‘For me, this album is almost like I’ve come back from the dead,’ says Kevin Simm of his incredible new solo record, Recover which is out now. ‘I had my time with Liberty X but it’s not been plain sailing since then,’ he continues, adding: ‘To get this opportunity to do this now felt a little like redemption.’
To say that Recover is his most personal and heartfelt record to date is an understatement. Kevin has been writing for – and about – his life ever since winning The Voice in April 2016. Having always written songs, the Lancashire born star says keeping his team of writers small and focused has been key to producing the music he has always craved to create.
‘I wanted to write honest music and not just a hit or a catchy chorus,’ he says. ‘I wanted something that meant something to me.’ To achieve this, Kevin teamed up with acclaimed producer Matty Benbrook (Paolo Nutini, Jack Savoretti), and songwriters Jim Duguid (Paolo Nutini, Alex Clare), Pauline Taylor (Dido, Mel C, Paolo Nutini) and Ed Drewett (One Direction, Little Mix, Olly Murs & Craig David). The end result is an album of heartfelt, ‘laid back’ tunes, that steer clear of basic pop-by-numbers. And when it comes to his biggest inspiration, Kevin only had to look to his home life.
‘The title track itself is about my wife and how you couldn’t recover if you lost that person,’ he said. ‘That track and the title has a different meaning… but the main inspiration, lyrics wise, for the album is mainly based around my family and my wife,’ he said.
Kevin admits it has been hard being away from his family – who live in his native Chorley – for his recording sessions in London’s East End. He notes there is a cruel irony in the fact that he wanted to make a return to music to provide for his family but has sacrificed spending every day with his wife, Laura, and sons Charlie and Oliver since taking the crown on The Voice. But as well as providing him with the honest and meaningful inspiration he needed to craft his album, he says his family turned out to be his most influential critics.
‘My family are honest as well. It’s not like they listen and say “That’s brilliant, Kevin!” They might say “I don’t like that one.” It’s important to have that,’ he says. ‘You don’t write a great song every time. I’m grateful to have been blessed with a family who tell me the truth – even if it hurts!’ he laughs.
Of course Kevin Simm can’t be mentioned without also crediting his pop success to date. He made up one fifth of chart topping band, Liberty X, alongside Michelle Heaton, Tony Lundon, Jessica Taylor, and Kelli Young. Formed in 2001 after meeting on another TV talent show, Popstars, Liberty X went on to release three albums and ten singles – including Number 1 Just A Little and the critically acclaimed Being Nobody. Kevin is still close friends with all four co-members, describing them as his ‘best friends’ and adding he is beyond grateful for their on-going support. Being a member of Liberty X is a chapter from his life that Kevin reflects on warmly – but there is one thing he definitely won’t miss from his days in the band. ‘I don’t have to care about messing up dance routines anymore!’ he laughs.
The band first enjoyed success between 2001 and 2006 after which Kevin embarked on a solo career. But it proved to be unsuccessful. A chance meeting at a music writer’s retreat in Norway led to a solo contract being offered by an independent record label called Jamdown. Fearing that other options might not surface (‘There’s not a great track record of men breaking away from mixed music groups,’ Kevin says), he took the deal and found himself releasing an album called Brand New in Asia. The record label offered minimal support on the promotion front (‘They put in two phone interviews in Japan to promote the whole album.’), chart impact was less than minimal and Kevin found his phone calls and emails to his team going unanswered. The end result left Kevin feeling frustrated, exhausted, and defeated. ‘I thought that was it, really,’ Kevin recalls. ‘It put me off music. It put me off writing. It put me off thinking beyond anything except gigging. It was the lowest point in my career.’
In order to recuperate, Kevin took time out. His two brothers moved into his flat and they spent ‘a couple of years just having a bit of a laugh’. But the need to make music continued to burn inside, and meeting Laura reawakened his desire to get back on stage.
‘When I met my wife to be, reality hit and I realised I needed to get out and work,’ he says. And so Kevin took a couple of years of gigging at weekends to regain confidence while spending his week days at home with his kids. In 2015 he applied for The Voice and the rest, as they say, is history.
Now signed to Universal Music, Kevin says the creative freedom and trust he has been given by the label has given him a new lease of life – and brought him closer to that aforementioned redemption.
‘The record label has been fantastic,’ he beams. ‘I told them what sort of people I wanted to work with and they thankfully managed to arrange some sessions with these amazing people. They’ve left me to be an artist and create what we’ve done. It’s been brilliant.’
With Recover, he has produced a collection of tightly composed tracks that tell a story direct from his heart. After years of perfecting his solo identity, Kevin knows he has created something he can truly feel proud of. ‘I feel happy with what I’ve achieved and what I’ve done,’ he says. ‘Especially in the space and time since winning The Voice. I hope that people like it.’
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