This year’s Song Academy Young Songwriter competition attracted nearly 1,000 entries from aspiring young songwriters aged 8-18 across the world, both experienced young songwriters and those who’ve written their first song. The judges were extremely impressed with the originality, creativity & musical bravery of the songs. We interviewed each of the finalists to get to know them and learn more about how they write songs. We’ll add more profiles as we receive them. Stay tuned!
RUBE – ‘LITTLE GIRL’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? Little girl was inspired by mental health and the impact the act of taking your life has on those you leave behind. In this instance it was about a father and daughter and the bond that was broken by the sadness and loneliness of depression an illness so powerful it steals a person from their greatest love, their child. It is quite difficult to share the true inspiration of this song as there is still a great taboo surrounding suicide and children being aware that it does happen. However my mum grew up in this environment with my nan and she has always been honest and open about these difficult topics and it definitely has shaped me as an empath in my songwriting.
What got you into writing songs? I started writing songs at 9 years old. I always had a passion for piano and singing however my nan passed away very suddenly, I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, my mum got home and told us and I went away and wrote my first song. It was about my nan. From that moment I always feel her with me, she loved music and lots of my songs are inspired by her crazy life, she had a life filled with so many stories and I believe she left me with the gift that I have.
What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting is an innate part of who I am. I couldn’t imagine myself without it and I will always need room for a piano! Songwriting enables me to communicate with myself and others. I express my emotions through songwriting and I can tell stories. I am an empath, I feel and take on other peoples pain and emotions, I am a listener rather than a talker, so songwriting and singing enables me to express what I want to say. It is my friend and my therapy, it helps me unwind and relax. Just like some people put the tv on or watch football, I go to my music room!
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part of writing songs is the piano chords. I like to try out new combinations and develop melodies. I have an interest in and continue to study music theory so composition comes easily to me. I love performing acoustic, so when I write songs I decide at the end if I will keep them acoustic pop vibe or give them a dance beat to show my love for dance music. My voice suits both so I might have a period of doing lots of dance then have a slower song.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I am always starting new songs. I know quite quickly if I want to develop them or if I think they can go somewhere. I never sit and plan a song. It can be as simple as my mum coming home and telling me something she heard or saw and 30 minutes later I say “Do you want to hear my new song” if a story captivates me and I feel that emotion I can write about it. I write about family, friends, news stories anything that gives me that release of emotion. My friends love it when I write about them and cherish that song too! My piano is also my spark, sometimes I just sit at it and start playing not even knowing where it is going and it turns into something quite good! It truly just helps me relax and most importantly I enjoy it.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. After hearing the story behind a Little Girl, my emotions immediately connected. When that happens I find it easy to choose the chords, I build the vocal melody then I write the lyrics and connect the story.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? There are quite a few people I would love to collaborate with but my ultimate dream top two would be Fred Again and Calvin Harris.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? My tips are; Be confident, understand yourself, do not be afraid to tackle difficult topics and open up conversations, write lots of songs and enter as many as the competition allows. Have a story to tell, it has to mean something to you as you might be hearing it a lot, and importantly your song must have a catchy melody, you want it remembered.
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? There were so many talented entries and was so hard to choose, so I decided to choose out of the top 30! My top 5 are; First choice for me was ‘You are the Light’ – Adam O’connor, Arlo Redman this captured my attention in the first few seconds and I wanted to listen to the whole song. I really enjoyed it and would listen to more of their music. “Lazy’ – Sophie Feriani – It took a little longer to take off but the chorus was catchy and I imagine it would capture an audience who would definitely sing along. ‘Milesaway” – Chinz – I loved this track and would LOVE to do vocals with him on a track. ‘TTF’ – Jesse – Not what I was expecting at all, the use of piano caught my attention first and then the vocals totally took me by surprise, the juxtapositon worked and he told a great story. I wanted to listen to the end. ‘Heartbreak’ – Faith Louise – very current, likeable pop, catchy melody and beat, a fun easy song to listen to.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I like that the competition is friendly, inspiring and supportive to young artists. It helps young songwriters to gain confidence, be critiqued, and gain exposure in a very difficult industry to break through.
EVA DONOGHUE – ‘VILLAIN ERA’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? The theme of this song is trauma and people’s relationships with their past. When I’m writing songs, I often write them about scenes and emotions. This song takes inspiration from villains in movies. I’m drawn to this subject because I feel like villains in movies are often misunderstood and are often the way they are because of severe trauma, mental health issues or injustice in their lives. I believe it’s important to help children and teenagers to understand and empathise with so-called “villains” instead of being told through the media that people are either all good or all bad (with little scope for the grey). The song is about a “villain” who’s walking through his abandoned childhood home and reflecting on his traumatic past. However, he’s become so numb to pain that he is no longer afraid of ‘this place’. He empathises with the child version of himself who was trapped there. In the final chorus, I imagine him dancing through the corridors with gasoline and setting the place on fire. He’s coming to terms with his past and letting his trauma go and, by doing this, setting his childhood-self free.
What got you into writing songs? I grew up in a house full of music. My mums always used to have CDs playing whether it be Adele, Amy Winehouse, Ella Fitzgerald etc. throughout my childhood. When I was 4, I started trying to write my own music which initially resulted in a lot of embarrassing home movie footage of me sitting at our old piano and banging at the keys whilst singing. Over time, fueled by their support and my love for music and writing songs I became more and more adventurous and involved with my music. Contrary to the popular belief that being musical talent is something “you’re either born with, or you’re not”, I honestly think that anyone has the ability to write songs, it just takes time and practice, like learning an instrument.
What does songwriting mean to you? For me, music is a way for me to explore emotions, characters and entirely different worlds without restraint. It allows me to have unlimited freedom and expression where the only limitation is my imagination. I’m extremely grateful for it. It can be disciplined and educational as well. I spend a lot of time studying theories of orchestration and how to write for different instruments. At the end of the day though, it never feels like work because I’m always really interested in what I’m doing. My songwriting journey has only just begun and there are plenty of other things I need to learn. I’m going to put all my effort into it though, and look forward to seeing where it will take me, as writing music is what I want to spend my life doing, if I can.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I love getting down the initial ideas for a song when it’s just little riffs and stems that you gradually mosaic together to create a picture. There’s something so exciting about knowing every note, instrument, lyric and rhythm you change could create completely different feelings in the song. Plus, getting into the production process and making it come to life is always amazing.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I constantly come up with little ideas throughout the day and record them on my phone. I find that I can create the best melodies and have the most authentic voice when it’s coming directly and immediately from me. I’m also a piano player so when I’m practising I sometimes stray from the melody of the piece I’m supposed to be playing and into my own variations and themes, instead of practising (much to my mum’s dismay).
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. My setup is not ideal. All of my work for the entry was done on my laptop using Cubase Elements, with no external microphones, sound proofing or hardware. This impacted the quality of the audio in comparison to other entries. Apart from my love for songwriting, one of the reasons I entered this competition was that I felt that the opportunity to work with a producer and to have access to the right equipment could greatly improve my ability to make professional-sounding music and I’d be eternally grateful for this.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? It would have to be either Labrinth or Lin Manuel Miranda. Labrinth has such an incredibly unique sound that’s almost unmatched in the music industry. I admire his originality and ability to make music that reads on a deeper level. I’m constantly searching for my “sound” and “voice” as an artist and also aspire to make music that people connect to, which is why it would be a dream to work with him. Lin Manuel Miranda is an absolute legend to me. His musical “Hamilton” has endlessly inspired me and resulted in me writing a hip-hop musical version of ‘Of Mice and Men’ in the 2020 lockdown, as well as another one I’m currently working on, which is a pop musical. He’s such an incredible role model and his trajectory in the music industry is one I aspire towards. I’ve listened to tons of podcasts and interviews with him and think he would be amazing to collaborate with.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? I’d say that it’s important to really create something that has multiple levels and feels authentic to them. What’s the deeper message of their piece? What are you trying to make your listeners feel and consider? Also although production isn’t everything, it can make or break a piece. If there’s one thing I’d do differently next year it’s to find a way to get the set up needed to really produce my music to the highest possible quality. Finally, have fun with it. At the end of the day, although this is a competition, it’s a celebration of music and talented artists!
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 loved Thomas Wigley’s ‘I’m Not Alone’. The fusion of pop and country was so original and I think his voice is incredibly rich.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I love how it gives young people of all age ranges an opportunity to have a platform and share their music. It’s a way of finding other people your age who you may be interested in collaborating with and having the opportunity to win absolutely incredible prizes. I’d like to finish these questions by just saying how amazingly grateful I am for being in the top thirty and for this brilliant competition.
ABBIE GORDON – ‘WHAT YOU’D WANT’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? The loss of my grandmother inspired me to write this song. It was very tough for me to deal with and I had always thought about writing a song about it but I wasn’t ready yet. Finally after quite a few years I wrote this song and it means the absolute world to me.
What got you into writing songs? I remember when I was 7 years old, I sat in my back garden and wrote a song about a bird that was sitting on the fence, it has always been natural for me! Especially through lockdown being able to use my creativity through the tough times of being isolated from the world really strengthened my love for songwriting and made me realise my passion.
What does songwriting mean to you? Everything. Its practically like free therapy for me. Being able to turn my experiences and struggles into personal lyrics, being able to create little stories and bring them to life with melodies and instruments, Its truly amazing.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I love writing a middle eight. There is such an opportunity for emotion at the middle eight and for me it is the section where I can really open up and be honest in my lyrics which adds to the power of the song.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Sometimes when I have a strong emotion or something either really good or bad has happened to me, the first thing I want to do is go and write a song about it! I also get inspiration from reading books and watching TV shows and challenging myself to write a song from their perspective of things. Reading quotes and poetry are also really great ways to spark my inspiration for songwriting!
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. Normally when writing songs I only have a little keyboard and write all of my songs along with that, but when recording this demo I went to a studio funded my MusicPlus and one of the mentors Marco Rea allowed me to record my song with him playing an acoustic piano and me singing the vocals.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I would have to say Taylor swift. She is an incredible songwriter and she was the first person to inspire me to become a singer/songwriter! My dad used to buy me some of her CDs and I would listen to them on repeat dancing around in my room whilst reading the lyric book! It would be a dream come true to work with her at some point in my musical journey!
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Absolutely go for it! When I entered I had no idea I would get this far!! It’s such an amazing competition and I’m so grateful to be apart of it along with the most incredible young songwriters! My tips would be to enter something meaningful to you that you are proud of, if it means something to you it will mean something to others. Touching people through your lyrics is something so special and such a wonderful feeling.
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 entries from this year’s competition are Watching by Sirine, Fraud by Daniel Mackin and Crystal Chandeliers by Amity Miller. I would definitely love to collaborate with Amity as he is such an incredible songwriter and his lyrics are so powerful.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I love that it gives so many young songwriters the opportunity to share their music with a lot of people! I am so grateful to have gotten so far and to have got in touch with many other talented artists in the competition. It has brought so many like minded people together with the same passion for songwriting and it has created such a great support network for cheering each other on! Being a musician can be tough especially when you are lacking confidence and support so it is so great to support everyone and I can’t wait to see where their music takes them! I am so grateful for Song Academy for hosting this competition and all of the incredible judges and sponsors for being a part of this great experience!
ROSE MOLYNEUX – ‘HOMETOWN’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? When I was 16 I moved to a school a long way from home. I left all my friends behind. The song is about coming back home and how things are the same but different. I’m different too, but places and people from home are too. There is a Rose tinted nostalgia for things to be as they were – or at least how you think they were. Sometimes they seem to be the same, but are they? The song is all about that confusing dichotomy. I think it’s a feeling common to many 18 year old as they contemplate leaving home for the first time to go to Uni.
What got you into writing songs? I’ve played instruments since I was about 5 (flute/piano/guitar) but I didn’t realise I could be a songwriter until I started improvising. It was a way of expressing my thoughts and feelings. Mainly it’s all about connecting with people though music.
What does songwriting mean to you? I pretty much always have songs and lyrics swirling through my head. If I’m away from a guitar or piano it just feels wrong. I’d say it’s one of the most beautiful ways to express yourself.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? When you get the initial idea and melody – I get so excited and I just let it take me somewhere else
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Mainly thinking about my experiences or something I really connect with and explore the images and feelings I associate within that.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. It was very spontaneous. Owen and Kevin and I all met up at a music summer school. I wrote the song when we had all gone back to different parts of the country. COVID has meant that actually the process of writing when you are in different places is easier. Owen and I recorded the song together but the production stage and the guitar solo were all done remotely.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Probably the Lizzy McAlpine, Jacob Collier and John Mayer trio they did in ‘Never gonna be alone’
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Just go for it, a lot of the time it’s pretty scary to put your songs out there, especially because they can be super personal but if you don’t try you’ll never know.
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? Probably RuBe, she’s been on some of the same BBC introducing shows as me and I always really enjoy listening to her stuff!
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? The focus is on songwriting rather than performance and this is something I naturally lean into. I’m really interested in writing for others – with different voices and styles. Songwriting for me is expression – the lyrics and playing with the language are so important in my writing.
RALPH BISHOP – ‘IT’S NOT TOO LATE’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? My songs generally start from a musical motif or riff while playing an instrument. I do not generally start writing a song with the purpose of writing about a particular topic or niche. I find that it is too restrictive and leads to an obsession with a particular idea, when the song is leading you elsewhere. I like to think that inspiration for a song is realised sometime later as, like memories, we generally appreciate the significance of events when we reflect back on them. If anything, this song is about confronting your fears and doubts and then the euphoric feeling of overcoming them, which I think the majority of people who are trying to reach their goals in life feel.
What got you into writing songs? I first started to write songs consistently over the first lockdown. Though it was a time in which I saw very few people, it allowed me to focus on specific things, such as songwriting. I bought Cubase later that year, which helped me to explore and appreciate my songs further. Ever since then, I have continued writing more and more songs and developed significantly as a songwriter, covering genres such as Punk, Rock, Country and Jazz. I have in fact been writing more material on piano recently, in addition to guitar, which has given my songs a more ballad feel.
What does songwriting mean to you? In songwriting, there is a great sense of accomplishment, as it produces something tangible, which you can have ownership over, yet be able to share with the rest of the world. Equally, the emotions songs make me feel as a listener mean I realise the power of songwriting and how I myself have the potential to make my listeners feel a similar way.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? The moment I come up with a new idea. At this point, I could potentially write the best song I have ever written and pull it in any direction I want. Sometimes it is easy to feel a bit lost and doubt what your next step should be when songwriting, but I see it as exhilarating, like a roller coaster, as there is a certain level of risk in manipulating and developing new ideas.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I usually start writing a song with anything simple as a motif which I can make alterations to, or come up with an interesting chord progression and add lyrics over. I cannot always remember how I write all my songs as I think the best songs almost always come through not overthinking the process – may that involve following a routine or letting ideas come of their own accord.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. My song started on an acoustic guitar, which allowed me to establish a groove, which I think is a prominent part of this track, and add a melody/lyrics over. I later thought it would be interesting to put it into the context of a band, where I would be able to use a greater variety of textures, the shuffle rhythm on the drums helping to accentuate this sense of groove I was after – which can be seen in the recording of my entry.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? In terms of a mainstream music that I like listening to, I would love to work with Tom Odell, Keane, Libertines etc. But I also know that there are plenty of musicians (often lesser known) who would be just as conducive to work with, especially in the world of jazz (seeing that I have been developing my skills as a jazz guitarist over the last few years), such as Jacob Collier, given their incredible musicianship; working with such people would be eye-opening and would help me to see songwriting in an entirely new context.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? My best piece of advice would be not to worry too much about the length or convention of songs but try and enter something that stands out and bucks the trend. The song I wrote that made the final 30 was by far the shortest of all the songs I entered, yet I think it stood out from others because it had an energy which was perhaps less prominent in the other songs.
What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition? Who out of the other entrants (it doesn’t have to be a finalist!) would you like to collaborate with? At least from the final 30, I like a hundred years, Are You Okay, Dearest One and Little girl. These are at least some of the ones that stood out from the songs I listened to – obviously, this may be different depending on my mood and other circumstances (this helps me appreciate how difficult it must be for the judges). It is difficult to know who I would want to collaborate with, as I think successful collaborations, from experience, depend on more than artistic preferences (whose music I like), as people in collaborations need to be open to each other’s ideas, but equally be prepared to say no – collaboration often involves a fine line between being open to different ideas and being persistent with your own.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I appreciate the supportive nature of the competition, as even those who do not make the cut are still given recognition. This competition also provides a channel which helps to promote young songwriters to a wider audience who may not otherwise be noticed.
MAGGIE WAKELING – ARE YOU OK?
What inspired you to write your finalist song? My finalist song “are you okay?” was inspired by my personal experiences with feelings of anxiety, and my physical responses to those feelings. Songwriting has always been my escape and so I found that pouring my feelings into this song was the best way for me to let go of all these emotions I had pent up inside. Although I have been performing for as long as I can remember, I do still get nervous before each performance, but I know that at the end of the day, I can get through it, just like the song says!
What got you into writing songs? I began writing songs at a young age, I had always been into music and enjoyed creating songs with my friends. I started performing in musical theatre at the age of six and have continued this love ever since. However, I often feel that while I’m playing a role and becoming someone else, a tiny part of me gets left behind which is why I started to write my own songs. I can write my own story through the lyrics and can put 100% of myself into the song.
What does song writing mean to you? Songwriting to me means identity, it means storytelling and it means escape. I love being able to create a world and a story that can transport a person to an entirely new place, being able to lose themselves in the music like I do when I write! It also means identity because, for me, it is a chance to pour my soul into the song and write my own story.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I really enjoy writing lyrics and being able to create any kind of reality with the imagery that I use. I also have a harmony pedal that I use when I’m gigging, and I love playing around with that when I’m writing songs. It always amazes me how much a simple harmony can change the tone of a song and what the lyrics mean.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I find that I always start writing when I feel really strongly about a certain thing, whether that be happy or sad, and it is the emotions that drive my inspiration for the song. I write on keys and tend to get stuck on chords that I think are interesting and then create melodies from there. I always write my lyrics last! Usually, they come to me as soon as I have found a melody, almost like they are writing themselves. When I have an idea of what the journey of the song is going to be, I work on details such as hooks and bridges, trying to keep a concept throughout.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. “are you okay?” was one of three songs I entered for #SAYS23 (it’s actually my favourite) and I wrote it about six months ago. My setup for the song was the same as every song I write, just me, my notebook and my piano!
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Two artists come to mind for this question, firstly, Taylor Swift. Like me, she started writing at a young age which I think is so inspiring and I adore the imagery she creates with her lyrics. Especially in her newer albums, I think her lyricism is beautiful and I always feel like I’m in an entirely different world. On the other hand, another artist I would love to collaborate with is Sara Bareilles. She also writes for musical theatre and even in her studio albums, I can see the story just like in theatre which is one of my favourite things.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? My biggest advice is just to go for it! What is there to lose? This is my first year entering the competition, and on hearing some of the other contestants, it was easy to compare myself. But everyone has a completely unique style, which is what makes the competition so wonderful, so you shouldn’t hold back!
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? After listening to the other entries in the 16-18 category, I really enjoyed Sirine’s “Watching”. It reminded me of a musical theatre song or something from a film! I love epic music that transports me and that’s exactly what the song did. It would be great to collaborate with her!
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? My favourite thing about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition is the variety, everyone has their own unique style, and nobody has to try and fit into a box. I love that it allows opportunity for everyone, no matter the genre!
RAINE HARLA – ‘STARRY’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? I didn’t write “starry” intending for it to become a full song, instead I just wanted to write something to voice all the thoughts that were going on in my head at that current time. As much as I am a confident performer on a stage, socially it takes me more encouragement to put myself out there and I can feel very drained of energy after I have interacted with people for a long period of time. My song is a representation of what it feels like to experience the post-socialisation trauma introverts tend to feel, and I wanted to put that negative energy to a good purpose, therefore “starry” was created.
What got you into writing songs? I started writing songs seriously when I was eleven years old and I have always loved music and singing for as long as I can remember. When my mum and dad bought me a little electric keyboard, I began to teach myself how to play it and found myself trying to write the outlines on songs with it. I’ve always been a very imaginative and creative person and I found that I could really express my authentic self through song writing, and ever since then I’ve wanted to sing and song-write forever.
What does song-writing mean to you? Song writing is a very prominent and important part of my life and I can’t see myself without it. I am very passionate about what I do and I find it to be a helpful way to express myself and regulate my thoughts. It allows me to create art from what was just a mess of overthinking and feel like I have a purpose.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part of the song writing process is when I write a cool melody, riff, or lyric that I’m proud of and get excited about it and gives me a confidence boost. Especially as a perfectionist when I feel I’m not good at writing songs or singing, and then I create something I’m happy with I get reminded why I am a songwriter and that I actually can be good.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? If I sit down at my keyboard to write a song, I usually come up with a chord progression first and think about what kind of vibe it gives, then write the melody and lyrics accordingly. Sometimes there will be a certain vowel sound that I think matches the chord, and I can usually write a lyric around that. The other way I can write is if a lyric or melodic idea comes to me unexpectedly. I could be on the train to college, or on a walk with my family and I will randomly get inspired whether that be from something I’ve seen or heard, or it could be just completely out of the blue. I keep track of these on the notes and voice recordings on my phone and save them for later if I can’t write at that very instant. Considering that I write a lot about what is on my mind, I can also find a spark of inspiration if I have been thinking about something a lot, or if I have been feeling intense emotions. I envision my songs in a range of styles, such as singer-songwriter, dark pop, punk rock, and alternative music in general.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. To write my song “starry” I used a pen and paper to write on, and my 88 key weighted keyboard. However, to record the demo, I also used my Apple Mac and DAW, microphone, and interface. I self-produced the song, and continue to push it towards its final stages. Since entering “starry” I have got my friend play the chords on guitar to add to the song which I recorded on my phone, and as well as a few more added vocals from myself I hope to soon have the song within the next couple of weeks to a finished product.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? If I am being optimistic, my dream artist to collaborate with would probably be FINNEAS. I think that he is a very talented singer songwriter and producer and I think that I could learn a lot from him. He also seems like a nice person to be around and I like the way he works with his sister, Billie Eilish. As well as this I also just really like his style of music and his songs, as some of them I feel are similar to my own work and style.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? I have experience working with young people who have a passion for performing, as I have a part time job working as a vocal and performing arts tutor at a stage school where I teach children ages 2-13. So, with that, I would say to the people entering the Song Academy Young Yongwriter competition next year to stay true to themselves and be perseverant. I would say it’s a good tip to try and get a good quality recording of your song so the judges can hear its best potential. I think that if you believe in your song and are passionate about it, you will already increase your chances.
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 think there were lots of very talented entries such as Rose-tinted glasses by Amelie Roden and Thoughts of You by Lia. I think they would be good people to collaborate with because of their vocal abilities and interesting chords progressions.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I like how the Song Academy puts all the entries on a playlist so everyone can listen to each other’s songs. I think it is a good way to network and get to hear other people who enjoy doing the same thing as you. I also like the Instagram interaction between the people who enter and the song academy.
AMITY MILLER – ‘CRYSTAL CHANDELIERS’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? I was given a prompt to write a song about something in the room with me, and I took the opportunity to write a song about the chandeliers, using the light to illuminate the darkness I was feeling at the time. It was the middle of lockdown and it had really affected my mental health. Writing this song was part of me recognising and communicating how much I was struggling and helped me to move forward towards healing.
What got you into writing songs? This is quite a funny story, I was 9 years old, and I’d been writing poetry and studying music for a few years already. I was at a restaurant with my family for a reunion. I was feeling travel sick, and because the adults were all talking about “boring adult stuff”, as I so tactfully put it, I was bored out of my mind, so I wrote a song with a crayon on the back of a napkin. Years later, I’m still writing songs, and loving it. I’ve come so far since that first song I wrote, and I’m really looking forward to the progress I’ve yet to make.
What does songwriting mean to you? To me, songwriting is a form of catharsis, not just for me, but for the people listening to the songs I write as well. And not only that, but I see it as a way to lift others and help them through whatever struggles they may be experiencing. It’s always been my goal to do something with my life that makes a positive impact, a real difference, and I feel like I can achieve this through my music.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part of songwriting is probably when the lyrics, melody, and chords all start to come together and unite to form a song. It’s the most beautiful process, and I love hearing the way they join together.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Most of the time, I’ll find something that inspires me, whether a personal experience, a gorgeous view, or a concern I have about the state of the world. My latest song even came about because of a word I find particularly beautiful! If I’m lacking inspiration, I look for prompts anywhere I can find them and try my best to get the song juices flowing, but more often than not, songs just come to me, which is why I always try to have a notebook and pen around to capture it.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. I was performing live at the Song Academy show at the Troubadour and the recording was taken live from that performance. At home, I usually record at my piano which has microphones attached internally. My dad helps with the mixing although I’m learning to use the software.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? If I had to pick anyone, I’m not sure if I could choose between Will Wood and Lovejoy. Will Wood is a lyrical genius, and his instrumentation is to die for. I greatly admire him, and working with him would be incredible! Some of my friends have described my music as in the style of “a less chaotic Will Wood”. Lovejoy is one of my favourite bands, and I would jump at the chance to collaborate with them. I really look up to them, and I adore their style! Working with either would be a dream come true!
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? I’d say go for it! Enter as many songs as you can, and keep writing in the meantime. Even if your song isn’t chosen for the finals, it’s really good exposure, and it shows that you’re brave enough to put yourself out there! Try and remember that even though there’s only one winner, and it may turn out not to be you, that doesn’t mean you’re any less talented than the winner. In the real world, there’s plenty of space for many talented songwriters to excel. Getting your songs heard by judges still makes people aware of you as a songwriter, which is a step in the right direction! In the end, it all comes down to personal taste, so don’t worry if you don’t win, that doesn’t mean you’re any less brilliant. Entering isn’t about winning, it’s about raising your profile and putting yourself on the scene as a young, upcoming songwriter.
What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition? Who out of the other entrants (it doesn’t have to be a finalist!) would you like to collaborate with? I think Shanelle’s music is absolutely wonderful, and I’d love to collaborate with her at some point! She also seems like a really lovely person, and it would be nice to get to know her better! I also love Abbie Gordon’s music and have made plans to collaborate with her.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? It allows young songwriters to start putting themselves on the scene as new, rising talent. It provides inspiration and opportunities for many aspiring songwriters, and I think that’s fantastic!
SASHA FORD – ‘PEOPLE MADE FROM STARS’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? I always endeavour to write songs that people can relate to and that can make others feel less alone. I wrote this song as a comforting reminder that no one is perfect, we’re just humans who are allowed to make mistakes and it’s ok to not be ok sometimes.
What got you into writing songs? Music has always been an important part of my life and ever since I can remember I’ve loved singing. I’ve been playing the piano and violin since I was very young when I started to write my own melodies on the piano. When I started learning chords on the guitar, I was able to explore songwriting further and now I write songs using the piano, guitar and ukulele.
What does songwriting mean to you? I like to think of songwriting as a friend. It is very therapeutic as it allows me to express myself and my feelings through music, boosting my mental health.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part of songwriting is definitely at the start, where ideas of melodies start to emerge. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in songwriting so you have so much freedom to explore your own musical creativity. It’s such a lovely feeling when your song starts to form and everything connects and falls into place.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I usually pick a chord and just go from there. Sometimes a melody forms and then I add lyrics but often everything occurs simultaneously. When I’m starting a song, I often don’t actually know what my lyrics mean or why I’m writing them until the end, when I play through what I’ve written and it all makes sense. I find the spark from my emotions or things that have happened in my day, or sometimes after I’ve finished reading a book and I feel I want to explore a character more I write from their perspective.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. I sat down with my guitar and a notebook to shape the initial idea, and then recorded it in my school recording studio.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? It’s hard to pick one as I admire Dodie, Matilda Mann and Lizzy McAlpine, but if I had to pick just one it would be Lexie Carroll.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? I’d say go for it! You learn lots about yourself and how you respond to offering your music up for judgement in a competitive environment. Focus on what you create and enjoy the process. Always write from your heart, be honest 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? I really enjoyed Sophie Feriani and Cara Flynn’s entries but I would particularly love to collaborate with Tamara Hendin! I love her entry ‘Hymn for the homesick kids’.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I like how this competition allows you to get to know other young songwriters. I really enjoy listening to the other entries and appreciating the diverse musical creativity. It’s also such an incredible opportunity to have your music heard by industry professionals. For me personally, entering songs into this competition over the years was what encouraged me to release my music on streaming platforms.
ISLA MAE – ‘A THERAPY SESSION IN NORTH CAROLINA’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? As a young person growing up in the 21st century, I’ve noticed there’s an unspoken expectation for women to be settled down in a happy relationship, with a nice house, children and respectable career by the age of about 30. To express the unease and pressure I feel around conforming to this rule, I wrote “A therapy session in North Carolina” which accounts the day to day life of a 33 year old woman who defies and rebels against such societal demands.
What got you into writing songs? I’ve been writing songs since I was 9 so I honestly can’t remember. I started writing more regularly though when lockdown came about. I had more time to be creative and I also started to find my own taste in music too that inspired me to write more.
What does songwriting mean to you? An awful lot. I struggle with my anxiety a lot of the time and songwriting is my escape. If something is affecting my mental health – it always helps me to write about it.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I love a lot of it but my favourite bit is probably when I have written half of a song and I love it but no one else has heard it yet. The initial excitement that I get when I’m writing a new song is one of my favourite things in the world.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? My spark usually either comes from my anxiety or from everyday actions that happen around me. Often, I take small phrases that I’ve heard people say during day to day life and turn them into songs.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. My setup was just me in my bedroom with my guitar.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Dodie – their songs are unbelievably good.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Try again next year if you don’t get picked to be in the top 30! I’ve been entering for many years and I’ve finally made it.
What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition? Who out of the other entrants (it doesn’t have to be a finalist!) would you like to collaborate with? I’ve been lucky enough recently to perform alongside a band named Anorak from my local area. They entered SAYS23 with their song Bad Kiss and I think their music is just amazing.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? It’s a great platform for young musicians to connect with other musicians and get your music heard.
CHINKZ – ‘MILESAWAY’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? My finalist song was inspired by someone I have known for a longtime and at that point in time we had just got back into contact. I wanted to write a song about how I felt during our time apart whilst still considering how she would have felt because it is all good to talk about your feelings but I feel that understanding how the other person felt and why they felt this way is important and expressing this in a song allows it to be fully transparent as well as universally relatable. This song is just one out of several that were put onto my first released EP called S.I.N ( sorry I’m nonchalant) which is an EP about my feelings during the stages of a relationship as it is something I could only express through music because I had failed to express them during the time I was actually in them, so I feel it is only right that I made a song being fully transparent about this particular person and our situations. After all she was the first person I really ever took seriously.
What got you into writing songs? I have been writing songs since I was in primary school and probably even before that. If you ask my family they would say it’s in the blood which is probably true but my music journey was heavily influenced by my auntie who used to release music herself. For as long as I can remember we used to do and still do writing sessions together at least once a month, she even took me to record my first song. I fell in love with the songwriting process because of the feeling I get when creating these melodies and lyrics its almost euphoric and the feeling you get once it is done is always the best.
