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19 September 2014
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New Songwriters
Are you a budding songwriter?

Songwriting Advice

Sacha SkarbekSacha Skarbek

Sacha Skarbek is an award-winning songwriter who's worked with artists such as Samantha Mumba, Beverley Knight and James Blunt - with whom he wrote the worldwide no.1 hit 'You're Beautiful'.

Sacha, who will be one of the mentors on the Radio 2 New Songwriters scheme, has some great advice about what makes a good song, what kit you need to record it and why he's looking forward to being a mentor.


Q1. Why did you get involved in the scheme?

I really enjoy developing and finding new acts, so an opportunity like this is great - anything that can help give other people the chance to do what they love.


Q2. You will be mentoring one of the winners. What can they expect from you as a mentor?

For me what will be really important is allowing the blank canvas to take shape without steering it too much to go with something that is formulaic or expected.


Q3. What will the mentors be looking for?

For me, I think predominantly it will be individuality, something that feels different and honest. But also an ability to understand and learn about song crafting, and being open about that side of the songwriting process.


Q4. What makes a good song, and what makes a good songwriter?

The main element is honesty within a song - whether that's in the lyrics or in the musical style. It's also about having a great hook or a sing-a-long chorus - and of course lyrics are a highly important aspect.


Q5. What kit do you need to write and record a song?

I disagree with people who say songs have to be completely finished, if you've got a great song it will sound good on just a guitar or piano.


Q6. Do lyrics come before the tune? What inspires you to write a song?

Some writers are predominantly lyricists that don't even pick up a guitar or hit a chord before they've got all their lyrics done, and there are others who do it completely the other way round. A lot of it comes from emotion - events from your life, or the ability to put yourself in somebody's shoes. There's the other side where you can get inspiration from your environment - like the sound of windscreen wipers or a drill. Inspiration can come from anywhere...


Q7. Did you have a mentor?

It can be a cut-throat business, and learning to be confident in your own ability is enormously important. I would have loved somebody who would have been able to say 'stick to your guns, what you're doing is ok, you're going to be alright'.


Q8. What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

I was having a low ebb in my career... a friend of mine said 'just be true to yourself and everything will work out.' That's the best piece of advice I have ever got.


Find out more about Sacha - including how he started out, his musical influences and what he enjoys most about being a songwriter.

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