It’s been a while, but following on from previous New Musical Talent subjects: Laura Tisdall, Dougal Irvine, Tim Prottey-Jones and Craig Adams, I’m proud to feature a new musical star in the making;
Composer Gary Albert Hughes has a varied and colourful theatrical résumé: from beginnings as a classically trained musician at Guildhall School of Music and the Royal Academy, to a career in musical theatre and pop. Gary is also one half of the writing team that composed and wrote the lyrics for E4’s hit reality dating show Playing It Straight (he also appeared every week as the singing troubadour). He has had his music featured in film, TV and theatre and is fast becoming a favourite on the new musical theatre writing scene. I had a chance to catch up with Gary in a rare break between projects.
Tell us a bit about your background and what inspired you to become a composer.
Well, before I ventured into musical theatre I was a classically trained flautist, pianist and composer and was all set to pursue a career as a classical musician. After my studies I realised I was not fulfilled creatively and it took another few years of trying different areas of the performing arts before realising that what makes my heart race is composing. Though I’ve been writing songs and music since junior school!
Which musicals or composers have influenced you?
I am inspired and influenced by so many people but there have been a few major influences. I met George Stiles as a young musician finding my feet and I’ve been inspired and in awe of how his career has gone from strength to strength. I’m also massively influenced by my classical training, and am always inspired by film music, especially that of John Barry.
Tell us about your writing partnership with Joan Taylor-Rowan?
About three years ago I was in the audience of a short story reading of Kandy Kottage at an evening called The Liar’s League. I knew it would make the most magical and interesting musical. I contacted Joan after wading through pages and pages of Google. We met for coffee and started work. I always ask for Joan to send me sketches of lyrics and ideas which I will then be inspired to write music to. Usually I’ll send her what I’ve composed and she will then work on more ideas, rhyme schemes and verses and choruses. Then when we get together to work on the song we will tweak it and neaten it up. We love to go The Dance Attic in Fulham where there’s a buzz of creativity. However, we are going over to Normandy at the end of January to finish Kandy Kottage in time for its showing at The Landor. I’m happy to say that we have a dear friendship and an amazing working relationship.
You recently released the Christmas love song Your Presence with Shona Lindsay, tell us more.
Your Presence was inspired by our followers and fans on Twitter and Facebook urging us to write a new festive love song. People were tired of hearing the same old Christmas songs everywhere. We took the bull by the horns and went for it. We were so thrilled when Shona agreed to release it for us. She has such a beautiful voice and such a touching way of using it, which is why she has had the amazing career she has. Colin Billing (Lend Me a Tenor) musically directed the track and did an amazing job bringing it to life.
Single available here
You’ve been asked to be part of new musical theatre writing festival From Page to Stage at The Landor Theatre; tell us about that.
It’s a festival solely for new writing and emerging writers, the baby of Katy Lipson of Aria Entertainment and A Stage Kindly, two companies supporting new writing. We’re taking part in two slots: the first, Three Writers and a Piano will feature me and two fellow composers at the piano singing our own songs. I’ll hopefully be having a few West End singers with me as well as some fabulous up and coming singers. The second slot is for our brand new musical Kandy Kottage.
Your musical Kandy Kottage; what’s it about and what are your hopes for it?
At the Kandy Kottage you meet Kevin and his imaginary sidekicks The Kandy Kremes as they embark on a mission to win the heart of Greta, a Hollywood wannabe with a sweet tooth. It’s a fairy tale with a dark twist following the story of a young boy, neglected and lonely, seeking perfection in his world of confection! All he needs is someone to share it with. Greta has a passion for sweets but not for Kevin. He decides to woo her in the only way he knows – with sugar. Temples of toffee, palaces of pear-drops and sweet sculptures bloom under Kevin’s hands. But not all fairy tales have a happy ending. What lengths will Kevin go to, to keep Greta for himself? We believe this show has a life in an off West End theatre, or even the West End itself.
Gary and Joan are offering the opportunity for theatre fans to help launch their new musical and have set up a We Fund account where people can pledge an amount towards their production of Kandy Kottage. You can find details at: http://wefund.com/project/kandy-kottage-a-bitter-sweet-musical/p56543/
You’ve used social media to help promote your work; do you think it’s a helpful tool for artists starting out in musical theatre?
I think it’s essential for anyone trying to make a start in anything! If used correctly and appropriately it’s an extremely powerful tool. If one is professional, friendly and interesting, then Twitter and Facebook are wonderful tools for communicating, networking and contacting people when, before, it may have been impossible. Twitter is how we first made contact with Shona Lindsay about recording Your Presence.
Is there anyone you’d love to work with or write a song for?
Wow, what a question, yes, loads. Firstly we’re not the type of writers who only want somebody to sing our material because they’re a ‘name’. We’re interested in who the person is as an artist, their voice quality and what they represent as a vocalist and performer. I think Ramin Karimloo has a deeply touching and interesting quality to his voice, and would LOVE him to sing our ballad One Minute More. Louise Dearman is another voice I think is exceptional and unique and we’d love her to sing one of our big numbers.
After all of that, what’s next?
We are planning an album called Taylor-Rowan & Hughes Present… which will feature our best songs with a host of West End singers. We’ve already talked with Shona Lindsay, Nigel Richards and Shona White about singing a track, and are waiting to hear back from others. We’re in the process of applying for some funding too, so if anyone out there’s interested in supporting new British talent, then please do get in touch!
From Page to Stage runs from 15 February
see Gary Albert Hughes in Three Writers and a Piano on 26th February
and Kandy Kottage on 14th March at the Landor Theatre
For more information;