EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Simon Webbe

Music fans rejoice – Simon Webbe is BACK with a BRAND NEW solo album.

Released on August 25th, ‘Smile’ will be Simon’s first solo music release in over 10 years, something which the singer-songwriter admits is “scary but exciting”.

“I suppose scary and exciting are the same thing really aren’t they? But because it’s been so long since my last album, for me personally, it is nerve wracking.”

Inspired by a new love and with a fresh perspective on on life, Simon is keen to share what he has experienced and learned during is time away, and is confident that fans will like what they hear.

“If you like my first two albums, you’re gonna love this one.”

BLUE: UK STYLE, UK FLOW

Simon Webbe first burst onto the music scene back in 2001, as part of British boyband Blue.

Along with bandmates Anthony Costa, Duncan James and Lee Ryan, Blue became one of the biggest pop groups of their generation, selling 15 million records worldwide and giving us classic hits ‘All Rise’, ‘One Love’, ‘If You Come Back’ and ‘Too Close’.

In the first phase of their career together Blue released 15 singles, scored 3 number 1 albums, duetted with Elton John and Stevie Wonder, embarked on 3 UK arena tours and won 2 Brit Awards.

Reflecting on that time in Blue’s career, and the continuing relationship he has with his bandmates, Simon says “I’m grateful for the fact that I’ve got three brothers, who are my best mates.”

“Lee just called me (he’s just finished work) to see where I am and to see how I’m doing – you know, we have that relationship still 16 years on… I don’t think many groups can say that about themselves.”

After five years at the top and following the release of their greatest hits album ‘Best Of Blue’, in 2005 the boys decided to take some time out from the band to pursue solo projects.

It was then, that Simon REALLY came into his own…

Lift me up from the shadows,
Will you take me away to a better place?

FINDING SANCTUARY

With the release of his debut solo single in August 2005, the uplifting, anthemic ‘Lay Your Hands’, the general public were given their first glimpse as to what they could expect from Simon Webbe the ‘solo artist’, and by all accounts, they loved what they heard.

Peaking at number 4 on the Official UK Singles Chart, ‘Lay Your Hands’ stayed in the Top 10 for 3 weeks and was quickly followed by the life affirming ‘No Worries’ which also landed at number 4 in the UK Top 40.

Simon’s debut solo album ‘Sanctuary’ received rave reviews from critics, was loved by fans old and new, and went onto sell over 600, 000 copies in the UK.

To the outside world Simon’s transition to solo star may have looked effortless, but the singer now admits it was an unnerving time, as he focused on building his confidence outside of the band.

“When you’re in a band with people like Anthony Costa and Lee Ryan and Duncan James, who have got pipes… I was never a singer, when I was first put in Blue, I was put in Blue because my face fit.”

“But no one knew, I didn’t know, that I had the writing skills to be able to write songs like ‘All Rise’ and ‘Fly By’ and ‘One Love’ big, big massive anthems, so from there it was then I decided that I wanted to master my voice and become a more confident singer.”

“Over the past 10 years that’s maybe what I’ve been doing.”

Following the success of double platinum selling ‘Sanctuary’, Simon released his second solo album ‘Grace’ in 2006.

The album, which featured the singles ‘Coming Around Again’, ‘My Soul Pleads For You’ and the double a-side ‘Grace/Ride The Storm’, was certified Gold in the UK and further helped to establish Simon as a credible, solo recording artist.

In the years that followed Simon kept himself busy with a variety of different projects.

In 2011 he reunited with Blue, appeared on ITV’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here, wowed audiences on Strictly Come Dancing, starred alongside Whoopi Goldberg and Shelia Hancock in Sister Act at the London Palladium and even tried his hand at acting, starring in the BBC soap opera River City.

       

So busy was he, some fans of Simon Webbe the ‘solo artist’ began to wonder whether or not they’d ever hear another solo album from him again.

The ice is slowly melting,
in my soul and in my skin.
All the good times my friend,
are coming around again…

TIME TO ‘SMILE’

10 years on from the success of ‘Sanctuary’ and ‘Grace’, Webbe is now making his solo musical comeback with the release of his brand new album, ‘Smile’.

