Savan Kotecha is the lyrical wizard behind One Direction's What Makes You Beautiful. He's also written for Bieber, Cher Lloyd, Britney, JLS and Usher, and to be honest, we'd quite fancy a piece of that pie.
In between talking to him about Cher Lloyd's American fun and the rude bits on One Direction's new album, we tried to trick him into revealing his songwriting secrets, so we too can reap the rewards of wordsmithery.
So Savvo, how the frick do you write a song then? Do you start with word? Music? A theme? A mood board?
Usually we do melody first. We’ll maybe have a title so we at least know where we’re going, and that’s how it all starts.
Right. Then what?
For the past year or so I’ve been collecting melodies on my phone and stuff like that. Everyone has ideas, so we’ll just sit in a room and bang our heads against the wall and see what feels good. It’s all about making sure a pop song’s melodies are tight, catchy and good – sometimes it takes weeks just for one song, just because we want to make sure it’s all tight.
Well, you have a fairly reasonable track record so you’re clearly doing something right.
I hope so!
So are you one of those people who walks around with a little notebook and starts frantically scribbling in it when you “feel inspired”?
Yeah! What Makes You Beautiful was actually written about my wife. One morning when I was going to the studio, she was like ‘Ugh, I look so ugly today’ and I was like ‘Nooo!’ – my wife’s this beauuutiful Swedish girl, and the ‘you don’t know you’re beautiful / that’s what makes you beautiful’ line popped into my head.
Did she flip her hair and make you overwhelmed?
I made her do that after. I was like ‘let me just play with your face a little bit.’
Bet she loved that.
Yeah! So that song took a while, we got the melody in like, two days, but we were changing up the lyrics, changing some of the lines around and stuff like that. But that’s what happens, you go about your day and hear a tune in your head and record it – you become the weird person on the plane or in the grocery line singing into your phone.
Does this mean there’s stuff on One Direction’s second album about your genius baby?
No not this time! He was born in the middle of writing the album. I thought ‘let’s get some’ was probably as far as I could take it, rather than ‘you had my baby...’