Get to know the SAYS22 Finalists in the UK/Ireland 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!

BELLADONNA – RUBY COOKE, 17 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I had the title “Belladonna” in my notes app for months and then, after getting messed around by this boy, for some reason I thought he deserved the fate of having a song comparing him to a poisonous plant. It’s about falling for someone you place on such a pedestal and feeling as though you don’t deserve them, when really they’re slowly poisoning you but you’re too blind to see it.

What got you into writing songs? I’ve always been obsessed with music and writing. The first time I remember writing something was when I was about 8 or maybe younger and I was sitting in the car and wrote a song about hearts flying. My first proper song that I wrote down was one called “It Was You” and I wrote it when I was 12 about a friend who had said something mean (which I can’t remember what it was now but was obviously harsh enough that it inspired me to write a song) and then I never stopped writing and have now around 120 completed songs.

What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting is like breathing for me – I couldn’t live without it. Through everything, I have always had music and I can’t imagine my life without it because it’s such an integral part of who I am. It’s been a friend when I’ve felt alone and it’s been the greatest form of expression I have ever known. It is a way for me to make sense of this overwhelming world and my place in it.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? After I finish a song – there is no feeling quite like it. It’s like finishing a puzzle that you didn’t even know was hiding inside you and sometimes songs I’ve written have revealed more about my emotions and thoughts then I originally thought was there. I love every part of writing a song but there is just nothing like being able to pin down the exact thing you’ve been trying to say into a song.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? My songs come from everywhere. Sometimes it’s a lyric or a title that I note down. Sometimes it’s a chord progression I find by accident. Sometimes it’s a conversation I’ve had with someone or a feeling I feel towards them. Sometimes it’s a groggy voice memo at 1am of a melody or lyric idea I have. I have never found one single cause of a spark because anything for me could become a spark.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. For Belladonna, I wrote it sitting on my bedroom floor with my guitar and my voice memos. I then put it in logic and recorded harmonies with my headphones.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I have so many dream collaborations. I think FINNEAS is an absolute genius and I would love to work with him. There are some obvious people such as Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran and Gracie Abrams who I would die to work with. Artists such as Gregory Alan Isakov and RY X I am obsessed with so I would love to work with them as I think they’re such geniuses. I would also love to work with Birdy and Tom Odell as they’re just incredible and such masters of their craft that I feel like one minute in their presence I would learn so much.

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 because you never know what might happen. Keep writing because that’s the only way you can improve!

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 all the entries – there are so many talented songwriters!! I really love the production on “All In” by Daniel McCarthy and I think Daisy Rose’s voice is absolutely stunning!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? It provides young songwriters like me with the incredible opportunity to be heard by huge writers in the industry!!

UP TO THE SUN – GEORGE DICKSON, 18 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I wrote this song, fuelled by lockdown boredom, with the aim of creating the ultimate road trip song. I was coming to the end of my time at school, thinking about all the cool things I was going to do and places I was going to visit once I had left. I had visions of going on long road trips with mates, busking in dive bars and making incredible memories along the way. So this song came out of that excitement and eagerness to start the next stage in my life, forgetting what was going on in the world for a moment and pretending that nothing was wrong. I just wanted to write a fun song that could be blasted at full volume as I travelled the world.

What got you into writing songs? At school, all my friends played music and we’d spend many lunch times sat in a practice room messing about and generally being silly with music. Then my piano/guitar teacher, Nick Dunne, started to make me think about how exciting music was aside from the theory and scales I’d been told I needed to learn. Seeing the number of songs he’d written on GarageBand in his lounge and how easy it was to start recording with nothing more than an ipad really excited me and I started giving it a go myself.

What does songwriting mean to you? For me, songwriting is like any other Hobby. It’s something I do totally for enjoyment and, wherever it takes me in the future, the moment I stop doing it for fun is the moment I stop writing songs. It’s the best way for me to learn more about the way music works and how to get better at my instruments; we all learn through application.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? It’s got to be that initial spark! The best songs I’ve written are the ones where the bare bones of it come to me quickly in a wave of inspiration as I frantically hit record and try to get down as much as possible. I love the moment when you suddenly realise exactly how you want your song to sound, because no one else can tell you otherwise and whatever you decide, YOU’RE RIGHT! I’d always say, if you’re struggling to work out what to do next when writing a song, just stop! Take a breather, sleep on it… the right answer will come to you soon and you’ll just know!

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I start songs in different ways all the time. Sometimes I’ve got a particular lyric or idea I want to focus on, sometimes it’s a cool riff I accidentally come up with on guitar or sometimes I try playing a famous tune, get it horribly wrong, and suddenly I’ve created a new idea, bonus! The most common way I start a song is simply by sitting on the end of my bed with my acoustic guitar and fiddling around with random chords until I find something I like and I’ll just start humming a tune. Normally a short idea will pop into my head and I’ll go from there, I try not to think too deeply into it to be honest.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. My song ‘Up to the Sun’ was written in Lockdown in my bedroom. I used my MacBook with GarageBand on it and a few IK multimedia ‘Irig’ tools, or even just my laptop’s microphone to start recording my acoustic guitar. The whole song was recorded in my bedroom with an acoustic guitar, electric guitar a microphone and an electric piano. Then I sent the song over to my friend Ben Pringle who has a very similar set up in his room. He is an excellent trumpet and cornet player so he recorded those parts for me through a basic SM58 microphone and sent the file back to me. It’s amazing what you can do now without any expensive equipment or hefty studio rental fees.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I would love to work with the band ‘Ripe’ and particularly their amazing lead singer Robbie Wulfsohn. They are a funk/pop band from Boston in the USA and ever since I heard their music, I haven’t found anyone else who sounds quite like them. Their live stuff looks amazing and they seem like such an amazing group of people to play music with. I feel like I would be able to get on very well with Sam Fender and I love covering some of his stuff at gigs so he would be a great person to meet. Finally, after watching their performance at Leeds Festival last year, who wouldn’t want to work with The Wombats, they seem like they are always enjoying themselves on stage and who wouldn’t want a day in the studio with some incredibly talented scousers!

What made you enter #SAYS22? How did you hear about it? I entered the competition a few years ago after I saw an instagram advert and made it to the top 60 I think! Then when I saw that this was the last year I would be able to enter I knew I had to give it a go. I’ve written loads of songs that very few people ever get to here so I would love to be able to get them out there a bit more and competitions like this can help provide feedback and be a springboard to further opportunities.

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? As I said before, songwriting has to be something you do for fun. Don’t enter the competition and then see it as a chore or a deadline because it will only make your songs sound forced and clunky. Also, don’t be afraid to write a simple song. I know lots of people that spend ages finding the most obscure chord patterns or trying to force a change in rhythm or structure in their songs. A good song doesn’t have to be complicated for music boffins, it just has to be enjoyable to listen to so if something sounds good, however simple, get it recorded!

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? ‘All in’ by Daniel McCarthy was a favourite as soon as I heard it so I’m glad it made it to the top 30! There were so many amazing entries this year and I listened to so many of them in the last month or so but ‘Sun goes Down’ by Tiggz music stuck in my head for its catchy rhythms and I liked the use of strings in that genre. I’d really like to collaborate with any of the entrants to be honest, always good to meet other musicians! Maybe Song Academy should host a massive Jam session for all entrants!!!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I like that all the entry songs are posted into a massive playlist on Soundcloud. It’s really nice to see your song in a new place and to be able to listen to all the other entrants. The competition is so inclusive to any level of musician and the team are great at sharing your songs on social media, replying to questions and making you feel part of the group! It’s also cool to think about some of the professional judges that must have heard my music!

HOURGLASS – BELLA HOWELLS, 14 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? The never ending, unrequited relationship with time and how it slips through your fingers so quickly.

