Talking Songwriting with The Ivors Academy

2nd February 2022

As part of last year’s Abbey Road #Amplify event for our 90th anniversary, The Ivors Academy hosted an incredible panel discussing the art of the songwriting today.

Read on to hear about Fiona Bevan, Rachel Chinouriri and Allegra's process from the moment of inspiration, through writing and editing, to knowing when a song is finished.

 

Meet the Panel:

Fiona Bevan

Fiona Bevan

Rachel Chinouriri

Rachel Chinouriri

Allegra

Allegra

Fiona Bevan

Fiona Bevan is a hit songwriter, achieving a number one album with Kylie Minogue and penning hit songs with Lewis Capaldi, Ed Sheeran, Tom Walker, Steps, Aurora, Dan from Bastille and many more. Her collaboration with Sheeran, Little Things – became a number one hit in 13 countries for One Direction.

Fiona is currently writing with Nile Rodgers, Rationale, Troy Miller, and Mr Hudson, and working with new artists including Joy Crookes, Zak Abel, Ewan Mainwood, Tom King and Tamzene amongst others.

Alongside her writing career, Fiona is also a prolific artist and has just finished writing and self-producing her new EP, co-mixed with Steph Marziano (Hayley Williams, BLOXX, Sophie and The Giants). Her previous release, Wild Angels Sweet Demons, was produced by Grammy award-winning engineer Robin Baynton (Mumford And Sons, Laura Marling, Isaac Gracie), released independently, and went straight to number two in France, and number seven in both the British and Canadian iTunes singer-songwriter charts.
 

Rachel Chinouriri

If versatility is the key to modern musical success, then Rachel Chinouriri is already well on her way. Nominated for the Rising Star Award with Apple Music 2021, the singer-songwriter hails from Croydon, is of Zimbabwean heritage and has already seen her emotionally complex anthems find favour with everyone from Michaela Cole to Coldplay’s Chris Martin. The sound that launched a million syncs, Chinouriri’s debut EP, Four Degrees In Winter, already has over 2.5 million streams and showcases a writer with a song for every occasion.
 

Allegra

This soulful singer-songwriter cut her first demo at 13, only to walk away from it all to volunteer at a Buddhist retreat centre. Her life experience has certainly paid off: an accomplished co-writer, she has now released two gorgeous songs as solo singles, Spectacles and Excuse Me, is working on her debut EP and was nominated for the Rising Star Award with Apple Music 2021.
 

Friday, 12 November 2021 - Studio One

 

What We Learned

Don't lose that first idea:

“When I first started I would just write what came straight out of my head. Then as you get more in the industry you start to try and write like this or that. You can come up with a great idea and throw it away because it’s not hooky enough or whatever. As soon as I stopped doing that I managed to get back into my writing phase. Usually the first idea I get I just grab it and stick with it. Even if you change it later it’s better to catch that because there’s a reason why that was the first thing that came out.” - Rachel

“If any idea is not good, then put it in the bin and move on to the next one. There is no point in finishing something you don’t like.” - Fiona

“Songwriting for me is about finding a way to deepen my connection with my own experience of being alive. I find that sometimes when an emotion get pretty potent I just want to sit with it and hear what it has to say. Then I sit at the piano and words come and melodies come.” - Allegra

 

You don't need to put everything in one song:

“You can have one song for a tiny fragment of an emotion. That helps focus my mind a bit more when I sit down to write." - Allegra

“What are you actually writing about? It sounds funny but if you know what you’re writing about, then you can write it.” - Fiona

 
 

When working with other songwriters:

“It’s great to have someone else in the room who can question the intention and what I want it to mean to people." - Rachel

“It instantly takes you a little bit more out of your comfort zone because there’s another person there and you’re already in a different space than when it’s just you in your own head. I think people add so much to that process and take it to a place that you could never have got to on your own.” - Fiona

Songwriting is a very intimate process. When you’re working with other songwriters you want to feel like the intimacy is there. And sometimes it might not be.” - Allegra

 

Write it all down:

"Sometimes people speak in lyrics - try asking a question and write down the answer as close to the way the person is saying it." - Fiona

"Songwriting is just your storytelling set to a melody." - Rachel

 
 

Editing:

“I think the songs I have written best are the ones which are close to being unedited.” - Rachel

"The more you write, the more you know when it's finished and when to just step away. Sometimes imperfections are beautiful or interesting. I also edit a lot because I try to make things perfect, but sometimes it doesn't need to be perfect." - Fiona

 

On writer's block:

“Turn off the keyboard, put down the guitar and literally just live. You can only write off of experience and communication. Go to festivals, go outside, go for a walk. Don’t beat yourself up about it!” - Rachel

“Stillness and silence are really important. I find that music doesn’t come from more music.”

“Trying is the best way to hit a brick wall. Sometimes when you just get still, it frees you up and it just comes naturally and starts to process itself.”

“You don’t have to strive for what you really are. It's already here. So wherever you go, there it is with you. Sometimes you just have to get rid of all the other things that are distracting you from what you really are.” - Allegra

All photos by Michael Zemanek

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