Revealed: The secret of Lily Allen's Ivor Novello success

When Lily Allen stepped up to collect her third Ivor Novello award of the night earlier this week, few would have recognised the chiselled features of her Californian collaborator, who stood beside her at the podium. While the famously feisty songstress from Hammersmith is a household name, Greg Kurstin is the pop industry's best kept secret.

The Los Angeles-based producer has a "day job" as one half of highly-rated alternative jazz duo The Bird and the Bee. But when he is not pushing back the boundaries of musical convention, Kurstin is co-writing songs and producing hits for a Who's Who of pop acts that has included Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue, Yusuf Islam (also known as Cat Stevens), Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck and Sophie Ellis-Bextor.

The name of Lily Allen was added to that illustrious list of collaborators as early as 2006, when Kurstin worked on three tracks on the singer's debut album and then entirely produced her second album, It's Not Me, It's You. That professional relationship blossomed at London's Grosvenor House Hotel on Thursday night, when their co-written meditation on consumerism, "The Fear", picked up two Ivor Novello awards and the pair were jointly named songwriters of the year.

Kurstin told The Independent yesterday: "I'm extremely grateful for the recognition that these awards bring. But I've always liked to be behind the scenes a little. I'd find being really famous quite a difficult thing.

"I kind of prefer to keep it very simple and focus on the music. Producers are becoming more famous these days, but I'm happy to let Lily be at the forefront. Working with her was great."

It is estimated that Kurstin, who started playing the piano at the age of five and whose earliest memory is of his grandmother playing the same instrument to him as a baby, has worked as a producer, writer or musician on songs and albums that have racked up sales of £500m in the global music industry.

One senior industry figure said: "He's one of that class of musical polymath without whom pop would not survive. He's kind of there in the wings, pulling the levers and making stuff work.

"Greg has that natural touch which allows him to pick out a sound and rhythm and turn it into something that's both a little bit different and a hit. He's kind of sought after, to say the least."

Such is the success of Kurstin, who once played for Marlon Brando during his lunch breaks while filming a documentary, that he this month signed a renewed music publishing deal for an undisclosed sum with EMI. His current list of collaborators includes KT Tunstall, Gabriella Cilmi and James Blunt. Jon Platt, head of EMI music publishing in North America, said: "Greg has an amazing ear for what makes a hit record. He's able to create music that connects with fans everywhere."

Kurstin's work with Allen, 24, on her second album is one of his most successful efforts. They collaborated on the record three years ago, renting a cottage in the Cotswolds to write songs before later setting up a recording studio in a Gloucestershire stately home.

The experience seems to have been mutually beneficial. Allen said: "I wanted to work with one person from start to finish, to make it one body of work. I wanted it to feel like it had some sort of integrity. We decided to try and make bigger-sounding, more ethereal, real songs. I think I've grown up a bit as a person and I hope it reflects that."

Greg Kurstin's Greatest Hits

*Kylie Minogue, X album (2007): writing/ co-production on "Wow", "No More Rain".

*Britney Spears, Circus (2008): writing/co-production.

*All Saints, Studio One (2006): writing/co-production on "Rocksteady", "On and On", "Not Eazy", "One Me and U", "Headlock", "In It To Win It".

*Natasha Bedingfield, Pocketful of Sunshine (2008): writing/co-production on "Backyard".

*The Flaming Lips, At War with the Mystics (2006): writing/co-production on "Haven't Got a Clue".

*Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Trip The Light Fantastic (2007): writing/co-production on "Catch You".

*Little Boots, Hands (2009): musician.

*Red Hot Chili Peppers, Californication (1999): musician.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn