We’re super excited that Sebastian Croft has joined our Young Ambassadors Board. As well as being a keen songwriter and musician, Sebastian is an actor, who’s been in five feature films; The Hippopotamus (written by Stephen Fry), Wonderwell (with Carrie Fisher and Rita Ora), Music War and Love (with Stellan Skarsgård and Adelaide Clemens), Where is Ann Frank and Horrible Histories The Movie (in which he plays the lead role of Atti). We caught up with Sebastian recently to talk about all things songwriting!
What got you into music? Did you immediately start writing it or were you a fan for a bit first? I definitely was a fan first, but I never had classical music lessons so my playing and writing journey kind of coincided with each other – learn on the job type thing. My desire to express how I felt is what pushed me to learn more about the piano and guitar – rather than already having the skills and then starting to create.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? For me, maybe it’s a line in the verse or maybe it’s the first time you hear the chorus in your head, and that becomes the cornerstone that you build a song around. Even though sometimes you end up scrapping the initial ideas because by the time its finished the song has morphed into something different, or more refined, but those bits early on where you start to hear something you like, and you can begin to see the road map of what it will be, that’s the best bit. Also the first time you show your song to someone or perform it, there’s this feeling of letting them into something really private, like telling a friend a secret and its horrible and amazing at the same time.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? It can be very different. Sometimes it’s a line that sounds cool, but I think the best songs are where you feel you have something you need to say, often to a specific person, and it’s more of a journey of expression than it is of creation. You spend time trying to relive feelings and emotions, sometimes good sometimes painful. It sounds ridiculous and is something hard to articulate, but that’s how it is for me. Everything I do around that (listening to a broad range of music, reading poetry, learning new chords on the piano or guitar) that is about sharpening my tools, so that when that desire to write hits, everything is in tip top condition and ready to go.
What achievement are you most proud of? I wrote a song about a very specific friend of mine because I was worried about him and the decisions he was making, and the song was super whacky and to most people was gibberish, but I played it to another friend of mine who said, this may not be what you intended but all I could think about was X which I’ve have problems with in the past. The idea that I managed to communicate something very specific without it feeling clichéd was an amazing feeling, and something I spend all my time trying to do again. I think music is very unique in that way, you can feel something you think only you feel, and yet so many people will (hopefully) relate to it in the same way. It’s about making a human connection on a deeply personal level.
Which of your songs do you think is your best work and why? I don’t think I’m far enough along the song writing journey to make that judgement, and I also hope that to different people, different songs mean more than others (and that my best songs are yet to come!). However I wrote a love song called Chess, that to me is so obviously about a specific person, and yet most people would have no idea who it is. It’s like a secret message put out in public that only we can read.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? This is a hard one because my favourite artist literally changes on a daily basis. I think it would probably be Easy Life. Their songs are just so creative and I’d love to see how they write.
Do you feel like you’ve mastered your craft or are you still learning? If you’re still learning, what’s your next milestone? If I ever say that I’ve learned everything, and there’s nothing new to say, then I must have just given up. It’s a constant learning experience, and I all the people I look up to seem to have mastered basic skills to the point where it’s not a conscious decision its almost innate, and that’s what I strive for.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about writing songs but hasn’t started yet? Or do you have any tips for 8-18 year old songwriters who are already writing?
However old you are, or wherever you’re at in your song writing journey, just start writing, and know that no one, not even your favourite artist, wrote the perfect song when they first tried writing, quite the opposite. I look back at some of the songs I wrote even 6 months ago, and I think how I’d do them differently, and I hope in 6 months’ time, I’ll look at the songs I write today and have grown and therefore would do them differently, because it’s a long and beautiful journey, and everyone has a story to tell. So the sooner you start, and stop being scared of it not being perfect and start embracing that there will be lots wrong, the sooner you can start learning and evolving. Soon you will be creating exactly the kind of music you want to hear, and trust me there is no better feeling. And to others out there writing, I don’t feel nearly qualified in any way to give advice. Just glad there are other people, like me, passionate about the same things. So thank you, and keep going!
Favourites round! Don’t think about it, just say what first comes to mind. Who/what is your favourite:
Tom Fletcher (defined by the fact that he has written such a broad range of different songs – pop, musical, classical – and transcends all genres)
Viva la Vida (Cold Play)
24K Magic (Bruno Mars)
Cm 7th with an A flat in the base (no idea what it’s called but I’m in love with it)
Gig you’ve been to?
I saw Easy Life at truck festival and that was amazing.
“I was meant to tread the water, but now I’ve gotten in too deep” (James Morrison)
Everything and anything. I don’t think it’s helpful to think of music in genres, it’s way too restrictive and, in my opinion, sets boundaries which hinder creativity.
That’s what she said (The American Office).
Really sour blueberries
What’s your instrument of choice? Is there an instrument you would like to learn? Piano is my instrument of choice, and I’d love to wake up and be amazing at the double bass.
Do you have any hidden talents or party tricks? I used to do lots of magic when I was younger, bit rusty now, but still have a few tricks up my sleeve..
What are you non-musical hobbies? Am currently obsessed with making TikTok videos.
What do you think matters most to 8-18 year olds? Being heard.
What do you like about Song Academy?
The talent I saw at last year’s Young Songwriter competition was off the scale, insane, incredible.