We’re delighted to announce the top 3 songs in The Young Songwriter 2020 competition, International category! Drum roll……..the top 3 songs in alphabetical order are:

Cloud 9 by Nadia Ahadi

Suicide Season by Jo MacKenzie

Ten by Jordyn

The winner will be announced at a special Instagram live event on Saturday 20th June from 2 – 3 pm BST.  Stay tuned to our social media channels – Instagram, Facebook  and Twitter  for latest news on special VIP guests joining us.

We caught up with Nadia, Jo and Jordyn to talk about all things songwriting!

NADIA AHADI (17 years old from Jakarta, Indonesia) 

What inspired you to write your song?  I’ve always thought about writing something about cheering people up during a tough time. Everybody goes through it, yet so little people want to talk about it. Writing a song about it will encourage people to open up and build a more supportive community.

What got you into writing songs?  From hearing my favourite artists write about things that they are deeply passionate about, I’ve always wanted to try seeing how I would express my personality through music as they have done it. I also enjoy writing poems or short stories, so I figured combining my love for writing and music would allow me to expand my creativity, especially if the songs are about things I deeply care about and would like to share without directly stating it, as I know people are going to take different interpretations of it.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process?  When I find the right lyrics and chords that deliver the message of the song in a way that is easy to listen to and catchy as well. It was also thrilling to be able to work with my arranger and see how she envisions the song in her own way that I appreciate and enjoy. Producing a song in a studio was a new experience for me, so I learned a lot more about how the music and song itself would come together.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS20 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  Writing Cloud 9 was actually me first learning chords on the ukulele while typing out possible lyrics on my phone. This was all done on the floor inside my room. I had no idea why, but just sitting down on the hard wooden surface gave me reassurance that even though I was on the lowest height and position, my mind was able to wander off to the highest of heights, and I was able to focus and give myself enough pressure and drive to create without being too comfortable, which would probably happen if I was sitting on the warmth my bed.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  It usually depends on what I feel and what state of emotions I am in, so it is sometimes difficult to find the spark. However, if there is either a high or low moment in life I would want to either remember or get out of my mind, I would write songs as a memoir or a coping mechanism for the things that happen. I would start out by either writing notes about a certain theme, how I felt, then I’d find a tune on an instrument and associate that with modified lyrics.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?It’s difficult to choose, but it would probably be Sabrina Claudio or Phum Viphurit because I’ve always enjoyed listening to all of their songs which never bore me. Since they both are artists from different genres, it would be a great opportunity to get a share of their writing or thought process when creating songs that produce varying styles but equally uplifting outcomes.

What made you enter #SAYS20? How did you hear about it?  I first heard about it from my friend (Andrea Turk) and decided to give myself a try. I’ve never been in any songwriting competitions before so I thought this would be a good experience to start off with, even if I didn’t win.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?   I’d say do it. Don’t be afraid and put an immense amount of pressure on yourself because that kills the joy and fun of making your song to only meet the qualities of others. Do it because you love writing and you love the experience. I would say write a song that means a lot to you, a song that contains a special message that a lot of people could take into consideration and gain appreciation for.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I like that this competition allows various young achieving artists around the world an opportunity to express their various styles of music, finding that each writer’s song consists of different messages that can communicate itself in various ways, inspiring others in the process as well. It’s incredibly interesting to see a wide range of cultures coming together to share their same passion for music and songwriting.

JO MACKENZIE (16 years old from Kansas City, USA)

What inspired you to write songs? When I was 8, I remember watching the Disney Channel show Austin and Ally and was so inspired to write songs. My best friend and I then wrote a bunch of songs and tried to perform them whenever we could. From there, I learned how to play piano and guitar, and also began producing with Logic and Ableton at 11. I then released my first song “C.U.R.E.” when I was fourteen and have been releasing music since.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process?  Regarding the songwriting process, writing the production elements is one of my favorite parts of the process. Another favorite part of mine is being able to sit down and work through emotions via songwriting.

