – doesn’t matter if it’s a verse, chorus or pre-chorus, bridge – I get this feeling of certainty, like I know that this song is eventually going to manifest itself, it always feels like a new beginning.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? If I’m being honest, it’s almost never the same process. Sometimes, I sit down by the piano and start improvising without a thought of writing a song, and it just happens. Sometimes, I write the lyrics down and the melody comes along. It’s hard to control, but it’s an extremely interesting process every time, as it is unpredictable. But recently, I found that “the spark” is simply related to the things that surround me and touch my heart. My songs are reflections of my most intimate feelings, reflections of me.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I didn’t use anything too fancy, it was just a normal sunny day as I sat down by the piano in my parents’ house and played the E major chord. That’s how the song “Dimples” was born. Then I went one tone down and wrote “The Sound of Loneliness”, using the piano and writing the lyrics in my notebook.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Though there are many immensely talented artists, I do have one in mind. Tom Odell saved me countless times with his songs, he was the artist who influenced me to not be afraid of my creative authenticity, write songs that I feel connected to fully. I cannot express how grateful I am to Tom Odell for his works, so I would love to collaborate with him. Also, I’d like to mention late Jonghyun – a member of a group SHINee. His way of telling stories was immaculate, genuine, rare, so he will always be one of my most favourite artists and a dream impossible collaboration.

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? Don’t be afraid to try. I know, entering any competition is hard and it takes courage, there will always be doubts and anxiety, I had and still have them too, and it’s okay. But you will never know if you never try, and there’s always room for growth. As for the songwriting, – be your authentic self. No one can write songs the way you do, because nobody has the same perception of the world – we are all different. I think, putting your heart and soul into your songs is a way to show the world who you are, and the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition wants to see you for who you truly are.

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 loved “Heroes Have Shadows Too” by Isaac Staines. I think, it is really powerful in a sense of emotion, as well as melody. He managed to tell a story of hurting in a way that listening to the song left me with a feeling of being strong rather than being broken.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? The fact that the judges carefully listen to each artist, trying to see, feel and hear our stories. I am infinitely grateful for this opportunity and for the hard work of the judges.

SUNDAYS – LILY WELCH, 16 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? As the new year started I began to make a new friend. I decided to write a song about how much we have in common with each other. The time we spend together makes all the stress in our lives go away for a few hours.

What got you into writing songs? I started off by writing poetry when I was younger. As I learned to play many musical instruments, I found my voice and began singing my original words. Songwriting continues to be my favorite thing in the world.

What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting is so important to me because while being an introvert, with songwriting I am able to get all my words out and across to people. I want my words to be relatable and/or emotional for people. Songwriting is also essential in my life because it helps heal me from my anxiety.

What is your favorite part of the songwriting process? Definitely writing the lyrics. I think it’s so fun to incorporate unique and personal words to tell a story. The words come so easily to me and I love writing about my own personal experiences as a teenager.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? For me, it comes out of nowhere. Sometimes I will be eating at a restaurant or at school, and an idea for a song will just pop into my head. I take my time to write down words in my head and record a quick voice memo and end up going back to the idea later and working on it.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I would love to collaborate with Sylvan Esso, Matt Maeson, Billie Eilish, or Bon Iver.

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 so fun to enter a song as well as listen to all of the other entries!

What are your favorite 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 would love to collaborate with Oscar Meades. I think we write and sing the same style of music.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I love how it is open to such a wide age range. It gives so many kids an opportunity to gain recognition.

BIGGER & CALIFORNIA – ALLY CRIBB, 17 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist songs? I was sitting at the piano in our cottage, in a tiny town in Eastern Canada when I wrote Bigger. I had been playing around with a few different chord progressions when I stumbled across the chords and was immediately hooked. I played the intro to the song and knew I had something special. In the next couple of days I drafted the first version of the song. I remember sitting there at the piano, thinking about my hopes, dreams, and everything I wanted my future to be. I love Bigger because it sounds like how that moment felt, staring out the window and thinking about all the possibilities of my future if my dreams were to come true.

What got you into writing songs? My dad is a musician with whom I would practice and play music growing up. He brought me up in a very musical home and I always looked up to him. I watched him play piano and saxophone in different bands when I was younger, I used to go to his shows. I quickly realized I wanted to experience the same feeling he got whenever I watched him play. I think in many ways, he influenced the way I write songs today and the attention I pay to detail in lyricism. He was the one who taught me that what makes a good songwriter is the ability to make every line as detailed as possible, while still finding a way to make the listener want to sing along. The listener should feel like they’re right there in the moment you’re describing. My dad is the one who inspired me to make music.