What got you into writing songs? I liked making random beats on garageband and started exploring different styles and genres, and made music.

What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting is a getaway from all of the stress of school and life overall, it’s a way to sink into something really personal, and can be used also as an outlet.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I like to write my songs in different pieces, so putting them all together is very satisfying.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Usually the lyrics come to me… at the worst times too! I usually have random verses in the back of my school books and on my hands!

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I just used garageband on my computer and a piano, then I recorded through a microphone.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Billie Eilish and Niall Horan.

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 doesn’t matter about your level of skill, just go for it. Take every opportunity!

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? Ruby Cooke!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? It’s extra competition experience, I get to meet other young songwriters and Tom Odell is judging. (I’m a HUGE fan!!)

MACHINE HEAD BOY – STATYC, 17/18 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? We have a friend who has a TV stuck on his head and we wanted to write a song about it because we thought it was pretty funny.

What got you into writing songs? We all do A level music together at school, our lead singer has written songs since she was 2 years old and we now have a band that can play those songs.

What does songwriting mean to you? Music is in our veins and we love to be creative, it is our everything.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? Finishing the song and seeing it all come together.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Sometimes we have ideas, sometimes we just jam in the music room at school.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. Our guitarist wrote the music in his room, gave it to our lead singer and the rest is history (we recorded it after the lead singer wrote the lyrics.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? We want to collab with Ego Trip, our teachers band (they are sick)

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! You never know what you might achieve.

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? Up to the sun by George Dickinson feat. Ben Pringle. George Dickinson and Ben Pringle. We will put in a few metal solos.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I think this is epic to encourage young people to put their music out there.

SUCH A GOOD FIGHT – DAISY-ROSE IRESON-HUGHES, 15 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I started writing such a good fight during the second lockdown, music was my escape and I felt like music was the only thing holding me together during such a draining period of my life.

What got you into writing songs? I’ve always wanted to be able write my own songs, it’s something I’ve always said to my parents I would start and had this as a goal. I started writing songs when I was younger and I always had this determined feeling whenever I wrote one. I realised at a young age it was my passion to write songs and hopefully in the future being able to sign and produce them as well.

What does songwriting mean to you? Song writing is a way for me to express how I’m feeling, maybe in a way that others may not understand. When I come up with a verse the world seems to disappear around me and I feel as if I can express myself through music and song writing without any worry about what people think.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part of song writing is when I’ve got a verse and a chorus and I’m just about to write another verse, at this point I’m really into my song and I keep going trying to put in words how I’m feeling or how I have felt. This process is important to me because this is the moment I know whether this song could be a success or not . I get a huge rush of excitement when I’ve nearly finished a song and I’m thinking of a melody in my head, I start to hum and piece my song together.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Sometimes in my notes I write down a couple of words or even a full verse whenever I start to write a song I look through those and see if anything could go together if not I first start to think of the first word that I could use, I then have a process of trying to piece words that could rhyme or sometimes I just dig deep down and the words just naturally flow out of me. Sometimes if I’m feeling down or even very happy I have that motivation and passion to write a song and I just start writing.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. It took several stages, I wrote some of the initial words in a verse, then I got a melody in my mind and then pieced it all together one step at a time. One of my music teachers gave me some guidance and especially with the bridge.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Jennifer Hudson, I love all of her songs and the musical ‘dream girls’ is my favourite. The ways she sings inspires me to perform and write my own lyrics.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? No matter whether it’s 1 word, or a string of sentences pursue with it and watch your story unfold. You have nothing to lose if entering and it’s an extremely positive experience.

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? Sisi- Cannot lose myself and Conor Marcus- Honest

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? It’s a great opportunity for me to express myself and I feel as if it’s non-judgemental and everyone has a chance at exploring their potential.

USED TO BE – STUART VEITCH, 14 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? This song is about my feelings surrounding coming out of lockdown. It is a comparison of how the world used to be and how it is now. I enjoy writing songs about things that happen in my life and since lockdown was such a huge event that had a massive impact on my daily life, I felt I wanted to express my emotions through song.

What got you into writing songs? I have always had a passion for music and from an early age I have enjoyed writing about big events in my life. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 7. I soon found playing music and writing songs a comfort to me. It helped me to relax and process how I was feeling.

What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting is part of who I am. I always have ideas for songs popping into my head. Sometimes I waken in the middle of the night with a song idea and I have to quickly record it before I forget it. I love writing songs and get a huge sense of achievement whenever I finish one. I love seeing the joy on people’s faces when I perform a new song to them.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I enjoy the whole process, but I particularly enjoy seeing a good idea come together. I love creating an interesting melody, it gets me really excited and I find it difficult to concentrate on other things until the song is finished.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? There are 2 different ways I tend to write my songs. Sometimes I am going about my everyday life and a melody or words come into my head. I then write lyrics to the melody and find chords that fit well. Or, when I am playing my guitar, I find a good chord pattern or riff which I use to write the melody and lyrics.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I write, play and produce all my songs by myself. I have a small home studio set up in the corner of my bedroom with basic equipment such as a microphone, keyboard, guitars, fiddle, an audio interface and other instruments.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Ed Sheeran. I get a lot of my inspiration from his songs and he has a similar style to mine. Lewis Capaldi. He is from Scotland, like me and I really enjoy his 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? Believe in yourself! Music is very subjective – everyone has a different opinion and taste in music. If someone doesn’t like your song, it doesn’t mean that it is not good. Don’t let their opinion put you off.

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? ‘All in’ by Daniel McCarthy is one of my favourites and it would be great to collaborate with him but there are also many other amazing entries.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? It is a great opportunity for new songs to be heard. It is really exciting to know that many amazing artists have listened to my song!

BETTER OFF – LUKE ELLIOTT, 18 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  My finalist song, Better Off, is based on a couple I know. The couple in question love each other very much but always seem to have problems. Even though they want to be together, they’re simply incompatible and would be ‘better off’ apart.

What got you into writing songs? I wrote my first song at the age of 12 in school. I really started to become addicted to writing when I was 15. The thing that got me into writing songs was the fact that when I got into ‘the zone’, time seemed to just slip away. Hours could pass while I was writing and I’d have no idea.

What does song writing mean to you? Whenever I’m writing it feels like the whole world just melts away, and there’s nothing else except me and the melody.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part of the song writing process must be the initial moment of inception when a melody first presents itself. From there, there’s a flurry of ideas that I must sift through to find the right one.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Usually, the first idea for a song appears when I’m at my most relaxed at home on my bed or watching the TV (generally just lounging about). From there, I’ll grab my phone and hum the idea I’ve just had into voice memos. Sometimes I’ll have a riff, sometimes a chorus and occasionally I’ll be able to improvise the melodies in a whole song.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I’ve got a home studio: a laptop, Logic Pro, a microphone and a MIDI keyboard.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I’d love to collaborate with Charlie Puth. He’s an incredibly talented musician and writer whose own process seems to be somewhat similar to mine (obviously way better though!!!). He’s one of my big inspirations in the industry, he simply doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him.

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 do it! Read the suggestions for what the judges are looking for, but also don’t be afraid to be creative and do whatever feels right to you. There’s no wrong or right answer when it comes to music.

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 enjoyed ‘Flinch’ by Meg Curl. Really laid-back and quite a personal feel, good use of lyrics too. I also liked ‘Topiary’ by Oscar Meades. He’s got an incredible voice and the lyrics are incredibly evocative. Coincidentally, I’m in the same group as Oscar for the song writing club on Wednesday!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I think it’s great that it gives everyone a chance at getting heard, regardless of the production quality and irrespective of musical background. It’s so easy to enter too!

