Dec 24, 2013, 13:25

Location: Southhampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom

Member since: April 5, 2010

Tracks in portfolio on 886 (click here to hear all tracks)


Colin Willsher has been writing music since the age of twelve. After progressing through various bands, he worked for ten years as a music librarian/copyright officer for ITV and is now a professional music composer for television and multimedia with countless broadcast & library placements.

Colin’s music spans all genres and he is equally comfortable writing contemporary film music or floor-quaking drum & bass. His music has been widely used by major television broadcasters and production companies including BBC, ITV, Channel 5, Discovery Channel and Sky, together with high profile corporate and commercials for companies such as Speedo, Twinings, Ernst & Young and a £6M advertising campaign for 888 Poker. Colin has been published by EMI and contributed to many of the top production music libraries.

–High profile projects or clients you have worked for?

I have completed over 200 commissions for the likes of ITV, BBC, Discovery Channel and others.

I haven’t done an awful lot of commercials but have enjoyed a few nice ones such as Speedo, Twinings and a multi-million pound campaign for 888 Poker. In fact that’s a much longer story of how it came about than it took to write it and quite a proud moment. The advertising agency were struggling and had trawled around all the top production music libraries and composers before they called me late one Friday afternoon and asked if I had anything suitable. I said, “Not really, but I can write you something now”. It was delivered within an hour, agreed that very night and on air by the Monday morning!

–Primary instrument?

I am foremost a keyboard player but also took up the saxophone about seven years ago when my son started learning it. It was always an instrument I aspired to but I didn’t get the chance at school and played trombone for a few years instead. I’m still not an amazing saxophonist but can make a reasonable sound and really enjoy it. My son however has literally taken off with it. He had passed both his Grade 8 Jazz and Classical exams by the age of 11 and has since been studying under Mornington Lockett at the Royal College in London. He has only just turned 15, so watch this space!

–Favorite music-making piece of gear or software you currently use?

For composing I now use Logic X having migrated from Cubase (which I had used since the ATARI ST) a few years ago. I am lucky to have a number of great sound libraries and software instruments at my disposal but I particularly love all the Spectratsonics stuff. STYLUS, OMNISPHERE and TRILLIAN are really my go to instruments for popular styles. For orchestral arranging I have the Vienna Symphonic Cube which I supplement with East West Symphonic Orchestra Gold.

I must also mention Melodyne which has been a very rewarding piece of software to own. I once had to do a soundalike of a Salvation Army Band to play over some archive footage on a BBC Documentary. The whole thing (Trumpets, Baritone Horns and even Tuba) were created from recordings of a single trumpet player.

–Piece of gear or software you wish you owned?

My KORG Triton Studio used to be my master keyboard and it still does a great job for live performance but that is probably the next thing that could use an upgrade. Not least because it is so heavy – it weighs the same as my 88-key weighted piano! I would really like to slim everything down a bit and start taking some of those gorgeous software instruments on the road but I haven’t really found an answer to it yet. Until they can squeeze a decent 88-note weighted keyboard into a backpack which can hook up to an iPad packed with the same instruments I use in the studio, there’s nothing that really excites me.

–Film score or song you admire? Why?

Having brought up two kids I have learned to appreciate a lot of the Disney works – particularly the lyric writing which is just sublime. Then “The Incredibles” was a fantastic score (by Michael Giacchino) which brought the big band back into play in a soundtrack – just awesome. His subsequent work on “Ratatouille” was also impressive but stylistically very different. Randy Newman is another who consistently comes up with amazing songs and scores that really hit the mark and touch you emotionally. Is that too many?

–Music education background?

I am largely a self-taught keyboard player, composer and more recently saxophonist and never took any official exams but returned to higher education at the age of 23 to study for a Professional Music Diploma. I was already composing professionally by then but wanted to see if there was more I could learn. This was a fantastic experience and my jazz piano and theory improved a great deal under the tutorship of renowned jazz pianist Liam Noble and course leader Charles Beale (who subsequently wrote the jazz syllabus for ABRSM).

Traffic was always a nightmare driving into London, so I would always arrive early and practice for an hour or so, then do a full day of lessons in composition/arranging, performance, recording, musicianship etc. and then practice until late before returning home. I was one of only four keyboard players on the course but was much more involved than most and said “yes” to everything – usually a last minute call for a drama show, big band performance or recording session. Good times.