What does songwriting mean to you? I started writing my own songs at the age of 12. During the course of the pandemic, music has been my outlet and escape. Whenever I am going through something significant in my life, I turn to my piano or guitar and start sorting through feelings of confusion or frustration and finding the words and music to give them expression.The feeling I get after finishing a song I’m proud of is a feeling I’m always chasing. I love songwriting because it follows you everywhere. All I need to write something meaningful is a notepad and a guitar. I think there’s something really whimsical and special about that.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? One reason I love songwriting so much is because the creative process unfolds differently every time. Sometimes I start with music. I’ll stumble upon a chord progression I love or strum my guitar until a melody pops into my head that I really love. Other times, a lyric will pop into my head and I’ll immediately grab a napkin and a pen and write it down. I have a list of lyrics on my phone that’ll come to me in the middle of the day (most of the time when I’m in class). It’s so funny how the creative process works. There are days I’ll clear an afternoon in the hopes of writing a song or finishing up a couple of rough drafts, but nothing will come. I’ll just be staring at the piano for hours, unable to think of anything at all. And then there are days I’ll be sitting in the classroom, writing a test, and an idea I love will pop into my head and I know I need to write it down immediately or I’ll forget it. No two songs are written the exact same way, and you never know when creativity is going to strike.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Funnily enough, songwriting inspiration always hits at the strangest times, usually when I’m not trying to write a song at all. Whenever I go through something, it takes me a little while to process it and think it over before I’m able to sit down and write a song about it.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. My songwriting setup is always extremely basic. It usually consists only of my guitar or piano, a notepad and a pen. That was definitely the case for both Bigger and California. One reason I love playing the guitar is because you can pack it up and take it absolutely anywhere. When I first started writing California, I’d take my guitar down to the beach near our cottage. I think the setting really helped set the scene for the song in my mind, and allowed me to fall into this idea of a small-town love song.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Definitely Taylor Swift. I’ve been the biggest fan of hers since I received her album, Speak Now, as a Christmas present from my dad when I was six years old. I’ve always admired her songwriting, and I tend to get a lot of ideas just by listening to her music.

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 tell them to go for it. There is no downside to putting yourself out there and sharing your creation with others. Regardless of how far you get, you’ll always learn something new along the way and you’ll get good experience out of every songwriting competition you enter.

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 love the song Sundays by Lily Welch and the song What If by Peter Pulst.

IN SPACE – ANTEA TURK, 13 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I am always fascinated with not giving up because you can achieve a lot by doing so. So I made a song to express my feelings about how other people can also achieve their goals by not giving up.

What got you into writing songs? I always love how artists can express themselves through music with their heart and soul. So I always wanted to do that in my own way.

What does songwriting mean to you? I feel so happy whenever I want to write a song, because of how free it can be when you want to express and inspire people from how you feel with words through a tune. I also like poetry and how it rhymes, so that also inspired me to make my words fun with different types of rhyming patterns.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I love the chorus, because to me, there are so many possibilities to make it catchy and meaningful, since it’s usually the main part of the song.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I would think about the special things that happened to me, or the meaningful things that I want to express to the public, that would make me excited to start the song.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. My setup would be from a notepad in my workstation in a software app called Logic Pro.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? It would be a dream if I collaborated with the band QUEEN. I love their music, because of how they express themselves through a really catchy tune that people fell in love with.

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 encourage them to participate. My tip for them is to prepare themselves better by listening to the previous years’ SAYS songs.

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 would love to collaborate with Lindsay Liebro, because of how passionate she sang her song, and how her song brings happiness.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I like that it is very simple to enter, and that I am very happy to be selected in last year top 10 finalists!

CROSSROAD – MARTHE SKEIDE, 16 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? It was the many choices, decisions and challenges related to being young and growing up that inspired me to write this song. I wrote it with the message of inspiring and motivating myself as well as other youths to believe in themselves and their dreams.

What got you into writing songs? Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved singing! I also play a little piano and some guitar. When I was 13, I discovered that I liked writing my own songs and have been doing it ever since.

What does songwriting mean to you? Writing songs comes very naturally to me. It’s just something I have to do, and I think I will never stop doing it. It’s a way for me to channel my thoughts and feelings. I find it very beautiful that I can tell stories, convey messages and be creative when writing songs.

