Top Pop Songwriter Sarah Hudson Co-Writes Hits For Dua Lipa (“Levitating”) And Katy Perry (“Dark Horse”), And Releases Her Own Music

Sarah Hudson
Sarah Hudson

Over the past eight years, singer/songwriter Sarah Hudson has become a very successful pop songwriter who has now co-written three, Top 5 pop hits. Currently, she’s on the charts with Dua Lipa’s hit ‘Levitating” (feat. DaBaby), and she co-wrote another key song (“Physical”) on Lipa’s platinum album, Future Nostalgia.

Hudson first made her mark as a hit songwriter in 2013, when she co-wrote Katy Perry’s number one hit, “Dark Horse.” Notably, she went on to write many more songs with Perry. For Perry’s 2017 album Witness, she co-wrote eight songs including the chart single, “Swish Swish” (feat. Nicki Minaj). Also, she co-wrote a song (“What Makes a Woman”) for Perry’s latest album, Smile.

Hudson’s other big pop hit was “Black Widow,” by rapper Iggy Azalea feat. Rita Ora, which reached #3 in 2014. She has also co-written songs for many other artists including Justin Bieber feat. Halsey (“The Feeling”), 5 Seconds of Summer, Adam Lambert, Charli XCX, Camila Cabello, Little Mix, The Neighbourhood, Tinashe, The Knocks, Santigold, Idina Menzel, Years & Years, Alma and Ashley Tisdale. Hudson is signed with Warner Chappell Music Publishing.

Here’s an excerpt of our interview with Sarah Hudson, who tells how she wrote Dua Lipa’s hit, “Levitating” (with Lipa, Coffee, Koz & DaBaby).

Besides writing songs for other artists, Hudson is a unique, creative artist who releases her own music. In 2004, she released her debut album, Naked Truth (on S-Curve Records), and later she was the creator of the club-pop music project, Ultraviolet Sound. Her most recent release is the EP Songs from the Sea, which came out in 2017 and features the song, “Mermaid.”

Sarah Hudson Interview

We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Sarah Hudson. She tells how she co-wrote Dua Lipa’s hit “Levitating,” and she also discusses her other recent projects. This is our second article with Hudson; you can read our 2015 interview with her, where she discusses her earlier hits with Katy Perry (“Dark Horse”) and Iggy Azalea (“Black Widow”).

DK: It’s been five years since we last spoke, after you had the hits: “Dark Horse” and “Black Widow.” Can you talk about your recent years?

Here’s the video of Dua Lipa’s hit “Levitating” feat. DaBaby, which
was co-written by Sarah Hudson.

Sarah Hudson: Yes. At that time, “Dark Horse” and “Black Widow” opened up a lot of doors for me, and a lot of opportunities. Since then, I’ve been riding the wave of writing and meeting new artists and people in the business, and forming solid relationships with people who I love to work with. I’ve been blessed to have more songs come out since then, and I put out my own EP (Songs from the Sea).

DK: Besides writing “Dark Horse” with Katy Perry, you wrote eight songs with her for her album, Witness. Can you tell me about your writing collaboration and friendship with Katy?

Hudson: Yeah, Katy and I have become great friends over the years. We have such a good, collaborative relationship in the studio, and we have the best time. It really is one of my favorite things, when you have a friendship and you can be yourself and let go, and be free in the studio. You know, Katy is an incredible writer and visionary. She knows exactly what she wants…she sort of sees the songs before we write them. So it’s an amazing process to step into her world.

DK: Currently, you have two big cuts (“Levitating” and “Physical”) on Dua Lita’s album, Future Nostalgia. How did you connect with Dua?

Hudson: When Dua was starting out, my manager was like, “There’s this new artist, she’s really incredible and she’s making her first album, and you’ve gotta get in with her.” And I’m always interested in getting with new artists and seeing how they develop. Then we were set up in a session—it was me, Dua, Coffee (Clarence Coffee, Jr.), and a producer named Axident. We were in that session, and when Dua came in the room, I felt like, “This girl is special.” She has such a unique voice, she’s a great writer, and she has a presence about her. That day, we wrote “Genesis,” which was on her first album (Dua Lipa). And very similar to my experience with Katy Perry, we became friends and stayed in touch over the years. We developed a friendship, and when it was time for her to make her second record (Future Nostalgia), we got back together and started brainstorming.

