Charlie Simpson must be one of the only artists in history to have graced a cover of Smash Hits! magazine and gained the respect of Kerrang!.
His convincing transition from the bushy-eyebrowed one out of pop punk trio Busted to frontman of post-hardcore band Fightstar - and in more recent years acoustic singer/songwriter of his own solo project - has been mightily impressive.
Now working on his second solo album – the follow up to 2011’s Young Pilgrim - Music Week caught up with Simpson, who is represented by management house Raw Power, to ask how he’s settling into his career as an established credible rock star…
You’ve made a big transition musically, do you ever regret the way you got into the industry?
It wasn’t something that was reflective of me but it was still something that I would never turn around and say I regret. It was an amazing experience but I think it’s quite clear from what I’ve done since that I have no intention of ever going back to it.
Did you find it difficult to get credibility from the typical Fightstar fan base because of Busted?
Yeah at the beginning of Fightstar it definitely was, but then it was a double-edged sword because I think if someone listened to Fightstar and were really blown away by the album, then they were probably blown away more because they didn’t expect to be. On the other side we did have a hard time getting over that stage. But there were people like Paul Brannigan at the beginning who put me on the front cover of Kerrang! magazine - which is something people would have thought was weird - champions like that really shone through for us.
You’re currently writing your second solo album, what does it mean for the future of Fightstar?
After I released Young Pilgrim everything’s gone really well and this is something I didn’t want to stop doing so quickly afterwards, so I’m three quarters of the way through the second solo record now and there’s quite a lot of international stuff I want to do with my solo work before I return to Fightstar, but I think after the next album campaign is finished then we’ll get back into the studio and start writing again.
You set up your own record label with Nusic. Why is it important to retain the rights to your music?
I’ve worked with a few different labels now and I’ve formed personal relationships with the people I want to be working with. I don’t need distribution because I go through PIAS and if you have investment that’s all you need. I think it’s different for a new artist or a band that’s just starting because they don’t have experience in the music industry, they don’t have any contacts, but I’ve been doing this for a long time now I know what it is I want and my management [Raw Power] are brilliant, so for me it works out better that way.
You’ve just made a Guinness World Record for playing the coldest gig in Siberia in partnership with Jägermeister – how does that branding relationship work?
I really can’t say enough good things about Jägermeister. Their music division in the UK is run by a guy called Tom Carson and he’s just so in tune with what artists want. People get funny about artists doing the brand thing and that attitude is something I can totally understand because sometimes it looks ridiculous - it could be done for the wrong reasons, but all Jägermeister care about is giving the artist what they want.
They have never given me money and said ‘just go and do what you want with this’. If I’m doing merchandise, then we'll do co-branding on it and then they might put some money toward my music video: it all just means you’ve got fewer costs to recoup. It’s not just about wearing a Jäger T-shirt and then them giving me some money - which I think a lot of other brands do - they are very much about having a relationship with the artist, it’s got to be a two way street. I’ve been working with Jäger now since 2006 and I feel like when I talk about them or if I promote them I don’t feel bad about it at all. They are a great company, they help me out a lot.
What would you change about the music industry and why?
Twenty years ago everyone had it too easy, they took it for granted that people would buy CDs forever and I think that the start of the Napster generation was a backlash about that. The music industry had become too greedy and [now] is almost paying a bit of a price for that. Had it not been like that in the Eighties/Nineties the backlash wouldn’t have been so severe. Also, I heard that Canada’s government give a huge amount of money to young bands for tour support and I think that’s brilliant, it’s difficult to tour around everyplace in the UK – bands can’t afford it and thats definitely something our government should look at.