HONEST – CONOR MARCUS, 16 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I wrote Honest on one of those nights where everything just seemed to get to me in a way it usually doesn’t.
The song is about accepting the fact that maybe you’re not happy, and about what you need to do to better yourself.

What got you into writing songs? I come from a fairly musical background on my Dad’s side. He was in a band when he was young and he and his band won a competition a bit like Song Academy in the South of Ireland. When I was nine, I started learning the guitar, and me and him would jam in the music room with him on bass and me on guitar. The singing and song writing I guess kind of followed suit.

What does songwriting mean to you? I love songwriting and it’s great to know I want to make a career out of it at such a young age.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My lyrics tend to come from the heart so that makes it my favourite part of song writing. Lyrics make or break a song and that’s what I love about them. They allow you to be creative with your music.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Sometimes I apply myself for a certain amount of time, and just try to write something, but most of my good songs come from those ideas that just come at random points in the day. I always have my phone to write or record ideas when I get them so I can work on them when I get the chance to.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry.  It was just me and my piano, I then took it to the studio and got it produced

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? First off, I’m blown away that Plested heard my music! I mean he’s someone I’d look up to as an incredible songwriter! A dream collab would have to be with Dean Lewis, his songs are really inspiring, and his lyrics are insane!

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them? I think everything’s worth a shot! It’s all about going into these things with the right attitude, and with the intention of growth and development as a musician, so what’s the harm really?

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?  Charlie Hewlett – Breathtaking Tension. Sisi – cannot loose myself. Vinniec – Contrast

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? It’s really open minded with the music it takes into the competition. There is a list of genres, from rock to rap! It’s really incredible, and a great experience!

GATEKEEPER – BEA, 18 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I wrote the chorus of the song a long time ago, and had never really given it a proper verse – but it stuck around in my head and I just had to give it something good! It came at a time I was feeling like everything was really unfair, so it’s about struggling with not being in control of everything and how much fate can screw you over.

What got you into writing songs? I’ve been casually writing and composing for a long time as more of a hobby, but with nothing else to do during lockdown I plummeted into songwriting hysteria. I think it was quite hard to be so isolated a lot of the time, and away from all the live music, so it became a real comfort to write for myself. It’s literally all I did for a very long time and there’s absolutely no way I could let it go now!

What does songwriting mean to you? It’s a way for me to process how I’m feeling, but also to express it. Sometimes I write just for me to hear it, sometimes I’m just bored, sometimes I’m trying to do something specific or prove something. Because it can be so much or so little, it has such a big impact on me.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process? My favourite moment is the breath you take where you realise what you’ve got is really good. There’s a point, and it comes better for some songs than others, that you can take a step back and have that moment. It’s really great.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? It’s really different depending on what I’m writing – but I usually find that whatever the starting point was will become the main focus of the song – melody, lyric chord whatever. I usually find just sitting and messing around is good – then a good rule is whatever is still in your head the next day is good and should be a song, most of mine come from this, but also sometimes it just happens and those are usually the best things you’ll ever write. If you get that moment, forget about everything else and focus on the song because it’s worth it!

Describe you setup you used to write you SAYS22 entry. I had a guitar, a pen and notebook, and my brain. It very much did not end up sounding like it started there, because it really came to life when recording it, but it started very small.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? A band like the 1975 would be my dream – I think they’re where my urge to write came from anyway after I went to see them in concert! There’s just something so encompassing and enigmatic about their music that just makes me want to know how and why. I’d also love to write with someone like Orla Gartland who I feel like just gets me musically – and is so effortlessly honest in both a lyrical and musical context.

What made you enter #SAYS22? How did you hear about it? I entered last year after seeing adverts on social media, and I didn’t really know what I was doing back then! This year was like my redemption shot and it is too great an opportunity to miss, even just to submit your songs and know that people are going to hear them!

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them? Don’t be afraid to rewrite and rework things! If you wrote a song that’s half brilliant, rewrite it until it’s all brilliant. It will feel right when it is and trust that feeling when you get it – it might fade as you endlessly critique it and self-obsess, but if you felt it first time others will 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? I really love Belladonna by Ruby Cooke. It was just so incredibly beautiful and cut right through you! There was also this song called WAKE UP MOM by Yenuli Binara that I heard once and was just in awe – it was so wonderfully odd that it definitely hasn’t left my head yet! I also have to mention Male Gaze by Mabel West – I watched her write this in our songwriting group and can’t ever stop singing it! It’s really great.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I love that it gives me a chance to share my art and listen to so many other young people’s as well. It’s so incredible to hear the breadth of sounds and talent, and then of course who doesn’t like a little competition!

RIVIERA – OLIVIA SWINTON,  18 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? Creating my first EP: Purple Skies, I had written sad songs and felt that there was enough sadness in the world, and I needed to create a feel good song to make people dance. I was inspired by European summer time, creating my fantasy version of a summer love.

What got you into writing songs? I wrote a song for my friend who died of cancer when I was 10 called ‘Dance with me’. I had written songs before but this was the moment that truly inspired me as all of the comments and support for her and the music made me realise the power music has.

What does songwriting mean to you? It’s the only thing that makes sense to me really, it’s my way of making sense of life and expressing emotions, experiences and inspirations I feel daily.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? It’s hard to pick my favourite part. I’d have to say lyrics are such a wonderful part of the process but finding beautiful chords and melodies are also extremely fulfilling.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? It’s almost instinctual to me, I’ll be sitting it bed and have a urge to pick-up my guitar and write something, or I’ll hear a phrase someone says in the day and write it down to save as a lyric for later. Sometimes it’s other artists work that inspire me, sometimes it’s books or films or tv shows. I find the ‘spark’ everywhere really.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. Set up specs-

Software-
Logic x
Native Instruments Massive X Synth
Native Instruments Battery Drum machine
U-He Diva Synth
Valhalla reverbs & Delay
That Sound drum samples

Mic-
Neumann TLM 107

Guitar-
Fender USA Stratocaster

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Billie Eilish!! In my wildest dreams.

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 and see what happens! Especially if you feel you have worked hard on your music, it’s worth it to go for any opportunities presented to you, such as the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition.

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? Daniel Mcarthy has a beautiful voice and way with lyrics. Definitely my favourite entry!

SWEET 16- TWAYN (TWINS HANNAH AND GRACE), 17 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? Our song, sweet 16, is about the challenges faced by teens so it’s inspired in part by things we’ve experienced or observed, but just as much by situations faced by others. It’s a really tricky time growing up and it’s not uncommon for teens to find themselves struggling at school and feeling somehow on the outside looking in. Friendships come and go and sometimes can be quite insincere leading to self-doubt and loneliness. ‘Sweet 16’ talks about that pain and confusion, sense of bleeding, drowning in sorrow and sometimes feeling invisible. It’s a challenging time for quite a lot of people we know. You pin your hopes on everything changing when you turn ‘sweet 16’ and imagine everything will somehow be better, but sadly the milestone comes and goes with no real change.

What got you into writing songs?
Grace: I’ve written songs since I could write. I’ve always found it much easier to put things into a song lyric than trying to explain to someone how I feel, which probably doesn’t make much sense but it works for me.
Hannah: Lockdown gave us the opportunity to learn how to start producing and recording some our ideas. Being stuck at home meant we had much more time to focus on song writing. Trying to learn how to build a track was a brilliant distraction from what was going on in the world at the time.

