What is your musical background and how did you get into composing music?
I started creating music from the age of four, when my mum gave me an old tape recorder with a microphone. I started making up songs and recording them. I don’t come from a musical family but I learnt recorder, piano and violin whilst at primary school, and I was encouraged by the excellent teachers at the county music service in Northamptonshire (NMPAT), playing in the Youth and Chamber Orchestras. This exposed me to the world of classical music and I fell in love with the String Orchestra repertoire, writing for chamber ensembles from 11 onwards with pieces performed by my peers. I went on to study at Kings College London and the Royal Academy of Music, studying composition with Silvena Milstein and Sir Harrison Birtwistle, but I found the academic world there creatively stifling, so I started playing with London-based rock bands instead.
We love your album ‘Postcards From’, how would you describe this album to someone who hasn’t heard your music before?
Thank you! It is chamber music for piano, violin and cello. Reflective, consonant, relaxing. It is inspired by travel and each piece was conceived in the city it is named after. It represents my emotional response to that location at that particular time. I am not attempting to represent the place itself, just me within it.
We saw that you collaborated with ‘Brother Tree Sound’ for your 3 movement piece ‘String Quartet No. 1’ which we think is incredibly beautiful by the way. What was the collaboration process like and is there an inspiration for this piece?
I was approached by Brother Tree Sound, led by fellow violinist Anna de Bruin, to see if I had anything they could perform at their debut concert. I had been working on a string quartet that was nearly finished so I offered to finish it for them to premiere. They gave me the incentive I needed to complete the work, basically. I love writing for string quartet because it is the perfect capsule ensemble. I have the players in mind when I am writing, always asking myself ‘How would it feel to play this?’ I want it to be exciting and satisfying for the performers. I am inspired by the quartet repertoire in general, and by the love of playing that music.
What are you up to, music-wise, at the moment?
I’m currently working on music for a BBC documentary, and I am close to finishing my second solo album, which is a lot more sonically ambitious than “Postcards From”. I have a new work being released by the Thesis Project in the new year, and will continue writing orchestral arrangements for bands and touring with different artists.
Do you have any musical influences? If so, who and why?
Yes particularly my early influences.. Bartok, Prince, Shostakovich, Blondie, Lennox Berkeley, Bach, Mozart, The Velvet Underground, Debussy. The genre distinction was irrelevant to me, I didn’t hear ‘pop’ or ‘classical’, I just connected with their music. Obviously my musical tastes have developed with age and I listen to a wide range of music but I know that these artists have informed my writing and arranging style.
Your background as a violinist is very impressive. Is there a moment in your career so far that stands out as a highlight for you?
Performing with Placebo at Angkor Wat temple, Cambodia for MTV was pretty special. It was my first gig with the band, and I went on to tour with them for nearly a decade. I’m also particularly proud of some of the recording work I have done with John Grant, especially the violin line on ‘Mars’. It was a good day when I came up with that. Performing with Roy Harper is always a memorable experience and it is a privilege to be onstage with him. Actually, whenever I go into an orchestral session at Abbey Road or Air, I feel proud of the musical heritage, the lineage running through those great studios, and I don’t ever take that work for granted.
Is there any advice you would give to someone looking to get into the music industry to be a composer and/or arranger like yourself?
Be humble. Be polite. Be on time. Listen. Don’t be scared of silence. Serve the song, not your own ego.
What is the meaning of music for you?
Music is a vital language, an important form of communication. Composing allows me to create a tranquil space, to process my emotional responses to this world in an abstract but hopefully meaningful way.