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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May, 2005, 07:22 GMT 08:22 UK
The Hitmakers: Cathy Dennis
By Mark Savage
BBC News entertainment reporter

Cathy Dennis
Cathy Dennis has been writing hit singles for more than 15 years
In the run-up to the Ivor Novello awards, the BBC News website is profiling some major songwriters of recent years.

Cathy Dennis - who has just won an Ivor Novello award for Britney Spears' Toxic - has been making hit records since 1989. She started out as a singer with acid-house pioneers D-Mob before launching a solo career.

In recent years, she's concentrated on writing songs for other artists, and has sent Spears and Kylie Minogue to the top of the charts.


Dennis, who already had four Ivor Novello songwriting awards, has written dozens of top 10 hits and worked with legends such as Burt Bacharach and Ray Davies.

But, she says the biggest thrill she gets is still from hearing one of her songs on the radio.

THE MUSIC OF CATHY DENNIS
Listen to some of Cathy Dennis' biggest hits - and read what she has to say about them.

"It's the highest of the highs. Knowing how many people are receiving it, you just get this huge injection of pride and excitement," Dennis says.

Burt Bacharach
Dennis worked with Burt Bacaharch on Will Young's debut album
Fifteen years have passed since her first single, Just Another Dream, was played on the airwaves.

Back then, she was a solo artist promoting her debut album, Move To This.

Cathy moved to London to write the album in 1986, but it took her three years to finish.

"I'm not quite sure why," she says, "Maybe I was doing sight-seeing tours all the time."

However, it was America that picked up on the album's glossy post-house pop music first, and Dennis soon found herself criss-crossing the States promoting singles like Touch Me (All Night Long) and Too Many Walls.

Having to smile on cue has never sat very comfortably with me
Cathy Dennis
"There was a lot of laughter on those trips. We had a lot of fun and unfortunately you can never get that innocence back again," she says.

"But there's a lot of aspects of touring that I really don't miss at all. Shaking hands with somebody and having to smile on cue has never sat very comfortably with me."

Rebel

Dennis has a polite and reserved exterior but it hides a rebellious nature.

"I don't like to conform," she says, "and I'll cut my nose off to spite my face.

Ray Davies
Dennis calls Ray Davies a genius after working with him in 1996

"I'll ask someone for their opinion and then go the other way for the sake of it. It really annoys me and I don't understand it, but it's just me."

Dennis' stubborn streak caused problems with her solo career.

"My third album was incredibly self-indulgent but I didn't want to commercialise what I was doing," she says.

I like to write from a melodic point of view
Cathy Dennis
The album Am I The Kinda Girl features some collaborations with Ray Davies and Guy Chambers, but it stalled at number 78 in the UK charts.

"I got really frustrated," she recalls, "I started to dig myself into a burrow."

Melody cool

First and foremost a songwriter - she had a writing contract with EMI before she was signed as a solo artist - Dennis settled into writing songs for other artists from Janet Jackson to Celine Dion and Will Young.

Britney Spears
Britney Spears' Toxic was a massive hit for Dennis
"I like to write from a melodic point-of-view," she says. Most of her songs are co-written, with Dennis adding vocal lines and lyrics to a pre-recorded backing track.

She says her talent stems from a musical upbringing. Both of her parents are musicians, but they didn't force her to learn music in the traditional way.

"I wasn't allowed to do theory or go and have lessons like my dad, but it became a very normal thing to listen to the top 40 on a Sunday night.

"I couldn't relate to the nursery rhymes and boring songs that I was being told to listen to in music class at school. When you're used to listening to pop songs, it's a completely different world."

The impression you get is that, even while growing up in Norwich, in the East of England, Dennis knew her destiny would be in pop music.

That grounding gives her a great deal of confidence when she's in the studio. "If someone tries to dilute what I'm doing... I generally tend to stick my neck out."

Dennis' musical instincts were vindicated in 2001 when she scored her biggest hit to date.

Kylie Minogue
Can't Get You Out Of My Head helped Kylie break America
Can't Get You Out of My Head went straight to number one, reinvigorated Kylie Minogue's career, and bagged its writers an unprecedented three Ivor Novello Awards.

"It wasn't conforming to pop," Dennis says, "You think about pop music and you don't think of those kind of notes. It was darker.

"And it led me to a new-found freedom melodically in what I felt was acceptable for me to do."


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