What does songwriting mean to you?
Grace: Songwriting means the world. There are times, particularly at the end of a rough day, when all that is getting me through is knowing that I will be able to get to the piano and start ordering my thoughts and developing them into a song. I find songwriting can be a very therapeutic process.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process?
Hannah: That is a really tricky question, but I think it might be when we take the lyrics and tune and start adding layers to bring the track together. We put a lot of layers of harmonies; that’s probably a bit of a theme in what we do. Creating music together has brought us even closer together and, I think, going through the process has improved the songs we produce as we really debate a whole range of ideas on things like instrumentation before we agree on the best sound for a track.
Grace: For me it’s the lyrics! I think it is such an art to be able to capture a feeling or emotion in words. It’s probably the part of the song where I spend the most time trying to get it right. I really value specificity and honesty in my lyrics.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?
Grace: In Taylor Swift’s “Tiny Desk” Concert, she said that all of her best songs “fall out of the sky”. I feel exactly the same. My favourite songs that I’ve written have been the ones where I sit at the piano, start my voice memos (because if I don’t – I’ll definitely forget what I played/wrote!) and improv some chords and a melody until I find something that works. In the case of “sweet 16”, it only took one recording to get the first verse and chorus done. Sometimes just letting your subconsciousness speak for itself is the best way to create honest lyrics.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry
Hannah: It’s a very simple set up: two phones, two voices and a piano! For the writing, we usually sit around the piano with very basic chords and harmonies. Grace always has her phone recording what we do so that if we improvise something good, we can come back to it. I also write down any words or sentences that work well when we improvise and try and find a place for them in the song later.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?
Grace: I’m constantly finding new writers that I love so the list is endless! Artists like FINNEAS, Ashe, Taylor Swift, Grace Davies, Eddie Benjamin, and Olivia Rodrigo I listen to on a daily basis. Recently I’ve been listening more to Joy Crookes, Maddie Zahm, Amy Swift, and Lexi Jayde and hugely admire their respective works – take your pick!

Hannah:
Jacob Collier is a genius! Just to sit in his studio and watch him work would be fascinating. His harmonies are unbelievable too – I’d love to work with him. Also, we’re both big fans of musical theatre so artists like Ben Platt and Renee Rapp would be a 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?

Hannah:
We would say absolutely go for it! It gives you something to aim for and a real purpose, focus and deadline for your writing. More than that, don’t give up. We entered a song last year which wasn’t successful, but we learned from it, and have submitted a much better song this time around.

Grace: Try not to be disheartened. Sometimes it’s just the wrong time or audience for a song, so don’t give up writing. I revisit songs all of the time to keep working on them. I have a book full of them that I’ve been writing for years and years, and a collection of random lyrics on my phone. Inspiration can come at any time – be prepared to take a voice memo or write something down at any moment! And don’t be disheartened by writer’s block; sometimes it takes a break for your thoughts to reorganise themselves into a song again.

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? So many of the artists on the playlist had some amazing tracks but we would love to collab with our friend from school, Elle Longstaff! Though we have written together in the past on a few occasions, we’ve never formalised it with a studio recording. She is such a talented young artist with a very bright future in the industry ahead of her.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? It’s a really good opportunity to get to listen to what other people are doing, and listening to a variety of different styles and genres is always going to spark creativity. It’s also great for rising stars to be heard by so many artists – we still can’t believe that such a talented panel have listened to our song!

DAISY – CINTA AURELEE, 18 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? The inspiration that I got from writing Daisy is from my own personal experience where once my feelings wasn’t reciprocated by someone else. From that moment, I felt disappointed because he gave me quite a lot of mixed signals.

What got you into writing songs? I started joining a choir group to compete in one of the biggest international choir competition in the year of 2019. From there, I tried to go out of my comfort zone and discover my creativity by making my own songs.

What does songwriting mean to you? For me, writing songs helps me understand myself and my complex emotions which I can share to other people.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I start making the melody and lyrics that fits into the rough draft of the song. I tend to find the spark when I come up with unique words to use for the song.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? The favorite part of the song writing process is how the words we write could speak for itself. It gives us the opportunity to make stories and be creative about it.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I started off by making the melody of the song with the help of the piano and connect the words that fits for the lyrics along with one of my friend. After I completed the base of the song, I made a rough demo and asked my friend who is a producer to help record and mix/mastering the song.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Artists that I had dream for a long time to collaborate with would be Snoh Aalegra, Daniel Caesar and Ed Sheeran

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? One tip that I could give is just to be themselves and be passionate about making their own song because it could be the biggest achievement in their lives.

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 would be is All in by Daniel McCarthy.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I love how the competition is worldwide. it is such a diverse competition where we can acknowledge amazing people from different cultures with all the talents they have.

IRON FIST – WOODY COLLINS, 13 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? My inspiration was the daily frustration I felt about corporate greed and corruption which is so oppressive and greater than ever. We must stand together and fight the 1 percent, fight world injustices and fight for a caring, fair and unified future.

What got you into writing songs? I’ve always been fascinated by the sounds a piano can give off since the age of four. As my experience playing the piano grew, I was able to discover new sounds, sometimes by mistake. A turning point for my compositions was when I got hold of Garageband on my 9th birthday. I would spend hours playing around intrigued by these new synths and sounds, and it was these first few years that stamped my familiarity with music tech. Copying the common structures of songs, I started to compose proper songs and would eventually post them onto a Youtube channel I created making homemade music videos to go with it. This evolved into a common enjoyment, and I was eager to write more music and explore different chord combinations. Now I’m 13 years old, I feel more experienced with how the art of composing works but I still have a long way to go.

What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting has always been a thing that I enjoy. It can be a pain sometimes when something doesn’t feel in the right place but the determination to make it sound better has always overruled. Songwriting has always been a loading bay for all the ideas trapped inside my head.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process? For me, it has always been the start and the finish. The start has always been very enjoyable, finding the base chords for my song. And the ending gives me a sense of completion and its great hearing feedback.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I usually start it when I’m in a creative mood or just bored. I enjoy playing around with chords on the piano and trying to find some interesting chord progression and then an idea emerges of what I want to sing about.

Describe you setup that you used to write your SAYS 22 entry. I recorded ‘Iron Fist’ at a table on Garageband with a midi keyboard. I sung the lyrics down a mic that I attached to Garageband.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Herbie Hancock-in my dreams of course!

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? Have fun, take risks and be yourself.

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? ‘Up to the sun’ by George Dickson is uplifting and has a lovely melody and great harmony. ‘Flinch’ by Megan Curl-original and quirky with great lyrics! I love the 1980’s styled song ‘Better Off’ by Luke-Elliot.  Really enjoy ‘Don’t Rile the Young’ by Sonic Daze-in particular the powerful lyrics.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? It’s good fun, it creates a bit of tension and it’s great to see what other songwriters are up to. Also, it’s really good to have your songs listened to by people in the music industry.

CANNOT LOSE MYSELF – SISI, 17 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I was feeling really distant form myself and wrote this song to remind not only myself but everyone to stay true to themselves.

What got you into writing songs? My older brother, Bre has been a huge influence on me getting into music as he himself also makes music. Growing up in Church also massively influenced me.

What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting is like a safe haven for me, somewhere that I can be 100% myself and keep my authenticity and no one can take that from me.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? Harmonies and layers throughout the song are my favourite part of the songwriting process.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I will start humming a melody and once I’ve found this I’ll pick a topic to write and then piece it all together like a puzzle.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I just wrote Cannot Lose Myself at home in my bedroom, I was then lucky enough to take a trip to London and record my track there with Hypertone.

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, do what you want to do. What’s the worst that can happen, life is all about taking risks.

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 love Twayn’s entry and would love to collaborate with them!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? This competition gives an opportunity to us under 18, I find that a lot of opportunities are for 18-25 year olds, but this gives a platform for us below that age bracket.

FLINCH – MEG CURL, 15 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? Flinch is about losing an argument that you want to be winning. The main idea behind the song was self awareness and ‘knowing you’re in the wrong.’ I hadn’t heard this perspective in a song before and thought it may be interesting to express the frustration that I felt in the situation through song. I wanted to give Flinch a memorable hook to catch the ear of the listener!

