This English composer, musician and mult-instrumentalist has enjoyed huge success with his pioneering hits Rainforest and US number one 19. This latter song helped media mogul Simon Fuller create his 19 management company and launch the careers of the Spice Girls. More recently Paul has penned themes for the likes of Top of the Pops and the Clothes Show while continuing to enjoy success with his Jazzmasters series.
With this in mind, the news that Paul is at the helm of a competition offering one talented musician a £100,000 recording contract as a prize is particularly exciting. Read the full story on the competition with NUA Entertainment here.
Paul talked us through his success as a songwriter and outlined what the competition hopes to achieve…
What are your first musical memories?
The first record I bought was Woodstock by Matthews Southern Comfort. I remember playing that on the jukebox. I loved it. My dad was also a musician so my involvement with music began by going round with him when I was really young and playing the drums and a little bit of a guitar.
I got out of music after that. I was more interested in going out and playing in the streets with the rest of my mates. In ’79 I was really into motorbikes but had a really bad crash which hospitalised me for four months. After that I came out picked up a synth - I used to sit in my bedroom playing along to records and applied to join a band as a keyboard player. I was in a couple of groups before going solo. The first thing I recorded was a track called Rainforest. It really set the world alight for me as it sold something in the region of 450,000 copies in the US and knocked Madonna off the top of the 12 inch vinyl sales chart. That was my first big break.
Did you expect the song to be a hit?
No it was written for a body popping video but in America it took off like mad. That song was my foray into the English charts - the record stopped at number 41 in the singles chart. One place away from national airplay. Then the follow up - a cover of You’re The One For Me - that stopped at 41 too. Then 19 came out and ironically it went in at four, then to number one.
How has the creative process evolved since the early days?
It hasn’t changed that much. The only thing is you can now change a song with the flick of a switch. Before you had to cut the tape up but now you just use copy and paste - it’s so easy to make the edits.
When we recorded 19, that was pre-computer so we had to push technology to its limit by having 15 different sounds on one track. That record was a nightmare to mix because there was so much going on.
How long did it take to write the song?
I started it in a bedroom in Leytonstone on an eight track analogue recorder. We took it to a studio so I could add more. The funny story is that we only used the word 19 because that’s all would fit in the sampler in those days – the Emulator 2 – it had two seconds of sampling time. It shows that some times limiting yourself does pay dividends.
How did the connection with NUA come about?
NUA stands for Neil Utley Artists. He's one of the top business men in the UK. He’s very successful but deep down is a massive music head. He wants to be involved in the music business and is very serious about it. He asked me to help out with his label and after a few meetings I agreed to get involved. We came up with an idea for a competition and now have over 1,000 entries. There’s some really great stuff going on there. We’ve got to whittle the total number down to 50 with some regional heats. From that, the best 50 will come and play live at a final in Liverpool.
This is about long-term career development. I want a really great songwriter. It’s about the artist rather than the image. Do you want to be taken seriously as an artist or do you just want to be famous? If all you want to do is be on the telly, you’re not really any use to us.
I’m in my 33rd year of my musical career - my latest album is at number one in the US contemporary jazz chart. It’s my 14 number one in 17 or 18 years - for me that’s what I take from the music business - I’ve sustained a career. I want the winner to have the same sort of ethos.
Any top tips for aspiring songwriters?
Like what you do. I’ve written music for TV themes. Top of the Pops, the Clothes Show, Watchdog, holiday programmes. If you’re writing themes it’s easy even if you don’t like the show but you need to like your own songs. Trying to write a song which you’re not into is almost impossible. So you need to have fun. If you’re not, then you might as well do something else.
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Visit the NUA Entertainment website.