ONE of the best songwriters of this generation, Savan Kotecha has delivered hits for some of the biggest pop stars on the planet. With over 200 million in sales, the ace music producer and lyricist has worked with A-list acts including One Direction, Britney Spears, Demi Lovato, Usher, The Weeknd, Jennifer Lopez, Westlife and Justin Bieber. Not surprisingly, the Grammy and Golden Globe nominated Indian-American musician, originally from Austin Texas, has been surrounded by music from a young age and can connect important moments to certain songs.
With that in mind, Eastern Eye caught up with Savan in Los Angeles to find out more about his life through songs.
Upside Down by Diana Ross: This is a memory of a song, I think. In fact, it is actually my first (or one of my first) memories, full stop. We had just moved into our house in Virginia when I was three years old, and I remember that once the record player was set up, my dad put on Upside Down. I guess my musical journey started with Diana.
Thriller by Michael Jackson: I remember the exact moment I bought the 12-inch single of Thriller. I saw it at a Kmart in Manassas, Virginia, and begged my dad to let me get it. When I got home I was really upset that there were just two songs on the single, but my dad told me to just listen to those songs again and again and then he would buy me the album. I became obsessed with Michael Jackson – I used to spend hours watching the Thriller video, so much so that none of the kids in the neighborhood wanted to play at my house because that’s all I would do and they were scared of it.
When Can I See You Again by Babyface: When I first started writing songs, (music producer) Babyface was the king and had written all my favourite ones. This song, in particular, always got to me and in my very early days of learning to write, I used this beautiful simple composition by him as the bar for a love song.
Forever I Love You by Savan Kotecha: (Laughs) The first song I wrote was (embarrassingly) called Forever I Love You. I had just changed high schools and we were in an apartment still living out of boxes. One night I couldn’t sleep and noticed my sister’s Yamaha keyboard, so something told me to take it out. I’m not sure why or how, but I started playing chords and started coming up with a melody which became that song.
I Will Rescue You by Plus One: The first song I ever recorded was one that I had written called I Will Rescue You, which was recorded by a boy band in the US called Plus One. It was in 1998 when the song was recorded and I remember being so excited, feeling like my life had just changed. I finally had my first cut and it felt amazing. The album became a hit and I got my first Gold Record, which was pretty fun. It hangs in my parent’s house at the moment.
She’s Out Of My Life by Michael Jackson: Whether it’s happy or sad, the great songs will always make you feel something. For some reason, I always feel heartbroken listening to this unforgettable song by Michael Jackson. I’m not sure why. I feel like that is one of the greatest ballad vocal performances ever recorded. The melody and lyric to that song is just gutwrenching.
Obvious by Westlife: This was the first song of mine that I heard on the radio and interestingly, the music video for it was actually shot in India. I remember being at the studio and the receptionist had the radio on and this was playing. I was checking emails and started humming along to it. (Laughs) It didn’t hit me that it was my own song I was singing along to until the last chorus!
Inside Your Heaven by Carrie Underwood: My first number one was in the US when Carrie Underwood won American Idol. I co-wrote this song, which became her winning number. It was a very surreal moment for me, as you can probably imagine. I remember being in Sweden and streaming the telecast of the show while eating beans out of a can because I was so broke. I knew my life would change after that moment.
Fix You by Coldplay: This is a song I wish I had written. I just love this track and find myself keep coming back to it. I never get bored of this Coldplay classic. It is just a beautiful, heartbreaking love song.
These Words by Natasha Bedingfield: (Laughs) I don’t think I wooed my wife with a song, but I know every time we hear this Natasha Bedingfield track, we always look at each other and smile a little. We had a great summer in London when that song was a hit and I saw her perform it during Party In The Park. That song followed us around during the time we were super young and in love.
DJ Got Us Falling in Love by Usher: Gosh, I’ve been lucky to have had so many people I have admired record my songs, but mostly I remember when we recorded with Usher on DJ Got Us Falling In Love. That’s a moment I’ll never forget. Usher was always one of my favourite artists when I was growing up and to have him record a song I was a part of and seeing it become such a huge song was really special to me.
Live While We’re Young by One Direction: This song was one of the hardest to write. We had so much pressure on us to follow up the first album and the success of What Makes You Beautiful. We were banging our heads against the wall until we finally had a breakthrough. And after that we got the second album rolling.
If U Seek Amy by Britney Spears: I would say my first worldwide hit song was this Britney Spears track. It was a fun one to write because we were basically just trying to get a swear word on the radio. Before that, I had had a few hits in various countries, but this Britney song was the first one that went properly global.
What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction: Every time I hear this song on the radio, in a store or at a party, it makes me smile for two reasons. One is because I wrote it about my wife. So the song becoming such a bit hit makes it even more special. And two, because the time I did X Factor and helped mentor One Direction, is probably oneof the most fun times of my life. I made some great lifelong friends on the show and feel like I came into my own as a songwriter soon after. It was amazing to be a part of building something like One Direction from the ground up, and seeing what it became. Those guys and that time will always be really special to me.
Bang Bang by Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj and Jessie J: This is one of the best memories I have had of writing a song. I just remember we all had so much fun writing that one. My co-writer Rikard started the backing track and showed it to us and it was just so instant. (Laughs) We just started jumping around the room coming up with melodies and then the lyric. It was so fun knowing that it was gonna become this big diva duet.
Can’t Feel My Face by The Weeknd: Like I said, I’ve been blessed to have worked with so many big-name artists and had hit records, but being a part of The Weeknd project and specifically Can’t Feel My Face has been a game changer for me and everyone involved. It’s really opened doors to another level of artists who I could have only dreamed of working with one day.
Love Me Like You Do by Ellie Goulding: This song represents a sort of landmark. Being a part of Love Me Like You Do was so amazing. I don’t know if any of us involved with the making of it would have imagined the song would become so huge. And on top of that, being nominated for a Golden Globe for that song was amazing. It was unexpected and the Golden Globes ceremony was such an amazing night that I will never forget it.
Back Together by Robin Thicke and Nicki Minaj: We had this song with Robin Thicke and Nicki Minaj that all of us involved was sure was going to be a big hit. It felt right and everyone around us kept singing it because they felt it was so catchy. But when it came out, the audience just didn’t feel the same way. That’s always a little sad but you can’t win them all. I think it is still a great track, though.