Malvina Bhatia-Guerin is 17 years old from New York and her songs ‘Metamorphosis’ and ‘Real World’ were selected as top 40 songs in The Song Academy Young Songwriter 2020 competition International category. We caught up with Malvina recently to talk about all things songwriting!
What inspired you to write your song? I wrote “Metamorphosis” at a time when I felt like the world was moving too fast: it seemed like everyone around me was growing up and leaving me behind. So far, my teenage years were nothing like the way they were depicted in movies, and I was scared that I was going to miss out on the stereotypical parts of growing up that I’d been taught to expect by the media. Comparing myself to the people who appeared to have everything figured out only heightened that fear.
When I wrote “Real World,” I had just decided to major in music business in college. While I was so excited to continue my music journey, I knew that finding a job in the industry is not a guarantee. Was I making a mistake? Would this eventually lead me to the kind of life I wanted? How could I even know the king of life I wanted at 17? My plans felt so flimsy and unsure and I wondered how other people didn’t seem to have the same fears as I did about their future.
What got you into writing songs? I had always been fascinated by songwriting, and I used to watch interviews of my favorite musicians talking about it obsessively, but I never really thought about doing it myself until I was 13. One day, out of the blue, an idea for a hook popped into my head, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Finally, I grabbed my guitar and wrote the rest of the song in about 30 minutes. I’ve been writing songs ever since!
What is your favourite part of the songwriting process? I love the moments of sudden inspiration I get while writing where my ideas seem to be coming faster than I can sing them or write them down. It doesn’t happen right away, or with every song, but there are sometimes inexplicable moments when something in my brain dislodges and I am able to see the idea fully-formed. I also love playing the song back at the end of a writing session and the excitement that comes from having created something from nothing.
Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS20 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio? I wrote both of the songs I submitted on guitar sitting on my bedroom floor. I have a notebook that I use for writing down lyrics and chords, and I always keep a recording on my phone as I write so that I can go back and find a lyric or melody if I forget it.
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I very rarely get ideas for melodies/lyrics out of the blue. Usually, I have a vague thematic idea for a song I want to write, and I sit down and try to come up with a chord progression that matches the mood on guitar, piano, or ukulele. Then, I start trying out different melodies and lyrics over it. Other than that, I don’t have a very strict process. The “spark” doesn’t come until later, if it does come at all. This just goes to show that you don’t have to be born a good songwriter to become one! Songwriting is something you can practice and get better at, even if fully-formed ideas don’t seem to come to you.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with? Taylor Swift! She is such a talented songwriter, and I think I could learn a lot from her.
What made you enter #SAYS20? How did you hear about it? I was looking for songwriting-related scholarships to apply to, and I stumbled upon this competition. It seemed like a really cool opportunity and was open internationally, so I decided to enter.
What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them? Don’t get too in your head about your songs! I know how easy it is to be critical of your work, but sometimes wanting every little detail to be perfect can actually be a hindrance. Art is meant to be messy and imperfect, so write from your heart and have fun with it!
What are your favourite other entries from this year’s competition? Who out of the other entrants (it doesn’t have to be a finalist!) would you like to collaborate with? I really liked 10 by Jordyn, A Million Hours and Shimmering Blue by Sadie Mustoe, Cloud 9 by Nadia Ahadi, Kanye 2020, and Heights by Outline. I would love to collaborate with Sadie Mustoe
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I love that it’s directed towards kids! I think encouraging kids to find productive ways of expressing themselves and making art is incredibly valuable.