kevin simm Exclusive Interview

Kevin Simm originally shot to fame as one of Liberty X, a group of five people who fell at the last hurdle in their attempt to become part of the original reality TV band HearSay. Although they were initially dubbed flopstars, Liberty X went on to enjoy greater success than the winning band from the popular ITV show Popstars. But now, 16 years later, Kevin is having a second stab at stardom as one of the finalists on the BBCs The Voice UK. Over the years, readers of OK! have not only followed Kevins career but his personal life, too. Kevin and his wife Laura married in August 2008 at Rivington Hall Barn in Chorley in Lancashire, exclusively covered by OK!, and they introduced their children Charlie, four, and two-year-old Oliver to the world through the pages of OK!.

When we arrive at the couples three-bedroom stone cottage on the outskirts of Chorley, were greeted by a boisterous Oliver, who is followed out the back door by an even more energetic Charlie, dressed as SpiderMan. Kevin, 35, and Laura, 34, are sat at the kitchen table having their make-up and hair done ready for our photos. Walking into the living room, we notice that one of the walls is covered in family photos, and taking pride of place on a shelf is Kevins BRIT Award for Best Selling Single of 2003 for the bands chart topping Just A Little, which was featured in a TV advert last year. Kevin jokes: My BRIT Award has been in a few places in my homes “ at one point it was on top of the telly but it fell off and smashed the DVD player, so it was hidden away for a few years!

Since January, Kevin has been wowing viewers on The Voice UK. His blind audition, where he performed Sias Chandelier, has more than three million YouTube views and he is one of only two contestants from this series to have all four judges turn round for them. (The other was fellow finalist Beth Morris.) Here we sit down with Kevin and bank worker Laura to chat about the ups and downs of the music business, how the wedding singer became the wedding photographer and the tough times when Liberty Xs career came to an abrupt halt

How are you feeling about the live shows, Kevin?

Im feeling really good and confident. I was nervous about how people would respond to me going on the show, but Ive gained confidence by the reaction Ive had. Ive achieved more than I ever thought I would on The Voice. I just want to enjoy it and dont want to think I was stressed out the whole way through it.

What were your expectations when you first auditioned?

To be honest, I couldnt think beyond the blind auditions. I just wanted one of the judges to turn round. I had been having nightmares leading up to it that nobody would turn around. It was a huge gamble, more so for somebody who has already been in a band.

Why did you decide to go for it this year?

Ive been really happy working as a singer, Ive been doing gigs. I had a feeling that I needed to give it a go and I should do it now. Im 35 and thought if I left it any longer I wouldnt have done it. I didnt want any regrets when I got older about not doing the show. I just love singing.

What did you think when Kevin said he was going to apply, Laura?

Its something we have talked about over the last few years. We have always watched the show and Kevs confidence has grown over the years. It felt like the right time for him to do it. It has given Kev some more exposure. Kevin: I dont have any dreams of being a pop star or to be famous. The music industry is a difficult place. Although the last few years have been great for me, I felt I just needed something to bump me up a little.

What has it been like doing gigs on your own?

Doings gigs and getting a good reaction is great. But when people introduce you as the guy from Liberty X or introduce you by the wrong name, there is only so much of that you can take. That has happened even though my name has been on the posters! I just want to be in a position to look after the boys for the next few years.

Did you go to the blind auditions, Laura?

I did, with Kevs mum Bernie. We didnt see him for a couple of days before the show. It was a nerve-wracking experience for everybody. Kev gets totally in the zone and I know if I text him I will not hear anything back. But he was so nervous that day.

A few people who have already enjoyed fame have been scouted for the show. Were you scouted?

No, I applied online. I had to get through quite a few auditions before I got to the blind audition. I didnt think there was any guarantee I would get that far.

How would you have felt if nobody had turned around?

I would have been devastated. It was hard enough during the performance. I really thought Id messed it up. I thought Id blown it. Laura: I have never met anybody who is so critical of themselves as Kev. I can think a song is amazing and Kev will be going back over it all saying what he did wrong.

Do you think Boy George was just pretending he didnt recognise you, as he even remixed one of your singles?

I dont know. I do look quite different from my Liberty X days. We did go round to his house once and before I joined the band I got to the final of a competition to sing Karma Chameleon with Boy George. But he just doesnt remember any of that. Maybe he liked Tony [Lundon] more than me [laughs]!

How do you feel about being one of the favourites?

I dont know how people decide that. My blind audition has had a few views on YouTube, but I always say to people, look at Chelsea “ they were favourite to win the Premiership and they have had a horrendous season. Anything can happen in the live shows. What about when Paloma Faith didnt pick you to go through in the battle rounds? Obviously I was gutted. I could see that she could help Faith [Nelson] more, but it all worked out for the best.

Paloma said she and Ricky Wilson discussed him stealing you beforehand

I dont think thats true. Ricky said she was just saying that to cover her own a**e! But she has been amazing. Shes still in touch with me now. I did feel terrible at the time but Im lucky as I got to work with both her and Ricky.

How does it feel for both of you now Kevin is
back in the spotlight?

Laura: Its nice to have a lot of people saying positive things about Kev and his voice. But nothing has changed really. Kevin: Things have changed for me a bit professionally. A few months ago I would do a gig and they were putting the time back as people hadnt got into the room “ now they are queuing out the door [laughs]! Somebody came up to me earlier today and said: Are you Kevin from The Voice? which was a bit of a surprise. It does feel strange doing interviews without the other guys.

