I quit my job in sales – now I’m an award-winning K-Pop songwriter

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A woman who was left depressed after splitting from her long-term partner has got her life back thanks to a surprising new career path.  

Claire Rodrigues Lee, 45, from north London, thought her life was over when she was forced to move back in with her parents and quit her job in sales to avoid her ex. 

The former singer was left feeling ‘lost’ and ‘depressed’ and trying to find her way out of the black hole, she turned to self-help books and her first love of songwriting to help work through her emotions.

After a chance meeting with a music producer, Claire showed him some of her demos and soon found a new career as a songwriter for a host of K-Pop, C-Pop and J-Pop megastars.

The former sales exec is now having the last laugh penning hits that are performed all around the world with 20 number one singles to her name – including I’m So Pretty by Nature, Candy by Red Velvet and Step by Step by 2PM.

I quit my job in sales – now I’m an award-winning K-Pop songwriter

Claire Rodrigues Lee started a music career aged 16 but abandoned it when her band’s single flopped

Her song, It’s You, was recorded by South Korean girl group Girls Generation in 2017 – and went to number one in 19 countries, as well as topping the Billboard World Album Chart. 

Claire said: ‘Seeing one of my songs being played on the billboards in Shibuya in Tokyo, surrounded by neon lights, was something I’ll never forget.

‘I don’t have any desire to be famous in the music world. I appreciate recognition but most people don’t know who I am because I write for such a specific music market.

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‘The beauty of being a songwriter is being behind the scenes and enjoying it without any fuss or attention.’

When Claire was 16 she joined a girl group named Teez and even performed at the Smash Hits Tour 1995 with Peter Andre, All Saints and PJ & Duncan.

However, when their first single failed to chart, the band was dropped and Claire enrolled into the London College of Fashion.

Despite her bad experience, the 45-year-old still found song writing ‘cathartic’.

Months after splitting with her ex, Claire was introduced to John, who owns a music publishing house and she shared some of her demos with him.

Impressed, he sent them out to his contacts and it wasn’t long before one of her songs was snapped up.

Ms Rodrigues Lee here with her music publisher John holding a selection of her multi-award winning hit singles

Ms Rodrigues Lee here with her music publisher John holding a selection of her multi-award winning hit singles

Claire has also launched her own slow fashion brand Neon Army, which sells limited edition earrings, handbags, hats and badges

Claire has also launched her own slow fashion brand Neon Army, which sells limited edition earrings, handbags, hats and badges

Claire, who also has her own fashion brand Neon Army, says that she's a big believer in manifesting positive things

Claire, who also has her own fashion brand Neon Army, says that she’s a big believer in manifesting positive things 

Claire explained: ‘Eventually, a Chinese girl band called Roomie expressed their interest in a song of mine called Infected.

‘Although they later renamed it Tropical Cyclone.

‘That first single gave me the fire to carry on – I started to think I could actually make it as a songwriter, and I was seeing the results first-hand.’

John believed Claire had a gift and sent her on a K-pop song writing retreat in Aarhus, Denmark.

Despite ‘knowing nothing’ about the genre, the Londoner found she had a talent and was snapped up by a label back in the UK.

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Within a year she was writing songs for J-pop, C-pop and K-pop mega stars.

Her biggest success is a song called Ki*mi*ni*mu*chu wrote for the band Exile which reached number one in the charts. The music video has 33 million views on YouTube.

She also won best song and album of the year at the 29th Golden Disk Awards in Beijing and was winner of the best international song at the 2015 Sony Music Japan Awards.

Claire said: ‘At the songwriting retreat in Aarhus, Denmark, we were met by some A&R reps from a multi-million dollar record label – based in Korea – called SM Entertainment.

‘I felt like I stuck out – I was just a Western songwriter and I knew nothing about K-pop.

Structurally, K-pop songs are so much more technical than Western songs. In a Western song, you’ll have a verse, pre-chorus and a chorus.

‘But in a K-pop song, it’s more like – intro, verse one, verse two, then two pre-choruses, a chorus and a post-chorus!

‘But I grabbed the opportunity with both hands – and the reps were really impressed.’

Claire has also gone on to write and compose the theme song for Orphan Black – a Japanese mini-series based on the hit Canadian Netflix show.

She has now founded slow fashion brand Neon Army – which sells limited edition earrings, handbags, hats and badges among other things.

Speaking about her incredible success, Claire said: ‘I’m a huge believer in manifestation – I believe I put love and positive energy into the world and it’s given back to me.’

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