An Interview With Charlie Simpson
April 8, 2012
By: Tiffany Naylor
The frontman of Fightstar has gone solo with his acoustic guitar in one hand and a fistful of ambition in the other. You may remember him as the cute, posh one with the eyebrows from a certain famous pop trio beginning with B but this subject was strictly banned from conversation. We caught up with him before his gig in Falmouth and talked about Cornwall, finding fulfilment and plans for his future career in music…
HerUni: You played at Boardmasters last year and you’re playing at Exeter tomorrow and you’ve got Falmouth tonight. Are you particularly fond of the South West and Cornwall?
Charlie: Yes, I came here on holiday last year and I’m coming on holiday again this year. We went to Polzeath which is nice. My parents had a house in France and we used to go there as a family every year for the last seven years. They just sold it so we decided to choose a new place to go and Cornwall seemed like a good place. We had a really nice time surfing and it was good fun man, we’re going to come back this year. I love it, it’s really nice to have a place in the UK which has good beaches and in the Summer it’s really nice weather.
HU: Was that your first time surfing?
C: Yes! Yes and I wasn’t very good. I was pretty bad but I got up a couple of times which is good but it’s trickier than you think! I snowboard a lot and I thought I could maybe transfer some of the skills from snowboarding but surfing isn’t like that.
HU: It’s not quite the same when you’re on water! What else are you doing in your time off?
C: I can’t remember the last time I had time off! I love going to the cinema as film is one of my big passions. I’ve got a Cineworld card! I havn’t been for a while but the last film I saw that I thought was amazing was Moneyball with Brad Pitt. I really want to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel because what an amazing cast! It’s a stella British veteran cast. That’s the next one on my list.
HU: Now that you’re a solo artist, how do you handle taking all the credit and balancing it with any criticism?
C: I guess I don’t really process it in that way. I think even if you’re in a band you still take criticism and praise the same way. It feels really good if someone comes up and says ‘I absolutely love your album’ and I know I created it myself. It’s just something you learn to get on with and I don’t really focus too much on that to be honest. I just like to make the music that makes me happy and whatever people think of it is their choice.
HU: Our readers are at a point in their lives when they’re having to make big life decisions. What advice could you give to people who are wondering what path they should be taking?
C: I think it’s really important to do something fulfilling. I know people who have not pursued something they’d wished they’d done at a time like being at Uni and they’ve gone down the safer road that their parents might want them to do. I think there’s a real danger of regretting that decision because the way I see it, if you’ve tried something then the only thing that could go wrong is that it doesn’t work out but you’ll be content in the fact that you tried. The worst feeling, I think, would be to get somewhere and think ‘What would’ve happened if I’d done that?’. I think going the safer road and then regretting it would be much harder to live with than knowing that you tried your best at something you really wanted to do. Friends of mine have come to me and said ‘Do you think I should give it a go in music?’ and I would say ‘I’m not going to lie about it, it’s really hard to get into music. There’s a lot of great artists and bands out there that don’t make it their sole career. I don’t want to put you off doing it though, I think you should try and everyone should follow their dreams’. Until it gets to the point where you think you should reevaluate, then you should give it a go to start with.
HU: The acoustic feel of your solo act is quite a change from post-hardcore Fightstar. Why was that?
C: It’s weird because I’ve always loved both genres of heavy rock and melodic rock and then singer-songwriter. Since I was young, I loved Elliot Smith and Jeff Buckley and my dad put me on a lot of stuff like Jackson Brown, The Clash and The Beach Boys. All that kind of stuff I grew up listening to as well as Deftones and Silver Chair. So for me, it was a very natural transition. I thought that I would do a solo record at some point and I knew that it would sound like that. I think it was more a surprise for other people than it was for me because they may not have known that about me. As I say, I always wanted to do it so it was just a case of when rather than if.
HU: When it actually came to making that transition, did you find it scary?
C: Yeah, I did! The first time I went on stage as a solo artist we did show at the Tabernacle in London, which is quite a famous venue. I remember waiting backstage before we went on, all my friends and family came down, and I was absolutely shitting myself. I mean, the kind of nerves you get when you’re just about to go on stage for your first school play and I was literally just terrified. It was weird because I rarely get that nervous any more performing. I get nervous but more excited nervous rather than literally being terrified of going on stage because now I’ve been doing it for quite a long time. But I really felt it that time and it was amazing because within ten seconds of being on-stage I saw the crowd were really behind me. It was good but it was definitely daunting. People ask ‘Is it weird being on your own and people’s perception is of you rather than the band?’ and I think I was more worried about how people would react regardless of the genre change, just whether they’d like it or not. It was just about whether they’d like something I’d done something by myself so it was really nice when it got the reception that it did.
HU: You’re onstage with your brother tonight. Is this the first time?
C: Last night, in Cardiff, we did it. Both my brothers came on and sang with me at KOKO in London which was the first time we’d done that but I’m going on to sing with Edd (brother and lead singer of Union Sound Set) which is cool and it’s great having them on the road. We’re really keen on the idea of doing a band together so we’ll write together and release an album with all of our stuff, hopefully some time in the future.
HU: What genre of music would that be?
C: That is the ultimate question! We’ve written a couple of songs so far but it’s tough because we don’t want it to sound like anything we’ve done before. Just something a bit different but until we start writing together it’s impossible to tell. I want it to be harmony-led because it’s nice for us to be able to sing together.
HU: Where do you think you’ll be going next musically with your solo act? Will you be staying in acoustic?
C: Yeah I will be. Next week, I’ll start writing again and I’ve been waiting a while now. We’ve been so busy as we went to the States in the summer and when we came back to the UK, we went straight back on tour. I’m literally going to pick up the guitar for the first time in months and start writing. So I don’t know what’s going to happen!
HU: From your debut album that you’re currently touring for, Young Pilgrim, which is your favourite song?
C: It changes man! I think Sundown is one of my favourite songs. It was the last one I wrote for the record and it actually nearly didn’t go on because it was so late on the day but I just thought ‘ You know what, I’m going to write one more song and see what happens’ and that came out. Also Down Down Down is one of my favourites. Farmer And His Gun is a great one to perform live because people really get into it and it’s quite a responsive song. The end of Riverbanks, we just go absolutely mental and let it all out.
HU: What’s been your favourite show of the tour?
C: Edinburgh was awesome! That was my second favourite show of the tour. The crowds were amazing and my friends came up from London so we went out and had a massive party. Edinburgh and Glasgow are always particularly good places to play because the further North you go, the rowdier they get! My favourite show was London because KOKO is such an amazing venue. It’s a massive great theatre and I loved every minute of it. It was a really special night for me.
HU: We hope Cornwall will make it onto your favourites list!
The performance at Princess Pavilion, Falmouth, that night was a lot of fun when we weren’t being shoved around by adolescents trying to headbang to melodic, acoustic songs. The opening support act was rising star Sam Beeton who charmed the audience with his country bumpkin looks and humorous banter in-between songs. Charlie’s brother, Edd Simpson, followed with his band Union Sound System, who were a bit like the love child of Kings of Leon and Mogwai. As he promised, Charlie did sing on stage with his brother and the sight of them enjoying performing together and the brotherly hug finale was really quite touching! Charlie Simpson and his own band made the stage their own with many energetic jumps and shapes that we’re convinced would hurt in the morning. View the gallery below to see the full set!