–Memorable “Aha!” moment during your musical education?

Two really:

1. Firstly, I was a late starter musically speaking but had been messing around with a home organ, learning tunes I liked by ear (The Commodores, UB40). It wasn’t until I had a few keyboard lessons at about 13 that I realized all the chords I had been playing had names!

2. I was only just getting into jazz piano when I went back to music college and I think the eureka moment there was really when I discovered tritone substitutions. It opened up a whole new world of harmony to me that I had been completely unaware of. Much fun to be had with those!

–Most embarrassing music-related moment?

I would love to tell you about one nightmare gig with a celebrity singer who hadn’t bothered rehearsing with the band prior to an important event but I can’t mention any names which makes it kind of irrelevant. I just remember driving home going through all the songs we played and thinking, “did that really just happen?”.

–If you had a time machine and could record or perform once with any artist, who would it be?

Quincy Jones is really ‘the daddy’ as far as I’m concerned. Such a prolific arranger and musician across so many genres – I think I could learn an awful lot from working with him for a day.

–Moment you first knew you would be a musician?

I don’t remember ever having that realisation and am still reluctant to take it for granted, even today. You just never know what’s around the corner and things are getting tougher all the time. But I am really lucky to be doing what I am doing and earn a reasonable living from it. Just to have got so far through life, have a decent home and studio and having been able to bring up a family doing what I love doing is just a delight. I am living the dream!

–Advice you would give to a younger family member interested in a music career?

Well I have two, so I can answer that (at least the way I see it now). I just believe in trying to keep as many options open as possible but to follow your dreams as far as they can take you. There may come a time when you have to have that reality check and think seriously about getting a ‘proper’ job but you can always make that change and luckily for me that time still hasn’t come yet! As a self-employed musician you have to be adaptable, do your own marketing, accounts etc. I’ve got involved in video production, multimedia, all sorts of things, so you develop skills along the way that you can use elsewhere if need be.

–Five songs or albums you’d take with you to a desert island?

Way too difficult but I would need some Luther Vandross, Will Downing and Jamie Cullum.

–If you could master another instrument, what would it be?

Saxophone (I’m working on it!).

–Favorite time of day to work in your studio?

I am still very much a night owl. My best ideas come late in the evening and then I struggle to rest until it’s finished. When I was about 18, my dad (bless him) took a photo of me (which I will never allow to be released) sat at my keyboard, composing something which came to me in the middle of the night – stark naked!

–2 or 3 of your favorite tracks that you would want us to feature in the blog.

“20s Bash”

“Meet The Gang”

“I Remember When”

–Which of your tracks sell well?

I worked for a number of years in the Music Copyright department of my local TV station, so I think I have a bit of an idea of the sort of music the editors will always be looking for – even if it’s just a little soundbyte, effect or drone. Tracks like

“Loser” and


are prime examples which have been downloaded an awful lot.

Strangely, my most popular track is probably “20s Bash”

“20s Bash” is a 1920’s style piece featuring live trumpet and sax. The thing I’ve discovered with a lot of my music is that using ‘live’ instruments makes a huge difference to the perceived quality and longevity of a track. Samples can sound out of date very quickly.

We thank Colin for sharing some of his musical background with us and for contributing his tracks to, the Royalty-Free Music Marketplace. Colin’s music spans all genres and he is equally comfortable writing contemporary film music or floor-quaking drum & bass. Colin is now a supplier to only the very best royalty-free music sites, like MusicRevolution, where his music can now be purchased and incorporated into virtually any media project for very little cost. Check out Colin’s music and I’m sure you will find something to suit your project.


Chris Cardell is the co-founder of, a royalty-free music marketplace with nearly 28,000 tracks online where media producers, video producers, filmmakers, game developers, advertisers, businesses and other music buyers can license high-quality, affordable royalty-free music from an online community of professional musicians. also provides custom music production and custom music streams. The entire production music library is available for third-party distribution and bulk licensing for background music for retail, restaurants and businesses, and for other commercial applications. Cardell has been involved with digital content and E-Commerce since the mid-1990’s.

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