Pressparty chat to songwriter Savan Kotecha about One Direction, The X Factor and the music business
Recently, he's been working as a vocal producer on The X Factor and contributed a number of cuts to One Direction's debut album 'Up All Night', notably their BRIT Award winning single 'What Makes You Beautiful'.
Kotecha, who is about to be a father for the first time, spoke to Pressparty about his career in the music industry, his role on The X Factor and both his involvement and relationship with the popular boyband One Direction.
1) This generation is often more concerned with rewards and acclaim rather than the hard work or behind-the-scenes efforts – there are talent shows that people can enter purely to find fame – do you think the emphasis and support should be there in the same way for people who are passionate about creative paths, but want to take a more backstage route?
I think in the business, that support is there, it's just not something the public sees. In a way I feel talent show contestants can be at a disadvantage sometimes because they get that quick fame. A lot of the ones I've dealt with get the fame and don't know how to deal with it or know how much hard work it really takes to maintain success because they didn't have to 'climb the ladder' so to speak. They didn't learn about the music business and they can get taken advantage of more often.
2) The songs you’ve written that have been incredibly popular are mainly about partying and letting loose (Adam Lambert’s ‘If I Had You’, ‘The Club Is Alive’ by JLS, and Britney Spears' ‘If U Seek Amy’, for example).
Regarding lyrical content, I think music is an escape. And there's this circle, when people are having a hard time with things (for example the financial crisis), they want to escape into a fantasy world. I think pop music is a way for people to do that. The past few years have been tough on the average person, and I think the reason 'party' songs have been working lately is because people want to escape and just have fun. Regarding the question about artists maturing, I do think it's important that they feel creative and are able to grow, but the reality is, the audience will grow with you if the music is great. At least in pop, if you're gonna grow you've gotta grow with a hit song.
It was a great feeling. I was in Sweden with my wife who's about to have our first child when my phone started blowing up with texts telling me we won! It was even more special because the song was written for my wife. So sitting there feeling our first baby move and finding out a song for her won Best Single was great! :-)
4) For the 5 tracks you helped write on the lads’ debut album, ‘Up All Night’, had you met with them in person before hand? Did you have a sense of what the record was going to be like? How was the songwriting process for the One Direction project? What kind of input and creative control did you have?
I was their vocal producer on the X Factor, so I was there from the beginning for the group, and I helped see them through the whole X Factor process so we know each other very well. Being a part of their journey from the start makes their success extra special. And it obviously helps that they are great guys! Regarding the creative stuff, when I met them and heard them sing, I pretty much knew it needed to sound like the modern day Backstreet Boys - guitar pop with Swedish melodies. That was always where their voices shined when we were rehearsing songs during the X Factor. I'm also an A&R for Syco, so luckily Simon Cowell and the rest of the team (including Tyler Brown who was the point A&R for the album) shared the vision and just let me do my thing!
5) Your career has been phenomenal and is such an inspiration, what advice do you have for aspiring songwriters? Did anything jumpstart your passion for writing – a particular moment, song or event?
First off, thank you for your kind words! The best advice i can give to songwriters is to learn their craft, study hit songs, figure out what made them great. Always challenge your songs, and never settle for average. The music business is a lot of work and you have to be willing to starve for it. My journey is a long story but the very short version is, I started writing songs when I was 15. One night after my family moved to Texas and we still had all our things in boxes, I saw my sister's old keyboard and something told me to take it out of the box and start playing. And I did. I started writing songs on it and never looked back! I've had many key moments in my career. Two big ones were my first hit song which was 'Obvious' for Westlife, and another was getting to work with Max Martin, who has not only become a great mentor for me but also a great friend.
6) For the past few years you’ve been the vocal producer for ‘The X Factor’. Who has been your favourite act to work with and what was it like to work under the structure of a televised talent show considering you’re a creative individual?
I couldn't ever pick a favorite, but I'd say that I'm very proud and fond of One Direction and Cher Lloyd in particular. When I wasn't sure I wanted to do the show, I met them before their judges homes that year and they were the ones who inspired me to say "Yes" to Simon on taking 3 months off from writing and to work on the X Factor. It's been a great experience and I've learned a lot. But it's very, very intense and I always miss being in the recording studio and writing songs.
7) Have you been asked to return for either the new series of ‘The X Factor’ or ‘X Factor USA’?
I have been, and I will be involved in some capacity. How much so will depend on my new baby and what projects I wanna take on in the fall as a songwriter.
Watch Kotecha perform a skit with the One Direction lads below:
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