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Music Interview

Charlie Simpson interview: "Pop music is in a weird place"

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Charlie Simpson
Has it really been seven years since Busted bid us an emotional farewell with parting single '3am'? While we wonder what exactly we've been doing with ourselves, for one-time member Charlie Simpson, the years have seemingly flown by. After another four albums under his post-Busted project Fightstar, he's finally braved it alone for his first solo outing, the intriguingly-titled Young Pilgrim. Excited, we met up with him to find out how he's adjusting to the change.

You're releasing your first solo album after ten years in the music industry; how does it feel?
"It feels good, thanks! It also feels like a long time coming. I started this album in July 2009 and it's been my life ever since. I can't wait for people to hear it."

Describe your new single 'Parachutes'.
"It's one of the more instrument-heavy songs on the record - I wanted to strike a balance between the acoustic nature and more upbeat instruments. It's also the first track I've ever written with a piano, so it's a good contrast to other songs on the album."

It's very different to your music with Fightstar; was that intentional?
"My solo album was always going to be completely different to the music with Fightstar, but this album is a very natural representation of me as a songwriter. It was always going to be an acoustic-driven record, which is heavily influenced by the '70s Americana music I listened to growing up."

After being in bands for ten years, are you feeling nervous about putting out your solo record, Young Pilgrim?
"It's something I had to get right - you can't flippantly embark on a solo album. You're putting something out there with your name attached to it and it's something I've been really nervous about! I've put so much into it, and to hear that people are enjoying it feels all-the-more rewarding this time. In a band you share the success, whereas this album is just mine - it's a weird prospect!"

Are Fightstar still together?
"We're still very much together. We'll do something together again the future, but my focus for at least the next year is this album. I want to get it out to as many people as possible and hopefully release it internationally."

What do you talk about on the album?
"It's a bit of a retrospective of the last 26 years of my life. It's the first time I've ever been able to sit back and take stock. It feels like a benchmark in my life where I can reflect on my experiences so far. That said, it comes across as quite a sombre record at times, but I hope people discover that it can be uplifting too."

Charlie Simpson


Does any of it look back over the Busted years?
"No. It goes over my childhood and other particular moments in my life. It's like a wide snapshot of my life so far."

Do you still speak to James and Matt?
"We don't speak anymore - we all went our separate ways. It was six years ago now, we all moved on from it a long time ago."

What tracks would you point people towards on the album?
'Farmer & His Gun' and 'Cemetry' are the two on the album that people seem to be enjoying most. 'Sundown' is my favourite - it was originally meant for my EP only - and my brother is doing the falsetto in the background, which sounds fantastic. It's an album you really have to listen to in its entirety - the songs fit and make sense in the order they were put together."

Does mainstream success bother you anymore?
"It doesn't really bother me, it's just about getting it out to as many people as possible. Success is making an album that you're proud of. I've done my part, and whatever happens now is a bonus. That said, the mainstream is taking more notice of this kind of music now, which is great."

What do you think of pop music nowadays?
"It's a tough one. I came into the music industry at the last moment before all the major changes. It had been pretty much the same for 50 years until downloads were introduced. Pop music is in a weird place at the moment, and no-one knows which way it is going. I think we're in a transition period - in ten years there will be a system that works."

Do you think The X Factor has played a part in its downfall?
"It's irrelevant. It is its own monster, so I don't think it affects the music industry really. There is always a song that comes out at Christmas; some of the artists last, some don't, and it goes on - it's a machine."

Charlie Simpson releases 'Parachutes' on August 7. The album, Young Pilgrim, follows on August 15.

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