Super-talented songwriter, A&R consultant for Syco Music, and vocal producer for this year’s X Factor, Savan Kotecha is the Texas-raised musician of Indian descent, who has long been making a name for himself on the music scene. i-D Online caught a rare moment with Savan, who took time out of the hectic X Factor rehearsals to tell us a tale or two about his career to date and how his relationship with top dog Simon Cowell came about.
Tell us a little bit about your musical background… I’m a songwriter, that’s my background. I’ve written songs for everyone, from Usher, to Britney Spears, to Enrique Iglesias, to Leona Lewis – I’ve sold over 50 million records worldwide in my career, and I’ve had two number one hits this year in the UK. I spend time with artists in the studio recording songs as a co-vocal producer. I’ve done a lot of hits for Simon Cowell’s acts and they wanted to make the show a lot more contemporary this year; more like a boot camp for future pop stars, so they asked me to come and be a vocal coach. I call my position more vocal producer than vocal coach.
What are the number one singles you’ve written this year? I’ve written The Club is Alive for JLS and Start Without You for Alexandra Burke. Then I had a few top tens on top of that, I did Usher’s new single DJ Got Us Fallin in Love and Alexandra Burkes’s Broken Heels – it’s been an exciting year.
When did you first meet Simon Cowell? I met him when I was nineteen years old, probably a year or two before he got really famous during Pop Idol. He was actually in the first record company meeting I ever had as a young songwriter. I’d just signed my first publishing deal with BMG out in Los Angeles.
On a day-to-day basis what does your role consist of? I only got involved once bootcamp was over. My job is really to see where the contestants are vocally, get to know their voices, know their limitations and see what we can work on. I’m involved in the part of the process when the judges are selecting songs for their contestants. So when I’m in the meetings with them I can say for example, “that melody won’t work for that person’s voice”, or, “that melody would be great for that person’s voice”, and then I help teach them the song. I help them sing with swagga; if they have trouble with some notes, or breathing, then I try and offer them techniques to fix that.
In your opinion, what are the benefits of talent-based reality TV shows such as the X Factor to the music industry as a whole? I’ll tell you what, when I was fifteen I was trying to make it in the music business and I came from a really conservative Indian family and lived in Austin, Texas, and there’s really no music business there. It took me years and years to really figure out how to do it, and I went through a lot of struggles to make it. I mean, I’ve been really lucky as I’ve been successful in my songwriting career, but I’ve seen a lot of people who just weren’t able to do it, both on the songwriting side and the artist side. The benefits of these types of shows are that it gives people a shot.