The journey to the top can be a funny thing. One moment you’re living in San Ġwann and too embarrassed to tell people you meet that you’re a songwriter, the next you’re rubbing shoulders with the very best in the industry.
Shaun Farrugia, 23, announced today that he has signed a publishing deal with Sigala, the British DJ behind well-known songs like ‘Lullaby’ and ‘Came Here For Love’.
“No words can explain what I’m feeling!” he said, quite understandably. “I’ve been dreaming of this day for years.”
Shaun started writing and producing music six years ago from his bedroom in San Ġwann and it certainly wasn’t plain sailing.
“I was really bad at it,” he tells Lovin Malta with a chuckle. “I was in a production duo and my colleague told me in no uncertain terms that I was a shit producer and that I should stick to writing songs.”
As his friends moved on to university, Shaun decided to stick with his songwriting dream.
“I used to hesitate before introducing myself as a songwriter because people used to laugh and make fun of me,” he said. “However, some people, such as my parents and friends, always supported me.”
Eventually, Shaun started writing for some of Malta’s most popular artists, penning songs such as ‘Lately’ by Gaia and Kevin Paul and an entire album for Christabelle, which is as yet unreleased.
Then in July 2018, he sent some of his music to Sigala, who responded that it’s “really dope”, scheduled a meeting in September but got caught up with other things. However, in November, Shaun got in touch with his Maltese friend Emma Tranter, who works as a tour manager for Sigala, and she reminded the DJ of him.
“As soon as Emma mentioned me, Sigala scheduled a meeting with me,” Shaun said. “That moment, I knew this was my chance.”
The young Maltese songwriter decided to throw caution to the wind, selling his car and other valuables and moving to London, renting a cheap attic.
“I’m a mummy boy and I haven’t cooked since I moved here, although I’ve had to learn how to wash my own clothes,” he says of moving to the British capital.
“I met Sigala and told him I had moved to London just to meet him and he said I was crazy,” Shaun recounted. “However, he suddenly invited me to attend his songwriting camp and it was like a dream. The likes of Becky Hill and JP Cooper and producers behind the best hits of the world were literally in adjacent rooms to mine, and I was actually working alongside them.”
After the camp finished, Shaun and Sigala started discussing the possibility of a publishing deal and finalised everything today over champagne, effectively cementing Sigala’s role as a mentor to Shaun.
Meanwhile, he has been working with Lighthouse Music Publishing, in partnership with Kobalt Music, writing song after song in the hope that some will eventually become hits.
Shaun now rubs shoulders with the stars on a daily basis, but the experience wasn’t quite what he was expecting.
“Bruce [Sigala] and I talk about our friends and our plans for the weekend. Once, I was walking into a cafe with Bruce, happened to meet John Newman there and ended up having lunch with him. It was a surreal moment but I also realised how normal these people are.”
I met a singer from Abba and it was so normal. You don’t get starstruck by these people; you work with them everyday and you get used to it. These people are just like us.”
Shaun’s advice to aspiring Matese songwriters and artists is brutishly simple.
“Due to Malta’s size and limitations, it is difficult to have a professional music industry since the market is so limited. Talented people need to take the plunge and leave Malta if they want to succeed. I’ve been working full-time writing songs and I haven’t had one hit yet.”
“There are talented people in Malta but they need to make that jump.”