On paper, Richard "Biff" Stannard is having one of the toughest years of his life. But music, as it has time and time again, has steered him away from the shadows – and towards celebration.
Stannard says that his songwriting style has always been to "write myself happy". This approach has led to him writing and producing some of the fizziest and most successful pop songs of all time, including a run of Spice Girls' hits such as Wannabe – a timeless No.1 record in both the US and the UK.
"Writing himself happy" is also a big part of how Stannard has dealt with mental health issues across his whole life. That life began in East London in 1966, in a house typified, he says, by an "environment of hyper-masculine men". Stannard had a troubled relationship with his father, a boxer, who didn't take kindly to his son's childhood love of music.
In this candid MBW Podcast, Stannard discusses his personal journey, including his early relationship with British maverick impresario, Tom Watkins, who gave the songwriter his break working with boyband East 17 in the 1990s.
Watkins sadly died earlier this year – as did Stannard's mother, at 91. Stannard says his mom was particularly "protective" of him during his youth, and the only member of his immediate family that didn't discourage his love of music and creativity.
That's not the only trauma Stannard has faced in the past 12 months, either. Having re-invented himself as a weight-lifter – replete with muscles like beach balls – Stannard broke the UK record for bench-press in his age category during a competition. He walked off stage jubilant, an official master of yet another discipline... before suffering a life-changing heart attack.
This narrative, though – again, thanks to music – has a happy ending. Stannard has co-written two singles on Kylie Minogue's DISCO, which has just become the UK's fastest-selling album of 2020, even outstripping the first-week performances of new records from superstars like Lady Gaga.
As such, DISCO is Stannard's biggest career success since he co-wrote and produced Ellie Goulding's worldwide hit Lights six years ago – and the beginning of a new chapter in his book of triumphs.
Kylie has been a constant collaborator in Stannard's career, which has seen him work with everyone from U2 to Little Mix, One Direction and Leona Lewis – and win both Ivor Novello and ASCAP Awards.