Santana Gayle is 17 years old from London and her song ‘Homegrown’ was selected as a top 60 song in The Song Academy Young Songwriter 2020 competition 13-18 year UK/Ireland category. We caught up with Santana recently to talk about all things songwriting!
What inspired you to write your song? The song is about our different perceptions of London as we grew up in different areas so the main inspiration would have to be London itself. I have an endless appreciation for where I’ve grown up despite all its imperfections.
What got you into song writing? Growing up, my parents played lots of different types of music and unknowingly to them I was paying attention to the different beats and melodies. Being young and not knowing much about the song making process, I was just intrigued and always though “how did they put that melody with this beat together” or “I wonder how they thought of those lyrics”. When I first started writing it was short little poems to no music, but as I grew, I started writing to instrumentals of my favourite songs and eventually I got to where I am today.
What is your favourite part of the song writing process? I think my favourite part of the song writing process is creating different countermelodies and adding extra layers to the baseline of a project. As a fan of music before anything, I love when you can listen to a song and notice something different in the vocal layers each time. Therefore I try to incorporate that into my songs whether it be for my own vocal or someone else’s.
Describe the setup that was used to write your SAYS20 entry; was it just pen and paper or a full kitted out studio? For this project we were situated in a studio for the writing of the chorus and my first verse in where we used our phones, but for the writing of the remainder of the song we separately wrote at home. I use whatever is closest when inspiration hits whether it be pen, pencil, my laptop or my phone (its usually my phone).
How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? I would love to say I write an amazing song a day, but that’s not entirely true. I feel my best content occurs when I’m in the right mood and mindset. When writing and putting emotion into something, it can be tiring and also triggering if writing about things that are sensitive or of high importance to you. Once I’m in the right mindset, I usually start with searching for a beat that I enjoy and just hum flows and melodies until I catch something I think is good. Whilst doing this I’m usually recording on my phone so I don’t forget anything I may have said in the moment. If the amount of ideas isn’t endless by halfway through my writing process I will move on to a new beat/ idea because when I force myself to make something work, it doesn’t create the best outcome.
My creative spark tends to appear at random times of the day where I’ll think of a nice bar and immediately rush to write it down. I’ll find myself opening my notes at 4am just to write down 1 line that I dreamt about or in the middle of a class trying to find some spare paper before I forget the line.
Who would be your dream artist/writer/ band to collaborate with? There’s many people I wish I could collaborate with, but one of my main influences growing up was N-Dubz. As I grew up around Islington and Camden, they were probably one of the first people I saw who were making music from where I’m from. For this reason they are legendary to me and to have them reunite for a collab with me would be a dream come true.
What made you enter SAYS20? How did you hear about it? The co-artist of our entry told me about it and sent me the Instagram page. We had not long released Homegrown so we though “why not?”. We had a really good original song, so we decided to enter.
What would you say to someone age 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? If you have full faith in your song, then you have nothing to lose by entering the competition. Even if not a finalist, you’ll have the opportunity to see the work of people of a similar age of you and even potentially collaborate with them through reaching out and networking.
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 all the entries are great, but my absolute favourite was probably Miss Moresha. Her strong soulful voice reminds me of Jasmine Sullivan and the song “no one’s fool” itself is just very powerful and has a clear story.
What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition? I think it offers a great opportunity for young inspiring artist and also allows for a collaboration and more creation amongst the artists themselves if they decide to reach out to someone else who entered the competition.