Neil Barlow: UK Songwriter
TSM: Neil, thanks so much for taking time out of your schedule to do an interview for TSM. It’s so great to have you here.
NB: It’s my pleasure, thank you for asking. It’s an honour to be here.
TSM: I know that you met Michael J. Scott on MySpace – you admired each other’s work and have traveled down the same path in life. So, you started working together as a songwriting team. Tell us about the process of your collaboration.
NB: Well, each song we’ve written together has been different. No process is set in stone. Michael may call me with an idea with a few lines, and then send the music idea with a very rough vocal melody (singing nonsense really, but in tune of course lol). Then I will write what comes to mind using personal experiences as I find this easier, and hopefully some may have experienced the same. However, there is a song that we’ve written called, “You gave your heart” where I had written the music, then sent it to Michael for a vocal melody, and then we wrote the lyrics together. We’re extremely honored to have Tommy Denander playing on this track too, with Gareth Young on production.
TSM: Your music comes from the heart and personal experiences. Is there a song in particular you’ve worked on with Michael that stands out as a favorite and why?
NB: They are all very personal to both of us for different reasons. However, the one that stands out the most for me is “A New Beginning.” About ten years ago, I was in a very dark place suffering from post-operative depression – I hated every moment. There was one person that pulled me through the darkest of days though, and I wanted to say thank you to that person. Without their help, I wouldn’t have made it through. It probably stands out to me because it reminds me of how far I have come and how much stronger I am as a person today.
TSM: What’s your process for writing lyrics?
NB: I just write from the heart really. I feel the music and write where it takes me. Some lyrics come straight away and they are usually the best. I don’t try to be too clever with lyrics and over-complicate them because then the song becomes forced and unreal. If you try to be too imaginative with the lyrics then people often don’t relate to them. I’ve had a dream before about a song being sung, then woken up and wrote the lyrics down. The next morning I saw the lyrics that I had written and thought, wow, where did that come from. Just proves the lyrics can come from anywhere really – sleeping, driving, walking and conversations. I’m currently writing a song that has taken a long time to write, trying to find the right words with the correct sentiment. This is another very personal song that I hope will touch many.
TSM: I read that you published your first song at age eighteen. How did it feel to have your first song published? Tell us about this song.
NB: The song was called “Talk To You.” I wrote it when I was sixteen, going through the usual teenage stuff where you feel no one listens to you. I wrote the music and lyrics about my mother. Things have changed a lot with my mother since then. 🙂 I had it recorded and then played it for a friend called ‘Batty’ at a friends gig in Kings Heath, Birmingham. Then he passed the tape to Bob Lamb (producer/songwriter/publisher) who gave me a call, and said he loved the track and wanted to publish it. I was really happy. Unfortunately, the song didn’t come to anything, so it’s been put back on the shelf. It sounds very dated now though.
TSM: Neil, you’ve worked with a variety of great artists; musicians and producers such as: Bob Lamb (producer for UB40 and Duran Duran), Larrick Ebanks (singer/songwriter), Nigel Davis (guitarist), Will Jackson (producer), Gareth Young (producer for Sugarbabes and Ronan Keating) and Vicky O’ Neill (producer/singer/songwriter for Sugarbabes). Tell us about your experiences working with them. Who are you currently working with besides Michael, if any?
NB: Wow, how long have you got? I don’t know where to start really. As I mentioned earlier about meeting Bob Lamb who published my first song. He was working with a band in his studio called The Catch, whose songs I loved and admired. The lead singer was Larrick and eventually we became good friends. Working with both of them and Nigel Davis for the song “Forever’s Not Long Enough” was like a dream. Surrounded by such talented people. 🙂 Working with Gareth Young and Vicky O’Neill was an honor, as they are both extremely talented in their own right. I asked them both to work with me on “Look So Deep” and believe they created what was a good song into a great song. This is the song that led me to Michael and the rest is history. 🙂 Gareth has produced “I’ll be there” and “Crazy” for us. I have continued to write and work with Gareth Young over the years on my solo tracks, where we have brought in some of the best guitarists from around the world to play sessions for me. Tommy Denander, who has written, played and produced for some amazing artists such as: Alice Cooper, Michael Jackson, Deep Purple, Anastasia, Ricky Martin, Hollywood Vampires, Richard Marx… to name but a few. Neil Taylor played on a track of mine called “Lie,” he is also one of the best out there. Neil Taylor has written and played with Robbie Williams, Tears for Fears, Tina Turner, Chris de Burgh, Natalie Imbruglia… to name but a few too. It really is an honour to have worked with these people, their talent is truly amazing.
TSM: Neil, you’ve written various songs with Gareth Young. They are all great songs, however, the one that particularly stands out for me is “Father.” What is the meaning and inspiration behind this song?
NB: Thank you, I’m pleased that you like that song. It’s a very personal song that I wrote to my own Father and also a reminder to myself and everyone to slow down and get to know your loved ones, really get to know them, before it’s too late. We all fall into the trap of polite conversations with our loved ones, and are too busy with our lives to sit down and take the time to get to know these people. Since writing the song, I have learnt a lot about my parents and who they were before I was born.
TSM: Who are some songwriters/musicians you admire and look up to?
NB: There are so many. Desmond Child, Diane Warren, Bernie Taupin, Guy Chambers, Jon Bon Jovi, Tommy Denander, Neil Taylor, Robbie Williams, George Michael, Larrick Ebanks, Gareth Young. These are just a few. The list goes on.
TSM: If you had the power to do something in the world today, what would it be and why?
NB: That’s a tough question and I really don’t know what to answer. I would love to stop poverty. I see around the world, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. There’s really no need for people to be starving to death. I wish I could change that.
TSM: What is one of your favorite quotes (or lines) that inspires you?
NB: “Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows, it’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, nobody is gonna hit as hard as life! But it ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep movin’ forward, how much you can take…and keep movin’ forward. That’s how winning is done! Now, if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth! But you gotta be willing to take the hits and not pointin’ fingers sayin’ you ain’t where you wanna be because of him or her or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!” – Rocky Balboa
TSM: Anything else you’d like to share? And where can our readers find out more about both of you and your music?
NB: Always be kind to each other. Our album can be heard on Spotify “Micheal J. Scott – Emotional” Other tracks of mine can be heard here: https://www.reverbnation.com/neilbarlowsongwriter
TSM: Thanks so much again for doing this interview, and wish you the best of luck with all your songwriting in the future!
NB: Many thanks for having me. It’s been a pleasure. I’m back in the studio with Gareth Young around mid October this year to write and record a new track.