Becky Jerams and Ellie Wyatt are songwriters who have written for films, shows, adverts and more. Their passion for music and their friendship led them to write the YA title, The Songs You’ve Never Heard, and an accompanying album. We have the honour of chatting with Becky and Ellie today on The Songs You’ve Never Heard.
Meg McCarthy is everything Alana Howard is not: rich, glamorous and – thanks to Caspar, her world-famous pop star brother – a social media influencer that every brand wants to sponsor. While Meg’s trapped within the confines of the demands of the McCarthy brand, plagued by online haters and terrified to share her own talent with the world, songwriter Alana doesn’t seem to be scared of standing out. But when Meg and Alana’s worlds collide, they learn that appearances can be deceiving.
How did the idea of incorporating an album come about?
We have been writing songs to brief for years, and often pitch songs to artists looking for a particular style or genre. We thought it would be a fun and creative outlet to invent our own characters and write fictional pop songs for them. For songwriters, it’s common to have a catalogue of songs waiting to find a home so we loved the idea of bringing them to a whole new audience of readers.
What was the creative process like? Did you write The Songs You’ve Never Heard separately from the songs or?
We wrote most of the songs to brief for the book – for instance, we wanted Meg to have a big love song for Matty (Second First Impression), a song about feeling invisible to her parents (Firework Display), and of course Lost Girls’ big anti-hater song (And What). However, there was one song from our back catalogue that already existed called Didn’t I. This was a very emotional song we wrote years ago that almost got placed with a Japanese artist. We both loved this song so much and wanted it to have its time in the spotlight – so we wrote in Alana’s back story with Dylan to incorporate the lyrics. This is also the moment where Meg finally discovers Alana’s talent, so we knew it had to be an impactful song!
Absolutely loving those top 5 songs games featured in the book! Who got to call dibs on which songs make the list?
The song lists were up for debate right up until the book was printed! Especially for certain categories such as ‘Top 5 Tearjerkers’ because there were songs that made one of us sob but not the other – haha! While it was hard to agree on every song, we made sure to pick a wide range of styles, a mix of popular and lesser-known artists and threw in some classics. Generally, we picked two songs each and then both agreed on the fifth.
When you were creating these characters, did you have some singers / singer-songwriters in mind?
With Caspar, we had that typically sexy, brooding pop star in mind in the vein of Harry Styles, Shawn Mendes or James Bay. For Meg, we were very inspired by our mutual love of Taylor Swift for her musical style. With Alana, we looked at rocky female acoustic artists such as Larkin Poe, Elle King and KT Tunstall. It was great fun to take little parts of musicians we love and put them into our characters!
Meg’s family kept prioritizing her pop star brother Caspar. To what extent do you think a family should accommodate one particular family member so they can follow their dreams?
This is a tough question because sometimes when one family member has a burning passion, it can take over everything for a while. There are moments in a creative career that can get a little crazy and you hope friends and family will go along for the ride and be supportive. But that said, all relationships are about give and take. If you love someone, you won’t want to upset them while following your dream. It’s all about communication and compromise so that everyone ends up happy.
Alana was struggling to break into the music scene until Meg came along. Do you have any advice for aspiring singer-songwriters?
At the start of your career, it’s great to gig as much as possible and network with other musicians and promoters. Don’t be afraid to co-write and collaborate as it’s how you grow as a writer. Get a polished demo that you are proud of and pitch it everywhere. Also, stay persistent and passionate, and don’t let rejections knock your confidence. Focus on why you love music and don’t ever lose what makes you special! You can also apply all of that advice to writing fiction, too!
Online haters said Meg has everything handed to her due to her brother’s fame. Ultimately, Alana linked up with Meg to produce songs together. Do you think Alana would eventually struggle internally from believing she has to rely on networking?
Alana is a character who will make sure her voice is heard regardless, so even though Meg helps her to network, she wouldn’t have struggled. All musicians need a team around them to grow, and Alana would make sure her talent was front and centre. What she probably would have struggled with is juggling her day job with her creative work – like many creatives must do! Meg’s financial background might give her an advantage, but in the end, Alana would have worked hard and figured it out.
The Songs You’ve Never Heard got a lot of attention at YALC! Can you share with us about the workshop and the playlist everyone was building?
Our YALC workshop was all about how to create a book with music – we also featured live music performances and a Q&A session. We asked people to come up with their own song titles and got some awesome suggestions – we even attempted to sing them on the spot! At Sweet Cherry’s stand, we networked with readers who dropped by and compiled a huge list of their current favourite songs. We made it into one big Spotify playlist – it is such an eclectic mix with everything from K-Pop to hard rock to pop to indie to musical theatre! I love how seriously everyone took their picks. Music taste is such a big part of our identity, and it was so interesting to see everyone’s different reactions to being asked their favourite song.
You can listen to the full playlist here.
And finally, please humour us with one round of Top 5! Top 5 songs you listened to while writing The Songs You’ve Never Heard.
1. Taylor Swift – I Did Something Bad
2. Lizzo – Juice
3. Deee-Lite – Groove Is In The Heart
4. Dear Evan Hansen – Waving Through A Window
5. Billie Eilish – Bad Guy