If you didn’t have a boy band phase in your past you may have missed out on a crucial part of being a teenager: obsession with fandom, pop music and superstardom. But don’t worry — August Moon is here for all of us even the ones who missed out on this experience.

The catch is that August Moon is a fictional band whipped up by the minds behind the rom-com “The Idea of You” starring Oscar winner Anne Hathaway and the internet’s new every boyfriend Nicholas Galitzine. Prime Video’s romantic comedy has captured the hearts of boy band fans across the world and smashed the streamer’s records with nearly 50 million worldwide viewers in its first two weeks of release. According to the studio, it has become Amazon MGM’s No. 1 romantic-comedy debut of all time.

Its popularity may have something to do with the central characters Solène (Anne Hathaway) and Hayes’ (Nicholas Galitzine) steamy, loving age-gap relationship. Solène is a 39-year-old art gallery owner in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles who’s also a recent divorcée and a mother to a teenager. Her life does a full 180 when she has a meet-cute with Hayes, the 24-year-old frontman to British boy band August Moon. 

The movie’s popularity could also be chalked up to August Moon’s perfectly infectious pop music — reminiscent of the firm pulsing tunes that One Direction had with early hits like “What Makes You Beautiful,” “One Thing” and “Live While We’re Young.” Behind the magic of both One Direction and August Moon is prolific songwriter Savan Kotecha. With more than 300 hits in his music catalog, the music powerhouse has written for Ariana Grande, The Weeknd, Britney Spears, Sam Smith, Justin Bieber and so many more recognizable pop acts. If you have a radio, Spotify or Apple Music — at some point in your lifetime you have heard a song Kotecha has written. 

This time, Kotecha uses his mighty songwriting pen for the “Idea of You” soundtrack, writing seven original songs for August Moon that consists of Galitzine’s lead vocal and Kotecha as a supporting and backing vocal. Kotecha also acted as an executive music producer for the movie’s soundtrack, his second venture into music for movies, after receiving an Oscar nomination for his work on Netflix’s 2019 comedy “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” soundtrack. Kotecha tells me in an interview for Salon, “[Moviemaking] was always sort of my plan. Or the dream.” 

He also talks about the working relationship he built with Galitzine and his secret recipe for writing a great love song. Read more of our conversation below:

The following conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length

You’ve had such a prolific songwriting career working with music acts like One Direction, Ariana Grande and Britney Spears and so many more. So how does “The Idea of You” and being a part of the movie-making business land in your lap? 

“It’s hard to get going really until we know what voice we’re playing with.”

I started getting into it around 2019. I always loved it. It was always sort of my plan. Or the dream. When I started writing songs I would write songs from watching “Dawson’s Creek” and writing from the character’s point of view because I had a very strict upbringing so I didn’t really have much experience. It’s all something I wanted to do and I did that “Eurovision” movie with Will Ferrell, and sort of caught the bug. It was such a fun thing to be a part of. Then we got the Oscar nomination. I took a few years off from my pop star songwriting and took time, moved to Sweden and also just took time developing, selling films. So while I was doing that, I also told my people like, “Hey, if there’s another movie that needs an executive music producer the way ‘Eurovision’ did, I would love to — if I find the right script, I’d love to do it again.” Someone called me saying, “Hey, Amazon wants to talk to you about this ‘Idea of You’ movie.” They told me the premise and they sent me the first draft of the script and I really literally loved it. I love me a good rom-com. So I spoke to the producer Cathy Schulman, and we talked about the character Hayes (Nicholas Galitzine) and how to make it feel authentic. So had a great conversation with her. And then another conversation with her and Michael Showalter, the director. They were like, “We’d love to be a part of it.” We saw things the same way. 

The Idea of YouNicholas Galitzine in “The Idea of You” (Alisha Wetheril/Prime Video)What were the discussions for what August Moon’s soft pop-rock sound would be like? Were there any references that you looked back on, to take inspiration? Or was it kind of like a clean slate when it came to August Moon?

It was pretty much a clean slate. I told them that it’s hard to get going really until we know what voice we’re playing with. They were really great and sort of kept me abreast on the casting process and would send me people’s auditions. The last one they sent me —  there were some great actors that auditioned but then when Nick’s came in, I think it was Cathy said to me, ‘” think we found him. What do you think?” You could just tell right away the chemistry between him and Anne. Then I heard him sing and I was like, “Oh, thank God. That’s great. He’s got a really great voice.” That sort of led me to going more guitars rather than like rhythmic, dance-y and or more like R&B. It was more it felt like authentically to his voice, we had to go this direction. 

