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19 September 2014
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New Songwriters
Are you a budding songwriter?

Writing a hit single

Sacha SkarbekSacha Skarbek

Sacha Skarbek is a Grammy nominated and two time Ivor Novello winning songwriter who's worked with artists such as Samantha Mumba and Beverley Knight, and who also played a key role in the development of James Blunt with whom he wrote the worldwide no.1 hit 'You're Beautiful'.


Here he talks about how he started out, his musical background and what inspires him as a songwriter.


He also has some great advice for people entering the Radio 2 New Songwriters competition, covering what makes a good song and what the mentors will be looking for.


Q1. How did you get into songwriting?

I trained at music school but got into writing when I was about 17. I was interested in jazz and started playing in bands and it all progressed from there.


Q2. Is songwriting hard to get into?

Yes it's definitely hard, especially for the first few years when you're not really making any money. It takes an enormous amount of tenacity and you have to stick at it. But a lot of other jobs are hard, so if you're really passionate about it and really want to do it - then do it!


Q3. What's the best thing about being a songwriter?

I get an enormous high when I'm in the studio and I'm lucky enough to be with a bunch of talented musicians - suddenly your song comes to life and it's the best feeling in the world. And then when you have a no. 1 record that makes it even better!


Q4. How did having a background in classical music help your songwriting career?

It helped in terms of knowing my way round a piano, chord sheets and instrumentation. It also gave me confidence as a player... But my brother didn't have the same classical training and he works in a different way. It's all about who you are as a person and what you'll respond to. It's not an absolute requirement.


Q5. Can you remember your first song? And when did you get your first break in the industry?

The first song I wrote was when I was about 15 and I was first getting into jazz. There was a painting called Nighthawks and I decided to write a song based on that. I kept it to myself because songwriting is a very personal part of you. The first time I realised I might have a chance in the industry was when I played keyboards on a song called Seven Seconds for Neneh Cherry. It was amazing to hear that song on the radio!


Q6. Do you get involved in the studio recording process?

I'm a songwriter/producer so I'm very hands-on. I produce a lot of the songs that I write and I find that side interesting - but there are different elements to recording a song, and not all writers get involved.


Q7. Who are your musical influences?

I think Prince is the ultimate musician and songwriter. I like my soul music as well so Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Sam Cooke have all had an influence on me. Nowadays some of the people I get to work with really inspire me - Ron Sexsmith for example is an incredible songwriter.


Sacha also has some great advice for people entering the New Songwriters competition.

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