What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting is my way of expressing my creativity as well as my personal feelings thoughts and emotions it means a lot to me it is also very therapeutic and rewarding process. I love seeing my creativity develop into art.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part of the song writing process is the moment when you hear all the little intricate details of the song come together because you see your hard work, time, and effort form into something amazing that you can listen back to over and over. This is also the part of the process when you see everyone react and respond to what you have created, seeing their reactions and hearing their feedback is priceless.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I usually ask my friends and family to give me some song titles/topics and as I listen to the instrumental I use different elements of what I have been given to inspire the theme of the song, depending on how well they fit the feeling of the instrumental. Sometimes my songs are adaptations of poems that I have written or little notes that I leave myself.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. I wrote and recorded Milesaway in my nans front room using my phone and some earphones. I was inspired to start writing after a phone call with the girl I had just got back in contact with and began writing straight after.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I would like to collaborate with Tyler the creator because I have been listening to his music since I was too young to even know who he was and admire his ability to be so versatile within his music as well as his ability to not shy away from trying new things within his music.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? My advice to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the competition would be to just go for it because you lose 100% of the opportunities you don’t go for but will always benefit from the ones you do, whether that’s winning the competition or learning from the experience. I would also tell them that if they enjoy their music there will always be others that do so never discourage yourself if your music doesn’t follow the rules of what is popular at the moment because you could always be the one that takes it to that level.
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 enjoyed a lot of the entries from this year’s competition but if I had to pick I would have to choose: a hundred years – Lillyclarkemusic, TTF – Jesse, and untitled – Mangsam Senehang as they are songs that I frequently listen back to and enjoy the most. I would like to collaborate with Mangsam Senehang on a song in his style of music as I would love to step outside my box and create a song of this tone, I also really enjoy this style of music and would love to see how I would go about making a song like this.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I like the Young Songwriter competition because it allows you to be seen and heard as well as allowing you to discover other creatives. It’s also a very great way to gain some confidence in putting yourself and your talent out there.
LILY CHANDLER – SPARE ROOM
What inspired you to write your finalist song? I was going through a rough part of my life so I wrote ‘spare room’ as a way of expressing my emotions without having to tell people in a sentence. It’s much easier to let feelings out through a song than in a serious setting!
What got you into writing songs? I’ve been playing the piano since I was young and everything progressed from there. I’ve always dreamed of having a career in something I love doing and that’s music. I hope one day I can have a job revolving around music whether that’s performing or writing! I want to bring the joy concerts bring to me, to other people.
What does songwriting mean to you? Writing music is so important to me as it lets me be as creative as I want to be and create something for people to listen to. The world would be so different without music and I’m grateful that I can contribute to it, even just a little bit.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I love the trial and error aspect of it. For example, the original lyrics for verse 1 of spare room ended up not fitting the song in the way I wanted, so this verse is now in my new song ‘before’ which will be released in May 2023! Writing gives you so much material for so many different songs.
You do you usually start a song? What gives you that spark? It sounds silly but it’s normally while I’m getting ready for bed or I’m left with a little free time. I’ll get some lyrics or a melody pop into my head and record it on my voice notes, then at the next chance I get, I’ll write the whole song in 1. I’ve spent hours on songs to not release them, whereas spare room took me 30 mins!
Describe the setup used for your SAYS23 entry. I use the Scarlett studio software to record but I ended up going to a studio in Mansfield that I’ve grown close to since I started singing.
Who would be your dream collaboration? What I listen to and what I write are very different. I love rock/alternative music but at the minute I’m writing mostly pop Ballards. I’d have to say someone like Yungblud as he’s my all time favourite artist, or maybe someone like Lewis Capaldi, The 1975 or bring me the horizon as I feel like we could make something incredible by fusing our ideas/styles!
Do I have tips for anyone looking to enter SAYS? Do it!! You have absolutely nothing to lose!! If you don’t enter, you aren’t getting the opportunity to put yourself out there for people to become aware of! It’s such an incredible opportunity and not entering would be a real shame. You can do it!
Which says23 entries do I like? I love Faith Louise’s entry ‘Heartbreak?’!! I also love lots of the male voices in the final and think there could be some cool concepts and duets
What do I like about the competition? I love how says23 gives people like me a chance to put ourselves out there. It’s such a unique competition and every one of you on the SAYS team if incredible for helping us find ways to start our careers! Thank you.
TAMARA HENDIN – ‘HYMN FOR THE HOMESICK KIDS’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? I wrote this song while reflecting after an evening out with friends in Summer last year, one of the first times as a big group after the pandemic. Everything about our time was wonderful, and in the moment I enjoyed it so much. But when I got home I felt so inexplicably sad. Possibly because I realised my enjoyment was temporary, and that things were going to change – or maybe I was just exhausted. Either way, I wasn’t sure why I felt the way I did and it really bothered me because I’d just had such a nice day. I felt guilty for still being anxious and on edge, even when everything I was experiencing should have made me feel content. Later bits of the song were added in hindsight almost like a prolepsis – sort of focusing on how I should’ve been more grateful and appreciated what I had. The conflict between trying to focus on the future where people want me to be looking, where I have to grow up – and trying to be grateful and ‘living in the moment’ – wound me up in the position of never feeling right ’in my own place’. I got all in my head about it, and came up with the metaphor of feeling homesick as the best way to describe it – not literally missing a house; but rather chasing a feeling of comfort that is far away from making important decisions and being forced to find your own feet.
What got you into writing songs? When I was in year 3 one of my friend’s dads started a ukulele club at school. I loved it so much and was so sad when we moved away. In a new place it was hard to adjust and continuing to learn songs really helped me come into my own. One day I showed one of my new friends who played the piano and we had a go at songwriting. We wrote a song together called ‘why do trees grow’ and recorded it and played it to the school. I started to develop a love for my dad’s music that he would play on CDs in the car (like the White stripes, the Kinks etc) before finding what inspired me too. From then on it picked up off the ground and I haven’t stopped writing songs since!
What does songwriting mean to you? Writing songs is one of the biggest parts of my identity that I have. Everything I experience gets woven into lyrics, even if it never reaches the final song and just sits in my notes. It is the most cathartic and satisfying way to express myself, and being able to pour out my feelings when I can’t talk to someone is the way I can organise my brain when I’m thinking too fast. It brings me closer to a lot of my friends and favourite teachers who give me constructive criticism. And it’s so rewarding when you write something you genuinely love and know people can relate to!
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I like it when I have a really strong chord structure that I can develop, because once the groundwork is done the lyrics come pouring out. It’s even better when the articulation of the lyrics is interesting and fits over the rhythm of the chords in a fun or catchy way. I think the best part though is the lyric writing, because I get to say exactly how I’m thinking with no rules.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? My creativity definitely comes in waves, so I don’t have a definitive process. Sometimes I have all my lyrics brainstormed before I even find a melody. Other times I have a chord progression and faint concept so I just start singing a random melody with completely random words until I find what sounds good. A lot of my songs are about something that has happened to me or someone else, or is about a concept. And if it doesn’t have any meaning, it’s a song about how I can’t write a song! The main way for me to get the ’spark’ is trying to listen to a lot of different kinds of music, involve myself in experiences, reading lots and observe everything – because you never know where inspiration can come from!
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. Me and my guitar on my bed in my room. Used a notebook to brainstorm and write down notes etc and my phone to record ideas into voice memos.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Probably Boygenius, I love them so much. I think I could learn so much from Elliot Smith if he was still with us, I love his music. I also think it would be awesome to work with Little Simz because I am so in awe of the way she puts lyrics to instrumentation.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Definitely do it, it’s such a good opportunity. Think of something that you can meaningfully write about and don’t be scared to come up with original or whacky titles and ideas. The more interesting the better, because there is such a great variety of songs entered. The best songs are the ones that are genuine and ‘you’ – bonus points if you can link the idea to something that many people resonate with!
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 Shaan Bhaskar’s song ‘HARP’ and Meg Curl’s song ’Singapore airport’. I would love to collaborate with these two and also Matthew Brown and Nina Savage because I liked their songs.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I like how well organised it is with social media etc. It also gives such a great opportunity to hear other people our age doing the same thing as me – I love listening to other perspectives. I’ve also found so many artists I now love from previous years (eg Lexie Caroll and Leona Mae) through listening to their songs and being inspired!
ELIZA LOVISE – ‘WILD OUT AT SEA’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? My song explores the relationship and “wild” emotions between two people in love, with imagery in the lyrics inspired by paintings and poems I’ve seen.
What got you into writing songs? I’ve always loved to sing and play instruments, and my dad is a great musician who inspired me to start writing my own songs we could play together.
What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting is something that helps me express not only my feelings, but my wishes for what my life will be like. When I was unwell in hospital earlier this year, songwriting was something that helped distract me, and cheered me up. Sometimes I write songs to people so I can tell them things I could never say.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I find satisfaction in the entire process of starting with a short tune, and slowly building the song up to a final product I am proud with. However, my favourite part is writing meaningful lyrics which fit the melody and production I envision for the song.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Usually, I start with a chord progression which sounds pretty and then find the vocal melody. This inspires and excites me to get in the zone with songwriting.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. I sat with my guitar on my bedroom floor and was so engaged with the song that I didn’t need more than me and my guitar for my setup.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I would love to collaborate with Lana Del Rey as I really admire her artistry and the care she puts into her entire image and persona.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? I would say that it doesn’t matter how high quality you think your songs are; if you have passion, and enjoy songwriting, it will show in your music and make them more beautiful.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I like that it gives any talented young songwriter the opportunity to show their songs to the world, despite any disadvantages they may have in terms of experience or recording equipment – it doesn’t matter, because the songwriting potential is what is being judged!
EVE COLE – ‘TESCO’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? I wrote my finalist song, ‘Tesco’, when I was 14, it was loosely inspired by that cheesy childhood romance you dream of when entering your teen years. I watched a lot of romcoms growing up and this song to me was the child of all the ideas I’d adopted about love at that age.
What got you into writing songs? Well I’d always loved writing and English from as young as primary school, so when I started piano lessons it only felt logical to write songs, I’ve always loved music. Either that or getting my Hannah Montana keyboard when I was a baby!
