Songwriter Q&A: Right to be loved

Find out what inspired some of the young people at Song Academy who wrote the gorgeous Right to be loved.

Songwriter Q&A: Right to be loved

The upbeat and catchy song Right to be loved – now in our Song Bank – was written by eleven incredibly talented young songwriters as part of Song Academy, a community of young songwriters aged 7-18. Developing young people’s songwriting talents, Song Academy builds their confidence and gets their songs in front of the music industry through a nationwide songwriting competition.

The premiere performance of Right to be loved was at the Voice In A Million show at Wembley Arena in March 2016 and supports the VIAM mission of raising awareness of adoption and fostering.

We got in touch with five of the Right to be loved songwriters to find out about their experiences working on the song and what having this musical outlet means to them.

Ella Bleakley, 14

How long have you been writing songs?
Since I was 7.
Do you play an instrument?
I play piano and a bit of guitar.
Who are your songwriting idols?
Bruce Springsteen, Ella Henderson, Queen, Johnny Cash, Ed Sheeran.
What songs do you wish you had written?
Yours by Ella Henderson, Halo by Beyonce, English Rose by Ed Sheeran.
What was the first song you wrote and what was it about?
The first song I wrote was called Being Me With You, about my best friend and me, and how I could be myself around her.
What inspires you when you write songs?
Most of the time I like to write about real life experiences that have happened to me or to people I know, or about world issues. If I read stories that are really inspiring, I would incorporate them it into a song.
What do you feel songwriting allows you to explore and achieve?
For me it's having a sense of pride in something I love to do, and making myself (as well as the people around me) feel proud of what I can achieve. Once I have finished a song and I sit back, my first feeling is a sense of achievement and satisfaction in something I have done without help.
How did you get involved in Song Academy?
The club was held at my school. A few girls in my year were doing it, and one day I just decided to go along and see what it was like. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
How long have you been involved?
Three years.
Do you tend to write with others or on your own?
Mainly on my own.
What was the process like when you wrote Right to be loved?
Everyone got together and from the first day we all became like a little family. This made it so easy to share ideas without feeling judged or embarrassed, which is really important, otherwise we wouldn’t have had the outcome we did. We went through processes of writing little sections in different groups, then merging lyrics and ideas together.
How did you decide what to write about with the group and how did you agree on which bits to go with?
I think everyone was on the same page in terms of thoughts about lyrics and ways to portray the main theme. When we had lyrics that didn’t match we rethought them until they worked for everyone.
Was the process difficult?
Sometimes it was hard, and I definitely feel that if we didn’t have the group that we did, things would have been a lot trickier. The fact that everyone respected everyone else's ideas, and we all accepted everyone’s individuality and their unique styles, meant we were able to listen well and make something with all different styles of lyrics.
How many of you wrote the song together?
11 people.
What were you thinking about when you wrote Right to be loved?
We were thinking about children with no parents being adopted, and how they would feel about trusting strangers and putting their future in the hands of people they had no choice but to rely on.
What was your favourite part of being involved in Song Academy?
Mainly meeting new people who shared the same passion that I do, and also the opportunity that it gives you to perform and experiment.
What did you learn when writing Right to be loved that you’ve been able to use as part of your songwriting moving forward?
Using imagery in your songs is very powerful. Also learning about the background of the topic you’re writing about is really important.
What have you taken away from the experience?
I’ve taken away one of the best memories I will ever have – performing on stage at Wembley in front of 12,000 people!
We’re including Right to be loved in the Sing Up Song Bank and schools all over the world will be singing your song. What do you want them to know about it?
I want them to know that if you have a worry or a fear, no matter how small or big, whatever way you want to write about it – whether it's words or poems or even a song – you can touch many people's hearts who you never knew were feeling the same as you, or who shared the same fears.
What are you working on now?
I’m not really working on anything, more just playing around with different ideas.
Where do you want to be in five year’s time?
I want to be standing in an audience listening to someone who loves to sing, singing my songs and watching the audience’s enjoyment.
Do you want to be a future songwriter or do you do this for fun?
It’s definitely a career path that I want to pursue.

 