What do the boys think about their dad being on the telly?

Laura: They have been adorable. Every time Kev comes on, Olly will go: Thats my daddy. Even when Kev is sat next to him! Charlie is like a mini Kev anyway, he constantly sings. You should hear him sing Chandelier. Kevin: He sings all sorts of songs you wouldnt expect a four year old to sing, as hes heard me practising. He is such a performer.

Why did you decide to keep it a secret that you had auditioned, Kevin?

I didnt want that pressure. Laura and her parents knew. I had to go to London for something so I met Tony [Lundon] for a pint. I told him as I value his opinion. I didnt tell the girls [Michelle Heaton, Kelli Young and Jessica Taylor]. I thought if I didnt get through, I didnt want to tell anyone. I would have just gone on holiday when they screened my audition!

Have you always kept in touch with the other members of the band after you split up?

We are all still great friends but I live a long way from the rest of them. We all have our own families but we catch up from time to time. Hopefully Ill see more of them when Im down in London.

What was it like when it all came to an end with Liberty X?

I think we were all ready for it to end, but I wasnt happy with the way it ended. I wasnt happy that we put out X as a single, so I should have been stronger about some decisions that were made. But we had a decent career and managed to remain friends. I had started writing my own material. I didnt feel depressed or hit the bottle!

Did you worry about how you were going to survive financially?

I think we did alright out of Liberty X. I suppose I could have been better with the money I made. At the time you think its going to go on for ever. I dont think being happy is all about being rich.

Were you sure youd pursue a solo career after the group split?

I dont think I was certain about anything! I was just writing and trying to get my sound together. I wrote a number one for a boy band in South Korea [U for Super Junior].

How did things develop for you as a solo artist?

I met another songwriter on a trip to Iceland. He offered me a deal with a record company and I just snatched his hand off. I went to Jamaica to film a video. My album got released in Japan and that was pretty much it, he stopped answering my calls and emails. I just felt like c**p at that point. I cant even explain how horrible it was, so I took some time out of music.

What happened next?

I didnt write or gig for some time. Then I met Laura, so I thought it was time to get my a**e in gear. Laura: We got married and Kev didnt really do much singing for a couple of years. We were living down south but then we moved back up here and things started to change. We had Charlie, and Kev started gigging again locally. We had some stability and Kev started being positive again.

Was it tough after doing arena tours to then play local pubs and clubs?

Ive never been work-shy, but it was really difficult just to get the gigs. I would contact agencies and they wouldnt get back to me. That felt weird. I literally got to the point where I was posting flyers through pub doors hoping to get a gig. People think you have all these contacts but I was never a networker. Its funny how people who were there when you were famous just werent there any more.

What did it feel like?

I wasnt embarrassed, but I went from doing big tours to setting up my own equipment. But I had done that before so it wasnt too much of a culture shock. It was like having to start all over again. My singing didnt improve when I was with Liberty X because we hardly sang unless we were in the recording studio. We were too busy doing promo all the time.

Didnt you become a wedding photographer at one point?

I did wedding photos as recently as January. I have always been interested in photography, so I did a course and found I just enjoyed doing weddings. And didnt you end up sometimes being the wedding singer as well as the photographer? Thats how I advertised myself! I thought it would be an option for some people “ I did a decent price for both things. It was good for me but it was one hell of a long day [laughs]!

What was it like when The Big Reunion came along?

Laura: I thought it was just a lovely thing for Kev to do with his friends as a band. They could all go and just have some fun. Kevin: We did have to think about doing it. We didnt want to look desperate. In the end it was just good fun. The TV show was alright but us doing the arena tour was the best thing. Kevin: We did have to think about doing it. We didnt want to look desperate. In the end it was just good fun. The TV show was alright but us doing the arena tour was the best thing.

Would you have considered The X Factor or Britains Got Talent?

No, I dont think I would have queued up with thousands of other people. Not to sound clich©d but I think with The Voice they couldnt see me. Whether I got any turns or not, I wanted it to be on my voice and nothing else. Laura: We watch The X Factor and Britains Got Talent as a family and love them. But we knew on The Voice there would be no preconceptions.

In the past, people who have won The Voice UK havent gone on to great commercial success. Does that bother you?

I had very small expectations at the beginning. I dont think it will necessarily be that way this year. But even if they havent had a number one, if they are out there making a living I think that is being a success. If five million people are watching the show, you only need a small percentage to go out and buy the single to make it a success.

Laura, has there ever been any time when you have suggested Kevin give up singing?

I dont think there has, to be honest. I always thought hes too good not to be singing. Kevin: i have been to that point at times when i worked as an electrician and was putting up fencing. at one point i was singing, being a wedding photographer and putting up fences. i was working seven days a week! singing work is unpredictable so i was toying with the idea of having a regular job. but that didnt work for us.

Do you think youll have any more kids?

Laura: we would never rule it out. we have two typical boys on our hands. we wouldnt have them any other way but they keep us so busy. i think wed wait until the boys are a little bit older, otherwise we might go a little bit crazy! Kevin: you could ask us that question on different days and just get different answers.

Its 16 years since Popstars happened. Did you think you would be on a national television talent show again all these years later?

Kevin: its crazy when you look back. i never felt old until i did The Voice. when youre younger, nobody cares about your age. now its like 35-year-old kevin. i think, im not that old [laughs]! For me it was never about having fame. when i started out it was just about having a laugh.

Looking back how do you feel about Popstars?

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