Described as being ‘folk pop’ in it’s sound, ‘Smile’ features the single ‘Nothing Without You’, a track inspired by his fiancé Ayshen Kemal… more on Ayshen later.

Since the release of his last album, Webbe says he is not the same person he once was back in 2007.

“I’m in a different place in my life to where I was then, I’m a different person and I’ve gone through a lot more things in the last 10 years than I did in the previous 10 years leading up to my first solo album.” Simon says.

“This time around I’m able to talk about relationships as a man, rather than as a boy, I’ve got a lot more to say and I’m able to get certain things down on record now that I wasn’t able to before, so I can’t wait to share it (the new album) with the rest of the world.”

That’s not to say the making of ‘Smile’ didn’t have it’s challenges.

“It wasn’t meant to be this long of a break between albums, but it just didn’t feel right to do solo music.” Simon explains.

“There were times where I was like ‘right I’m gonna start writing an album’ so I’d make a start, I’d be a month into it and I’d think ‘nah, I can’t do this’.”

But as things in Simon’s personal life took a turn for the better so did his work in the studio.

Live studio session #Smile #studio #blue #acousticguitar #album Double tap and follow RT

A post shared by KingBird1 (@simonwebbe1) on

“I’m in a better place being engaged.” Simon admits.

“The first single from this album (Nothing Without You) is about my fiancé. It was my valentines song to her and my engagement song to her.”

“It took me no longer than 20 minutes to write it. It was easy. Once we had the guitar melody, I just sang straight away, I was actually just messing around but I had her (Ayshen) on my brain.”

“It was like I was just singing to her and everyone was looking at me going ‘oh my god – are you recording this, are you getting what he’s saying – get the mic on’.”

“When the record label heard it, they said ‘why isn’t that your first single?’ And I said ‘well I don’t know why, do you want it to be?’ And they was like ‘yeah’ and so I said ‘okay, cool’… and here we are.”

Although a deeply personal song to him, Simon hopes listeners will be able to relate to the the song when it comes to dealing with their own relationships.

“There’s a line where I say ‘some arguments can escalate so easily, but I’m noting without you’ and that’s from my own experience because when I first got with my fiancé, because everything was so good, we were both waiting for something bad to happen so we could say ‘oh I knew this was going to happen, I knew we weren’t right for each other’.”

“Then something minor did happen and I ended up walking away and I thought to myself ‘do you want to be with this girl?’ and I was like ‘yeah course I do I wanna marry her’ so drop your ego, go back and say ‘sorry, i’m nothing without you’.”

“And what I want people to understand is, that when you’re in a relationship, yes you’re allowed to be angry, yes you’re allowed to say things and not mean it, but as long as the both of you can come together and admit that you’re wrong, you will progress so much further in life and you won’t have as much stress, because stress comes from you holding on to something that you don’t need to hold onto.”

Life is full of light and shade,
sometimes it will get dark
But that’s the test to see how strong we are.

Simon says ‘Smile’ takes us through the journey of his relationship with Ayshen, it’s positive, it’s real and it’s about where he is in his life right now.

“The album is almost in two halves. Half of it is where I am now, and half of it is what if I wasn’t with her, this is what could have happened.”

“It’s probably the most real and honest album I’ve ever done. When you listen to songs like ‘Love Your Woman’ and ‘Jigsaw’, ‘More Than Perfect’, ‘Smile’ those titles there are just self explanatory of everything really.”

Being so honest and open in his music however, does make him feel vulnerable at times.

“When you slice off a peace of your soul and you put it out there, it’s going to be judged. And I’ve got to live with that because that is what people are going to hear for the rest of my life. You can’t take it back.”

“I’m like have I said the right thing? Have I used the right lyric? And I’m putting myself under all sorts of pressure because the first two albums did so well. But it’s also a different time so I can’t expect the same results as before.”

It’s clear to see though that Simon still loves what he does and he’s incredibly passionate about his new body of work.

