If you’ve never heard of him, you’re sure to have heard him. Ed Drewett is the man behind your most-loved music and now he’s taking centre-stage.
We don’t like using cliché terms like ‘unsung hero’, but how else do you describe the man who has written the songs you’ve probably danced to and definitely sung along to? Ed Drewett is a lyrical genius. You can thank him for some cracking songs – note, The Wanted: All Time Low, Ollie Murs: Dear Darlin, Little Mix: Black Magic, One Direction: History and so many more – most of which have stolen number one spots in the charts.
He’s cool, calm and collected, but he’d never admit that. His inner-child diverted him straight to the Topman office’s swinging chairs where he swung for a minute before we toddled off for a chat. “This is fu*king cool”, he grins. We discussed his debut album Ten and found out what really goes on behind the scenes of song writing…
[Laughs]. Britain’s Got Talent came at the end of about an 8-year effort trying to get my own music out. I’d be signed twice to two major record labels that didn’t work out – a lot of balls have to fit in the right holes to get a record out, to be honest. You need the right team, you need the label to be in a good place and you need to be confident in yourself. That just never happened but I still wanted it. I guess after years of knocking at the door, Britain’s Got Talent seemed like a good idea. I don’t regret it (I got to the semi-finals!) but it wasn’t true to myself. At the time I was like, ‘none of this has worked so I’ll give it a go’. It was a fun experience but I’m not itching to get into the TV world anytime soon.
Take a look at Ed’s Britain’s Got Talent audition here.
Yeah, I always wanted to be an artist. I was a really shy child…a bit of a weird kid. Mum and dad took me to singing lessons to try and bring me out of my shell. I went to my local dramatic societies and fell in love with all the older girls there; it was then that I knew school wasn’t for me. I left at 16, went to college for a year and did a song writing class once a week. I started writing my own stuff and thought, ‘I’m pretty good at this’.
I had a stroke of luck when I met Louise Griffiths in my mum’s shop – mum always played my demos in the background (such a proud parent). Louise put me in touch with a producer and that was my ‘in’. I gave my first single All Time low to a band called The Wanted. That was my first number 1. We went on to do the song Glad You Came which also went to number 1. I was sold.
That’s the best question that anyone’s ever asked because no one really thinks that deeply into song writing. Basically, when I’m writing for commercial music (the top 100 radio), I’m split between writing a song I love because it makes me feel something and having to make money to pay the bills, knowing that a certain song is more likely to be picked up by an artist or label.
Every day I’m in the studio like ‘let’s just write a great song today’ and you can do that, but if it doesn’t fit in with what’s cool at the moment, the likely hood of someone taking it is slim to none, hence why my laptop is filled with thousands of songs that’ll probably never be heard. I have to get my business brain on and go ‘ok, what would be good for this?‘. That being said, I’ve really enjoyed all the songs that have done well, so it’s possible to have both.
There are three ways it happens: either a label or an artist approaches me and says “we want you to work for me“, I write a song and pitch it to them or a label comes to me and says “we’ve heard this song you wrote years ago and we want it“. Pitching is difficult because you’ve written a song that wasn’t tailored for anyone – it’s kind of like I’m going in blind. Most of my best songs happen by the artists drafting me in to work with them.
Ollie Murs is heavily involved in the writing process – he always has been. He’s really anxious to be involved and he loves it! We’re just two local lads who get on really well… we always spend the first couple of hours eating, chatting and telling each other stories, then if something feels right, we nudge towards writing a song about it. We wrote Dear Darling the first time we met – it was one of my favourite songs to be involved with.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved with artists where we got to write great remedies and stories. We always started from guitar or piano – they’re organic songs written from the ground up. I’m not into following trends or writing lazy sh*t just to be cool or get money. I do understand why some songwriters feel like they have to, though.
A great song has to make you feel like your favourite song did when you were a kid. You should get excited and energetic or super sad or whatever the fu*k it was.
Let’s take Black Magic by Little Mix as an example. We wrote black magic for them; they were looking for a first single as they just needed that hit. As soon as we started singing it, it just felt like a great song. We wrote it exactly how the record is. For my cover, [on album Ten] I did a swing version. A good song should be able to translate into different genres.
It’s sad, really. I love writing songs for other people but I only get the chance to be so creative. I have to write within parameters. It shouldn’t be what music is about. It’s always, “be creative but don’t be too creative” or “be yourself but not too much yourself” and it pis*es me off! I do get it when I’m writing for other artists, but I feel like as writers it’s our duty to take more risks. You can only really take risks when you’re some superstar, it’s difficult. After years of doing that, I felt like I needed to break out and write something crazy and different and it might not be ground breaking but, for me, it was a breath of fresh air that I could write this story.
The Unfortunate Gent is about an accidental murder where the guy tries to pin it on his mum. I sat at home after a cancelled session and wrote it. It’s a good form of therapy to stop fitting briefs and tailoring my work. I’m definitely going to keep doing this kind of stuff – it’s good for the soul.
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I’d done music videos before, but I always had a record label looking over me saying “change his bowtie” or “he shouldn’t be wearing that hat“. I’d never felt that I could be myself… I’m not a superstar kind of bloke! With this, I felt I could be myself. I chucked off my shirt, shoes and socks and just became this character – this psychopath serial killer guy… [laughs].
It was how we started the album Made In The A.M for One Direction. Julian Bunetta, John Ryan and I were put together to write a couple of songs for the album – we knew it was going to be the boy’s last album and we already had Best Song Ever and Steal My Girl with them. They gave us a week to write as many songs as possible and to make sure we got the singles… it got to Wednesday and we’d written fu*k all. There was a lot of pressure on us!
So we did what most songwriters do when they’re stuck: we went to the pub. We were in the Elgin pub on Brook road, sinking a few pints when I saw a cab pull up outside. I had this idea and said, “guys, finish your pints”. I flagged the cab down and said, “dude, if we give you £300 will you drive us around for the next few hours?”. Our only condition was that we had to be able to smoke and drink in the back and go via our studio to pick up a guitar, a go pro and a laptop. We were driving around London all day with our makeshift studio. We wrote a sh*t song about a penthouse we drove past as well as Made In The A.M which became the title of the album. We also wrote History which became their final single. We needed different things to look at and new inspirations. It was so good.
I’ve got a baby on the way… a little girl! I’ll definitely end up writing some songs about her. My wife Daisy keeps playing my songs around the house so the baby can hear. It’s very crazy and very exciting. In terms of music, I miss performing the most, so I’ll probably put together some bits and bobs which will be small and vibey. The main thing for me is to continue putting my stuff out there as and when I want, pressure free.
Ten by Ed Drewett is available now.