How these 2 song-writing tricks led to a BAFTA

Ellie Wyatt talks Briefs, Beatles and BAFTAs.

Ellie Wyatt pictured with the Plug-In Media team at the BAFTAs on December 1st 2019.

This week, Ellie Wyatt won a BAFTA in the Children's Short Form Category.

Here she explains how the songs keep on coming...

The perfect music brief would be...?

EW: A discussion!

It’s always easier to write after having a conversation with the producer/director and getting as much information about the show and the characters as possible.

Reading a script or seeing a bible can also really help to understand the motivations and key themes of the show, and where music fits into that.

It’s also always good to be given some musical references. And ideas of the kind of instrumentation that might be needed.

… and the worst kind of brief?

“We’ll know it when we hear it.”

What was your very first writing commission?

The first full series I worked on was CBeebies' Tee and Mo created by Plugin Media.

It was a huge learning curve for all of us.

It was particularly involved, as the music in Tee and Mo really has to tell the story because the characters don’t speak. Looking back, we went the long way around many times, and of course we’ll do things more efficiently for series 2, but I am incredibly proud of what Dominic Minns (the director, pictured with Ellie above), Joss Peach (my co-writer) and I achieved with all the music and songs.

The songs particularly are all packed full of our love and attention to detail. So yes, I am very proud of those.

Are there musical tricks you use from song-to-song to guarantee it will resonate?

I have two tricks. One is the ‘can I still remember it in the morning?’ test. If I can’t then it’s not catchy enough and then it’s time to start again.

The other is that I spent years as a children’s music teacher and so I ask myself could I teach this song to a class full of kids and would they enjoy singing it...?

What comes first, the lyrics or the top line melody?

For me a good song has to be the lyrics and the melody combined. You can’t have one without the other, so usually I look for a phrase that sticks in some way, then find a melody for it, then build out from there.

What songs or artists have been instrumental for you in developing your style?

Very tricky question! I have been listening to songs my whole life. As a kid I remember working out the harmonies in Beatles songs on car journeys and learning musicals like Joseph from start to finish. I’ve always loved pop music and think I have an ear for a hook, then from being a violinist I think I am always drawn to strong melody. Now I listen to everything from Nick Cave to Taylor Swift.

What’s changed since you started in the industry and what, if anything, would you like to change?

I started in a band, touring and selling our own merchandise. Since then everything has changed enormously, largely due to Youtube and Spotify. I think it has become harder and harder for songwriters to have a career as music has sadly been greatly devalued with writers earning next to nothing via streaming. I wish this wasn’t the case, and I also wish the industry had more women in it!

Where will you keep your BAFTA ?

I thought that if we were lucky enough to win the BAFTA would go to PlugIn Media’s Office. I had no idea we would actually receive one each! I think it will have to take pride of place in my studio and of course Joss needs to get some pictures taken with it too.

Ellie's BAFTA was won in the Children's Short Form category for the song TEE AND MO: HELP OUR LITTLE WORLD.


She has recently written songs for CBeebies drama Molly and Mack and is co-scoring a forthcoming 52-part series for CBeebies and a Sesame Street special.