“I’ve had a really good time making this album. I didn’t realise how much of good a time I’d had until I put it all together.”

“There’s definitely something for everybody on there. There’s a fun song called ‘Dance On My Own’ which is me rapping and singing, it’s kind of like a rap/Drake fun track with a little bit of a Caribbean feel to it.”

And as for his favourite song on the album? He says it’s got to be the title track ‘Smile’.

“Smile is a lot like ‘Lay Your Hands’, ‘Grace’ and ‘No Worries’ because I’m using a sample and I’m singing against the sample. It’s kind of like a Frank Sinatra feel, with like a Fugees/Dr Dre kind of sound – so imagine those three sounds fused together, it’s hard to imagine isn’t it? But it’s wicked, I’m very proud of it.”

In the ever changing music industry, Simon admits he’s nervous at the prospect of releasing solo music after such a long break.

“It’s a bit weird at the minute, because there’s no Top Of The Pops, there’s no CD:UK and I like the personal touch. I like sitting in front of someone and doing an interview, I miss those times, but there are no budgets for me to get in the car to come and drive around and see people anymore which I think is a shame.”

“But I have faith in my music, and I have to have faith that enough people will hear it for them to pass it on to people, for it to then go viral and then do what it needs to do so I can then go out and thank my fans on a tour.”

“And I’d love to tour, that’s the main aim really, to go out there sing your songs, it’s like a completion of the process, from the studio, to the internet, to the stage.”

If you come back in my life,
I’ll be there till the end of time…

In 2017, the boys from Blue are busier than ever, but despite all of their individual projects, the four remain committed to the band that gave them their start in the industry.

“We genuinely love what we do, we don’t do it for the money, we do it because we love being on the road.”

“The money part comes later obviously, you wanna pay for your house, you want to have a future, but our aims aren’t big mansions anymore, we’re grown up now so in reality all we wanna do is have a house. A house that’s all paid for, enough money to put our kids through school and give them what they want and that’s it.”

“We just want to have a happy normal life like everybody else.”

Simon says the boys are back in the recording studio working on Blue’s 6th studio album, which is going “amazingly well”.

“We’re working with these guys called Goldmine, they’ve got like 37 singles coming out this year and they’re fresh as hell.”

The band plan to release an autobiography later in the year and launch their album in 2018.

For Simon Webbe though, being in Blue isn’t just about the work, it’s about the relationship and bond he shares with his bandmates.

“I’ve gotta say, there’s nothing that beats being with my boys, we just have this connection.”

“When we’re performing together, we look into the crowd, then look into each others eyes like ‘oh my God, can you believe this? This is the life’. We’re just very appreciative.”

GRACE

So after 16 years in the music business what has Simon learnt?

“Life is all about evolving and allowing yourself to evolve, and saying it’s okay to not fit in.”

“We put so much pressure on ourselves to fit in and then I think to myself ‘what are we trying to fit into really?’ Because without your mental health, without your physical health you have nothing. So concentrate on being healthy, both mentally and physically, and if nobody adds to your life and if they’re taking, taking, taking, get rid of them and don’t feel bad to do that.”

“We have social vampires who will suck the life out of you, so have associates and know who your friends are. And when you know that, you’re life will be great because you’ll have balance.”

“That’s what I know now at 39 and I feel it’s my duty to share that with the young people and hope it helps them to see things in a different light.”

And as for his professional hopes for the future?

“I can’t wait for this album (Smile) to come out and for people to live with it and share it.”

“This isn’t me peaking though, I’ve got so much more to give, I’m just closing off this sound for these three albums and I’m going to do something else next…”

And whatever it is that comes next for Simon Webbe, we here at CelebMix can’t wait!

Simon Webbe’s brand new album ‘Smile’ will be released on 13th October and is available for pre-order here now.

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Written by Philip Logan

I love music, I love dance, I love movies, I love fashion, I love... love. I'm obsessed with London, I want to live in New York, I take Instagram way too seriously and I believe that one day, things will be better. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @philip_logan