Gordon Pogoda: “It was really thrilling and an honour to have a song in Eurovision.”

Here at ESC Bubble we’ve started a new feature by interviewing not just the Singers, but also the Songwriters from Eurovision. We start off by speaking to LA Songwriter Gordon Pogoda who wrote Czech Republic’s song in 2008 “Have some fun”.

The song didn’t make it to the Final, but it did make it to number 5 in the Czech Republic Charts. Gordon has also written for a host of other Eurovision singers including Chiara, Sonia Evans aswell as Sergey Lazarev.

Outside of Eurovision Gordon has got his music placed in Films including ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ & TV shows such as ‘Sex & The City’, ‘Hannah Montana’, and ‘ER’. He has also written for the UK Pop group Steps.

Hi Gordon. Thanks for speaking to us. How did you first get into songwriting? 

I started playing piano at the age of 13, after begging for a piano and piano lessons for 5 years, but I’d never thought about writing songs. About a year or more later, my first song just came out. At age 17, I told my parents I wanted to be a professional Songwriter. Knowing how hard it is to break into the business, they encouraged me instead to get a college education in a different field, which I did. I got a degree in Chemical Engineering with a Pre-Med option. And I worked in Engineering but eventually really hated it, so I moved out to LA to pursue my songwriting full-time.

What gives you inspiration when writing your songs?  

My songs rarely come from my own life. I think my love for music in general inspires me to create it. Lyrically, thoughts and titles come to me at any time. And many times, they develop into full songs. I almost always write music first, so sometimes it’s a matter of writing a lyric that works for the melody I’ve written.

Who was the best singer that you worked with and why? 

If you literally mean “worked with”, as in I was in the room working with a singer, I’d have to say Melissa Manchester, an incredible vocalist who won a Grammy for Best Female Vocal Performance of the Year. She has a soulfulness and rich texture in her voice unlike any other. In terms of artists who’ve recorded my songs, but I haven’t worked with in person, I’d say the best singers are Natalie Grant, Steps, Sonia, Nicki French, and Sergey Lazarev.

Were you given a specific brief or can you just write whatever you like?  

I’ve had one song in Eurovision – Tereza Kerndlova representing Czech Republic. I had 4 songs on her album, and “Have Some Fun” was chosen as the song to represent her country. I didn’t write songs specifically for her, Sergey, Sonia, Nicki French, etc, and I wasn’t given a specific brief. I usually just write songs without any artist or project in mind. Then I send them out, and the artist selects whatever songs they want. That’s what happened in all these instances. 

Do you get to meet the Singers that you write the songs for?

I got to meet Tereza at Eurovision – it was great meeting her, being at Eurovision, and meeting artists from all around the world. I’ve never met any of the other European artists who have recorded my songs, though I’d certainly love to someday.

Gordon with Tereza and her backing singers and dancers at 2008 Eurovision

Have you written songs for any other Eurovision singers?  

There are 5 Eurovision artists who have recorded my songs – only one, “Have Some Fun,” was in Eurovision. It just happens that 4 other Eurovision artists have recorded my songs – one singer before they ever were in Eurovision – Sergey Lazarev; and the other singers after their Eurovision song – Nicki French, Sonia, and Chiara.

Lauris Reiniks came in 2nd place for his country, Latvia. Also, with Lauris, we wrote a song that came in 2nd place in the Irish National final called ‘I wish I could Pretend’. Had it gotten a few more votes, I would have had a song in Eurovision 2 years in a row.

There are many countries that require their Eurovision entries to be written solely by songwriters who live in that country, so for a US songwriter, it’s challenging to get a song in Eurovision due to the limited amount of countries. Still, it was really thrilling and an honour to have a song in Eurovision.

How has the music industry changed since you first began writing?  

Obviously, it changed from buying CDs (or LPs/cassettes) to buying mp3s, then to streaming your favorite music for free – that’s the business side. On the creative side, the biggest way it’s changed is quite significant. A person used to write a song on a piano or guitar or other musical instrument. Now, so much music is created on a computer. But more than that, the biggest change is that it used to be “song first” and then you’d record and produce it. Now, it’s usually the reverse.

Most pop songs are created “track first” by producers, and then songwriters (also referred to as topliners) write a melody and lyric to the track. It’s a very different process when you’re used to writing on a piano or guitar, where you’re in control of the chords while writing the melodies, and even deciding the tempo. You’re kind of restricted to the chords already on the track and tempo that the song is already at.

On the positive side – and I tend to look at things from the plus side – it’s a fun challenge to write a song given those elements that already exist. When you’re given a great track, it’s inspiring to write to it, and sometimes, your best songs come out this way. But it is an adjustment at the beginning to write this way when you’ve always written on an instrument. EDM (Electronic Dance Music) has also contributed to a significant change in the song’s structure. Unlike before, EDM has added a new element to the song – the post-hook. So after the main chorus, each time there’s a primarily instrumental section – that has a synth melody hook on top.

What are you up to at the moment? 

Writing new songs and also producing, which is something I branched out to a couple years ago. When Tropical House/EDM started becoming popular, I really liked the sounds and decided to explore it, not just by songwriting, but also producing the music, too. I find I enjoy producing as much as writing. Well, the creative side of it. The technical side of it – there’s so much to learn.

Do you have any plans for the future?  

Besides writing more songs, also pitching my songs. I’ve had hits in individual countries, but never a worldwide hit. It’s a goal of mine to have that someday. Also, I’d like to have more songs in Eurovision! And so I hope to connect to Artists, Managers, and Record labels that need songs for ESC.

What advice would you give to any aspiring singers/songwriters?  

First, I’d recommend learning your craft. Not necessarily even in a proper “schooled” way. Try to understand what makes a song great and stand out as a single instead of an album cut. Really try to dive in to the DNA of songs, both musically and lyrically, because styles and genres are always evolving. And if you believe you really have the talent, which is something you can probably tell from people’s reactions to your songs, then never give up. Think of it this way – what if you gave up one day before the day that would have changed your career – the day you made a certain call or wrote a specific song that would have changed your life/career. And you’d never even know you were that close to having your dreams come true because you quit one day earlier. 

Thanks for speaking to us Gordon. Good luck with everything in the future!

Gordon Pogoda has a worldwide publishing deal with BMG. For info or to hear his music, check out his website at www.gordonpogoda.com

Below you can see some songs Gordon has written for past Eurovision singers:

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