What got you into writing songs? I found that I could express my emotions, thoughts and ideas a lot better through lyrics and music than I can with conversation! I have always loved singing and although over the past five years I have been more of a classical singer, once I discovered song writing I was able to branch out into a music genre that I am passionate about and truly love.

What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting is one of the most precious things to me and helps me with most things. If I’ve had a bad day I know I can write lyrics or compose music to express this and bring some positive creativity to a negative experience. I am very thankful that I am able to express myself in this way. After writing songs for nearly four years, I can’t imagine living without it anymore.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I love having an idea of what I would like a song to be like in my head and then being able to create it in real life. I feel that I’ve added something new to the world.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? It’s a hard question to answer! To be honest, songs usually just come to mind without much structure.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I wrote the song itself with my notepad and acoustic guitar. I recorded and produced the song in my bedroom using my acoustic guitar, a microphone, a macbook and an Arturia midilab keyboard which I used to imitate bass guitar and drum kit.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? It would have to be between Dodie, Ed Sheeran or The Oh Hellos.

What would you say to someone ages 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them? I would say that entering is a good first step towards getting your songs out into the world if you haven’t had the chance! And also I would definitely say that it’s so so nice to hear about other young songwriters and listen to their music, you forget how many people there are that are interested in what you’re interested in. It’s great to form connections over music! A few tips would be: don’t compare your music to other people’s! It’s great to have your own sound, that’s what makes your music new and exciting for listeners.

What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition? Who out of the other entrants would you like to collaborate with? I really like Oscar Meades ‘Topiary’. And if I could collaborate with another artist I would be interested in working with This Elegant Gull, Vinniec or Oscar Meades.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I like that it gives opportunities and sets goals for young musicians to grow and improve their material. It’s really nice to see a platform that appreciates young people for their art and ideas. There are too many places judging and criticising people for their ideas and feelings so it’s nice to see a space in the media for young artists to feel seen!

IT’S A FUNNY WAY – AMELIE CLOWREY, 16 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I was inspired to write a song that had a message that could apply to a time in anyone’s life, I based it on the difficulty of accepting that self-growth and healing from challenging times is a slow process that you can’t compare with others.

What got you into writing songs? As cliché as it sounds, I’ve been writing songs ever since I can remember. When I was around five years old I remember trying to teach myself the guitar and piano, and writing songs, even if it was accapella. I think writing poems from an early age helped me get better at writing lyrics.

What does song-writing mean to you? Song-writing has always been one of my most favourite ways to express the way I feel, in the same way that one might write a diary or speak to a friend. I find that if I feel low or I am confused about the way I feel, after I write a song, I get so much clarity and understanding of my emotions. I also think it means a lot to me because I can listen back to the snapshots of moments in my life in a creative way.

What is your favourite part of the song-writing process? I don’t usually have a specific way I go about song-writing, so I think my favourite part is finding that spark of an idea, whether that be musically or lyrically that I then turn into a song. I think there’s something so exciting about being able to develop a small idea, as there are so many possibilities and routes it could go down.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? It’s really hard for me to sit down and tell myself to write a song; In my music lessons it took me so much longer to finish a song as it feels very forced and unnatural. Nearly all of the songs that I have written have been in a moment where I feel heavy emotions or have strong opinions about a topic, then the music seems to just flow and follow. However, when I write a song with a friend, sometimes I like to pick a theme or a story from a character or someone we know and have a go at improvising to explore a “spark”.

Describe your set up that you used to write your SAYS22 entry. I used one of the pianos in my school and had it recorded in our school recording studio.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? There are hundreds of artists and writers that would be a dream to work with, I think that Matt Maltese would be incredible to collaborate with as his lyrics and melodies are so emotive and beautiful. I have connected with so many of his songs and I hope to be able to that one day. I also would love to work with Matilda Mann for her wistful and enchanting harmonies and voice.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the SongAcademy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them? I would most definitely say go for it! Especially if you’ve always wanted to finish that song you’ve wanted to write or want people to listen to the music you’ve created. It’s such an amazing opportunity. As for tips I would say, trust and have confidence in the song you are creating. Write about something you care about as it really helps to build more detail into your ideas and if you have anyone in your life that is musical, whether that be friends or family or teachers, ask them how they like to approach song-writing, as there are so many different ways to write a song that work for everyone.

What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition? Who out of the the entrants would you like to collaborate with? I really liked the song Tethered by Seaside Feel, I loved the harmonies and it was so gentle and delighting to listen to, I also really enjoyed Hourglass by Bella Howells, I thought the range and tone of the vocals in the song was is insane, not to mention the beautiful harmonies throughout.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter Competition? I think that it gives the opportunity for young people to show and hear other people’s music with such a wide variety of styles, it definitely gave me so much inspiration.

SOULS ARE RISING – THE ELEGANT GULL, 14 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? The song is about a radicalised youth, who finds direction and meaning in his life by the destruction of the innocents. It is also inspired by the horrific events in the Ukraine, I was reading about people being bombed in their apartment blocks whilst writing the end section.

What got you into writing songs? I’ve been writing songs for ages but the first one that sounded okayish was when my dog died when I was 9. The first song that had critical acclaim was Social Media, which Tom Robinson played on his show when I was 11.

What does songwriting mean to you? Song writing is a good way to express creativity in something that inspired me, or evoked strong feelings. It’s also really fun.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I like it when everything has almost come together, and then you change one small thing, like add or remove a harmony, and suddenly it’s finished.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I don’t have a song writing routine, if I have an idea, or am inspired to create one, I write.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. Our studio is in a room off the bathroom, so rather than a bedroom artist, I am a bathroom artist! We run Logic on a Mac mini, Clarett interface, various guitars and basses, but mostly virtual instruments.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Labrinth, I love his music and what his songs are about.

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?  Not really, I guess just be original and write about something you’re inspired about. And it doesn’t have to be a traditional ABABCB repeat structure!

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? George Dickson, I like the early Beatles style harmonies

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? That it gives everyone a voice.

IT’S A FUNNY WAY – AMELIE CLOWREY, 16 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I was inspired to write a song that had a message that could apply to a time in anyone’s life, I based it on the difficulty of accepting that self-growth and healing from challenging times is a slow process that you can’t compare with others.

What got you into writing songs? As cliché as it sounds, I’ve been writing songs ever since I can remember. When I was around five years old I remember trying to teach myself the guitar and piano, and writing songs, even if it was accapella. I think writing poems from an early age helped me get better at writing lyrics.

What does song-writing mean to you? Song-writing has always been one of my most favourite ways to express the way I feel, in the same way that one might write a diary or speak to a friend. I find that if I feel low or I am confused about the way I feel, after I write a song, I get so much clarity and understanding of my emotions. I also think it means a lot to me because I can listen back to the snapshots of moments in my life in a creative way.

What is your favourite part of the song-writing process? I don’t usually have a specific way I go about song-writing, so I think my favourite part is finding that spark of an idea, whether that be musically or lyrically that I then turn into a song. I think there’s something so exciting about being able to develop a small idea, as there are so many possibilities and routes it could go down.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? It’s really hard for me to sit down and tell myself to write a song; In my music lessons it took me so much longer to finish a song as it feels very forced and unnatural. Nearly all of the songs that I have written have been in a moment where I feel heavy emotions or have strong opinions about a topic, then the music seems to just flow and follow. However, when I write a song with a friend, sometimes I like to pick a theme or a story from a character or someone we know and have a go at improvising to explore a “spark”.