Are the songs created out of new material rather than previous inspiration from previous artists that you had worked with?

Absolutely. There was one that was based on an old idea and then one that was a fully written song and the fully written song was “I Got You.” That was sort of a song that myself, Ilya and Babyface had, that I kept in my back pocket. I really loved it and just didn’t know what to do with it. But I wanted that in my head. I felt like that song should be an August Moon song and it should feel like that was one of their first songs. So when you hear it on the radio, it should feel like the record company signed this boy band and went to a bunch of big writers and they wrote a song regardless of what the band was. I wanted the whole thing to be like an authentic thing.

Even the August Moon original version of “Closer” has a line that Hayes changed on stage for Anne’s character. So that “I know you’re a little bit older” is the line that he changed and there was actually an original line before that. So I really went like super meta. I want it to feel as real as possible.

This would be a really, really really poppy first single like that they got off the shelf from professional songwriters and then “Taste” would be the next one for the next album. But then the boys would want more control and they’ll have more guitars and things like that. That’s what “Guard Down” was and “Closer” and then “Dance Before We Walk” because in the first earlier drafts of the script, it was Hayes was leaving the band. There was a scene where he was talking about how the record company doesn’t take his songs like seriously when he’s like I tried to write songs and it was all about him finding his voice and leaving the band. That’s why the lyric is “off the moon and hittin’ the ground like a rocket.” I did my best really in my brain to treat them like a real band. The challenge was how do you make the journey of a real boy band so when you meet them it’s that you have to believe they’re a big band? But also they have had to have been around long enough for Izzy (Ella Rubin) to say they’re so seventh grade. That’s perfect because it feels like when you’re in it, you’re gonna love it and then two years later, you’re gonna be like, that’s so seventh grade.

As someone who has written so many pop hits about love and relationships — what is the recipe to crafting a universal, warm love song like “Closer?”

Gosh, I think everything should come from honesty and this seed of honesty.  And I think having you know, which “Closer” has is a really great melody really helps. Yeah, those are the two: melody to me is the universal language. If you have that. I think you’re most of the way there.

Boy bands go through all these different phases but they ultimately never die. There’s so many different iterations of boy bands across the decades. How do you pay homage to them but also do something new for an audience that you know, is craving a new sound or new music without copying the past?

I’ve had a lot of experience with different boy bands, not just One Direction. That’s music I love. I love just unabashedly pop music that’s not trying to be cool. That’s sort of my comfort zone. What I liked about it and what I wanted to do, which I hope we achieved is when boy bands come on the scene, if you really think about it, it usually comes out of nowhere. In the sense that it doesn’t sound like anything else. The ones that work are the ones that don’t sound like anything else at the time. I remember when we did One Direction, that first album, everyone was doing this rhythmic Rihanna, Chris Brown dance-pop that was happening. So we went the total opposite.

“Dealing with the pitfalls of fame — that’s what really ‘Guard Down’ is.”

I remember growing up, New Kids on the Block didn’t sound like anything else on the radio. This boy band Westlife in Europe stayed to a certain sound no matter how they were around for years. No matter how trends came and went, they stuck to their sound. That’s always been my theory with these things is that you don’t try and make it of the time. You just try and make it countering what’s happening on its own. Right now everything is, especially male singers, very urban and rhythmic and where hip-hop is right now. OK, we’ll kind of just do the opposite.

I think it’s successful because I can’t get “Guard Down” out of my head. It is definitely one of those earworm songs. What was the thought process for it being chosen as this Coachella song that August Moon perform?

