By Liam Allen
Entertainment reporter, BBC News
Eg White has written big hits with stars including Duffy and Adele
When Eg White was named as songwriter of the year at industry awards the Ivor Novellos it came as little surprise to those at the ceremony.
For while 42-year-old White is not a household name, his songs are known to millions.
Just a few UK hits he co-wrote last year included Duffy number three Warwick Avenue - which he didn't think would be a hit - and Changes, the first single from Young's Let It Go album.
But he says he's written only three songs which he instantly knew would be hits.
They were Will Young's 2003 number one Leave Right Now, James Morrison's 2006 breakthrough single You Give Me Something and last year's Chasing Pavements by Adele.
"I wrote Leave Right Now by myself but when Jim [James Morrison] and Adele stood up to the microphone and sung...phew, no question."
'Freedom to express'
It's as a co-writer working with young artists that White has excelled.
Presenting the songwriter with his award on Thursday, Young said that "when the knives were out" for him following his first flush of Pop Idol success, White had given him "the freedom to express myself which put him in a minority of the writers I'd been shoved in with".
When co-writing, which he has done with pop giants including James Blunt, Kylie Minogue and Pink, the day usually begins in the basement studio of his house at 11am.
"We come in and have a cup of tea, maybe some biscuits, and we'll talk probably for an hour or two hours until either a theme starts to emerge or you'll wish you could do a certain kind of song."
He adds: "Once we've got a sense about what the music might do, and this might be hours in, I'll pick up a guitar.
"They'll be on the sofa and I'll get a guitar and I'll say, 'what about these kind of chords?' and they'll start singing something and it'll be 'stick that line in here' and 'move that line about a bit so it'll fit your tune'
White left Brother Beyond before they became stars
"That bit's quick if you've held off long enough and the writing of the song, probably happens in 20 minutes."
Big time success has come late for White, who left boy band Brother Beyond just before they broke through with Stock, Aitken and Waterman-produced hit The Harder I Try in 1988.
And in 1991, he recorded an album as Eg and Alice - with singer Alice Temple - which failed to chart.
He says it's taken him "an astonishingly long time to to get to the point where I'm even turning out one good song out of 10" and that it's "only the last five or six years that I've been consistent".
It was Will Young's huge international success with Leave Right Now, picked up from a demo, that was to change White from frustrated songwriter into in-demand co-writer.
But, seemingly not content with becoming the UK's hottest songsmith, White has decided to take centre stage by recording an album for record label Parlophone on which he sings his own material.
Young praised White when he presented him with his Novello award
He agrees it might appear to be a strange move.
"Why would I throw away the best job in the world?"
He says it would be "downright silly to do anything that jeopardises that" but that, at the age of 42, he thought it would "be wise to make life a bit difficult for myself, to do things that are frankly scary and out of order".
Adventure Man is an album full of laid-back, richly-orchestrated songs which offer slow-burning satisfaction rather than the instant gratification of the big hits he's written for others.
"But business is business," he says.
"If there had been any hits they would have gone to someone else."
If this is White's rule of thumb, then he's made a big mistake in keeping piano-led lead single Broken - with its epic sweeping strings and choral backing - for himself.
White said he did not realise Duffy song Warwick Avenue would be a big hit
White admits that, for all his success as a backroom powerhouse, he secretly wishes he was the one up on stage receiving the adulation.
"But it's a joke thing, it's a fantasy and it'll never be reality," he adds.
He says he was in awe of the lead singer of a band he went to watch on Thursday night to celebrate his Novello win.
"He jumps up on the bass drum and all I'm thinking is, 'that's so brilliant'.
"He's jumping up and down on it and it was just magnificent, it made my heart sing, but I could never do it.
"But I'd love to do it."
Eg White's album Adventure Man and single Broken are out now.