Pop singer-songwriter Tyler Scruggs, from Tucson High School, plays piano and guitar and writes screenplays, as well as songs for himself. He hopes to make a career out of songwriting. Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star

Singer-songwriter Tyler Scruggs was a songwriter first, a musician second.

And the 16-year-old Tucson High Magnet School sophomore is already a songwriting veteran.

"I started writing in 2006 before I learned any sort of musical instrument. I wrote notebooks and notebooks full, but only a handful are any good," Scruggs says.

Still, someone else thought he had potential.

Scruggs says he was contacted by Beluga Heights, a popish Los Angeles-based label that represents artists including Sean Knight and Jason Derulo, about his songs. He says they wanted "to put my songs in their portfolio." As yet, he says, there haven't been any bites from artists or producers wanting his material. But he continues to "devote a certain amount of time trying to write for their genre."

In the case of Sean Kingston, that means writing for someone who works in a Jamaican hip-hop style.

Scruggs' own songs, including those he'll be performing at the 2011 Battle of the Bands competition, are "straight up Top 40 pop," he says.

While developing his songwriting, he's learned to play piano and guitar and, it would seem, is a quick study.

"I learned guitar in December 2007. I learned Rivers Cuomo's song from the band Weezer," Scruggs says.

"Piano? I taught myself watching You Tube videos."

Although working as a solo act in the Battle of the Bands, Scruggs says he has played in a couple of bands and had a backing band while doing "a few shows as Tyler Scruggs."

But he says he couldn't use the band in the Battle of the Bands because some of the members didn't meet the registration deadline.

Scruggs says he split from the earlier bands because they wanted to go in "a heavier direction, like metal. I really can't sing like that."

"I would like to be an artist (but) I'm not a huge fan of the rock-star lifestyle, the on-the-road and everything that goes with that," Scruggs says. "I personally don't think I could handle that."

Although he likes performing live, Scruggs says he thinks ultimately it could be more exciting to be a successful songwriter.

"Songwriters have all the joy," he says. "And it's more surprising, actually, if you write a song and it comes on the radio randomly. It would take you a moment to notice it. And songwriting's a lot more of a laid-back job in the music industry."

He'll be switching off between guitar and piano at the Battle of the Bands show at the Rialto.

He says he's putting in even more practice time than usual. And, even in quieter times, he says there's a lot of competition for the time to practice his music.

Scruggs, who studies digital media at Tucson High, says he's even more interested in screenwriting. "So, I spend about half and half on songwriting and screenwriting," Scruggs says.