From the songs we had, we knew that the Coachella the one had to have a certain energy to it. So that just fit exactly what it felt like it needed to be and it also it felt that that is their current song that they have out now. In my brain, it was like this was their third album. They’re probably wanting to add some guitars and make it a little different. And make it feel a little more sophisticated. Hence the Police influence. The lyrics are looking within. It’s really all about dealing with the pitfalls of fame — that’s what really “Guard Down” is. Whether it’s drugs for women or whatever, now they’ve got experience. When you read the lyric, it’s about being seen as like, “Had me up inside the temple/I did not choose.” It’s really like you’re worshiping me and I just auditioned for this [band.] So it’s all internal rather than singing to a girl. It gave them maturity because it’s their third album, and just the energy of it felt the right feel. I think Michael was like “OK, this is the one for Coachella,” based on what they wanted to shoot. So it’s been fun. To be honest, I thought ‘Dance Before We Walk” was going to be the one that went but looking at everything right now it seems like “Guard Down” we just released a video for “Guard Now.”

I literally just saw it before the interview. It’s so reminiscent of “Best Song Ever” by One Direction.

I just really love it because when I saw it I was like, “This is going to be so nostalgic.” The way it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Yeah, I’m excited. Let’s see if that’s the one I see it all over TikTok.

As you mentioned, “I Got You” was written by the legend that is Babyface and another prolific songwriter Ilya. What was that like for you as a as a fan of music and a songwriter to be working with two powerhouse musicians to come together to make this song?

“There’s people making August Moon merch.”

Ilya and I have written a lot together. We had his first hit with “Problem” for Ariana. So he’s been sort of my partner in crime and in a lot of songs over the years. Mostly all the Ariana stuff and “Love Me Like You Do” [Elle Goulding] and Sam Smith’s “How Do You Sleep.” I’d always been nervous to call Babyface because he’s genuinely my hero. He’s my songwriting hero. As a teenager living in Austin, I remember there was an article in the gossip column of the paper that he was vacationing in Lake Travis with his family. I literally went and knocked on every door of rental condos looking for Babyface. When I broke in as a songwriter, I was always too intimidated to ever call him and ask him to do something. So that song means so much to me because it was the first time I called and asked if he would want to write, and he was so gracious and totally lived up to the hype. He’s such an amazing, an amazing, talented person.

It’s even like double fun for me because I’m the second voice for the boy band. So on the second verse, it’s me. My high school boy band called Forte, I got a message from one of the guys that was in my high school boy band, who’s still so pretty good friends with and and we were just like texting about like, “Oh my gosh, that’s so crazy.” Imagine 16-year-old me singing on a Babyface song that’s out in the world.

What was it like building the narrative for August Moon as a band and eventually the transition with Hayes’ solo music? How did Hayes’ sound evolve? 

Amazon has been amazing. We’ve had this idea of let’s make the band real. Let’s make it live outside of the movie as much as possible. Let’s get them a TikTok account and Instagram account. Let’s repost fan accounts. Let’s make this real in our minds, and in the record labels’ minds. This is really a band. Even on socials when people are like, “I wish this band was real.” I reply like, “No, they are real people.” It should feel real, and it’s been fun because I feel like everyone’s come along for the ride. They actually have fan accounts, and there’s people making August Moon merch. So that’s been really fun.

For the Hayes songs really it’s same thing about how “Guard Down” was. The idea was to make them feel a little bit more adult a little bit more about his journey like “Dance Before We Walk” Even though it’s a really poppy song, it’s really about Hayes’ journey, his decision on leaving the band. It’s not clear now in the movie that he actually left but that was sort of the intention of the song. “Idea of You” was the final song, and it’s all about his love song to get to Solène. “I’ll take a lifetime or two with the idea of you” is supposed to summarize their journey together and their relationship. So trying to make it a little bit more organic. Like “Go Rogue,” obviously is on acoustic guitar and just tried to make it feel more mature and organic. Hopefully, we achieved that.

Nicholas Galitzine is a star. He mimics a lot of boy band frontmen, namely Harry Styles — but he’s an actor and shaping him into a performer requires a different skillset. How adaptable was he in this role as an actor, singer and performer? How did his specific qualities fit with the solo songs?

I can’t say enough about what a great guy he is, but also just what a gifted human he is. What I love about him is that he’s curious. He took it really seriously. We took long walks to the studio and chatted about the character and the experience and shared stories of my experience with people in bands. He really took it seriously and he has a lot of integrity. That also shows in Hayes’ character. In earliest talks with me, Michael and Cathy, when they were asking me about from my perspective what these kids could be going through, what they could be feeling, I gave some thoughts.

