Get to know the SAYS22 finalists in the International 8-12 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!

PERSEVERANCE – GIOELE UBEZIO, 10 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I wrote this song in a moment of great sadness that I don’t know where it came from, but I knew that I couldn’t let myself go to sadness, that I had to try to be happy. I often play in moments of reflection, playing whatever I feel in my head is something I often do and it helps me to find calm within myself.

What got you into writing songs? This is the first sung song I’ve written, the others were all just piano compositions.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? What I like most about writing music is hearing new, original musical melodies that leave something in the hearts of the people who hear them.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I always start by doing the technical exercises that my teacher gives me, then I get bored and change direction…

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I only used the piano and my voice to write this song.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I would like to play and meet Steven Tyler, whom I always admire and listen to.

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 like to tell the other children that making your music known is very important because it enriches your soul with all the feelings that others feel when they listen to you.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I like the seriousness of this competition and the fact that it recognises that even a small child like me has something to tell in music.

HOLIDAY CHEER – ALEXIS & LAUREN ROLEY & THE KOUZINS, 8 & 10 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I love Christmas and being around my family. I wanted to write a song about being together and how happy I am with them at Christmastime.

What got you into writing songs? It is easy for me to put my problems and what I am thinking about onto paper. Writing songs helps me deal with my problems and worries, and it lets me express how I am feeling.

What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting means everything to me. It allows me to express what I feel so it means a lot.

What is your favorite part of the songwriting process? My favorite part is seeing my thoughts on paper.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I usually think about what I want to write about (from a feeling or an experience), and then I write down the title of the song first. After I have the title, I start writing down the words that come to me. I usually find that spark from an experience I have.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I am usually in my room and I write in my song book journal (where I compile all my songs). After I have all of the words written, I sing the notes/melody (how I want the song to sound) to my grandpa. Then he puts everything into his music program.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? It would be a dream to work with Taylor Swift and Dua Lipa!

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 anyone thinking about entering the competition next year is to enjoy the process and do the best you can. Have fun with it!

What are your favorite other entries from this year’s competition? Who out of the other entrants (it doesn’t have to be a finlast) would you like to collaborate with? “On the Run” by Noah Robertson and “Anywhere” by Austin Bruford are some of my favorite entries this year. It would be fun to collaborate with Ilah Gardiner because I like her voice and the message of the song.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I like that it gives me a chance to show others about the message I have to tell.

RISING FROM THE FIRE – ILAH GARDINER, 12 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? My song was inspired by being in a toxic friendship and how much emotional impact it can have on young people. Rising from the fire was a song I wanted to help empower people in the same situation to get back up and recognise that they are not alone.

What got you into writing songs? Many things actually. My dad used to be in a band when I was younger, so I was exposed to a lot of the music atmosphere. I think after listening to other songs that made me feel a certain way and how many people they can empower people, I wanted to do the same. Once I picked up a guitar and collaborated with my voice, I knew this is what I wanted to do!

What does song writing mean to you? Song writing means a chance for me to express myself and be heard. It also gives me the chance to help and connect with people. The magic that song writing brings has always meant so much to me. And has made me want to pursue my dream as a songwriter to bring that same magic!

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part would be realising you have something. Sometimes you work on multiple songs at once and only come out with one in the end. In the early days of writing a song, which is just me sitting and strumming my guitar, singing, when you realise you have potential for your song it is the greatest feeling! It is like the scaffolding of the song!

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Many ways. I like to take a problem that is happening and put what is going on into lyrics. Other times I might just have a trigger, which can be a word or phrase e.c.t, that I feel has the potential of being cooperated into a song. Most of the time though it starts with a riff on my guitar. Then I come back to that riff when I feel I have found the lyrics for that riff!

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I didn’t use much really! For my D.A.W (Digital Audio Workstation) I just used GarageBand. It had everything I needed! I could just use the built-in microphone on a computer and still get the sound I wanted! And I used my Michael Kelly guitar!

Who would your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Woah,the possibilities!!! Definitely Birdy as I adore the music she writes. When I was little (4 or 5) I got one of her albums for Xmas, inside the album was written ‘Keep trying and one day you will be like Birdy’. I hope one day I can be! But then I would love to collaborate with Amy Wadge as she is an awesome songwriter and has actually written for Birdy! But then I love Florence & the Machine, City & Colour, Queen and many more!!

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Song Writers competition next year? What have you got to lose? If you are looking for a way to express yourself and for your music to be heard this is your competition! You have to start somewhere!

What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition? Who you like to collaborate with? Probably Elle Longstaff? I love her voice. There is so many people to choose from!!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Song Writers competition? I love how its aim is to get young people to express themselves through music and creates an environment for that as it is quite hard to find. The encouragement is awesome!!

