Irish-born songwriter Johnny McDaid learned his craft the classic way: Playing in front of people and seeing what sticks. In bands since the age of 11, McDaid moved to London when he was 17, committing to a life of playing music rather than attending college.

“The craft of songwriting started when I was in the streets in London and I would play covers. I’d throw in my own songs and get a very quick reaction. I could feel whether or not people connected with what I was writing. It was an honest schooling.”

A few years into his London stay, Johnny started the band Vega4. After signing a deal and reaching the cusp of success in the U.S., label regime changes left the band in flux. As Vega4 took an unexpected hiatus, Johnny scored a hit record with acclaimed DJ Paul Van Dyk (“Time Of Our Lives”). Unable to work on fresh Vega4 material and newly opened to the possibilities of writing for others, Johnny decided to hone his craft as a songwriter.

“I went on a writing tour of America. I wrote for months with anyone who would work with me. Hip-hop writers, country artists, guys, girls, bands, producers—everyone who would go into a room with me and write. The idea was to absorb the essence of songwriting with an openness to the possibility of what might be. I found a real energy in collaborating and learned so much from that experience.”

On the heels of his American adventure, Johnny was tapped by Johnny Quinn of Snow Patrol to become the first signing of Polar Patrol Publishing (Kobalt Music Publishing). He later joined the band and became an integral part of their lineup. Johnny often writes with Snow Patrol’s lead singer, Gary Lightbody.

Since joining Snow Patrol, Johnny has continued to hone his craft as a songwriter, lending his unique perspective to Example, Foy Vance, Rudimental, Kodaline and Ed Sheeran’s global hit album X as a writer and producer, for which he earned a Grammy nomination in 2015.

“What I try to bring to the table is the process of discovering what it is that the artist I’m working with wants to say. It often starts with a conversation. It’s about getting to the real heart of things, asking for and showing vulnerability, and exploring ideas that are really authentic to the artist. A session to me is like an ecosystem. Energy is passed around and things change and grow in it. Songwriting is alchemy. You tap into and build from experience, from the life that’s led, from the love, the hurt, the wounds, the joy, the celebration, the knowledge, the characters you’ve met and ultimately the core of who you are. This is where songs are born.”