My favourite part of the songwriting process? I love the feeling of excitement that I get when I get a good idea for a melody or a lyric. My favourite part of the process is seeing these ideas coming together to a final product.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find the spark? I usually write songs spontaneously, cause I feel like that’s the best type of songs: the ones that comes naturally. To get started I often pick up my guitar or play some piano to get into the flow. Sometimes I can write songs in like 10 minutes, other times, the process last over a longer period of time.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. Spontaneously and on a low budget I got to record my song in the studio with a music teacher at my music school.

Who would be your dream artist/band to collaborate with? Oh that’s an interesting question! There are so many talented singers and songwriters that I look up to: Alicia Keys, SKAAR, Sigrid, AURORA, Bon Iver, Highasakite, Anna of The North, Tom Odell and Adele, just to mention a few. It would have been a dream to collaborate with any of them.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 years who is thinking about entering the competition? Do you have any tips for them? I think that it’s a unique opportunity and I encourage all young songwriters to enter. Don’t be afraid of trying and believe in yourself. Do it for fun and the experience! :)

What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition, who would you like to collaborate with? I’m impressed by all the good songs! I especially like the song “Sunday”, by Lily Welch.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young? I think it is a brilliant and unique platform for young songwriters to be heard and explored and I am very grateful to be selected as one of the top 30 in the competition.

FIVE FINGERS – MILAN BHATIA-GUERIN/THE CICADA, 17 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? This song as an individual unit wasn’t directly inspired to be created, rather it came about as part of a larger process. I was inspired to write an album examining the ins and outs of our brains, how we conceive death, how we deal with trauma, and the album that is formed around Five Fingers (the submitted song) tells a story about how three specific characters deal with it. This song in particular follows a sound that I’ve wanted to explore for a while: chaos. The total collapse of will is an interesting topic to think about, both lyrically and compositionally, and that’s mostly what drove me to include this part into the story.

What got you into writing songs? Originally, when I first began making my own music back in 2016, I would not have lyrics. I would slap on some improvised lines so there would be some sort of vocal layer on the tracks, but they never really meant anything. More recently, as my brain began to start… being bad, I looked to lyricism and song production as an outlet. My own inadequacies when it comes to communicating to the people around me fuel my need to write songs about things, not even just my own life, but just stories in general.

What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting to me is just life. I can’t have one without the other and still be human. It’s come to the point where I’m always actively thinking about my music and finding more inspiration to write more stories and try and escape my own body. Nothing compares to the transcendental experience of writing a song and then living in it. Songwriting has effectively replaced the bones that open and close my jaw, but in a less dramatic fashion than that.

What is your favorite part of the song writing process? My favorite part would probably just be figuring out what to write. When I’ve finally finished a large project, like I did just recently, there’s this sort of giddy freedom that follows suit quickly. There is quite literally an infinite source of music just waiting to be tapped into and that agency to just create is something that never gets old. Eventually, I settle on one topic that I expand upon, but the exploration up until that point is one of the most fun things I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Starting a song never starts with a lyrical process, that usually happens separately. The most important aspect of a song to me is the sound of it all. People will listen to an amazing sounding song with terrible lyrics but they usually wouldn’t listen to a terrible sounding song with amazing lyrics. Once I’ve found a chord progression, a synth, a rhythm, an interesting structure, or basically anything else that I like, I will shape lyrics around it. Eventually, the lyrics start taking the main stage and I finish the song’s aesthetic based off of where the lyrics go. Everything starts with a sound and then explodes outward from there.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. My recording setup was all pretty basic. I have a Samson CO1 condenser microphone that I used for literally everything on this song, from my vocals to my friend’s vocals and viola. I use Logic Pro on my laptop (it’s a free trial, but I’ve been able to renew it indefinitely, so it’s basically like I own it at this point) to do all the recording and mixing, as well as the synthwork. I have a pretty crappy piano in my house but with enough layering and EQ it sounds good enough in the mix. The actual lyrics I think I finished on my phone in bed at 3AM, but I wrote them over the course of a couple weeks, working on a bunch of other songs simultaneously. Everything about the process was claustrophobic and fast, but it was exhilarating too.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? This is an incredibly tough decision, as I have so many different musical inspirations that picking just one is borderline impossible. Phil Elverum from The Microphones would be really cool, as would someone like Laurie Anderson, but I don’t know if they would be good to collaborate with. Honestly, I would probably want to do something with Swans, or at least just Michael Gira, since they have one of the wildest and most compelling sonic palates out there. This is a very difficult question.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the SAYS competition next year? Do you have any tips for them? I’m not very good at talking to people, especially words of encouragement, but honestly when it comes to songwriting I think the most important thing is to make sure that you like what you’re making. If you’re submitting a song and editing it furiously, just trying to appeal to the judges of some competition, you aren’t doing it right. If you’re enthusiastic about what you’re making, submit it and see how it does, because how other people will interpret it is out of your control. If you really love it, chances are there is someone else who will too, and you might also win a bunch of stuff so that’s an added bonus I guess.