I WISH, I DREAM – TAMARA YASIN, 11 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I have been deeply disappointed by the news on the TV about what happening with the war between Russia and Ukraine. I knew that if I couldn’t help physically, but I should help spiritually. Of course, donating to Ukraine would be great, but also showing people of Ukraine that all of us care would be important. So, I wrote this song to help all of us see that instead of war should be peace and harmony and love should always conquer hate. I hope that this song will bring awareness that even young people care about current situation and praying for peace in the world. The bridge in my song is stating “Humans! Peace is in YOUR hands!” Honestly, I wanted to write “Putin!…’, but it would be too political and not poetical.

What got you into writing songs? Writing songs is like saying a poem but doing it while singing. In songs you can say things that you want to say but in a rhythmic and lyrical way. After a songwriting camp I decided, I should start writing songs, and now I love it!

What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting is like a paragraph from an essay but includes singing and expressing the paragraph in a way that you can’t say it.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favorite part of the songwriting process is when I say, “ I’m done!” And then five minutes later I’m writing a whole new verse because it didn’t sound right.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Songs for me just pop out at any moment and …Bam, I am scribbling words on a piece of paper. Most of the time the spark comes from the tune that I am humming. I usually get ideas for a song when I am playing the piano or watching the news or even eating dinner!

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I would love to collaborate with Arianna DeBose because she is a great singer and dancer, and she was outstanding for her performance for the West Side Story and in many other of her hits!

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 “Remember this is all about you, not me or your mom or whoever else. This is art and art are unpredictable, creative, and very fascinating thing. Express your emotions in your songs, and don’t get sad if you ever lose or not get an award. The future has many more opportunities!

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 songs by DEVY, it would be cool to collaborate with her.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I love that I have a chance to share my songs with not only my friends and family but the whole world!

ON THE RUN – NOAH ROBERTSON

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I love playing guitar and writing songs. But, it’s hard to write songs when you are just 11 or 12yrs old as you haven’t really had any heartbreaks or anything yet! So this song I decided to write from someone else’s perspective. Someone has done something wrong and they are on the run! They are looking for forgiveness but feel they can’t go back.

What got you into writing songs? I guess playing covers is where everyone starts and then you kind of figure out your own style and you want to write your own music and words to create something original and different. Also having a reason to write a song or a story to tell makes the process a bit more meaningful and a lot easier.

What does songwriting mean to you? I just love being able to create a story through music and song.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I really like the musicality side of songwriting. Once I’m feeling a certain melody or creating a certain feel on the guitar the words come along and are in flow with the feeling of the music I’m experimenting with.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I spend a lot of time playing guitar. I really like coming up with melodies first, playing some cool riffs and then I wrap some words around it.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I just have a notebook and pencil with me when I’m writing songs. I’m really lucky, my parents built me a little space (a studio of my own) so I have my guitars and amps in there etc. It’s a great space to create. My song entry ‘On the run’ is just a very raw acoustic recording – just the guitar and I.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I’d have to say Keith Urban, Mark Knopfler, Paul McCartney, James Taylor and John Mayer. What a dream come true that would be!

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  Just write from your heart and 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? Too many to choose from! I think all the entries offer so much.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I’m from Australia so it’s fantastic that the Song Academy has an international entry.

BUBBLEGUM GIRL – DEVY, 11 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I wrote this song about an imaginary girl, who I describe as a ‘Bubblegum girl’, who is overly-positive about everything. The idea behind the song is that ‘it is okay and perfectly normal to feel sad and express your emotions’.

What got you into writing songs? Every since I could talk, I used to sing about everything happening around me. Once I was old enough to write, I started recording them in little notebooks.

What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting is a way to express my emotions and thoughts. Whenever I song-write it’s like a release. I also like to write about stories and the point of view of other people.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part is singing it all together when I finish a song.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? It’s like a mood, it just comes.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I wrote the song in my room and I wrote the lyrics on apple notes while recording my melodies on voice memos. I made the backing track on my computer.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? My dream collaborator is 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? Like Nike says, JUST DO IT! Your song will make someone smile.

What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition? I’m a fan of all the songs but if I have to choose I would go with Nelly Bingham’s Find A Place. Who out of the other entrants (it doesn’t have to be a finalist!) would you like to collaborate with? Tamara Yasin’s vocal is angelic! She would be awesome to collaborate with.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I like how Song Academy gives a platform to share your songs and listen to other young artists! I am honoured to be one of the finalists out of so many incredible entries.

COME BACK HOME – ZJAMYR

What got you into writing songs? I was inspired by my big brother.

What does songwriting mean to you? To me it means singing a poem or rapping a story.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? Arranging the instrumental parts, putting the song together & choosing what fits best in my song.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I play around with the plugin “FLEX” on fl studio. I mess around to find an ideaI like.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I used a Rodes Condenser Microphone, fl studio, skytec monitors.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I don’t really have a favourite artist, I love all of them so it’s kinda hard to choose.

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 tell them it’s fun and and you learn from the experience, and to start their career too.

