Gareth Cooper

Songwriter

What I do

I actually have several different jobs – actor, musician, writer – but at the moment I’m a songwriter and lyricist for The Hunting Of The Snark, a brand-new family musical performing at the West End this summer. I’m also really lucky, in that I get to be the musical director for the show as well, which means I get to teach the actors the songs and tell them how to perform them so they sound great!

How I got my job

I’ve been writing comedy songs for about ten years. I’ve known the director of The Hunting Of The Snark for a long time, so when she was putting the show together, she thought I would be a good choice to write the songs for it.

What I love about my job

I love music and I love comedy! So I really love trying to combine the two. I spend most of my time sitting at home, playing on the guitar, trying to come up with interesting chord sequences and fun rhythms. I also spend a lot of time in coffee shops jotting down ideas for lyrics. After the songs are written, I really enjoy working with the actors and seeing the songs brought to life on stage. That’s very exciting!

What is difficult about my job

Coming up with the ideas. It can sometimes take a long time to find a rhythm or chord sequence or lyric that fits with a song the way you’d like it to. You sometimes have to write and rewrite and rewrite until you’re happy with it. Then you present it to the other people you’re working with (the director, the producers, the scriptwriter) and see what they think.

After they give you some more ideas, you might even have to go away and rewrite it again!

What skills I need

You need to be very passionate but also very patient, because creating something doesn’t always happen overnight, so you have to allow yourself the time to keep trying things. To write songs, you need to be able to play an instrument (or several) and to write lyrics you need to be creative with how words are used. Listening to lots of songs definitely helps (check out how your favourite bands use rhythm and rhyme in their lyrics, for example) and reading poetry is a good way to look at how creative you can be with words.

Where to start

Start writing songs! Write poetry, write lyrics, write music! Pick up an instrument and start learning it. Practise a lot! If you have anything musical you can do in school (band, orchestra, choir, musicals; I also studied music and drama at school), do that. Try to learn from others. Work with your friends, family and teachers. Most importantly, enjoy what you do.