Gilska Weerakkody, 16

How long have you been writing songs?
For about 4 years.
Do you play an instrument?
I play piano and sing.
Who are your songwriting idols?
Sia, David Bowie, Emelie Sande.
What songs do you wish you had written?
Life on Mars by David Bowie, Hit me baby one more time by Britney Spears.
What was the first song you wrote and what was it about?
Don’t play with me. It was about experiences that my friends went through. I decided to write a song which they and many young teens could relate to.
What inspires you when you write songs?
Experiences and places.
What do you feel that songwriting allows you to explore and achieve?
It helps you express yourself, your emotions and issues.
How did you get involved in Song Academy?
My mother found Song Academy when searching for a part time music course for me and I decided to join because it sounded like a great opportunity to delve into something I hadn’t explored before.
What was the process like when you wrote Right to be loved?
I tend to write on my own, however it was a great experience writing with others for Right to be loved. We learnt to work together as a group, communicate with each other and we inspired each other through discussing and sharing ideas. In the end we were able to come up with a song we were all happy with.
How did you decide what to write about with the group and how did you agree on which bits to go with? Was the process difficult?
We knew the purpose and the message we wanted to put across, however coming up with the genre and style was tricky because a lot of the group preferred different genres to others.
What were you thinking about when you wrote Right to be loved?
The theme of adoption. How the child as well as the adopting parents have the right to feel love, from both sides and know that they are both supported.
What was your favourite part of being involved in the Song Academy?
Having the opportunities to write your own song, perform in incredible venues, working with talented musicians and being encouraged to enter our songs to song writing competitions where our songs are judged by music industry experts who give us positive feedback.
What did you learn when writing Right to be loved that you’ve been able to use as part of your songwriting moving forward?
I learned about communication skills and being able to work collaboratively as a group.
We’re including Right to be loved in the Sing Up Song Bank and schools all over the world will be singing your song. What do you want them to know about it?
The powerful message that everyone deserves to be loved, regardless of their life circumstances, background, culture, ethnicity, race or gender.
What are you working on now?
I am currently writing drafts on a number of songs based on stories about teenage experiences.
Where do you want to be in five year’s time?
A global superstar writing great songs that are remembered.

 

David Zazo, 15

How long have you been writing songs?
I have been writing songs since I was 13.
Do you play an instrument?
I play piano, bass guitar, and sing.
Who are your songwriting idols?
My idols are Prince, Michael Jackson, and BB King.
What songs do you wish you had written?
Can you Feel it, Dancing in the moonlight, Wind Cries Mary.
What was the first song you wrote and what was it about?
The first song I wrote was a song for Mother's Day.
What inspires you when you write songs?
I take inspiration from anything when I write my music. There isn't anything specific which means I can take inspiration to write a variety of different music genres.
What do you feel that songwriting allows to explore and achieve?
Songwriting allows me to explore different thoughts and emotions.
How did you get involved in Song Academy? How long have you been involved?
I started Song Academy in one of their half term sessions. I've been doing Song Academy for about two years.
Do you tend to write with others or on your own?
I tend to write on my own but really enjoy writing music with others because we can pool together ideas and make something that we couldn't create otherwise.
How did you decide what to write about with the group and how did you agree on which bits to go with?
We sat down in groups and came up with ideas, then put all of those ideas together and worked as a whole group to write the song. In order to decide what to keep and what to get rid of we used a process of trial and error. We tried out certain ideas in the context of the song and if we didn't like them we scrapped them.
What were you thinking about when you wrote Right to be loved?
When writing the song we thought about children who were orphaned or in need of adoption.
What was your favourite part of being involved in the Song Academy?
My favourite part of being involved was being able to write and be inspired by other songwriters.
What did you learn when writing Right to be loved that you’ve been able to use as part of your songwriting moving forward?
I will be taking forward the skill of collaborative songwriting. I took away an amazing experience of working with others and made some good friends.
We’re including Right to be loved in the Sing Up Song Bank and schools all over the world will be singing your song. What do you want them to know about it?
That it is a song for children who - as the song puts it - have a right to be loved.
Where do you want to be in five year’s time?
In five year's time I want to be studying philosophy at university. I am definitely considering being a songwriter in the future.

 