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? Ooo I have no idea I love all of them.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I think it was challenging and fun! I would love to learn more about song writing.

DEAR MADELEINE – EVA STEINERT

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I was thinking about some times when I was mean to my sister. Around Christmas time I thought I would write a song for her to let her know how much I love her.

What got you into writing songs? My parents have always had instruments in the house so I grew up with an interest in music. I wrote my first song on the ukulele when I was four!

What does songwriting mean to you? Music gives me a creative outlet to express my feelings. Instead of yelling at somebody I can write a song about them.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process? I love the moment when a chord progression comes together, it makes me feel satisfied. I also enjoy writing lyrics because it gives me an outlet for my creativity.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I try to write based on my own experiences. That makes it easier to understand what I’m writing about and have a heartfelt song. I also keep a notebook with scraps of lyrics that I can look back on and use later.

Describe the setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I wrote the lyrics and music for this song in my bedroom on my Dad’s 30-year-old Seagull S-6 guitar. The rest of the instruments were added during the recording process. My dad helped me figure out some of the parts but I played everything myself!

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I would like to collaborate with Chris Murphy from Sloan. Sloan is the first band I got to see live and I met Chris after the show. He seemed like a really cool guy!

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? Music isn’t a competition so do your best and 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? My favorite song from both 8-12 categories is Anthem-X by John Denton. I would love to collaborate with DEVY. I loved the vibe of her song and I think she has a unique sound. We could probably do something really cool mixing our styles.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I’m really excited for the chance to have so many people hear my song! I don’t know any songwriters near me so it’s great to hear songs written by other kids my age.

ANYWHERE – AUSTIN BRUFORD

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  I honestly didn’t really know at first, but now that I think about it I feel that I understand why I wrote it. This song came together really quickly when I wrote it on the piano really early in the morning, so at the time I wasn’t thinking about the process which I felt made it such a great song. But, now that I look back at the lyrics I feel like I wrote it about having a relationship with someone and just showing what the outcome would look like, and then reassuring them by saying don’t worry I won’t go anywhere.

What got you into writing songs?  The first time I wrote a song was in grade 3, I played it for the grade and they loved it. After that, I kind of stopped for a while because at that time I was only messing around with it. I didn’t write another song until I heard the song “I Don’t Care” by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber, for some reason that just sparked something in my head that made me want to make a song as good as that. Every day since then I have been pushing myself to make an even better song than the one I made the day before.

What does songwriting mean to you?  Songwriting means a lot to me, it doesn’t only help me express how I feel but it also helps me decompress and relax. With songwriting I have been able to make stories, and I have been able to make something beautiful that other people love. This all has inspired me to stick with songwriting for as long as I can.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?  I have two favorite parts of the song process. My first one is just getting an idea that I can stick with, an idea that I know will end up creating a wonderful song. My second one is being able to produce the song because it’s like the possibilities feel endless and I can really do whatever I want with my song.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I really don’t know, I feel like I have found many ways to start an idea for a song. I find that often I sit by the piano playing chords, and once I find a good progression I play a melody over it and just keep writing. Sometimes I don’t even sit down at the piano, I just get on to the music software and start producing.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. At that time I didn’t even know I was writing this song to be entered in a competition. At the time I was writing songs for an album and came up with this one. This song just felt so much more natural than the ones I had written before, it came together really quickly. I started off by playing a couple of chords and making a chord progression, and then I hummed a melody over it and wrote the lyrics. I produced the song on GarageBand pretty quickly, and then I kind of stopped for a while and didn’t record the vocals. I didn’t record the vocals until I knew that I wanted to enter this songwriting competition again.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?  This is a tricky question because there are a lot of artists in the world to collaborate with. If I had to pick one I would say Ed Sheeran because he’s been one of the first artists I ever listened to, he was also the artist that inspired me to start songwriting. However, one of the most important reasons I kept on songwriting is his movie “Songwriter.” This movie was basically about him traveling around the world making songs for his album “Divide”. I liked this movie because it showed how he made his songs and his process of making them. But, since we’re talking about the collaborating part I would have to say that I would like to collaborate with Ed because he seems like a really interesting person, a good songwriter, and has a wonderful voice.

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 it’s a pretty cool experience and that the people hosting it are really open and experienced, and that you can do many things like getting your song critiqued by others, and it is a great chance to work with your friends. My tips for next year’s songwriters are to always try to be free with what you’re writing, there are no constraints, and also try to be yourself as much as you can because that will make your song a lot better.

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 collaborate with DEVY because they have a unique style of songwriting and probably have written lots of songs in the past too. Her song really stood out to me because I felt it was a bit more professionally produced than some of the other songs. In the end, I want to collaborate with her because I think it would be fun trying to write a song with someone who has a wonderful voice and is a very good songwriter.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I like the fact that it’s open to people who are living internationally. I also like the whole idea that I can share my music with others that are professional and can help critique it. The songwriting competition is a great experience and I will probably enter next year too.

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