The face of pop music wouldn’t look the same without the songwriting skills of Guy Chambers.
After learning his trade with Julian Cope and World Party in the mid-eighties, Guy has become a go-to collaborator for chart success, sprinkling his songwriting magic over Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue and, most recently, British underground raver-turned pop star Katy B.
Here, Guy talks us through his collaboration with Katy B and Rinse FM founder and producer Geeneus which led to their recent top five hit Crying for No Reason.
I met Katy B through Guy Moot, the president of EMI. Back then he was our shared publisher. I liked Katy’s music before we met. Her vocal style and lyrics are refreshing, intelligent, and also very English. She’s very true to her London roots. I met her and Rinse FM’s DJ Geeneus and we got on really well.
The recording process was a normal one for me but not for her. We wrote Crying for No Reason at the piano and she’d never written a song like that before. She’s used to writing to tracks, which is common these days. They were also at my Primrose Hill studio, which, at that point for the pair of them, was quite novel.
My studio was then the polar opposite to Geeneus’ in that there are many instruments! At that point he had very few, but made most of his tracks in the box. I did visit G’s studio and wrote [previous single] 5am there. It was basic then, but you can make records with one microphone, a keyboard and some software. Loads of records are made like that. Why not? It’s all about the strength of the song, the lyric, the melody and vocal delivery and it always will be.
We wrote Crying for No Reason at the Steinway in my studio the same way I’d write with Robbie Williams. We started at the beginning and worked logically through the song. It’s very pleasing for me to write like that. It’s that old maxim of ‘if the song sounds good with just piano and voice, it’s probably strong and has a chance’.
The best moment was sitting with her at the piano and seeing her sing her heart out. It’s always very moving to see someone unearthing their emotions in front of you.
The session only took a couple of hours. Katy wrote the lyrics and chorus. I did the music and helped with some of the melodies. Geeneus took the piano and vocal tracks and worked on the production. It took some weeks to get it exactly how he wanted but the next time I heard the song it was finished. It’s not always like that. When I work with Robbie, I produce as well so see through the entire process. I wouldn’t have produced Crying for No Reason like G. He’s given it a modern slant. But it’s great. I really like what he does.
With artists you sometimes catch them when they need to write something confessional. In the session, Katy obviously wanted to sing something very emotional. It’s all about timing and luckily for me the chords I played made her feel a certain way. She wanted to write something emotive and not another club track, which they’re great at. They came to me hoping to write something more old-fashioned – classic is another word if you’re being nice to me!
I’m always quite cautious when predicting whether a song will be a hit. But we all had a good feeling about it. There are so many factors which play into success. Release date, amount of money the record company wants to spend, profile, TV slots, whether BBC Radio 1 want to play it. But luckily with Katy, nearly every box got ticked. Everybody decided together at the same time that the song was really good and it was her chance to shine.
Sony has done a great job, as have Katy’s great team at Rinse FM. I really like the way they work. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to work with her. Rinse have a great reputation for doing things in a refreshing way. They have an indie mentality and don’t accept the word ‘no’. I really like and respect people who work and think like that.
The best moment was sitting with her at the piano and seeing her sing her heart out. It’s always very moving to see someone unearthing their emotions in front of you. It’s just the two of you sharing that. You’re then thinking, ‘Wow – she’s really gone somewhere with this lyric’. She’s unearthed some demons. Then you think she’s going to sing this as part of her career forever. It’s always quite moving when you realise it could happen, especially after it just starts with the two of you at the piano. That’s the best bit.
Crying for No Reason
Written by Guy Chambers, Kathleen Brian, Gordon Warren.
UK publishers: Kobalt Music Services, Ammunition Promotions, EMI Music Publishing.