London songwriter and vocalist Dayo Olatunji (aka Dyo) has just received her first ever Ivor Novello Award nomination for Sexual, a track she co-wrote with Swedish producer Neiked.
But she definitely has previous form. Dyo spectacularly emerged four years ago on Wiley’s huge number one hit Heatwave. As co-writer and featured artist on all three singles from his album The Ascent, the world quickly switched on to her pop charms and crafty way with a melody.
Fast forward to 2017 and she’s worked with Iggy Azelea, co-penning her 2014 international smash Bounce, and has racked up millions of Spotify plays and a Top 10 placing for Sexual.
We caught up with the Warner/Chappell signed songwriter at today’s (Wednesday) Ivor Novello Award nominations event to learn more about her songwriting journey so far…
How does it feel to be nominated for an Ivor Novello Award in the Best Contemporary Song category?
Very overwhelming. I’ve never been nominated for anything, and for this to be the first thing is massive!
What are your impressions of The Ivors?
It’s such a prestigious thing. When I heard I was like, ‘So Sexual is a proper song song?!’ I’m really excited.
What do you make of the rest of the nominees you are up against?
I think everyone that they’ve picked is very talented and all deserve to be up for nominations.
How did you come up with the idea for Sexual?
I went to Sweden because I needed to do something different – I wanted to go out there and explore. Then I met with Neiked and we got writing Sexual. About a year later he just said, ‘I’m thinking of putting this song out, how do you feel about it?’ I was happy to do it and didn’t really know what was going to come of it. And then out of nowhere everyone was like, ‘Oh my god! Congratulations!’ and I was like, ‘Oh yeah… congratulations’.
What is it about that song that grabs people?
I think people just like saying naughty things out loud! People like the idea of screaming ‘Sexual’ I guess! And maybe because the chorus is so high? Every time I perform it the audience seem most excited at the chorus and can’t wait to scream.
Are there any other songwriters or artists you’re particularly into at the moment?
Ed Sheeran, definitely. Every single song he brings out is just ace. Lyrically, musically, melodically, everything about them is just great. I guess that’s why he’s so successful.
The nominees seem to be diverse this year, with lots of collaborating going on. Have you noticed that?
Definitely. Before, people were more inclined to have just one producer and one writer. Nowadays there are quite a few writers in the room and everyone’s coming from a different background and world. I feel that combination makes for really strong songs, and that’s reflected in the nominations today.
How did you first get into songwriting?
Well, I didn’t start off writing. I had friends in the industry who were writing and I somehow wasn’t. They would say to me, ‘Just listen to songs that you really like lyrically and focus on that’. The more I did that the more I started to enjoy the process. I remember the first thing I did that anyone heard was Oopsy Daisy in 2009. At the time I remember I was in the studio, did the song and didn’t think anything of it.
Was there one song that made you want to be a songwriter?
I guess it was probably hearing the songs of my friends around me. If they could write then why can’t I? I needed to learn somehow and put my head down to focus. They encouraged me a lot.
Is it something you like to do on your own or do you prefer the collaboration process?
I do like working with other people quite a lot. If there’s any time when you can’t think of anything to write you can be like, ‘Oh yeah, you do it’! But also two heads are better than one. Sometimes I don’t want to write songs that have melodies that sound like me so I like to ask someone else to think of something different. I do enjoy writing on my own as well though.
Do you have a favourite songwriter?
I always say Imogen Heap. She’s just so creative and sometimes you can’t even understand what she’s saying. It’s all riddles but I think that’s what’s so great about it. You don’t always have to write something that people can easily make sense of. Not all the time. But then again, I like Drake. His tracks always sound like conversation. It’s how we talk in everyday language.
Do you have a favourite song of all time?
I like Avril Lavigne’s I’m With You. I feel like I still use that song in studios today as a reference. Really random choice but it’s a good song!
Have you ever harmed any friendships through what you’ve written about?
I think there’s been more of a ‘I know that song about me’ scenario. I say it could be about anyone or anything when it really is about them…
Anyone you’re looking forward to meeting in particular at The Ivors ceremony next month?
Laura Mvula. I’ve listened to her album hundreds of thousands of times so it will be nice to actually meet her in person.
Is there anyone you would really love to collaborate with that you haven’t done yet?
Mura Masa. He’s in my category as well, so I might be like, ‘Heyyy’ at the awards!