What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting is a way for me to express things I can’t say out loud. It’s more of an emotional outlet than anything. I don’t feel like I’m trying to achieve anything when I write but simply to portray my emotions to whoever decides to listen.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? The tweaking and perfecting it. I know many people hate those parts, where you feel like you’re in agony trying to fix the one line that doesn’t quite sound right. To me that’s the greatest part, being able to change a note or add an effect in production that makes you feel like the final piece of the puzzle is slotted in.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? All of my songwriting seems to come from nowhere! I find lots of inspiration to write after I’ve been to a live show, they’re definitely my favourite part of being involved in the scene. My favourite writing story was coming up with an idea in the middle of a GCSE Physics lesson, so I had to pretend to drop my pen to duck under the table and do a quick voice recording of what is now ‘Backrooms’, one of my favourite songs I’ve written!
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. I started writing the song at Young Musicians Project in Sunderland. Having access to such a lovely community of songwriters and mentors helped with my process. I recorded the song with David Brewis at Field Music Studios. I have worked with David and Peter several times and am going on tour with them for “The Soft Struggles” tour in May and June!
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I’d love to write with someone like Finneas O’Connell or Son Lux. I love both of their musical styles respectfully and especially with Finneas, I find his poeticism in his lyric writing to be beautiful and watching videos of his production process is fascinating!
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? I would say to not hesitate and just go for it! Having the opportunity to put your songs out there and explain their process while receiving feedback is such a unique experience. You have everything to gain and nothing to lose! I’d say be articulate and speak your heart.
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 absolutely loved Wild Out At Sea by Eliza Lovise. They had such a gorgeous sweet voice, the runs and harmonies throughout the song were incredible! The lyrics are very much of a style I enjoy, poetic but still telling a story, so I’d love to collaborate with Eliza.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I loved the playlist element! So often you get a list of finalists in competitions like these with no way to find them or appreciate their music and why they were selected, but having a soundcloud playlist so accessible has been lovely!
FAITH LOUISE – ‘HEARTBREAK?’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? It was song to express the unsureness and worry of your heart being broken in a relationship that’s actually a really healthy one. It explores the confusion of why such a good person has entered your life, and how the mind thinks about the what ifs and maybes. All feelings many of us feel and can hopefully connect to whilst listening to the song.
What got you into writing your finalist song? I loved being able to write and create a story that others could relate to. I was attracted to the way a track could make me think and write about certain topics.
What does song writing mean to you? Songwriting has always been a leash flowing outlet for me. I love taking the time to listen to a track and see what my mind can create.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part of the songwriting process is getting hit with all these ideas that could work with a song. I love being inspired by things I see and hear.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I start by listening to a track a few times, and start writing down words and melodies that could work. I build lyrics from here. One thing I think has been really important is not over working it. I only write when I want or need to.
Describe your setup that you used to write you #SAY23 entry. I unfortunately don’t have a pristine set up to create the music, so I wrote the song in my bedroom one evening and recorded it in a studio in London.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I would love to work with producers like Sigala and David Guetta. I love the type of tracks they create.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Focus on developing your sound and lyrics. They should speak clearly what you want to portray in the song. Also don’t feel pressurised nothing is going to be perfect.
What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition? Who out of the other entrants would you like to Collab with? Some of my favourite tracks from the other artists are ‘dearest one’ Sean Trelford, ‘lazy’ Sophie Feriani and ‘Set Me On Fire’ Roe Bryne
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I am excited by the amazing prices that could be won, as well as the amazing opportunities that are brought from being in and potentially winning the competition. Just to say I made it this far in a competition for writing music is a very big deal for me !
JOE GOODALL – ‘SELF ESTEEM’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? I started writing Self Esteem one day when I had a melody on guitar that I felt had quite a lovely hook however I didn’t feel any immediate inspiration from my own experiences or from the way I was feeling. I started thinking about a previous friend of mine who’s experience with a girl was causing him trouble. That common story of understanding the boundary between friendship and partner that at times with certain people can be impossible to distinguish.
What got you into writing songs? I’ve written songs since I can remember. My trick or treating trick would always be to play a newly written seasonal song on my bongo as a perplexed neighbour would look at the young 11 year old before him wondering “how does anyone move their hands THAT quick”. As I progressed into secondary school I developed a more in depth interest into the “science” or more so “art” of writing songs. I always leaned towards the the side of songwriting that would evoke a strong emotion from the listener and myself at the time of writing, generally a ballad of sorts and sometimes a slow sad yet hooky acoustic song.
What does songwriting mean to you? Everything. Without my passion for songwriting and my love for performing with and without my band I genuinely have nothing. My dedication to pursuing a career in the industry has taken over my life and become a full time job… well one that doesn’t pay haha!
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I feel like as songwriters we create songs using melodies, rhythms, lyrical styles and instruments that we ourselfves love and listen to so for me the most enjoyable part of the songwriting process is completing something that when played in full makes me feel something. Whether that be pride or excitement, the anger or sadness it took to come up with the song or something else but that final product is always the most rewarding. Oh and when you get those two lyrics that fit so juicily together right out of no where!
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? It’s literally different for everyone I’ve found after asking countless friends who write too. For me though again it comes back to the boring and cringy response of “I wait to FEEEEL something” that I know will engage my drive to write and produce a new song. I genuinely struggle for ideas a lot when I’m not in the position of feeling a connection with what I’m writing. I’m not a “religious or spiritual“ person, I purely just mean that in order to write songs I feel like I need to have some form of a connection with what I’m writing.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. Nothing complicated, I got my band together as we did a live recording into my laptop with our schools Scarlett equipment and then I took this home to send to #SAYS23. I then just told my story and answered the questions honestly hoping that my passion would shine through. Ps. I’m sorry I know the word “passion” is incredibly overused but sadly it does describe my personal dedication to the art of songwriting quite perfectly.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? This question is so unfair… just one! I hope it’s okay that I’m going to be cheeky and give a couple for different reasons. First of all, MATTY HEALY of the 1975. His songwriting is classic, it’s modern, it’s metal and it’s sob pop. It’s simply sublime. How anyone can effortlessly execute such a versatile range of styles both lyrically and musically, it blows me always. In this interaction I’d ask his partner in crime, George Daniels to tag along. I’m in awe of the song and the stories that the 1975 have made and just to tease me that little bit, my friends friend Bonnie Kemplay supported them on tour but I sadly don’t know Bonnie well enough at all to weasel my way into any chance of meeting the lads. Another song writer that I’d love to meet would be John Mayer. I’d ask him for a “John Mayers Dummy’s Guide” to playing guitar. I feel like his talent both vocally and musically beats pretty much everything I ever heard before. He takes song writing to a new level in which you sometimes believe he’s making the guitar sing too. Finally, so sorry for the long winded answer. I’d love a tri Collab with Sam Fender and James Bay. I think this is a collaboration that’s yet to occur but I feel as though these two incredible artists revolutionised modern pop music and commercial music by bringing back “Real music and real instruments” to the forefront of popular music. I realised that I’ve only actually talked about men but I could answer this question forever. Songwriters like Nanci Griffiths, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Elton John, Roger Daltery all people that I find fascinating.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Submit not what you think might do best but submit the track/s that you feel make you the proudest or the happiest to play. Then in the written section, don’t try too hard, just be honest and write with enthusiasm.
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’ve been listening to the top 30 whilst working for some time over the last few days and they’re all so so good. One I’ve been really loving is “Set Me On Fire by Roe Byrne. Really lovely, I’ve been enjoying it a lot! I would like to collaborate with Lilly Mae Chandler. HeR voice is beautiful and I love the accent too and I think the male and female vocal harmonies would work nicely.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I think it’s just a great opportunity for young artists to have their songs heard by professionals as well as get the opportunity to take their long for songwriting further than they might have otherwise felt possible. I’ve loved the journey so far and I just hope I can take it that extra step!
MANGSAM SENEHANG – ‘UNTITLED’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? I think it was after listening to a song off of SZA’s album SOS. The idea of a messy breakup seemed somewhat appealing to me. I’ve written songs about sad, regretful, ‘please come back to me’ type of breakups where I – as the singer – am being reminiscent and sorrowful for messing things up, but never a song where I’m like, “This breakup’s all your fault; you messed this up for us. I did my best, but you didn’t.” Initially, to get the song started was a challenge. It was only after hearing a random passing-by conversation where a person said, “What’s been said is done,” that it clicked in my head and the words seemed to flow out from there.
What got you into writing songs? It took a while for me to actually get into songwriting. I first learnt to play the guitar at the age of 8 or 9 and for a couple of years – around 2 years – I was pretty deadest on just playing the guitar. One day, I decided to sing and play. What came over me, who knows? Soon after, rather naturally, having played covers of songs for a few years, I challenged myself to write a song. I remember two things about the first song I ever wrote: (1) it was about how writing songs aren’t as hard as I’d thought it to be, and (2) it was awful. Vomit inducing, gut wrenching, head lurching awful. It’s unbearable to remember. To this day I still wonder what went through my head to think “Ah! I should write a cheesy song about writing a song!” I wrote a few things after that; all of which were dreadful, so I took a year off songwriting. My love for songwriting then came back after listening to Sam Kim’s album Sun and Moon. It was in December 2019 that I mustered up the courage to finally write a song. I ended up liking it and still like it to this day. I’ve been writing a fair bit since then.