Describe your set up that you used to write your SAYS22 entry. I used one of the pianos in my school and had it recorded in our school recording studio.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? There are hundreds of artists and writers that would be a dream to work with, I think that Matt Maltese would be incredible to collaborate with as his lyrics and melodies are so emotive and beautiful. I have connected with so many of his songs and I hope to be able to that one day. I also would love to work with Matilda Mann for her wistful and enchanting harmonies and voice.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the SongAcademy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them? I would most definitely say go for it! Especially if you’ve always wanted to finish that song you’ve wanted to write or want people to listen to the music you’ve created. It’s such an amazing opportunity. As for tips I would say, trust and have confidence in the song you are creating. Write about something you care about as it really helps to build more detail into your ideas and if you have anyone in your life that is musical, whether that be friends or family or teachers, ask them how they like to approach song-writing, as there are so many different ways to write a song that work for everyone.

What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition? Who out of the the entrants would you like to collaborate with? I really liked the song Tethered by Seaside Feel, I loved the harmonies and it was so gentle and delighting to listen to, I also really enjoyed Hourglass by Bella Howells, I thought the range and tone of the vocals in the song was is insane, not to mention the beautiful harmonies throughout.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter Competition? I think that it gives the opportunity for young people to show and hear other people’s music with such a wide variety of styles, it definitely gave me so much inspiration.

TOO FAR DOWN – IVY PRATT, 15 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I was inspired to write this in isolation. It’s written from the point of view of being so far down in your own head mentally having not seen my friends for so long that things start to feel very distorted, desperate and a bit surreal. Things don’t seem to make sense in the way they do in a normal world. It’s also interwoven with other teen angst issues. However I didn’t want it to sound too self indulgent and sad so gave it lots of interesting production and a strong beat for contrast.

What got you into writing songs? My family have always played music in the house or the car etc, and I admire both my parents taste musically. So when I started playing guitar the songwriting felt like a very natural progression.

What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting for me is ultimately a means of expression. I get to say the things I don’t necessarily want to say out loud. I can look for different ways of getting my message across through metaphors.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part of the songwriting process is the 2nd verse. After drawing the listener in with the initial parts of the song, I find with the 2nd verse I can be more free and less literal with my choice of words.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? The spark can come from something that’s happened in my day that’s given me a lot of a certain emotion. After that the chords and melodies just start to form in my head.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Sam Fender or Phoebe Bridgers

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them? I would say that as much as you can be inspired or influenced by other artists, it’s important not to try to replicate, rather just be yourself as much as possible. I also think it’s important to remind yourself that you are not necessarily the finished article and that you are always evolving.

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 admire anyone who has the creativity to put together a song with a melody, instrumental accompaniment and lyrics. It’s a beautiful thing so well done to all who entered. However, I will be performing with my friend Joslyn Plant for a charity gig later this month on the 15th at The Spice of Life Soho!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? SAYS competition is a fantastic idea and a great platform for young songwriting talent. The social media pages are also really well done and I like how they have quoted the young songwriters in several posts. The team behind it seem really dedicated to showcasing young talent and it’s no small task to listen to nearly 1000 songs individually and judge each of them on their own merits.

BREATHTAKING TENSION – CHARLIE HEWLETT, 18 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? Well, I had this pretty big crush on a girl in my class at college. I was drawn to the way she held herself and the effect she had on a room when she walked into it. After a few awkward conversations we became very close friends, and she became someone I promised myself I would always be there for, because she would do the same for anyone, (she’s got a big heart). Now, on the one hand I was falling in love with this girl and on the other hand I wanted to ensure we would stay close so we could be there for each other, these conflicting emotions inspired me to write ‘Breathtaking Tension’. Musically and lyrically, it became a battle between two ways of thinking, two ways of feeling, I really liked that, so I recorded it. I wrote the song over a year ago and now it’s gotten me into the final of this competition. I’ve also been going out with that girl for nearly 14 months and we’re heading off to uni together in September. WOOHOO!

What got you into writing songs? I started writing songs when I was about 13. Nothing that I came up with at that point was any good, but I’d always loved the idea of telling stories and sharing emotion through music. I think being able to use music and lyrics to communicate things that I would never speak about really drew me into it. After a couple of years, and with a lot of practice, it has become my main outlet when I want to talk about things I’m going through or things I’m seeing around me that I don’t quite understand, and it’s been amazing to see people relating to it and finding it comforting too!

What does songwriting mean to you? To put it simply, everything. I’ve been connected with music one way or another for as long as I can remember, and I find it a struggle to stay still when there’s a beat playing. When I discovered songwriting and realised, I could put across my thoughts, emotions and stories using music as a sort of weird rhythmic audiobook, it sort of blew my mind. It’s been an escape, a saviour, a communicator, and it will always be part of my life, whether I find success or not.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process? For me it is always near the very start when you get those first few lines or melodies, and you just know that this one is going to be a good one! You’re never quite sure where it’s going to go and at that point you are free to take it wherever you want to. Nothing is set in stone; you can forget about everything else and just create without any boundaries or pressure.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Personally, it is all about telling the truth. Music is the one place where I can really open up and talk about how I’m feeling so, whatever I’m feeling in that moment, I say it and I let it all out and it just seems to flow naturally. At the end of the day, for me, honesty holds the key to finding that spark.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry.  I’ve written almost all my songs sat on my bed in my room with a voice note app open, my guitar on my lap and a pen and paper next to me. There’s no expectation or rush to do anything. I always find if you push anything then it doesn’t work out as well. I’ll sit there playing around for a couple of minutes until I get an idea and then I carry on from there.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? My dream artist to collaborate with would be Ben Howard. He is my favourite artist of all time and one of my biggest inspirations when it comes to creating and performing music. He’s an extremely talented musician and singer and his songwriting skills are incredible. I haven’t heard another artist who can lyrically and vocally transmit emotion as well as him. It would be a dream come true to collaborate with him and work on a project

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 you’re even remotely interested in taking part in the competition next year I would say, just go for it! There’s nothing to lose, you get to be a part of something incredible and share your music with other people. It can also lead you to lots of other opportunities whether that be meeting new people to collaborate with or getting to perform at the Young Songwriter Showcase!

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 enjoyed listening to ‘Topiary’ by Oscar Meades! It’s exactly my sort of music, the lyrics are so perfectly intricate, the emotion in the vocals is wicked and the instrumentation is really soothing yet powerful. I also really liked ‘Sweet 16’ by Twayn. Another awesome track, I love how the track progresses and the ebbing and flowing nature of the track. Some incredible harmonies in there too! I would love to collaborate with either of these two artists to make something special!

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? There aren’t many other competitions like this that allow people from all areas and walks of life to share their music with people and spread messages and emotion through music. There is also such an incredible judging panel and team behind the competition and it’s great to see that they are all just as excited as the entrants. I feel extremely privileged to have been a part of this competition and I’m amazed I’ve made it into the top 30!

TOPIARY – OSCAR MEADES, 17 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? My inspiration for my song in the finals, was a real sense of fury. It’s a song about being let down by yourself, and how you truly believed someone was something that they turned out not to be.

What got you into writing songs? The thing that got me into writing songs was expressing my feelings. I really found a way to channel how I felt and make ugly situations a lot more beautiful.

What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting to me is a way of expression, and for a private person like me, it’s a real insight into who you really are and what you really feel.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part of the songwriting process is definitely when you find a melody and words finding there way to fit onto it, and how natural it all just comes out of you.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? When starting a song, I like to find a beautiful chord progression. Chords are so important to the character of a song to me, so when I find the chords, I can channel whatever I’m feeling musically.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. When writing ‘topiary’, I was alone in my bedroom with my guitar in my hand, just plucking away at this swung rhythm and these beautiful descending inverted chords.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? One day I’d love to sing with Joni Mitchell, her music is so inspirational and timeless.

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? Always stay authentic. Sure be influenced, but don’t aim for anything other than what you’re naturally feeling is right to do with the song you’re making, make sure it’s a strong inner projection of yourself.

