Mike P. Ryan, winner of the 2022 LOTY awards, discusses songwriting technique with the UKSC
In March of this year the Lyricist Of The Year (LOTY) results were announced with UKSC Singer Songwriter Finalist Mike P. Ryan taking his place on the podium as the winner with the lyrics to his song, 'Between Heaven And The Ground'. You can read and listen to these lyrics in full on the LOTY results page.
Mike P. Ryan's song tells the story of the day the Wright brothers made the world's first successful powered flight in 1903. The lyrics were inspired by David McCullough’s superb book on the brothers and in the song Mike takes the listener on a journey back through time placing them with Orville and Wilbur Wright on the coast of Carolina at the turn of the century.
"To me the key to engaging a listener is to tell a story from a human perspective", Mike has told the UKSC. "To do that I wrote the lyrics from a first person perspective making Orville Wright the song's narrator. To give the lyrics authenticity I had Orville speak in the dialect of that era with phrases like 'nineteen and aught three' ". Mike goes on to explain how he worked hard to avoid lyrical clichés about flight and instead searched for an interesting visual image for the lyrical hook. Coming from a Catholic background and based on the knowledge that the Wright brothers themselves were devoutly religious, Mike settled on the central theme of the song. This was the idea that the Wright brothers, through powered flight, were set on exploring that vast and intangible world which lies between 'heaven and the ground'.
As we all know there is no secret formula to writing a good song. Some songs emerge quickly from a source of deep inspiration and others reveal themselves over time following hours of drafts and re-writes. With this winning song Mike explains that the lyrics came fairly quickly with a minimum of re-writes. However, the challenge was to, "condense an incredibly complex story into something which can be told in the few minutes a songwriter has available to hold a listener's attention".
Congratulation to Mike P. Ryan and all the nominees and special mentions in the 2022 Lyricist Of The Year Awards.
*All Lyrics Only entries from the 2023 UK Songwriting Contest will be given automatic and free entry into next year's LOTY awards.
International Songwriting Awards (ISAs) published
The international songwriting awards (ISAs) were announced at the end of March showcasing exceptional talent from emerging artists around the world. These coveted peer recognition awards draw from a broad range of international music organisations including the UK Songwriting Contest in order to recognise and highlight the achievements of outstanding songwriters.
The 2022/2023 awards were broken down into 7 categories; Singer Songwriter, Pop, Rock, Teen, Solo Songwriter, Co-Writing Team and the Lyrics Hall of Fame. Here we will hear from a selection of these winners with some valuable insights into their songwriting technique and the inspiration behind their songs. A huge congratulations to all of those in the Lyrics Hall of Fame and on the special mentions list who are not specifically mentioned in this article.
Terra Spencer (Canada)
Terra Spencer is a funeral director turned songwriter from Nova Scotia, Canada. Many of her songs explore loss and the 'gentle art of saying goodbye'. Terra has told the UKSC that she has learnt the value of preserving stories through songwriting and it has become her mission not only to sharpen her own songwriting skills but to, 'fan the flame of songwriting with others so they can tell their own stories'. Since embarking on her songwriting journey Terra has toured across Canada, the UK and Germany sharing her powerful lyrics and melodies with lucky listeners around the world.
Trent-Jean Michel (Australia)
Trent-Jean Michel, winner of the Rock category, aspires to create work which inspires people to rise over the obstacles and adversities they face in their lives. Writing to the UKSC Trent-Jean explains that he wants people to channel the superhero and rockstar within! The direction and motivation behind his winning song HIGH3R hanged when he found out that his father had been given a terminal diagnosis. The 'gears shifted', Trent-Jean explains and the song went from being about love and desire to a piece about rising above the challenges we face within our lifetimes.
Rebecca Milne, Annalise Feilding, Jonah Widdis and Sebastian Smith
Band name - Detour
The band met at Rock Scholars, an independent music academy for young musicians in Perth, when they were 10 years old. Annalise Fielding (bass guitar), Rebecca Milne (vocals and rhythm guitar), Jonah Widdis (lead guitar) and Sebastian Smith (drums) have been writing music together ever since under the band name Detour. Their music navigates the 'turbulent time of young adolescence'. They have told UKSC that they are friends first and band mates second and their 'rock-via-pop-punk' style is poised to take Australia by storm.
Chris Broom (UK)
Chris Broom is a songwriter from the UK who won the Open Category of the UKSC this year with his song Broken Dreams feat. Lucy Thomas. This powerful and evocative composition forms part of Chris' debut musical Rosie about a young girl who grew up in an Irish convent and moves to Edwardian London's West End. This year's ISAs acknowledge Chris' outstanding contribution to the songwriting community through his solo songwriting and his efforts on his much anticipated debut musical.
Ava Della Pietra (USA)
Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ava Della Pietra has a prolific repertoire of songwriting to her name. Aged only 17 she has written over 100 songs and she continues to write and record new music. Her music is a blend of pop, rock and soul with influences drawn from a wide range of popular artist. Ava's indisputable talent and dedication to songwriting have earned her recognition as the Pop category winner in this year's ISAs and we look forward to seeing what lies ahead in her songwriting career.
Peter Lewis and Tony Hume (UK)
Peter and Tony are no strangers to the UK Songwriting Contest and it is fitting to see their prodigious skill as a co-writing team recognised on the world stage. The UKSC has asked the duo to give some insight into their songwriting process. Tony writes the lyrics and plays the guitar and Peter, with a piano in his living room, will compose the melody and then shape the music. However, there is no hard and fast rule to their songwriting. Tony explains that their partnership is very fluid and they have, 'probably tried just about every way there is to write in order to get something interesting down'. For Tony, songwriting is mostly about decision making and their partnership enables them to make joint decisions on the key elements which ultimately shape the song. Peter adds that he writes music in a very fluid way drawing from subconscious sources of creativity. He acknowledges that there are times in which you have to labour over individual lines. However, Peter advises that if a song is not coming together, it is best not to force it, 'put it aside and if the idea has any merit the subconscious will often do the work for you'. When asked about their songwriting partnership Peter adds, 'It is great to have a partner whose judgement you trust because you're not always the best judge of your own work'. Visit Peter and Tony's website via the following link to see for yourselves their extensive body of work: https://peterandtonysongs.com/