Woodbridge: Charlie Simpson talks second solo album

Charlie Simpson; EADT 25.6.11

Charlie Simpson; EADT 25.6.11 - Credit: Contributed

Turning up home pretty drunk one night, Charlie Simpson remembers starting to record what would become new song Emily, which features on new album Long Road Home. Well I say remember...

“I don’t really remember it,” he admits. “But I woke up in the morning and was like ‘wow, that’s really good’. That slowly eased me back into it,” says the former Busted and Fightstar star, originally from Woodbridge.

The song came after a worrying bout of of writer’s block.

“I never really experienced writer’s block before, I don’t know what it was. I’d write something then come back to it a couple of days later and decide it wasn’t what I wanted to be making or it just wasn’t flowing properly,” says the recently married Simpson, fresh from honeymooning in Bora Bora in the South Pacific.

“I’d never experienced that sort of feeling before... It was almost like I’d just thrown everything out and spilled my guts for that first solo record. Also when you’re on album two there’s a lot more expectation there, the nice thing about Young Pilgrim was the fact there was no expectation as nobody had a clue what I was going to do as a solo artist. This time there was pressure.”

He wrote eight songs then went into Reel World Studios with producer Steve Osborne.

“I was a big fan of the stuff he’d done before. I first came across him through the second Placebo album - I was at school when it came out and absolutely love it. He’s also responsible for a record called Vheissu by Thrice, which is one of my favourite albums, and for me is a real testament to Steve’s talent in the studio.

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“On top of that he did the KT Tunstall stuff, acoustic work, collaborated with Paul Oakenfold on some dance. He’s just a really eclectic guy and has a huge knowledge of different styles. I played him the demos and he just really got it, all the influences that had given me inspiration in the writing he picked up on - he just felt like a really good choice for the job.”

Simpson, who will play his largest solo show ever to 3,000 people at London Roundhouse in October, says Osborne had more impact on him than any other producer he’s worked with before, sending him back to the drawing board as he’d never worked in a studio where everything is done live.

“Usually you record the drums, then the guitar or whatever. I felt a little vulnerable at times, I was treading new water and I very much put my trust in him, which was a bit scary but it was great. I learnt a lot from him. I grew up in an era where so much is done on computers now, that’s the norm for me, so I’d never done anything on tape before, whereas that was all he was used to.”

Making the album sound more like a live record was foremost in his mind, having played a lot of the instruments himself on Young Pilgrim which all had to be layered as a studio recording.

“I didn’t have my backing band then, but I was keen to have them involved this time. So we went to a studio down in Wales where they recorded Bohemian Rhapsody and stuff. We set up with the band and a lot of the songs we just recorded in one and took the live takes as they were, which gives this album a much different feel to Young Pilgrim. A certain kind of warmth.

“I wanted to pay homage to some of the 70s-sounding records that my dad brought me up on, so internally I guess that was one of the main inspirations for the sonics of the album.”

He admits there’s no question it was the hardest record he’s ever had to make. There were points where he wondered if he was going to end up with an album he really loved.

“That makes it feel all the sweeter now that I’ve come out with something I’m proud of. I love the album more because of all that. I feel like it was an album I had to fight for.”

Simpson doesn’t think it’s an improvement on the sound of the first, it’s just different. Although admits its hard for him to judge being so close to it.

“We recorded it through tape too, which adds another dimension there. I think in general it’s a much more personal, or not personal but intimate record this time. Much more stripped back, a lot less instrumentation going on. So this way of recording really lent itself to that sound - a natural progression I guess.”

Long Road Home is out on August 4. To mark its release, he’s playing a string of shops around the UK including HMV in Norwich from 5pm that day.