Hayes’ actor is very similar to Hayes the character in the sense that they both have a lot of integrity. Like the Hayes character, he says in that scene in on the bed that he didn’t want to be a joke. That’s the worst fear for him. He knew that he auditioned for this thing, and it was in a machine and it got big. But he wanted to also earn it. That’s why he started playing guitar and playing piano and writing songs because he didn’t want it to be just handed to him because he’s like a cute boy. He wanted to earn it. From what I’ve gotten to know with Nick, they share that trait where Nick could have obviously taken the easy way out in doing this character, but he gave him so much integrity because Nick has so much integrity. I thought that was just really admirable.

Ultimately, how did it feel watching the finished movie with your songs?

It felt really special. I saw different edits of it, but the real one where it hit me was when we saw with an audience that was like, “Wow, this is like something beyond.” When you read different types of scripts and you see different parts of the movie, it is still a work in progress; you’re so in it. But when you see it through the eyes of other people you realize how special it is.

I’m so I feel so honored to have been a part of this. Because like I said, I love those like Richard Curtis romantic dramas. “Notting Hill” and all those things. I genuinely feel Michael got this so on point. I’ve been in so many rooms where this is what people are talking about. This movie really struck a chord and connected with culture and something within the zeitgeist, and it feels like the songs have as well. I just hope it grows and continues to grow. I really hope the people that love the movie listen to the songs and feel the feels of the movie. That’s a way that they can sort of go back to what they felt by watching the movie by listening to songs. I think I’ve done my job.

The Idea of YouBoy band August Moon (Prime Video)Now that August Moon dropped the official music video for “Guard Down,”  can you reflect on how your career has come full circle?

I feel like I’ve come home again in a way. My first song ever released was with a boy band called Plus One but weren’t quite as big as like Backstreet Boys and all them but they did OK. And then Westlife in the U.K. and Europe, they were massive. That was my first really big break. I do love just like I said, just pure pop music like this. And it’s been a while since I’ve been able to. I took some time off. I’m so blessed with this type of work with the artists I’ve worked with. Those artists you’re in service to their vision which is awesome. It’s such a blessing to have been a part of and to go back to doing something like this to me, it was so fun and made me remember how much I love pop music and how you know there’s nothing like when you when you’re part of a boy band or breaking a boy band or a part of you know even back in the Westlife days when it’s pandemonium. It’s what I love about pop music.

There’s nothing better writing-wise than that. When you’re a part of something like that just explodes and it feels like I got to be a part of that again with this movie. Even though again, it’s a fictional band, it’s not fiction. You’re starting to see people just enjoy pure pop music for the sake of it not because “Oh this is cool or this isn’t cool.” They’re just like, “OK, I’m just gonna give into it.” I see a lot of that on those TikTok videos. With “Guard Down” people are just like, “I’m in my late 20s and I am over boy bands,” and then the chorus comes into like, “Oh s**t, yeah.”

Being able to be a part of songs like that, that’s what I love about music. So I just felt really lucky, lucky I got to do it. My old friend Carl Falk, one of my closest friends and close collaborators over the years. It’s the first thing we had done together in a while because I moved to Los Angeles for eight years and then just moved back to Sweden. So it was fun to do something with him. We haven’t done [anything] together since “One Last Time” [by Ariana Grande] which was over 10 years ago. So it was great. We finally were in the same place working on something. And now Albin Nedler, we wrote some One Direction songs with back in the day in the second album. It was just fun to be back with my friends and do music.

What are you listening to these days? Anyone you can put Salon’s audience onto?

I won’t get to just specific artists necessarily. I don’t want to give too much away but I’ve been looking at India a lot and listening to a lot of artists. I’m Indian but what the top part of India right now is pretty phenomenal. It’s gonna take over the world.

Do you have any dream collaborations that you still haven’t worked with? Because I know you have such a catalog of artists that you’ve worked past.

I’ve been super lucky. I think that my dream collaborators aren’t alive anymore. The dream is be lucky enough to work on great things that feel like it will matter and that will matter to people. That’s the dream, it’s always searching for, “OK, what’s the next thing?” That’s a challenge that I’ll have fun with but also that will feel will matter.

More movies potentially. Who knows?

I’m gonna have a bunch of films and developments that I’m producing. Definitely looking for another film to do as well. I think I just enjoy it so much. Such a fun process.

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