Charlie Simpson Interview
Charlie Simpson heads out on his first ever solo tour, after years of being in the limelight. Starting out with Busted, then Fightstar, and now on his own. Looking ahead to the tour, he says “I’m feeling excited because I haven’t been out on the road in a while. But I’m also nervous because it’s the first time I’m [doing it] just me an a guitar. I wanted to strip everything back and go back to basics. I write all my songs on acoustic.” Talking about what made him decide to go out and do this stripped back tour, he says it goes back to a concert he saw, “I saw one of my favourite artists Jackson Browne perform a couple of years ago with just him and a guitar and I thought it was a really nice idea to just take him and the songs back to their rawest form. It’s also a lot more intimate that way. I think it’s going to be a really fun tour.”
This isn’t something that he decided to do on a whim, and he’s also not saying that he’s sticking to doing the acoustic show for good. He’s wanted to do it and now just seemed like the right time, “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. I did a show in London in October with the band and the full blown production and I just thought it would be nice in the New Year and just do something a bit different. In the summer with the festivals I’ll go back to doing the band thing. But I just thought it was a nice opportunity to do something different.“ Doing this something different has its pros, but Simpson is keen to highlight that so does working in a band “I like both, man. I like the creative freedom of working on my own but then I love the comradery of making music with other people. It’s not like I prefer one or the other, I like both.”
Over the years, Charlie Simpson has been in various genres and this comes down to, in some part, his diverse taste in music, “I have a very big range of stuff I listen to but it usually centres around rock music or folk music or lo-fi stuff. I’ve always been a big fan of harmonies so whatever music I listen I usually centre it around harmonies; the old 70s stuff – The Eagles, Crosby Stills and Nash – just a lot of that big American style. […]I always have my influences, I’m always listening to music so obviously that has a bearing on what I write. But I always just like to write with an open mind and not really think about what comes out.”
Simpson has had to change and adapt with the times over the 14 year period of being in the music industry, “[it] has changed so much since I’ve been in it. I started in 2001, and, back then, there was no YouTube and no Facebook, people were barely even on iTunes. So I had to learn to change how I put out music and how I interact with my audience. All of that has changed vastly, so it’s been a big learning curve over the last 10 years.” He mentions how social media helps him gauge the fans’ reaction to his music, and after being initially sceptical, he now has constant interaction on Facebook and Twitter, keeping the fans in the know as well as letting him know what they’re thinking, “You gotta look at your crowd’s reaction. That’s the good thing about modern social media, you can get a good feel for that kind of stuff pretty quickly. […] I think it’s great that you can be in constant communication with your fans. It means you can react off them very quickly. I can write a song tomorrow and get it to my fans the next day – it’s a great tool.” Some bands and musicians believe that the likes of Twitter remove the mystique of the artist, a perspective that he disapproves of, “A lot of that is total bullshit. […] I think at the end of the day artists rely solely on their fans. The fans are everything, without the fans you have nothing. So I’d say the more connected to them, the better.”
“Long Road Home”, his second solo album, had a notably happy sound to it, he recalls the time he was writing it and how the process influenced the sound, “I wanted it to be a positive record. I had just gotten engaged to my wife and I was feeling good about everything and I wanted that to reflect on the record. But it was actually one of the hardest records I’ve ever made because I had quite severe writers block until about half way through. I just wasn’t really happy with some of the tunes I was coming out with. So I just took a break for three months and took a break from it. I went over to America and did a tour over there for a couple months. That was really great because I kind of forgot about the writing process and when I came back, I was fully revitalised and I think some of the best songs on the album came after that time. […] Long Road Home is one of my favourite songs that I’ve ever written. I think it’s a good taste of the record as a whole and it goes down well live”.
As far as the future goes, Charlie Simpson is happy to continue what he’s doing at the moment both with the band and solo. However, there is one other passion in his life, and somewhere he sees himself in years to come, “I love films, man. Films is my big thing. I go to the cinema as much as I can, I’m always watching DVDs and I just love film. One of my biggest goals later on in life is to write film scores. I just did one. It was an independent British film and I’m probably going to be scoring the next film they make. Not so much now because I don’t really have enough time, but when I don’t want to be on the road so much and I have a family I think that would be a really cool thing to do.“ Along with the greats like Hans Zimmer and John Williams, his interest also lies in smaller, independent films and scores, “I really like independent films with alternative [soundtracks]. Good Will Hunting with Elliot Smith – that was an unbelievable soundtrack and also Trent Reznor who did Social Network and Gone Girl. I think those scores are incredible. And the cool thing is you can do such varied music and such varied work in a short space of time. So yeah, that would be awesome to do.”
But for now, Charlie Simpson has just started his first ever solo tour and there’s no signs of him slowing down just yet.
Interview by Orla Conway
Photo by Colm Moore
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