“This is the hardest record I’ve ever made” – hmv.com talks to Charlie Simpson
It must have been weird being Charlie Simpson this year. After he opted out of the chance to be part of the reunion of Busted, or the supergroup McBusted that ended up selling out a huge tour last year, he’s quietly been putting together his second solo album Long Road Home, an album of quiet, folky pop songs inspired by the classic 1970s sounds of Neil Young, Paul Simon and Credence Clearwater Revival.
We sat down with him to talk about making the album, his stint on Warped Tour and how he’s found sitting back and watching McBusted happen…
How long have you been working on the album?
“I actually started in March, but I took a long break last summer to go do Warped Tour, so it’s been pretty much a year. I had three or four songs before the tour and then I found I had a bit of writer’s block, so I ended up taking a couple of months out. There’s a track called ‘Emily’, which was the first one I wrote after that, so that was a relief, it’s been a long process.”
Your first solo album came out in 2011, what made the process of putting out the second album take so long?
“I went from the last Fightstar record straight into Young Pilgrim, so I just needed a break. I hadn’t taken much time off, so I needed to step away for a while and get my drive back.”
What did the time off give you?
“A fresh perspective. After Young Pilgrim came out, I did feel a bit more pressure, no one knew what kind of solo artist I was, so I feel it a bit more. I needed to get the spark back, at the start it felt a little bit like a chore. I didn’t want to be in that headspace.”
You worked with Steve Osborne this time, what did he give you as a producer?
“I think I learnt more from him than I’ve ever learnt from any other producer. We went from demos right through to the end together and he wanted me to do a lot of the tracks live, which I hadn’t done before. I wanted a warm sounding record, one that was reminiscent of a lot of the 1970s records I’d been listening to, so Steve told me that the only way to do that was to get in a studio with a full band.”
He’s known as much for being a mixer as much as producer…
“I think that’s wrong, he’s a real ideas man, he gives you so much and brings so much out of you. If you tell him you want a certain sound, he will know straight away how to achieve that. We were coming up with all sorts of wacky sounds, we even detuned this weird violin and put it through this odd reverb chamber, all sorts.”
What kind of album is this lyrically?
“I think it’s a happier record than Young Pilgrim. It’s definitely completely introspective, whereas Fightstar is me and Al looking out at the world, more social commentary. Coming out of a period of writer’s block, I felt like I had to look inwards. It’s definitely the hardest record I’ve ever made, but I’m so proud of it.”
How did you get over writer’s block?
“I just had to disconnect from music completely. I had to stop thinking about writing music. I was going to the studio every day and it became like a chore. It was timed quite nicely because I went to do Warped Tour, 28 shows in 31 days and I had the best time. I needed to be excited and get the spark back.”
How was Warped Tour?
“F***ing incredible. I grew up loving Warped Tour and discovering bands from their compilations so to be a part of it was amazing. There’s this acoustic stage and I went down really well. It was basically summer camp for musicians, it was exactly what I needed.”
Did you it make you think ‘Look at all these bands, I miss my band’?
“Not really. We had our own little thing going on with the acoustic stage, a lot of the guys playing were singers in bands so I felt at home. It was great to see British bands like Bring Me The Horizon and Architects every night, I had a great time, it was nice to be able to enjoy heavy music. But I know Fightstar will do music again, soon hopefully.”
We won’t go too heavily into McBusted, but how have you found the year with that in the background?
“I’ve just been happy for them really. It was bizarre having it all kick off again and hearing all the songs again, but I’m just pleased they’re having a good time.”
You’ve said before that you’ve found it surprisingly easy to switch off from it all…
“I’ve kind of missed it. I was on tour and then I’ve got married and been on honeymoon. I’d go to a show for sure, but it just feels like another lifetime ago, I was 15, it feels like something a different person did.”
Is there anyone you look to in terms of combining life in a band and life as a solo artist…
“Neil Young’s a good one. The wonderful thing about being a solo artist is you can come and go for your entire life. After this I will probably do another Fightstar record, but I hope to keep coming back to my solo career.”
What’s the best thing about being a solo artist? And what’s the worst thing?
“The worst thing is not being able to share in the moments with other people. When something great happens you want to be able to ring your mate and talk, likewise if something goes wrong. The best thing is the creative freedom, I can go where I want to go.”
You can also download the track 'Winter Hymns' for FREE right here!
He will be performing a live acoustic set and signing copies of his new album at the following hmv stores:
hmv Norwich Chapelfield (August 4th)
hmv Southampton (6th)
Fopp Bristol (7th)
hmv Nottingham Victoria (8th)
hmv Newcastle (9th)