Here’s the video of Dua Lipa’s song “Physical,” which was
co-written by Sarah Hudson.

DK: With the hit “Levitating,” how did you, Dua and the other writers write this song?

Hudson: We were in London, and it was me, Coffee, Dua and Koz, who produced the song and wrote it with us. At first, we tried a bunch of ideas, but there wasn’t anything we loved. Then there’s a fun story about what happened next. Dua was like, “I’m ordering donuts—I’m gonna get us donuts from this place.” And we were all like, “Oh no…donuts!” (laughs). Then Dua ordered all these donuts, and we ate so many donuts that we all had this sugar high. Which is funny, because there’s this line “sugarboo” in the song. Then we started getting all this energy and we’re bouncing off the walls. And Koz started playing this idea, and it was so fun. We were literally just dancing and singing and having the best time writing that song. The energy you feel when you listen to the song…that’s the energy that we had writing it.

DK: The current hit version of “Levitating” also features rapper, DaBaby. When did he get involved with the song?

Hudson: I’m not sure about the timeline. Dua had put out Club Future Nostalgia, which was the remix version of the album. And Madonna and Missy Elliot were on (the new remix of) “Levitating,” which was a dream come true. And then DaBaby did his version. It’s so cool that the song has had so many lives. DaBaby’s energy on it a cool addition, and it gives it a whole new audience and new life. I love it.

DK: Besides your recent cuts with Dua, what are some of your other favorite songs and projects that you’ve worked on in the past few years?

Hudson: I loved working with the band, The Neighbourhood…I loved what we did together. And working with Years and Years, who’s another incredible band. Also, the song “The Feeling” with Justin Bieber (feat. Halsey); that song was special. Another of my favorite things was a song called “Good Things Fall Apart” by Illenium & Jon Bellion. That song was so special; I wrote it with two of my good friends JHart & Jason Evigan, and it was such an emotional, special day in the studio. To hear Jon Bellion bring it to life was such a dream, because I respect him and love him as an artist.

DK: When you’re co-writing, what do you feel is your strength as a songwriter? Is it writing the topline (melody & lyrics)? And are you also involved with creating the tracks?

Here’s a short film by Sarah Hudson, featuring songs from
her EP, Songs from the Sea.

Hudson: My first intention as a collaborator is to bring a good energy into the room…to bring in a positive, uplifting vibe and make everyone feel comfortable. To create a space where everyone feels safe and comfortable to express themselves. That’s my first, important step. Then I think my strength is in concepts, lyrics and melodies…sort of creating a world. Obviously, I feel very hands-on and I have input on the track and every element, but I think my strong suit is writing lyrics and concepts and melodies.

DK: Three years ago you released your own EP, Songs from the Sea, and the first song is “Mermaid,” which is a cool concept song. Can you talk about the EP and your artist side?

Hudson: I have a special relationship with a writer named Ferras, and we’re both the biggest Tori Amos fans. We sit down at the piano and we write these magical, special songs together. You know, I’m a very spiritual person and I really believe in the connection with the universe, that we are just channels for music. And I think those songs on the EP that Ferras and I wrote are very channeled and magical little stories. I really believe I had a past life in Atlantis as a mermaid (laughs), so that’s where “Mermaid” comes from. I believe that was part of my being at some point, and I wanted to write that story.

I wanted to get my EP Songs from the Sea out there because it’s a side of me…it’s the spiritual side of me that I needed to get out.

DK: Thank you Sarah for doing this interview, Is there anything that we haven’t talked about yet, that you’d like to mention for this article?

Hudson: For me, it’s very important to convey, that I love to paint the artists I work with in a lovely light. Especially Dua and Katy…they’re so special to me. I feel very grateful to be able to work with artists that are on that level and to be friends with them. They’re both incredible writers who have their own vision, and as a collaborator, I go in as a part of their world.

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima