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Last Updated: Monday, 23 May, 2005, 09:14 GMT 10:14 UK
The Hitmakers: Guy Chambers
By Mark Savage
BBC News

Songwriter Guy Chambers
In the run-up to the Ivor Novello awards, the BBC News website is profiling some major songwriters of recent years.

Guy Chambers was a member of The Waterboys and World Party before he teamed up with singer Robbie Williams in 1997.

Chambers co-wrote 19 of Williams' hit singles, and has also worked with Diana Ross, Queen and Kylie Minogue.

At the beginning of 2005, Robbie Williams' Angels received two wildly different accolades.

Listen to some of Guy Chambers' biggest hits - and read what he has to say about them.

First, it was named the best British single of the last 25 years at the Brit Awards. A couple of weeks later, it was revealed to be the song Britons would most like to have played at their funeral.

Chambers says of the song: "It touches a spiritual core that not many pop songs try to achieve.

"It comes from a tradition of hymn writing, and people still like singing communally, and this song seems to serve that need for whatever reason."

Robbie Williams performs on the BBC
Chambers has written songs for all seven Robbie Williams albums
Chambers and Williams penned Angels during their first writing session in 1997.

The collaboration earned them three Ivor Novello awards, including one for songwriters of the year.

The duo collaborated for five albums before their relationship disintegrated in 2002, reportedly because of differences over royalties.

Classically trained

Unlike many songwriters, Chambers comes from a classical background, and holds a degree in composition from London's Guildhall.

As a child I would learn Paul McCartney bass lines by ear but could also read Beethoven
Guy Chambers
Cathy Dennis, who has written with him on several occasions, says "It's unusual to meet people who have that classical background, and also such an avant-garde take on pop music."

Chambers describes his songs as cinematic, and says this is a direct result of his formal training;

"As a child I would learn Paul McCartney bass lines by ear but could also read Beethoven or Debussy. I've found it to be of use in that I have the knowledge to be able to analyse songs in quite a technical way."

Isis project

Chambers' classical leanings are apparent in his new album, The Isis Project.

Due for release in June, it's a departure from the power-pop of the Robbie Williams' singles. Largely acoustic, with a full orchestral score, Chambers describes the album as having a "laid-back, Sunday morning feel".

Guy Chambers and Sophie Hunter collaborate on the Isis Project
Chambers recorded The Isis Project with vocalist Sophie Hunter at his personal studio in London
That atmosphere is enhanced by the cool, relaxed delivery of vocalist Sophie Hunter, who sings in French throughout the record.

Chambers says the album as "first and foremost an 18th birthday present for my four-year old daughter, Isis".

"It started with a simple backing track," he says, "which was the first piece of music I wrote after getting engaged to my wife Emma.

"The second movement, Song For Isis, was written when our first child was born."

Chambers co-funded the album - a move which, he says, allowed him more freedom.


I'm often at the mercy of managers
Guy Chambers
He suggests that, even for writers of his stature, it is increasingly difficult to retain artistic control in today's music industry.

"Unfortunately I'm often at the mercy of managers, A&R and computer programs. But there are still a couple of artists who have the privilege of being able to do what they want. Brian McFadden and Jamie Cullum come to mind," Chambers says.

His work with Brian McFadden has already generated one chart-topping single, Irish Son, and the collaboration with Jamie Cullum is due for release later this year.

The rest of 2005 will see Chambers finish work on Annie Lennox's new album, an experience he calls "inspiring and liberating."

Annie Lennox
Chambers is currently working with Annie Lennox
He's also looking forward to live performances of the Isis Project.

"I find that feedback from the public can be stimulating," he says, "Plus, I like feeling the fear - it beats going on a rollercoaster."

So, with no sign of the hit singles drying up, has Guy Chambers found the secret formula for pop success?

"My manager says I should lie about these sorts of things," he says, "but the honest answer is I don't really know. He suggests 80% [of the songs I write] get released."


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