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 ‘All In’ by Daniel McCarthy, a very mellow song to vibe to. I’d love to collab with Daniel too, I love the tone of voice he has, very soft and delicate.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I like how this organisation is bringing so many different styles of music, by underground artists to the forefront. Really shows a diverse range of songs and emotions.

DON’T RILE THE YOUNG – SONIC DAZE

What inspired you to write your finalist song? Over the past few years, there have been several political changes made at the expense of young people. It’s very frustrating, because it will most likely be the younger generation who will have to live through the consequences. This song acts as a warning: don’t rile the young, because it will come back to bite you.

What got you into writing songs? We both started writing songs separately, Archie through production and Rosie as a singer-pianist. When we met each other at the BRIT School, we started writing dance music and eventually leaned towards this jazz inspired hip-hop sound.

What does song writing mean to you? Song writing is about expression and atmosphere. As much as we enjoy creating a recorded finished product, we always imagine the tone and ambience of performing our songs live, and how it will impact an audience.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? Archie likes starting songs and Rosie likes finishing them. Maybe that’s why we make such a good pair.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Sometimes we start with a chord progression, sometimes a bass line or breakbeat. After we have established the tone of the song, the lyrics come naturally.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. As production is just as important to us as the lyrics, melody and harmony, a large part of the songwriting process happens behind Logic or Ableton. We write, record, produce and mix all of our songs at both of our home studio setups. We recorded most of the instruments live and layered chopped drum breaks from splice.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Black pumas, Tricky, Sault and Gregory Porter.

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 songs that you would enjoy listening to. If other people enjoy it too it’s a bonus.

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 really like Leona May’s song. It’s somehow abstract but also means something. We think she’s a very skilled songwriter and she’s brilliant live.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? Listening to all the other songwriters.

GIRL THAT OUTGREW – ROSIE TRENTHAM

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I’d just come to the end of a long relationship with someone that I grew up with. It’s about parting ways amicably and appreciating that a good thing doesn’t have to last forever.

What got you into writing songs? When I was twelve, I won the pop music competition at my school. I was the surprise winner, being only in year seven, but it inspired me to keep going. Now I’m eighteen, and writing songs absorbs most of my time.

What does song writing mean to you? When I first started, I thought it was about self-expression. Over the years, I’ve come to realise that it’s about tapping into shared experience with the listener.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I like the satisfaction of lyrics coming neatly together. Lyrics are a puzzle of saying exactly what you mean in very few words.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I usually start with a chord progression. Once you have an established sound, it inspires the subject matter and melody.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry? I write acoustically at the piano.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Stevie Wonder.

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 as much as possible. The best work is often an amalgamation of lyrics and chords from different originals.

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 enjoyed Leona’s song. She has a way of writing songs that already exist in my head. Suddenly, I’ve heard it once and I feel like I’ve known it all my life.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? Hearing all the other young talent across the country.

NEW YEAR’S EVE – RUBY ANN SPIEGEL

What inspired you to write your finalist song?  I was sick of this expectation to be happy on New Year’s Eve, and the coinciding idea that you should just forget all the bad things that have happened and move on. I wanted a chance to sit with my feelings, to acknowledge both them and the realisation that you can’t always be okay just because society tells you to be. You can take a second to grieve the things you didn’t have the chance to do, before leaping to plaster a smile on your face for the sake of the future.

What got you into writing songs? I have way too many thoughts in my head, all the time, and no one can remain sane with all that chatter going on. I guess song writing is my way of journaling. I tried to keep a diary, but I honestly don’t have the patience for it. I’m still finding pages of half written entries in old notebooks!

What does songwriting mean to you?  I’ve always written songs as a means of expressing myself, and often the things that I don’t have the courage to simply say. Confessions are much more enjoyable when they’re wrapped in melodies.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I love playing the early versions of songs to my family, and forcing them to sit and relisten to every little tweak I’ve made. They become very invested in the whole process, to the point where my sisters know most of my songs off by heart!

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I love the spontaneity of writing; I don’t follow a fixed routine – lyrics then melody or vice versa – but instead follow whatever feels right. I’ve written a song very early in the morning with no accompaniment just because I couldn’t get the first few lyrics out of my head.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I was not in a great state of mind, and then suddenly had these lyrics already set to a melody in my head. So, I went to my piano, sat down, and wrote the accompaniment around the basic melody. Sometimes it takes me weeks to finish one song, but other times it’s all there, and I have a song within fifteen minutes. In this case, it was the latter.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I would love to work with Alanis Morissette, or Carole King. Though my music isn’t necessarily similar to the two artists, they have been a huge part of my life, and I am greatly inspired by both of them. I am in awe of their talent every time I hear their 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’d say absolutely go for it. I entered a few years ago, and though I didn’t qualify, it was still an exciting experience to be sharing my music with others. I thought I had no chance this year, so I really didn’t enter for the sake of winning, but rather for the sake of showing people my creations. Do it for yourself, even if you don’t qualify – music is such a fluid thing, a yes or no doesn’t define its quality.

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 Wasted Potential by Lindsay Liebro and how upbeat it is despite the harsh reality of the lyrics. It is also brilliantly produced. As another teenage girl with a need for academic validation clashing with wanting to do something completely random, this is a brilliant anthem to scream in the car! I also really enjoyed What if by Peter Pulst.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I’ve enjoyed the whole process but seeing my song among so many other teenagers’ music was a very special moment for me. My other entry that didn’t qualify was quoted on the Song Academy Instagram, and that was unbelievably cool for both me, and my friend who helped me out for the instrumentation.

THINKING I’M FINE – ANNEKA SHELLEY

What inspired you to write your finalist song? This song sparked from the feeling that I think a lot of people had around the time of the lockdowns, feeling particularly isolated and down. Motivation just really wasn’t there at that time, and everything definitely got really hard. The song is about not being okay, but feeling like your own feelings aren’t really valid, and thinking that it’s probably for the best if you just act like everything is okay.

What got you into writing songs? I started writing songs when I was about 13-14. I picked up guitar quite a lot later than other musicians I know, as it took me a while to find my passion as a kid. I taught myself guitar and started learning little covers of songs I liked, and I suppose for me, writing songs just felt like a given as a guitarist. I just had the ideas and songwriting felt very natural to me. I guess I’ve grown up seeing singer-songwriters and I assumed that was what guitarists did, so I did it!

What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting has always been very special to me. It’s just like an escape where I can express my emotions in a beautiful format. I also love to make up whole new stories about people in my mind; I think creating something exciting that’s completely made up, but other people can relate to, can be so much fun.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part of the songwriting is when I find the catchline of the song, and it feels like it’s completed the whole thing. Normally it comes at the end of the chorus when you write the hook, and it’s normally the hardest thing to do in the whole process at least for me, but once I’ve found it, the song feels much more formed and that’s very exciting.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? It really depends, to be honest. Sometimes an idea will come to mind and then I will put it to some chords and carry on writing, or sometimes I will just simply be in the mood to write a song and so I will find some chords and then brainstorm ideas. It’s usually one of the two, I haven’t yet pinpointed which one turns out better. I did do a song once where I wrote all of the lyrics on the train and then put chords to it, and it did turn out really nicely – I should probably try that more.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. This song was literally just written with me and my acoustic guitar. I’m pretty sure I wrote a chorus and I loved it and then I had to go somewhere so I recorded it on my phone really quickly and then finished the rest of it later.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Orla Gartland has been my biggest writing inspiration for so long, pretty much as long as I’ve been writing. Collaborating with her would be a dream, I just admire all her work.

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 just say to make sure you really connect with your song. It’s so obvious when somebody’s song means so much to them, and it just adds so much emotion.