Describe your setup that you used to write your #SAYS20 entry, was it just a pen and paper or a fully kitted out studio?  For the three songs that were chosen as finalists, two were recorded in my bedroom (I Should Come With A Warning Sign and Suicide Season) while the other one (Just Like the Rain) was recorded in a studio. However, all of them were written by myself in my bedroom!

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark? My inspiration can come from anywhere. When I was younger, I really loved classic/soft rock n roll, such as Elton John and Billy Joel. To this day, other artists also inspire me, as well as real-life experiences and stories. It might be a cool lyric, an intense feeling, or an interesting chord progression that inspires me to write a song. The spark can come from anywhere!

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?My dream collaborations would include Jack Antonoff, Ricky Reed, Jason Evigan, Taylor Swift, Lorde, and Maggie Rogers.

What made you enter #SAYS20? How did you hear about it?  I entered #SAYS20 because it seemed like a great opportunity for young songwriters to find their voice and share their creations. I found it while actually looking for songwriting competitions, and I honestly wish I had found it when I was younger, for it is really cool!

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  If someone was thinking about entering the SAYS competition next year, I would highly encourage it! My advice would be to write a song from the heart and do your best to get a quality recording of it. However, the most important part is the songwriting and not the production/recording quality.

What do you like about The Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I like how the SAYS competition gives young writers a voice and place to promote and celebrate their work.

JORDYN (17 years old from Sydney, Australia)

What inspired you to write your song?  10 was inspired by the street I grew up on. I was looking at old photos and a few images really stuck out to me; little plastic cars, chalk, playing in the garden. The song took shape really quickly and I think that was because I didn’t have to create the images, they were already there in my memories and all I had to do was translate them into words.

What got you into writing songs? The first song I wrote was a present for my mum and it was about how much I love her (cliche I know, but I was 10). After that I didn’t write again until my mum pushed me to. I had hit a wall and was bored singing covers, but I didn’t know what else I could do. Without my mum pushing me to write I don’t think I would have started again, or at least not for a while, and I would not be the artist I am today.

What is your favourite part of the songwriting process?  My favourite part is the satisfaction I feel  when I finish a verse or chorus or find the perfect chord. Songwriting is a lot of trial and error and improvisation so when I find the chord or the words I’m searching for it’s the best feeling, especially if I’ve been stuck.

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 have a ‘music area’ in a study that I share with my dad and on the wall behind my desk I have a collage of my favourite artists and songs. I find writing in this space rather than on my bed or somewhere else helps me stay focussed and on track.

How do you usually start a song? How do you find that spark?  I usually start with chord progression that I pay on repeat and improvise over or I’ll start by listing keywords or phrases and create some rhymes to build upon. I think that having a strong foundation for a song (lyrical ideas, chords etc) is really important… I find that when a progression or a phrase sparks something in me, those songs turn out the best. I have stacks of half-written songs that I just haven’t clicked with.

Who would be your dream artist/writer/band to collaborate with?I would love the chance to write with Julia Michaels. She has had so much experience as a songwriter before she made a name for herself as an artist and has worked with so many successful artists. Getting the opportunity to learn from her would be a dream.

What made you enter #SAYS20? How did you hear about it?  My mum saw the competition on Facebook and we thought it would be a good opportunity for me to keep active since all of my gigs have been cancelled.

What would you say to someone aged 8-18 who is thinking about entering the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition next year? Do you have any tips for them?  I would say if you are thinking about doing it, just do it! There is no harm in submitting your song, especially when you have the chance to be heard by some amazing people and possibly win great prizes. It can be daunting at first, but once you enter a competition a whole new world opens up for you and you find so many more opportunities to put yourself out there.

What do you like about the Song Academy Young Songwriter competition?  I really enjoyed listening to everyones songs! In other competitions I’ve entered, I haven’t had the chance to hear other entries. I feel like hearing everyone else’s songs made it feel less like a competition but more of a community and exchange, which was really nice given the disconnection we are all experiencing at the moment.


The winner will be announced at a special Instagram live event on Saturday 20th June from 2 – 3 pm BST.  Stay tuned to our social media channels – Instagram, Facebook  and Twitter  for latest news on special VIP guests joining us.