Newmarket Racecourse bound Busted’s Charlie Simpson, Matt Willis and James Bourne talk reuniting and new music
- Credit: Archant
Entertainment writer Wayne Savage sat down with Busted at Newmarket Racecourses to ask the question on every fan’s mind. How did Matt Willis and James Bourne lure Woodbridge’s Charlie Simpson back to the band after years of vowing “never again”.
I’m not known for my shyness. Yes, I could’ve asked when we’ll hear the trio’s first new songs for more than a decade. Would the arrival of Willis’ third child with his TV presenter wife Emma affect their reunion tour? Will they have a flutter on the horses when they stop by Newmarket Nights this summer?
Decent enough questions which, eventually, we get to. But let’s be honest; that’s not what you want to know.
Busted were one of the biggest homegrown pop acts of the Noughties, selling five million records including two four-times platinum selling albums and four number one singles. Then, in 2004, ex-Framlingham College student Simpson called it quits to devote his full energy to his sideline rock group Fightstar and later his solo career – vowing never to return. He didn’t take part in the band’s recent collaboration with long-term contemporaries McFly either, claiming it “wasn’t right” for him.
“Which was exactly how I felt at the time,” says a contemplative Simpson, stretched out on a sofa in one of the boxes of the Premier Enclosure.
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“We always said if one of the members left it would be over. I’m glad we realised that at the time,” adds Bourne. “Everyone’s been fulfilled by the different stuff we’ve done and it’s great it worked out the way it did. It’s amazing we’re getting a chance to revisit our band when we’re all in the right headspace. To drag it on without Charlie would’ve been a massive mistake.”
As I’m the last in a long line of interviewers, with more press scheduled during their car trip to the next venue, the boys have calmed down come my turn. The singing, guitar playing, laughter and exuberant attempts at racing commentary that leaked into the holding room earlier is replaced by quiet reflection and the odd dip-flavoured crisp.
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I’m probably the umpteenth person to ask them about their reunion, announced last November to much surprise, including their own. There to talk about their Newmarket Nights gig and their national Pigs Can Fly tour, there’s a sense of “not this again”, but as Willis told me earlier – it’s part of the job and there are far worse jobs to have.
Willis and Bourne came up with the idea. Meeting Simpson at his house, they sat in his back garden to see where his head was at.
“It was a bit strange for the first 20 minutes, I’m not going to lie, we haven’t seen each other for years. We just got chatting and it was very easy. It became very apparent we were all very similar, all in a very united kind of creative place and the possibility of doing something was no longer out of the window,” remembers Willis.
The three of them took a road trip to Philadelphia in the States, spending a week in the studio working on some music and it was great, “really cool”, he adds.
“We went thinking in our heads if it doesn’t work no one would know any different. But we needed to do that to be sure in our minds it would work again and we had no expectations, there was no pressure, no real pushiness or expectations, that’s the funny thing,” says Simpson.
“It feels different this time because we’re the same people but our circumstances are very different. We’ve had a lot of life experience, we’ve done other projects; two of us got married and had kids... That changes your perception really, so we’re coming at this with a slightly new view I think.”
Willis says if it hadn’t happened, everybody would’ve just got on with their lives and nobody would’ve been the wiser. “It wouldn’t have been like we were crying into our pillows at night, it’s just an added bonus. We’re not doing it for the wrong reasons, like we’re skint or something.”
Bourne agrees, stressing life has been really good. This isn’t one of those times when a band comes together and you hear how everything was so awful.
Simpson and Willis say it’s been nothing but positive so far and they’re having a great time. It’s not about them though, it’s about the music.
“That’s the key word there, the music,” says Simpson, who’s looking forward to playing the O2, which wasn’t around the last time they were a trio.
New tracks are in the pipeline, he adds. It’s early days and they don’t want to say too much but expect a new record this year.
“It’s different and we’re excited for people to hear it.”
Willis agrees, describing the album’s process as incredible, fun and easy and adding that going into the studio with nothing and coming out with a finished track was a “really cool” way to work.
“I’m really looking forward to having new music out under the Busted name,” says Bourne. “It’s going to be so nice to have fresh material because I’ve been really waiting for that.”
Clearly, so were fans. The band were blown away by how fast tickets sold.
“It’s a really nerve-wracking experience,” says Willis, who you will be happy to hear won’t have to dash off stage halfway through Year 3000 because wife Emma has gone into labour, with the baby due before the tour begins.
“You do the press conference a few days before it goes on sale and, really, we haven’t been a band for about 12 years. We were like ‘who are these people, who’s going to buy a ticket to come and see us?’. We’ve no idea and in the first hour we’d sold out pretty much every ticket we put on sale, so we were having to put on more dates. We were like ‘this is crazy’. We’re looking forward to going on stage and seeing all the fans who have wanted to come and see us again, it means so much to us.
“People are really pleased about this, as pleased as we are, there’s no negativity about it and I think that’s because we are doing it for the right reasons, we’re doing it because we genuinely love it again. We want to make sure they get a full experience they remember forever.”
“I think people are intrigued as well to hear what it’s going to be,” adds Simpson, who recently released the first single with his new band, Once Upon A Dead Man, formed alongside his brothers Will and Edd, and Simon Britcliffe.
None of them know any band that plans for years ahead. He says they’re taking every day as it comes.
“You focus on the next stage and the next stage for us is the tour and the stage after that is new music; then we don’t know.”
Busted play Newmarket Nights July 22. The Jockey Club Live summer show will feature smashes like What I Go To School For, Crashed The Wedding, Air Hostess and Year 3000.
Also announced for this year so far are The Corrs, Will Young, Kaiser Chiefs, Tears for Fears, Jess Glynne and Little Mix.
Last year’s line-up - which saw the likes of Kylie, Spandau Ballet and Tom Jones play the Adnams July Course - resulted in Newmarket Nights winning the Group Leisure award for Best Event For Groups in 2014/15.