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 the other finalists Leona Mae is incredible, and we have already collaborated a few times. I’d love to collaborate with Frankie James or Gemini Gemini who are both brilliant songwriters. 5:41 by Frankie James is such a beautiful track.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I like that it gets young people sharing their work and being creative. I have found so many other musicians through this competition so I also definitely love how many people you can meet through it.

ALL IN – DANIEL MCCARTHY, 16 YEARS OLD

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I wrote ‘All In’ for a number of reasons but primarily because I liked the concept of pursuing your dreams against all odds and seeing things through regardless of what life throws at you. I took inspiration from rhetoric tricks of repetition, using opposites (i.e. all in… vs… all out) and using words that sound the same but have different meanings in order to make the lyrics more memorable and singalong-able. For example: “You gotta be all in, you gotta be all in… But if you gotta go all out, you better go all out…”  That’s repetition and opposites. And then comes the emotional ending of the chorus: “Take me with you, ’cause you know I’m all in”. The ‘all in’ in this sentence has a completely different meaning to the previous use of ‘all in’ in the chorus.

What got you into writing songs? When I was younger, around age 11, my school choir – which fortunately happens to be one of the top boys’ choirs in the country – would sometimes get invited into major London studios (such as Air Studios, Metropolis, Angel Studios, etc) to sing on some major movies (e.g. Bohemian Rhapsody, Last Christmas, Dumbo, etc… and we also got to sing on two of the tracks on Madonna’s latest album). During those trips, I was fascinated with all the equipment in those studios and I thought it would be cool to become a producer and work in a big studio one day. I was already learning the piano and guitar, and I also loved listening to pop music on the radio, so I decided to teach myself music production at home. And in order to produce my songs from scratch, it meant I had to create my own original songs. That’s how it all started I guess and I got into songwriting!

What does songwriting mean to you? I started songwriting when I was 11 years old and it’s become so much a part of me now that I wouldn’t feel complete as a person if I wasn’t doing it. I find it… inspires me, relaxes me, teaches me, challenges me and rewards me! There’s no feeling in the world like it… when you create something (hopefully beautiful-sounding & relatable) that didn’t exist before you created it.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part of the process is that initial moment when the fusion of lyrics and melody works and creates something interesting and original.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? For me, the spark normally comes from the lyrical concept… often a story or a turn of phrase that I think is cool. That lyric can come from anywhere… a book I read, a film I watched, or something that happened to me or a phrase I may have heard one of my friends say. Once I have that critical lyric, the melody usually comes relatively easily to me. It often ends up being the main chorus or pre-chorus.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I have a keyboard, two speakers and a couple of mics that feed into my Logic Pro software on my mac.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? These days, producers contribute greatly to the songwriting process. My dream would be to work with producers like Steve Mac or Max Martin as I love so many of the songs they’ve been involved in.

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 100% encourage them to enter. The only way to become a good songwriter is to keep writing more & more songs. When you enter a competition like this, it really helps focus you on the quality of the songs you’re writing because you know that really experienced & successful songwriters will be judging you.

What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition? Who out of the other entrants (it doesn’t have to be a finalist!) would you like to collaborate with? I really liked the entry from Sonic Daze. I know one of their members, Rosie Trentham (she goes to my Saturday music school), and I think she and her band are very talented.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? What I like the most about it is that it comes across as quite a casual competition in that it’s very inviting & encouraging to young people of all standards, but then from what I’ve heard of the other finalists’ entries, the standard is extremely high, so it means that it also appeals to much more experienced & ambitious young writers.

SOLD THE STORY – LEONA MAE

What inspired you to write your finalist song? I wanted to touch on all the things that were going wrong in the world at the time, the song details a semantic field of destruction, ‘cutting ties when the marriage ends, hear the cries at the orphanage, burning tires at the car crash ditch…’. I then hone in on a more specific story about a mother losing her son and how the media deals with stories like that, ‘selling a story’. It’s in a way, a protest song which is something I haven’t really experimented with before. I also utilised changing time signatures in this song which is something new for me also.

What got you into writing songs? I’ve always loved song writing; ever since the age of 8, I was writing songs with my guitar and performing them for other people. I always used to love creative writing and English lessons in school, this perhaps sparked my interest and I attended song writing workshops at the Hertfordshire music centre. I’ve been inspired by other artists, especially Taylor Swift who I really admire for her great song writing capability.

What does songwriting mean to you? Song writing gives me an outlet to express my feelings ; when I’m feeling low, it definitely helps to go to the piano and express that in song form, like writing in a diary.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part is writing lyrics, I think this is where my strength lies and what I deem to be very important in a song. I love the feeling when you suddenly come up with a great line and get a rush of excitement. Metaphors can describe a feeling so much better than stating the feeling simply and I think finding a really good, clever one always resonates with people.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I usually start by picking up an instrument and playing around with different chord progressions or tunings. Finding songs I love with alternate tunings is my favourite inspiration at the moment ; artists like Phoebe Bridgers have so many to choose from. Playing on different instruments, for me piano, is also a great way to find different harmony and produce something with a different emotional intensity.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. I always write my songs just me and a guitar/piano, so this song was no exception. I wrote it on my guitar, starting with the chords and rhythm, and went from there using the notes app and voice memo on my phone to record my ideas as I went along. I started with the verse and then the chorus, writing the bridge later on when I had figured out how to create the contrast the song needed. I always write in my room as it’s the most comfortable environment and inspires me the most.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I have so many artists whom I love but my dream artists to write with would be Phoebe Bridgers and Maisie Peters. The details in their lyrics always grabs my attention and they never demonstrate feelings too literally, the metaphors are always very clever. In terms of production, I would love to work with FINNEAS as his work really elevates the song.

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 definitely go for it, there is nothing to lose. Try to pick more of an unusual song to grab the judges attention and if you can, produce it or ask someone to help you produce it. Good production will really elevate a song and draw out the melodies to make them even stronger. I would say to consider submitting a couple of songs, that way if they’re contrasting you have more of a chance of one of your songs getting short listed. If your song is more unusual and unique I also think this also sets you apart from the crowd. In terms of the songwriting process, I would create lots of contrast ; if the verse is wordy, the chorus should be sparse and vice versa.

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 is ‘Thinking I’m Fine’ by Anneka Shelley, I love the melodies throughout each section in the song ; we already collaborate lots as we go to school together.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I like how the competition gives younger writers a chance to be heard and gives everybody a fair chance. It’s also great to see the other up and coming songwriters your age and to be able to connect with them, especially as it runs across the whole UK with an international category as well.

CONTRAST – VINNIE COHEN

What inspired you to write your finalist song? The song is about not knowing how someone else may feel. We may be able to guess, but never truly understand. We make mistakes, we say the wrong things, we slip up. Perhaps the place of stewing in whatever emotion someone is suggesting is the best place for healing.

What got you into writing songs? It was only around age 13 where I started meeting people writing and recording songs that I became attached to it.

What does songwriting mean to you? A way to deal with my problems, a way to connect with people, a chance to make friends. I wouldn’t have met most of my friends if it weren’t for music, there’s almost a magical bond when people collaborate properly.

What is your favourite part of the song writing process? Recording the vocal.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Most of the time it just happens. Sometimes I’ll look for a beat on youtube or play some chords on guitar or piano and run with what comes to me. Usually if I’m being honest, whatever has been bothering me, or is making me joyous will be the subject of the song.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS22 entry. Wrote it on my I phone, recorded it in my bedroom on logic, mixed and mastered it myself.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Action Bronson

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 do it, you don’t know what something might bring you until you try. Even if you lose, sometimes we hide ourselves away making fantasies about who we could be, but until we put ourselves out there, we will never know what we can achieve!

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? Ruby Ann Spiegel

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? Gives me a bit of confidence.

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