What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting, for me, is a medium in which I get to both express my feelings and experience feelings that I never really knew I could feel. It can be almost like a form of therapy. It’s essentially like journaling, I suppose. There’s also this feeling of satisfaction, pride, and joy once I finish writing a song, so that’s a bonus too.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? Chords. I just love playing with chords. Finding chords that just work so well together is, to me, like buying a loaf of bread that’s still warm on a cold day. I realise it’s a weird analogy, but what I’m trying to say simply is that it brings me joy and pleasure. Sometimes, if a chord progression is extremely beautiful I’ll think to myself, “It’s almost worth forgetting it, for the feeling of finding it again.” Almost.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? It requires some sort of foolish bravery to start a song. Most times, I’ll pick up a guitar and mess around with chords, humming a melody over top of it. Sometimes, if I’m feeling ridiculously brave, I’ll mumble words over the chords, hoping some lines at least make sense. My spark is often sporadic. Some months I’ll have so many flashes of inspirations to write multiple songs, while some other months I can hardly come up with any ideas. Sometimes my sparks die out as the two people inside of me, the writer and the reader, disagree with each other; the reader doesn’t love the writer. It takes a while to overcome this. Thus, I tend to write songs that come about easily rather than fighting hard to write a song.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. Well, I first laid down a drum pattern (which was in 12/8) in my DAW. After that, I recorded a bass line for the verse, chorus, and solo section. From there, I recorded electric guitar via DI, which I ended up doubling for some reason. I also played some chords – similar voicings in relation to the guitar voicings – on an electric piano, recorded in via MIDI. Once I did all this, I recorded vocals by singing into an AT2020 condenser microphone. Finally, I then recorded the guitar solo; coming up with the solo took a while as I’d just loop the section over and over until I played something that felt ‘right’.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Ooh, a good question. It would be between John Mayer and Sam Kim. Both have had such a massive influence on how I write as a songwriter. They’re also both incredibly talented guitarists, and I very much look up to them as idols. It would be my dream to collaborate with them, let alone meet them in person.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Just do it. It’s a great opportunity to showcase your song to the world, and you get the chance to hear a whole load of other talented singer/songwriters similar in age. You can also get valuable feedback on your songs, helping you develop further as a songwriter. As a whole, it’s an absolutely brilliant 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? Out of the songs I listened to (all of which were phenomenal) I would say my favourite entries are: Heartbreak? – Faith Louise. Defend another day – Daniel Ajetunmobi. Til the morning – Isla Mae. Weirdo – Meg Curl
Who would I like to collaborate with? It’s a really tough question, but I’ll say that I would like to collaborate with Daniel Ajetunmobi, Isla Mae, and Meg Curl (yes, I chose three entrants because I couldn’t make my mind up…). I really like their songwriting and composition. I was particularly drawn in by Defend another day. I just really liked the acoustic guitar accompaniment – the harmonies were undoubtably tasty, one may say.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? The fact I get to listen to other songwriter’s songs. There’s just something special and exciting listening to a song someone your age has written. It’s really hard to explain, but it’s like finding a coin unexpectedly in a completely random place. I’ve also learnt a lot about myself and my process of songwriting as I was writing my song – I had to actually think about what I was doing. Not only that, I feel as if I’ve also learnt a fair share from listening to other entrant’s songs and hearing how they do things. It’s quite intriguing.
ROE BYRNE – ‘SET ME ON FIRE’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? I really wanted to write a song that sounded like something I would enjoy listening to. For way too long I wrote what I thought other people liked and what people thought was catchy instead of feeling the music & the lyrics myself. I absolutely love the lyrics in this song and I love the full sounding chorus which came from the creative freedom I had in the studio. This song is very heavily influenced by Dermot Kennedy’s “Without Fear” album with the acoustic start in to a huge chorus that fills your head & heart.
What got you into writing songs? I’m going to be mention Dermot Kennedy a lot here! I started listening to him in 2018 when I was 14 and started writing my first song 1/2 days after discovering him. The way he makes people feel with his music and the way his lyrics reach out to me is something I wanted to do for other people too.
What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting is a way for me to express myself to anybody who will listen. It’s a way for me to let people know they’re not alone in what they’re feeling but also gives me an opportunity to know that I’m not along in those feelings either. It’s an opportunity to connect with strangers that otherwise would walk straight past you. It’s my biggest love in life, I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t start putting pen to paper.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? When you have the first idea of a song, and then see it start to come to life with the chorus pulling it all together I get such a rush!! Especially when you try for so long to get the perfect format, chords & melody to make it sound just right.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I usually come up with a chord progression first and then I write down lyrics I think of during the day until something gets stuck in my head. Once a lyric resonates with me I know it’s a good place to start lyrically.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. This one is actually kind of funny a story. When I was studying for my leaving Cert I wasn’t the best at maths … so I used to sit in the back of the class and write lyrics. I wrote the first verse, pre chorus & the chorus in the the back of my maths copy!! When I got home I ran to my guitar and started trying to find a good chord progression and figured open chords would work best with the sound I wanted. This was the most fun I had while writing a song I think. It was great craic.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I would absolute love to collaborate with Dermot Kennedy. As I said above, he inspired me to start writing and I think I could learn an awful lot from him.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Write from the heart!! Write something you genuinely love so no matter what happens, win or lose, you’ll have a song you’re genuinely proud of.
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 think “Heartbreak?” – Faith Louise was my favourite. It’s very different to what I normally listen to but I absolutely love the vibe.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? It gives people of all ages an opportunity to get involved in the industry and see the competition that surrounds them. It also allows us to see other young artists trying to make their way through this industry!! Which is very cool to see.
SEAN TRELFORD – ‘DEAREST ONE’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? Well it’s the typical story, I got my heartbroken and I needed some way to express myself.
What got you into writing songs? I’ve always been easily inspired by unique work. For example, I remember I listened to Rock and Roll Nightclub by Mac DeMarco when I was 12, but instead of listening to it again and again, I just opened up GarageBand and tried to make my own version of it.
What does songwriting mean to you? I don’t want to sound too dull, but writing songs is what gives my life beauty. Making a song cures my ills of the usual, apathetic teenager.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? Playing drums whilst recording tends to be my favourite part of the songwriting process right now. I don’t get to play drums often as the neighbours won’t be happy cats if I do. I even got reported to the council for it!
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Communication. It’s not for my communication with an audience, whilst that is a small part of it. I want to communicate with how I feel and put that into a song, I don’t really mind if people don’t understand, I want to understand how I feel and be content with it. I guess it’s somewhat selfish thinking initially, but the songs I make mostly end up becoming general in terms of social circumstances, therefore, hopefully relatable to an audience.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. I wrote and recorded ‘dearest one’ when I was 14, I recorded it in my shed. I had a second-hand Yamaha snare, no-branded hi-hats and a cajon with a kick pedal for the drums. I used a usb guitar jack adapter, and for the vocals, acoustic guitar and drums/percussion, I used the microphone on some Apple wired earbuds. 2 years later though, my setup is much nicer now, using my brother’s old bedroom with an small drum-kit and I’ve got some actual XLR microphones.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? My dream collaboration would be Claude Debussy.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Just do it, Nike is right. You miss all the shots you don’t take.
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’m not too familiar with the entries, but Beauty by Matt Jones is my favourite. I would collaborate with Matt.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I think it’s a beautiful opportunity for young songwriters, it can be very hard for musicians (especially at this age) to find things or events that lift them up.
JS STARZ – ‘TTF’ (TALK TO FIST)
What inspired you to write your finalist song? A lot of things inspired me to write TTF (Talk to Fist). For example, just seeing some of my peers lose their drive and ambitions, made me realise that I need to make change. That I need to make real empowering tracks that will not just be sweet to the ears but also sweet to the soul. I had to step up and be a leader. I had to step up and help the world in a way that will be heard by millions so that they can live better lives. My entire purpose, my whole identity and who I am helped me write Talk to Fist. I just want to create peace. I don’t just see music as a game, a hobby, something to do on the side. I see music as my life, as a primary source to change the world. And I understand that some people may not appreciate but that won’t stop me from changing the small lives of the people who are inspired and empowered. I live this all. All for my people who may be lost.
What got you into writing songs? I feel like it was the fact that music was fun to make. Watching artists be free and have no control over how they act (to a certain extent) made me think to myself, I might actually enjoy this. So I hit up my cousin who does filming and I asked him to tell me how the industry works, so he did just that and after watching a few cyphers, it got me thinking I NEED to do this and then that’s when I started writing lyrics and grinding every single day.
What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting means the world to me. It’s a way of art, an expression where your words can change lives or destroy lives. The most powerful tool any human can be accustomed with. As I said before I try and make sure that I don’t write airy lyrics that will just go through 1 ear and out the other, I try and make sure that my writing is top tier and up to a high standard. Occasionally I would write a couple of fun tracks because it’s fun making some jumpy tracks where you can kinda get loose and mess around with wordplay, rhythm and other stuff. But to me songwriting is the pinnacle of music.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? It has to be when you create the lyrics and they don’t sit well, then you come back to them after a few hours and they just work. Then you proceed to write bars endlessly. For me that’s the best part because it makes me realise that what I was writing was actually good and can become a banger some day.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? It normally depending on the song I’m making. For instance, if I’m making a serious track, I’d sit in my room, lock myself in and play the beat over and over again until I can create bars. Or I’d sit outside and look at the sky to find something within the stars. Sometimes it could be on the bus, I’d be sitting on the bus and I’d see something interesting outside and that’s what sparks an idea. There’s sooo many ways.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. My fingers lol. It was just a simple set up to be honest. I just sat on my bed in my room and just started writing.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Good question. Probably Santan Dave, Kendrick Lamar, Hans Zimmer, Stormzy, Central Cee, Drake and Unknown T.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Just do it. Never feel like you need to wait for the ‘right time’ the right time is now. The fact that you signed up and tried is all that matters. Even if you don’t make it, next year sign up. Don’t worry about not making it or not feeling like that track is not the one because you never know. Let God handle what you can’t. Make sure you also believe in yourself as well. You’re your own biggest supporter, so make sure that you’re confident with your release and also keep it real. Everyone is seeking for something real, so If you create something real it may get appreciated little bit more.
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? To be honest I’d like to collaborate with all of them. They’ve all got talent in their own way, so it would be nice to work with them and see how they get things done.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I like the fact that it gives young aspiring artists to showcase their talent and show big musicians and producers what they’re all about. So to close off this wonderful interview. Thank you Song Academy for giving us all a platform where we could express ourselves!
COLE LAM – ‘JUST YOU AND ME’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? I wanted to write a love song, with a bit of a jazzy feel, and I thought that it would be a great idea to write a duet for me and my friend, Jess, to sing. The song itself is inspired by the classic “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon by how the style of the verses and the choruses vary against each other.
What got you into writing songs? When I was young, I had many small musical ideas for cool tunes, and I’ve always loved to create things I could call my own. So, since Covid, I’ve been writing many songs using my backlog of ideas, and I’ve just kept writing since.
What does songwriting mean to you? Each song you write is yours, which means that it’s personal to you, or unique and there’s a bit of me in every song I write. You can also share your own stories and feelings through music.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? Listening to your songs being played, either through production, or live band.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? Sparks just come to me really, but if I don’t have one at that moment, I can use inspiration from other songs and their concepts.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. The song itself was pretty much pen and paper, while the production was done on Logic.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I would’ve loved to collaborate with Freddie Mercury, because his range is effectively superhuman, but right now, probably Ed Sheeran, because of the way his first songs were produced, and performed with a looper. I’d like to know a lot more about it.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? If you like your song, then that’s a good start! Show your song to others, and ask them to be critical about it, and use the feedback to improve your song. The more people that hear your song, the better!
What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition? Who out of the other entrants (it doesn’t have to be a finalist!) would you like to collaborate with? I’m a fan of “A therapy session in North Carolina”, it gives me a vibe of “Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon” by Queen. I think “Heartbreak?” has a hummable hook, and I also really like the feel of “Untitled”. “TTF” is also really cool as it’s the only rap in there, and you can really feel the passion. If I were to choose one to collaborate with, it would probably by Jesse, since he raps in his song. (Is it him?).
