This weekend, APRA AMCOS’ SongHubs Tower 2021 initiative takes place in Sydney at Studio 301. And judging by previous songwriting workshops to come out of the SongHubs stable, Australia could have multiple Platinum-selling, number one hits ready to be exported.
SongHubs Tower is a three-to-four day songwriting residency workshop, providing unique collaborative opportunities for both published and unpublished songwriters and composers, irrespective of genre.
Ahead of the event, we were lucky enough to sit down for a chat with a number of talented songwriters, including its event curator, PJ Harding, as well as producer, Justin Stanley and singer-songwriter, Nikka Costa who will be participating this year.
“SongHubs has been a massive thing for me,” says PJ Harding. “It’s largely responsible for me being where I’m at in my career. I went to my first SongHubs in 2015 I think. And that was really the first co-writing I ever did.
“It opened a huge amount of doors, introduced me to a kind of way of songwriting that I hadn’t really done before.” Harding continued, “So being able to sort of get to this end of things and be able to help put one of these things together is really special.”
So how do the participants get paired up? Harding explains his role as curator, where he’s followed on from past songwriters in the role such as super producer Joel Little (Taylor Swift, Amy Shark) and 2016 Vanda & Young Songwriting Comp winner Gretta Ray.
“Basically my job as curator is to try and put together a real mix of people,” he says. “It’s really about trying to strike the balance of different people and make it so that you don’t just get great songs but, it really can be a bit of a launching pad for some people if it ends up going that way.”
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PJ Harding is more than worthy of the curatorial role of SongHubs Tower. He’s worked with Lil Nas X, Bebe Rexha, Diplo and Little Mix, and has also produced Noah Cyrus’ debut EP, The End of Everything, which features the Platinum-selling, Top 40 radio hit ‘July’.
“You want some people in there – like Justin (Stanley) and Nikka (Costa) who have been doing this for a long time and have got a bunch of knowledge and skills that they can share about about the process,” he continues. “And then you want some people in there that are young and maybe haven’t been involved in one of these things before.”
This year seasoned producer/songwriter, Justin Stanley and artist/songwriter Nikka Costa are locked in to be two of the participants in the mix, with both having made their way Down Under from LA last year due to the pandemic. In the lead-up to the event, they’ve both been enjoying the eased restrictions on live music when compared to their second home on the other side of the Pacific.
“It was great,” Costa says of a recent gig she performed in Sydney. “There was singing and partying and it was really like a pre-COVID show. It was pretty awesome. So we feel very lucky to be here.”
Justin Stanley compared the model of SongHubs as “kind of like winning the lottery.”
“You might get into a room and on face value, you might think, ‘Oh that’s not gonna work,’ but then, really interesting things come out that really surprise you. You always keep very open to the process.”
With such talented producers, musicians and writers like PJ Harding, Costa and Stanley — the latter of which have performed and collaborated alongside artists like Prince, Paul McCartney and Lenny Kravitz — there’s bound to be nothing short of magic resulting from this year’s SongHubs event in Sydney.
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