Nik Kershaw: Star Waver

nik kershaw interviewMillions in the bank. Every girl wants to be with you. Every guy wants to BE you. Travelling the world with the best table at every restaurant.

No, not me. I’ve just gone back to 1985 in a time machine and I’m sat next to Nik Kershaw, he’s just performed at Wembley Stadium as part of Live Aid and is a proper ‘pop star’.

Nik’s career began in his native Ipswich, and he spent several years honing his musicianship in local bands performing at pubs and clubs in the area. The hard work paid off in 1983 when he landed a major recording contract with MCA and set about writing some of the best chord progressions of the 80’s.

Top of the Pops and major stardom followed, but after the fickle hand of fame swiped him away he took a back seat and continued doing what he loved (and the only thing he knew), and that was to write songs.

He wrote worldwide hit ‘The One and Only’ for Chesney Hawkes and collaborated with some of the biggest names in music including Elton John (he also played the guitar on Nikita) and Gary Barlow.

In recent years he’s continued to write and record new material, and as last years stripped back ‘No frills’ record showed songs such as ‘Wouldn’t it be Good’ and ‘The Riddle’ still resonate today as well as they did first time around.

(Let’s not also forget his tireless work promoting early models of the mullet.)

What are you up to at the moment?
Currently working on my 8th studio album. I still venture out for the odd gig or two.

Do you enjoying touring as much as writing and recording?
I don’t do much touring, as such; just brief “sorties”every now and then. I’m enjoying the gigs much more these days. Less pressure than in the past. It’s a much more immediate and visceral experience than recording, but my comfort zone is the studio.

Do you still like playing the older hits?
I went through the stage that every artist goes through. I used to really resent playing the old stuff. Nobody wants to be defined for something they did nearly 30 years ago. Now I’m much more relaxed about it. The new stuff is never going to attract the same kind of attention. The oldies are great things to have in your armoury.

They’re like stepping stones to be placed throughout a gig. Play them a couple of new ones then slip an old one in when their eyes start glazing over.

What is your favourite song to play live?
I’ve never felt the urge to tamper with “Wouldn’t it be good”. I’ve always played it pretty much the same as the record. I still get a buzz when the audience reacts to those opening few chords.

Do you have your own studio, if so what is the set up?
“Studio” would be overstating it somewhat. I have an outbuilding with some gear in it. Technology is a wonderful thing. I can do 90% of the recording there. I used to be a Protools man but I’ve recently gone over to the dark side (Logic). Most of my “keyboards” are software models.

The guitars are real though!

Away from the stage you have written songs with lots of different people, do you find it easy to write songs with other people?
I don’t find it easy to write songs, full stop. Co-writing is a completely different process. By definition, the end result is a compromise (although that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s no good). The good thing about co-writing is the sense of responsibility you have towards you co-writer. You feel a duty to come up with something and you usually (not always) do. The other thing is that you’re quite likely to learn something new about songwriting.

Is there anyone out there you would like to collaborate with?
Most of the artists I respect and admire are pretty much self contained and not known for their collaborating. I’m quite a control freak myself.

What advice would you give to any up and coming songwriters looking to get into the business?
Don’t give up your day job. Seriously, I know plumbers who earn more than most writers. Other than that, keep knocking on those doors. If one closes, knock on the next one. And don’t let the business make you forget why you write songs. You love music, right?

Nik Kershaw Interview

If you could be in any other band for a day who would it be?
It would probably be one of the super groups from the 70s. They were my formative years and that was such a golden age for me. Genesis, Deep Purple? I actually sent an audition tape to Deep Purple when Richie Blackmore left (I was 17), I’ve still got the rejection letter somewhere!

What would you have done if the music industry hadn’t worked out?
I’m pretty much unemployable. I’d probably still be in the civil service (I worked in an unemployment benefit office for three years). Either that or I’d make quite a good Pope. I’m very good at waving.

Who had the best haircut you, Paul Young or Howard Jones?
Paul King from King. He put the rest of us in the shade……literally!

When can we hear a new Nik Kershaw record?
Currently aiming at May 2012.

Watch this space!
Live photo courtesy of Lisa Kent

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