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I think the competition is a great way to promote new music, and it encourages people to get out there and write songs. I’ve also found the feedback very useful and there are loads of places where I agree with what they had to say and I can learn a lot and improve.
ERIN O’SULLIVAN & OLLIE – ‘WHO AM I TO TELL’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? We tend to write folk/rock fusions as it is an exciting and unique genre. Both of us are fascinated by the modal landscapes created in folk music. The fusion element allows us to feel truly creative and have fun with the different features of each genre. The song itself is about sexual assault and follows the perspectives of two people. The first half of the song (before the chorus) is from the victim’s point of view. The second verse takes the perspective of a worried friend, watching how the assault has affected the victim. Sexual assault results in a range of complex emotions which I hope the song successfully demonstrates.
What got you into writing songs? Ollie first got into songwriting because they found that it was helpful being able to channel their emotions into music. Erin started writing songs because of similar reasons to Ollie however she also uses songwriting to help clear her mind. By separating her thoughts onto a body of music she is able to see everything from a third perspective. This makes navigating through problems easier.
What does song writing mean to you? Songwriting for us is a medium for expressing emotions and having fun. We see creating music as a social activity, providing space to bounce off each other’s ideas.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? The best part is that initial moment of pure happiness at the start of the songwriting process when we find something that has a lot of potential.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? When we write together, we usually improvise and play with chords until we find something we love. The main aim is to have fun with whatever we are writing.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. We recorded everything in Ollie’s living room which consisted of a basic home studio with garage band with an audio interface.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Ollie would love to collaborate with Boy Genius, Jack Antonoff or Eric Clapton. Erin would love to collaborate with the Foo fighters or Hozier. However, both of us would love to work with Jacob Collier because of the sheer enthusiasm and chaos he creates within his music.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? The most important thing to takeaway is to submit the song even if you are feeling nervous or insecure. Ultimately, you are not losing anything by signing up and it’s a great way to connect with other talented artists.
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 would love to collaborate with Joe Goodall- Self Esteem. We also loved Thomas Wigley’s ‘I’m Not Alone’ and Tamara Hendin’s ‘Hymn for the Homesick kids’.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? We like that it gives a platform to release music to songwriters of a wide age range. It’s also helpful in regards to being able to connect with other likeminded musicians. Overall, it’s a very exciting experience we are thankful to be a part of.
SIRINE – ‘WATCHING’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? “Watching” is a song that depicts a time in my life where I felt very low and so it was about the idea of misfortune looking down on me, “Watching” me. I love to tell vivid stories, and I hoped that each lyric of the line drew a section of the painting I was trying to bring into fruition.
What got you into writing songs? As a child my education of music first came from the musical wonders of Disney with their theatrical voices and larger-than-life orchestrations. Very quickly I began listening to all kinds of music and analyse what they did from Country’s way of storytelling to excellent improvisations branched from Jazz. My first ever song was written on an out of tune guitar about the joys of having a best friend but once I had lost my vision at 11 my music became very soulful and reflective.
What does songwriting mean to you? I think writing a song is one of the most beautiful things. You are creating something in the world that wasn’t there before, similar to an inventor. It is a way for me to tell my stories away from the mundane way of regular speech but rather the opportunity to help someone feel and see what you’re trying to express.
What is your favourite part of the songwriting process? My favourite part of the songwriting process will always be listening to the end product. It brings such a sense of serenity when you know that you’re listening to something that you’ve created. Although finality can be sad, it is almost like the song has finished growing up and is finally ready to be introduced to the world.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I have a strong belief that inspiration can only come from showing up so I make it common practice to create ideas and expand upon them each day. I continually note lyrical concepts or record melodic ideas inspired by various sources around me such as an event in my life, poetry, and simply observations of things around me. This is the start to what then becomes a fully blossomed song.
Describe your setup that you used to write your SAYS23 entry. In my room I have a laptop where I have Logic Pro X downloaded, as well as equipment such as my Audio Technical headphones, microphone, many cables, and instruments. My song was first came about on the piano which I then took to Logic and recorded Watching.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I have many therefore I should mention the blatant answer of Prince or Paul McCartney because of their worldly talents. I would then say Max Martin and Diane Warren as more recent writers.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? From the list of judges, I can see that their music really possess an emotional quality to them. If I were to ever advise anyone when entering, I would say to make sure your song has the ability to touch. A song is undeniable at that point.
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 enjoyed the song Self Esteem by Joe Goodall the most. The music really touched me here and I generally have a fondness for any song that brings me back in time, and so to me it stood out the most to the others.
What do you like about the Song Academy Songwriter competition? This answer will definitely be the panel of judges. There is such a broad range of writers which I think will contribute best to a fair judgement for the finals, and generally the quality of judges.
LILY CLARKE – ‘A HUNDRED YEARS’
What inspired you to write the song? I felt inspired to write this song after reading poetry online and listening to my favourite artists. After playing around on the piano I came up with the first verse then left it there. About a month later, I re-visited this as I saw the potential it had, so continued to write it. I go through phases of being really inspired to write a good song that I’m proud of.
What got you into writing songs? While growing up, I was always inspired by my favourite musicians – such as Pop artists at the time – and started trying to write little songs to be like them. However, when lockdown hit I really started to enjoy the process of writing songs and creating something original – with all the free time I had. I was also exploring a lot more new music through lockdown, such as Holly Humberstone, Maisie Peters and Olivia Rodrigo. These females artists really inspired me lyrically to improve.
What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting for me is a way to explore feelings I feel that I can’t put into words in person. Communication has always been something that doesn’t come easy to me to other people, and putting this into a song has always felt so much easier, and as if no one can judge what they haven’t heard. It’s somewhere for me to think creatively and process the thoughts in my head, as I’m always constantly thinking.
What’s your favourite part of the songwriting process? My favourite part of the songwriting process is when I have that ‘click moment’. This changes everytime, and is when I feel this idea is actually something special or is exactly what I’ve been needing to say but haven’t. That ‘spark’ is my favourite part.
How do you usually start a song? Starting a new song is different every time. Sometimes, a song can flood out of me, and almost writes itself. I start producing lyrics and melodies in my head and it can be that easy. Melodies and lyrics are always something that come at the same time for me, and work around each other. However, songwriting is not always easy. At times I have to make myself write, even if it’s just a verse and a chorus. This is for practice to keep my mind creative and improving. I’ve learnt you can’t always feel inspired 24/7, but with the patience, practice and life experiences, new and better things will come.
Describe your set up you used in your #SAYS23 entry. For ‘a hundred years’ the initial set up was just myself and my keyboard. I wrote this song fully acoustically. As for production, my boyfriend, George and I did this at the BIMM Birmingham studio on our days off college, or at either of our houses. I’ve currently been working on creating a more stable studio set up at home, allowing the flexibility for me to record at home professionally.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? There are so many talented artists I would adore to work with, however a big one is Taylor Swift. After hearing ‘folklore’ I fell in love with her writing even more, and this definitely influenced me forwards. Another artist I would love to work with is Holly Humberstone, I feel she’s so creative and has so much passion in her work. A dream producer would be Fineass or Dan Nigro, as they’ve both worked on some of my favourite albums ever production wise.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 entering the competition? For someone applying next year, I’d tell them to just keep writing and creating and submit a song you truly feel proud of, and not what is everyone else’s favourite. If you have passion about your submission and art that shows through and you’ll have so much to say about it.
What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition? One of my favourite entries of 2023 is Tamara Hendin’s ‘Hymn for the homesick kids’. I love an intriguing long title and the use of creative language. This would definitely be someone I would love to collaborate with. The backing vocals I also love.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter Competition? I like that the song academy songwriter competition is open to any young artist, as it can feel sometimes we don’t know how to share our music or get it heard. This is an amazing opportunity to do so.
MATT JONES – ‘BEAUTY’
What inspired you to write the song? My finalist song was driven by the unique distance from the constantly moving outside world that introverted people feel and how being an introvert (an intense one for that matter) is extremely rewarding but can always become quite lonely; Seeing many people your age entering relationships and experiencing experiences while you spend most of your time alone. And although you fully realise that you are the most settled this way, that awful feeling creeps back in again and again. “Beauty” is a heartfelt but desperate plea for love from somebody who feels it is uniquely impossible for them. This is very clearly shown in the refrain: “I’ll be after beauty all of my god damn life”.
What got you into writing songs? Honestly, I discovered the music of legendary songwriter and wordsmith Bob Dylan. In particular, I heard the track “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” and had the immediate thought that ‘this is what I have to be doing’. I was absolutely hypnotised by the way words and music could walk hand in hand so impressively. It beat any guitar solo I’d ever heard.
What does songwriting mean to you? The meaning of songwriting to me has changed over the years but today it is simply my voice. I know that sounds cliche, but it is true! Many songwriters will tell you the same. I’ve never really found the right words when talking to others in my life; I’ve never been able to talk about my troubles to anybody at all (not even family). But I listen back to all of my songs (even the bad ones) and realise that everything was right there! Right there in that line, that scream, that part that everything! In a way it’s how I feel human. That sounded weird.
What’s your favourite part of the songwriting process? It’s either that moment when the ‘perfect’ idea comes to you and a doomed song for example becomes something truly special. Or the first listen to the actually ‘finished’ product. The level of pride you feel from that (especially when you also produced and mixed it) is unbeatable.
How do you usually start a song? It always changes. But primarily I would say it’s a single lyric. I write everything down. I mean EVERYTHING. And every now and then I get something that ticks all the boxes: flowing, interesting and clever. Then I start getting imagery, ideas become more ideas and before I know it I have something that could really be SOMETHING.
Describe your set up you used in your #SAYS23 entry. I used Logic Pro, a midi keyboard, acoustic / electric guitars, one microphone, some decent headphones, and a good notebook. It was all done in my room.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Although he unfortunately passed in 2019, my dream artist to collaborate with is Daniel Johnston. Lots of artists naturally try to be ‘unique’ (including myself) but Daniel was someone who truly was like no one else; without him ever trying to be. I am in love with his music’s sincerity and nakedness. Plus he seemed like one of the nicest people and musicians to hang out with.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 entering the competition? Go for it. Your song and your voice deserves to be heard. You have nothing to lose. In terms of composition, I think it is important for your entry to have an underlying spirit and purpose that goes beyond the chords and words. Perhaps try to capture an energy rather than a “song”.
