He learned to play the violin as a child and later on studied at the »Trinity College of Music« in London. His company »Independently Thinking Music« produced several commercials before Powell went to Hollywood in 1997 to work as a prominent member of the Hans Zimmer music studio »Remote Control Productions« and subsequently scored more than 50 movies. 

Powell gained fame in the late 1990ies and early 2000ies for his compositions to numerous successful animated films, like AntzShrek and Ice Age, amongst others. Further projects include the scores to The Bourne IdentityThe Bourne Supremacy und The Bourne Ultimatum.

In 2010 Powell earned his first Oscar-nomination for the popular soundtrack to How to Train Your Dragon.