Songwriter Savan Kotecha, 23, is making waves in the music world. The successful young composer has many musical influences.
He has family roots in India, where his grandparents were born, and Uganda, where his parents lived before they fled dictator Idi Amin. Savan Kotecha was exposed to rock and blues in his hometown of Austin, Texas. But he says, he loves simple, melodic songs that tell a story, and he tries to capture that sound in his music.
He co-wrote the song "Inside Your Heaven," two versions of which held top slots simultaneously on Billboard magazine's record charts in June. One was sung by Bo Bice, the other by Carrie Underwood.
At 15, Savan started writing songs and playing piano. He tried performing briefly, but a recording executive, known as an "A&R man" for "artists and repertoire," told him to stop singing and just write.
"It was an A&R guy at Jive Records, I remember, when I was, like, 17, who called me up and said, 'You know, you're a much better songwriter than you are a singer. And so, from then on, I just decided to keep writing,'" he said.
It took persistence to get a deal with a music company. He would solicit executives at industry conferences, where solicitations are prohibited. When officials asked him to leave, he would go to his car, change his clothes, put on a baseball cap and sneak back in again. He finally landed a contract with BMG Music, and he now writes songs for major stars, including the actress-turned-singer Lindsay Lohan. He co-wrote the track "Disconnected" for her debut album.
Savan also co-wrote "When a Woman Loves a Man," recorded by the Irish band Westlife. It became a best-selling hit in Britain, where it topped the download charts.
Success has come early for the songwriter, who was making plans when we spoke to return to his old high school with a surprise for his former music teacher. He would carry a gift, a plaque commemorating his Number One song on the Billboard charts, "Inside Your Heaven."
"I got the Billboard page with the singles charts framed," he added. "So, I'm going to actually go and sneak in the school and surprise him in one of his classes. I've got a frame done with an engraving to him. So, it will be exciting."
Savan says Indian parents like his often pressure their children to enter a conventional profession. He says there is nothing wrong with taking that route, but he is glad he did not, and he says his success as a songwriter carries a message.
"The good thing about it for me is to encourage first-generation Indian kids to do what they feel like doing," he noted. "You don't have to be a doctor. You don't have to be a lawyer. You can make your dreams come true, really, and, hopefully, their parents can see that as well, because there's a lot of pressure."
Savan is now working in Sweden, one of the centers of the European music business, where he continues to collaborate with groups like Westlife.