What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition? One of my favourite entries is ‘Tesco’ by Eve Cole. I like this track for its cute instrumentation (such as Roland drums and synth) and its lyrical wit. I love songs like this that keep things relatable. Another favourite is ‘A Therapy Session in North Carolina’ because of its similar lyrical cleverness but also its enthusiastic vocal performance. I would love to collaborate with Raine Harla for two reasons. “Starry” features only vocals and a beautiful yet simplistic piano performance which is something I always find a home within. Plus, it features rain sounds. And I love the rain so, so much.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter Competition? It feels accessible in a world where opportunities are largely inaccessible to artists without thousands of followers.
SOPHIE FERIANI – ‘LAZY’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? Inspiration can come from anything as long as you have the creative mind to work. What inspired me to write this song was the expectations we are set to have from such a young age. The older you get, the more expectations are placed on you. Especially as a teenager in this generation when it comes to university application season the amount of pressure that gets poured onto us is unimaginable. I decided to write this song with a little irony to it. I called the song “lazy” as that is what the typical teenager is usually labelled as. From personal experience, my parents also often call me lazy. Hence, I thought that using this term would allow the song to resonate with a wider audience. I also wanted to incorporate the idea of feeling drained out, trying your best and putting in the effort, yet it is not being recognized by anybody and most importantly our parents. I continued to play on the idea of this with some irony where I just labelled myself as lazy and the chorus is a list of all the things people assume we are doing rather than actually making the effort to know what we are doing. To conclude, the idea of this song is how we are set with so many expectations and no matter how hard we try, we will still be labelled as lazy.
What got you into writing songs? I have always been a keen musician and singer from a young age, but I only got into songwriting at the age of 15. It was during Covid and I had just watched this Netflix show called “Julie and the Phantoms”. The show was about a teenage girl who would perform and write songs with these ghosts. I loved the idea and thought about getting into songwriting myself. Ever since I have just been writing consistently and never stopped. I also wanted to try recording a song, so I wrote my first song and recorded it at home with a friend who knew basic music production. We worked together, I released it, and that gave me the punch of adrenaline I needed to motivate me and become a songwriter.
What does songwriting mean to you? Songwriting is my way of letting out emotions rather than bottling them in. I use this way of writing as free therapy in a sense. I can release anything I am feeling or thinking, into a bunch of words that mean something. I love to write music about situations that I am living in or emotions that I am feeling, because it allows me to connect with a wide range of people who are also going through the same or similar situations as me.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? Although I greatly enjoy the entire process of songwriting, my favourite part of the process would have to be the start, where I am figuring out a melody or chord progression with my guitar or piano and putting pieces together. I find this part sort of like a game, as the chords and melody are what give me the inspiration on what to write about, whether it be a happy progression or a sad progression, it is like the first step in the creation of my song, and it really gets my rush going. Writing down the first few lyrics is also an amazing feeling as that is when I have set down the basis for the song and I just continue to go from there. Songwriting is a beautiful thing, and it is great to have the opportunity to share it with so many people.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? My spark depends on the situation. If I have a bunch of emotions bottled up inside me then that will be my spark. I use those emotions and write about what I am feeling. On the other hand, I tend to write about a scenario that has occurred in my life and then that is what I write the entirety of the song about. The way I usually go about writing a song is with a melody, I am always at the piano or holding my guitar when I am about to write a song. I tend to find that the ideas come pretty naturally at times and I have never faced a full writer’s block as some mention.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. The setup for this song was actually pretty different from my usual songwriting set-up. I was at the recording studio with two of my producers. I was sitting on the sofa with Google Docs open and the beat being created in the background simultaneously. Although this isn’t usually how I write my songs, changing environments and being in a room with different people can always help spark imagination and bring things to life, such as these ideas for music.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? I would find it an honour to work with any artist/writer/band as each moment and collaboration is an experience where we all find ways to grow from each other. However, my dream person to work with would have to be Dua Lipa, Sabrina Carpenter or Taylor Swift. These three female artists have some sort of magic when writing their music and I admire them for it. Taylor Swift has a unique craft when writing the lyrics to her music and I can’t think of any other artist who could produce the same stylistic work. As for Dua Lipa, the energy that she carries within her music is so powerful, and therefore working with somebody who I look up to like her would be a dream come true. Last but not least, Sabrina Carpenter has always had a soft spot in my life. I have been following her through the progression of her career, starting off in TV and now flourishing into an artist. I love the way Sabrina connects with her audience and brings it to a personal level. I believe that being able to work with any of these three artists would be an honour, privilege and a dream come true.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? To anybody having the slightest thought about entering the competition I would say do it. If you don’t ask you don’t get. You don’t lose anything in entering this amazing and well-known competition. It is a great learning experience. At worst, somebody would have been able to read your work and eventually discover you and help you shine. A tip I would give you is to be personal and be yourself, but find a theme/topic that people would be able to connect with. The more emotionally connected somebody feels to your song the better. Hence, honestly the best thing that I would say to do is try to find a way to connect with others through your words.
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 entries from this year’s competition are those from Venice and Belle. I believe that they work well together and are able to bring each other up along the process. Being able to collaborate with them would be great as the three of us have quite distinct styles but at the same time that is what could make us stronger, complementary and create something beautiful, unique and impactful.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I believe that the entire concept of the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition is great. It allows young songwriters from all around the world to have the opportunity to participate and share their work. I love how they are supportive throughout the entirety of the process and that they do their best to assist the people who are partaking in it no matter what stage of their life and career they are in.
ARLO REDMAN – ‘YOU ARE THE LIGHT’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? We finished writing the song late last year around September, and it all came from a track that I made just for fun. Adam said that it was a cool instrumental and it had potential so we started writing and changing chords and production etc. the song took us a few months to actually finish writing but we love the result.
What got you into writing songs? I got into writing songs when I got to my school really. As people were very musical, and I just produced, I forced myself to start writing myself and co writing with other people. It was eye opening!
What does songwriting mean to you? It means a lot to me as I want to build a bridge between the writer and the listener through words and melody. It’s a hard thing to do but it’s possible.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? My favourite part of the process is forever finding that one melody or note that makes a song have character and its own personality. I usually start my songs with a chord progression that I make on my laptop. I find it’s the easiest for me.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. The setup was a mix of bedrooms and school studios. We wrote different parts of the song in all different places!
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? My Dream artist to collaborate with would be Martin Garrix or Loyle Carner. They are very different but I’ve learned a lot from both worlds.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? If I was to tell someone about entering the competition next year, I would tell them to not worry about how catchy or what other people think of it. If it makes you feel good and it makes you feel happy and proud, then that’s a perfect song.
What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition? Who out of the other entrants (it doesn’t have to be a finalist!) would you like to collaborate with? One of my favourite entries was ‘Lazy’ by Sophie Feriani. I loved the way the melody sits on the groove and the lyrics are also very cool.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? What I like about this competition is the fact that anyone who is looking to try and become a writer, can find recognition through this competition, no matter your age. I think that is special.
ADAM O’CONNOR – ‘YOU ARE THE LIGHT’
What inspired you to write your finalist song? Arlo, my collaborator and one of my closest friends was playing me a beat he made at school, and I immediately loved the vibe and started singing different melodies to it. After bouncing ideas back and forth, we eventually came up with the top-line melody and lyric. I had the idea of having our friend Saskia sing the lead vocal as her voice is great and really suits the vibe of the song. I’m really happy with the end result!
What got you into writing songs? Ever since I can remember I have always loved music. Both my parents come from a musical background, so I’ve grown up listening to many different styles throughout my life. I started playing piano when I was three years old, and when I got older, I started to pick up other instruments such as Guitar, Bass and Drums. I was 10 years old when I wrote my very first song. I remember thinking it was really good at the time but listening back 8 years later I can say it was NOT! However, it was the start of my love for songwriting, and from that day on I’ve gone on to write many, many more songs as well as form my own sound as an Artist.
What does songwriting mean to you? It means everything to me! I literally live and breathe music and I’m not sure what I would be doing right now if I didn’t have music. There’s always a new song idea playing in my head and it’s so rewarding to be able to turn a small idea into a finished song and play it to my friends.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? One of my favourites aspects of songwriting is collaboration. I love bouncing back and forth different ideas with my friends and eventually coming up with something that both of us love. It’s so much fun to be able to write with others and enjoy music with like-minded people.
How do you usually start a song? I usually start with a melody in my head or a chord progression on the piano, and I will try to develop the music first, recording the melodies with some made up gibberish into my phone. Most of the time I will listen back to the idea and hear real words inside the gibberish I’m singing, and sometimes this will guide my way intro writing the concept and lyric for the song – I always find that the first time singing a melody is when the real feeling of the song is captured, and the made up vowel sounds I sing end up being close to the final lyrics in the song! For ‘You Are The Light’, I wrote the melody first, before writing the lyric, whilst Arlo worked on the track making it sound great. How do you find that spark? Arlo and I work really well together, especially with dance music as that’s Arlo favourite style. During break times at school, we would always find ourselves coming up with songs. We have hundreds of ideas! I think we both complement each other really well as we both have something different to bring to the song writing process.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS23 entry. Arlo and I wrote ‘You Are The Light’ in one of the music rooms at school. I was by a piano playing the chords and singing ideas down and he was on his computer creating the track! We produced the track using ‘FL Studios’.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? There are so many! One of my all-time favourite Artists is Jon Bellion. I love all his songs and his productions are so unique. He’s also a very prolific songwriter who’s worked with everyone and it would be a dream to collaborate with him. There are many other songwriters who I think are incredibly talented and would love to one day collaborate with such as: Mike Sabbath, Ethan Gruska, Ian Kirkpatrick, Jacob Collier…to name a few!
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? I’d say absolutely go for it! You have nothing to lose. It doesn’t matter what stage you are with your song, whether it’s a fully produced track, or if it’s just a voice memo on your phone, if you believe in your song and have a passion for songwriting, then go for it! A great song will always come through.
What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition? There are so many good songs! I really liked the melody of ‘What You’d Want’ by Abbie Gordon as well as the overall vibe of ‘Lazy’ by Sophie Feriani.
Who out of the other entrants (it doesn’t have to be a finalist!) would you like to collaborate with? I’d love to collaborate with Roe Byrne as I really liked his song and I think we would both write something really cool together.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? It’s giving young musicians a wonderful opportunity to express themselves through music, which is so great! I love to share my music with others and perform, and to be heard by the incredibly talented judging panel is such an amazing opportunity! Thank you so much, Song Academy!