After 10 years, Simon Webbe returned to the musical world with his new album Smile. Evie Kissack chatted to the musician ahead of his album release last year.

Interview date - 2017

Words by Evie Kissack

The incredibly successful musician is set to release his album this October, featuring the beautiful lead single Nothing Without You, which was released back in August of this year. Simon, on hiatus from one of the UK’s most successful boy bands, Blue, has had a phenomenal solo career since the group announced their temporary break, back in 2004.

Simon’s previous double-platinum debut solo album Sanctuary included the popular tracks Lay Your Hands and No Worries, which both made the UK top 5. Simon’s fantastic career to date has seen him tour the globe, sell 15 million records worldwide and score 4 UK number 1 albums and 11 UK top 10 singles. No stranger to the UK’s television screens, Simon won over the nation’s hearts when he appeared on Strictly Come Dancing in 2014, I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here in 2007 and he has even starred in films and a West End musical. 

I spoke to the multi-talented recording artist ahead of the release of his new album, chatting about the meaning of the heartfelt lyrics of the lead single and the significance of Smile at this stage in his career. When he answered my telephone call, Simon instantly identified my strong Yorkshire accent, and seemed very enthusiastic to talk to Cornfield Magazine about his new projects. 


The lead-single Nothing Without You was released back in July. What was the inspiration behind the lyrics?

I wrote that song in the moment. I wanted to write something about my fiancée, and our relationship - where we were at that point. Every lyric is poignant to our relationship. It’s self-explanatory, and the verses tell a story. The bridge is a statement that I feel everyone can relate to. In life there are ups and downs and it’s basically a massive test to see how we bounce back from them. It makes us the people that we are. 

The song is based on an actual event that happened, when my fiancée and I had a misunderstanding. Because everything was going so well in the relationship, it was like we were both waiting for something bad to happen…because things were so good. A small situation was blown out of proportion, and I had to decide if I was going to be stubborn and stand my corner, or recognise the bigger picture – that I’m nothing without her.

Congratulations on your engagement! I heard you used the soundtrack to propose to your fiancée. It was in Jamaica, right? 

I had already proposed, but put the song on to the proposal video with the intention to release it on Valentine’s Day. It initially wasn’t going on to the album. Once the record label had seen the video and song together they said, “Why isn’t this on the album?” so it was decided that it would feature. The song is the truth of what’s actually happening with me right now, rather than a hypothetical song. 


And have you set a date?

We have, but we have to keep it under wraps…


How would you describe the sound of Smile?

Urban folk. In my other albums, I’ve played with this sound and I’ve used instruments like ukuleles, but always kept a hip-hop groove. The Simon Webbe sound is renowned for the use of samples. For example, Lay Your Hands involved a high-pitched voice. I was happy with the woman singing, and the album tracks were the same. The song Dance On My Own from a previous album features elements of reggae, but it isn’t an ‘in-your-face’ reggae sound, it’s a feel thing.”

I didn’t want to miss out and not have a ‘stamp’. I liked the idea of a Sinatra-type voice mixed with my own for the new album. 


Can you tell us why you decided to entitle the album Smile?

These days everyone is on social media, pretending to be happy when on the inside they aren’t. No matter what is going on in the world, I just want to remind people to keep smiling. Most of my songs on this album are written with my fiancée in mind, so when it came down to the decision of what to call the album, it just made sense to call it Smile. That’s how I came up with the lyrics ‘Smile my sweetheart/For better or for worse’. I wanted to get the message across that couples will go through ups and downs.


How did you find getting back in the studio producing a solo album after such a big break since your last album?

Leading up to this, I did attempt to make other albums, but it just didn’t feel right. I have a rock album, an R&B album, and I also have a hip-hop mix tape…and now I have Smile. I took my time with it. The other albums felt like a warm-up, and for me this is the last album of this sound I’ll make. 


How do you balance working and private life?

Sometimes I have caught myself spinning too many plates, but that goes along with life itself. For me, I just take each day as it comes and try to be positive every day in what I do. 


So you’re releasing your new book All Rise: Our Story with Blue in October. How was collaborating with the boys to write your collective story?

Actually it was very easily done. It’s an interesting read because we find things out about each other, too. It’s a book of honesty, and I think it’s going to be a fantastic read. For those who do not completely understand Blue’s journey, they will definitely understand it through the book.


You’re returning to Birmingham for the book release event in October. What does Birmingham as a city mean to you?

For the fans that have helped us get to where we are now, it will give them a more intimate experience; it will be a fun event for the boys and me. 

We moved to Birmingham when I was 6 years old, and left when I was 19, so I did most of my growing up there. It’s a city that is close to my heart. I had my first kiss there, I had my first girlfriend there…I had my daughter there and my football career there. I’ve had some of the best moments of my life in Birmingham. So it’s very, very close to my heart 


Can you tell us something about yourself that not many people know?

Well, I think I’ve been a completely open book in this sense. There’s not much people don’t know.

I do have a chocolate problem, though. I sometimes sleepwalk and eat chocolate out of the cupboard, or sugar. I often wake up with sugar or chocolate in my mouth, and have no idea how it’s ended up there.


So there you have it. Self-confessed chocolate lover, sentimentalist and versatile musician, Simon Webbe continues to satisfy our musical cravings with the launch of his uplifting new album, thoughtfully dedicated to his new fiancée. Ever the romantic, Simon’s new album ultimately gives a message of positivity. The lyrics seem to accept that relationships will be difficult at times and life will not always be perfect, but you should make the most of it and cherish those around you as much as possible.

Excitingly, the Blue: All Rise: Our Story release event, which will take place in Birmingham’s Town Hall on 2nd October (2017), aims to give the audience a more intimate look at the band over the past 15 years. This was a brilliant interview, and I doubt I will ever top being sung to over the phone by Simon Webbe! 


Smile was released on 13th October (2017), featuring 12 amazing tracks and the lead single Nothing Without You, that went viral when released on Valentine’s Day, after Simon had used the song to soundtrack the proposal to his new fiancée. 



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