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 listened to some other songs from fellow songwriters, although I could not get to all of them. The ones that stood out to me were Lost by Monique Raso, Confession by Cinta Aurelee & Jessica Andrea, Boy by Summer Brennan, and Sundays by Lily Welch. I feel like writing a song with Summer Brennan would be fun, since I love their cadence and the contour of their vocals, as well as just the aesthetic of Boy as a song.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? This whole contest is such an important concept just in general. I think that giving young people (especially while they’re still blossoming musically) the opportunity to be evaluated in their craft or even just to let their music be heard is a vital step to take. It’s a bit unfortunate that it doesn’t take production or orchestration into more of an account but to be fair it is a songwriting competition so that’s to be expected. I think organizations like this one are incredibly nice to have in this growing world of music.

BOY – SUMMER BRENNAN

What inspired you to write your finalist song? There was someone I knew, and we had grown apart. After seeing this significant change in our relationship and that person, I wanted to take time and reflect on how I felt.

What got you into writing songs? What got me into writing songs was the storytelling. I remember singing random things to myself in my room all the time and when I was about 12 years old, I realized that I found happiness in this creative outlet and haven’t stopped since.

What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting means to be unapologetically expressive. Songwriting allows me to say anything I need to get off my chest. It is deeply personal and yet still relatable.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process? My favorite part of the process is when I am playing with colorful ways to tell a story. There is no feeling like finding that one line that comes out just the way you wanted it to! Honestly, that is like the most exciting part!

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I usually find my spark by reflecting on past experiences or looking upon current events in society or in my life. I typically start a song by mumbling while I play the piano in my room. I know it sounds crazy, but it is very effective.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. My set up was in my room with a pencil, keyboard, microphone and Logic Pro! That’s all you need!

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? My dream artist to collaborate with would be Taylor Swift, Harry Styles or Stevie Nicks. They are all such unique writers, and they inspire me so much.

What made you enter #SAYS22? How did you hear about it? I was looking for songwriting contests online and found Song Academy. #SAYS22 was unique because it had an international category, and I was intrigued by the idea of being in a competition with talented teens worldwide. The judge panel is super impressive, and with Song Academy’s commitment to promoting young artists and their musicianship, I could only see the benefits in my entering.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them? I would say to them that the way to stand out is to be authentically yourself. What makes your music yours. Don’t try and be someone else because it will show in your art. Of course, you can have your inspirations but let those influential artists morph you into something that can only be done by you. Don’t second guess yourself, just submit your song!

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? One of my favorite entries from this year’s competition is Calista Harms. Her lyrics and vocal performance in Atomic Bombs are so intimate and gripping. I would love to co-write something with her.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I like that I can hear stories/songs from all over the world. These stories are so emotional and breathtaking, this is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. I am so grateful for the opportunities provided by Song Academy!

UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN – CLARA FRANZ-ARAU

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  I wrote it a while ago when I had a really close relationship with a best friend who didn’t have the best intentions towards me and always ended up hurting me no matter how there for them I was.

What got you into writing songs?  I’ve always loved making art in different ways and love applying my experiences into the art I make.

What does songwriting mean to you?   It’s a great outlet for emotions and a healthy way to express yourself.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  My favorite part is when I write lyrics that capture a situation or emotion perfectly as well as having musicality and a good flow.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  Each song is different. Sometimes I start with a theme or a phrase and add chords and then finish the song and other times I make chords and a tune and lastly I add the lyrics.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry.  I used a little story behind the song and how the topic of betrayal can be dark and gloomy that seems to lead to no answers. So, in my song I tried to convey the darkness of that feeling as well as wondering If that person will ever be a good person with morals.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  I would love to work with Paul McCartney. I love his music style and I have always loved the lyrics and musicality all his songs have.

What made you enter #SAYS22? How did you hear about it?  My uncle, who is a musician, sent me an email saying It’d be a great opportunity to get used to people hearing my songs and getting feedback.

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?  Do it! It’s a good way to get out of your shell if you have one and also beneficial to hear other people’s work to continue to be inspired.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I liked getting feedback and it’s a great way to not be so shy about sharing your music, at least for me it’s been help to step out of my comfort zone.

 

 

 

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