Emma Whiley, 16

How long have you been writing songs?
I have been writing songs for about 8 years, but with song academy for nearly three.
Do you play an instrument?
I play the cello, I sing and I played the drums for two years. I’m also passable(ish) on piano.
Who are your songwriting idols?
My songwriting idols are Paul McCartney and David Bowie.
What songs do you wish you had written?
I wish that I had written I Was Here by Beyoncé or Let It Be by the Beatles.
What was the first song you wrote and what was it about?
The first song I want to remember writing was Torn Heart. It was about knowing that someone isn’t any good but wanting to be with them anyway, no matter whether it hurts or not.
What inspires you when you write songs?
I am inspired by pretty much anything, but generally through my own experiences. If I have a really bad, or a really good day- there’s normally a song in there somewhere. Some of my best songs come out of heartbreak as well- so there is always a silver lining!
What do you feel that songwriting allows you to explore and achieve?
Songwriting allows me to discover how I really feel, to truly express whatever I have been going through.
How did you get involved in Song Academy? How long have you been involved?
Song Academy sessions are a little piece of rest in the middle of my week. I have an hour and a half to explore my feelings, to be truly inspired by my teacher and by the other people in my class, and to try to write whatever I want to write. I have been involved in Song Academy for three years, and I’ve loved every second.
Do you tend to write with others or on your own?
It is a completely different experience to write in a group than to write alone. Everyone brings different things to the table, and it’s fantastic to watch the song be shaped from so many different angles and perspectives. Sometimes I find that when you’re writing a song on your own, you can get limited by your style or past songs. In a group this never happens.
What was the process like when you wrote Right to be loved?
Writing Right to be loved was even more incredible than just writing in a group because it was writing in a group of incredibly talented songwriters who all brought something so original and inspiring to the table. Because everyone got on so well, we weren’t afraid to challenge one another to make sure what we wrote really was the best it could be.
How did you decide what to write about with the group and how did you agree on which bits to go with?
We started off the writing process with a brainstorming process about adoption and the importance of it before we chose what direction we wanted the song to go in. Lyrically we decided we wanted to think about fundamental rights that we all have. We wanted our song to stand for something and to be a powerful anthem.
What were you thinking about when you wrote Right to be loved?
We talked a lot about what made songs effective anthems. We then decided that everyone has a right to be loved, to love and to have love in their lives. This is for the children who need adopting, for the parents who adopt – but also just for all of us. The song developed organically from there.
What did you learn when writing Right to be loved that you’ve been able to use as part of your songwriting moving forward?
I learnt from Right to be loved that I should not be afraid to push the boundaries of what I felt that my sound was. I also learnt that sometimes what you’re writing about is so important that you have to keep trying to make it as good as you can. If a rhyme doesn’t fit, it’s easy to try and just make it work, but since writing RTBL with such incredible songwriters and now friends of mine, I am really motivated to change everything that I can change or go somewhere lyrically that I haven’t been before to try and make my songs the best I can.
We’re including Right to be loved in the Sing Up Song Bank and schools all over the world will be singing your song. What do you want them to know about it?
I think when you sing this song it is really important to remember to enjoy it. The entire writing process was incredibly fun and rewarding, and it was for a fantastic cause. It is a really uplifting and rewarding song to sing – you should finish the last note on a real high! Smiling is important too; it’s hard to sing this song without grinning!
What are you working on now?
Right now I am, as always, being challenged by my incredible teacher, Jess, to write a song with only two chords. It’s a little hard going right now, but fingers crossed for inspiration!
Where do you want to be in five year’s time?
In five year's time I want to be a lawyer, but I know that the creativity, the art of expressing how I feel and especially the confidence I’ve gained from Song Academy will never leave me, no matter what I end up doing.

 

India Eve Whitehurst, 15

How long have you been writing songs?
Since I was around 8 years old.
Do you play an instrument?
I play piano/keyboard.
Who are your songwriting idols?
Adele, Jessie J, Amy Winehouse, Tom Chaplin (Keane).
What songs do you wish you had written?
Everybody's Changing - Keane; Fallin' - Alicia Keys; Killing Me Softly With His Song - Roberta Flack; Scars To Your Beautiful - Alessia Cara; Nicotine - Panic! At The Disco. 
What was the first song you wrote and what was it about?
The first song I wrote was called You & Me and it was about friendship.
What inspires you when you write songs?
The experiences I have had and the emotions I feel are what inspire me.
What do you feel songwriting allows you to explore and achieve?
Songwriting allows me to express my feelings, both positive and negative, in a creative way. It can be therapeutic and is fulfilling - it is also a welcome escape from daily life and problems.
How did you get involved in Song Academy?
I joined Song Academy in 2014 - one of my friends is a member too and recommended it to me.
Do you tend to write with others or on your own?
Usually on my own but I've written duets and group songs before.
What was the process like when you wrote Right to be loved?
We started off with group sessions which we used to write the song, which we then recorded, produced a video for, and choreographed before performing it at Wembley SSE Arena at Voice in a Million.
How did you decide what to write about with the group and how did you agree on which bits to go with?
We all brainstormed our ideas for the song together on the theme of adoption and fostering and put suggestions forward for different parts of the song, which is a completely collaborative effort.
What were you thinking about when you wrote Right to be loved?
We kept in mind the idea that everyone is entitled to love and support, no matter their circumstances.
What was your favourite part of being involved in the Song Academy?
I love being able to perform once a term at fantastic venues; the opportunities we are given are amazing.
What did you learn when writing Right to be loved that you’ve been able to use as part of your songwriting moving forward?
I've learnt how to write songs successfully with other people. I've met some incredible people who are now some of my closest friends, and I will never forget the experience of singing with them at Wembley Arena for such a great cause.
We’re including Right to be loved in the Sing Up Song Bank and schools all over the world will be singing your song. What do you want them to know about it?
It is a song full of hope and compassion which aims to inspire and uplift.
What are you working on now? 
Currently I'm studying for my iGCSEs, and writing songs in my spare time.
Where do you want to be in five year’s time?
Hopefully in the studio recording my next song! If not, I hope to be at university studying English.
Do you want to be a songwriter in the future or do you just do this for fun?
Ideally I would be a singer-songwriter in the future, as I love performing, but whatever happens I'll always write songs regardless.

Out of School, KS2, KS3, KS4, Community-focussed, Songwriting/Composition

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