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Interview: Jimmy Somerville

8 min read

Jimmy Somerville has been successful over many projects throughout a career that started when he founded eighties British synthpop band Bronski Beat. Following his success with classics like Smalltown Boy, Jimmy parted way with the band in 1985 to form another hugely successful staple in 80’s disco pop, The Communards where he continued to dominate the charts with hit singles that including two of the bands signature releases, a cover of the Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes hit Don’t Leave Me This Way and a cover of The Jackson 5’s Never Can Say Goodbye, both solidifying their place as one of the 80’s most successful acts.

Fresh from releasing his latest single and busy preparing for the release of a new album in early 2015, Jimmy Somerville shows no signs of slowing down as his latest up-tempo stormer proves and we had the chance to catch up with the musician recently to discuss his latest work.

During our interview we asked Jimmy about the singers brand new single, the Disco-inspired Travesty and his upcoming album. We also asked Jimmy about his proudest career achievements and his views on the developments of LGBT equality in today’s society. Here is what Jimmy had to say…

Brendon Veevers: How are you doing Jimmy and where in the world does our interview find you today?

Jimmy Somerville: Hi Brendon, I am currently in the London borough of Islington.

Jimmy Somerville 1BV: Firstly, congratulations on the new single, Travesty. Can you tell us a little about the track for those who might not have heard the single yet?

JS: The single is a really disco stomper. It’s got everything in it but the kitchen sink. It’s everything that I’ve always loved and funnily enough, when we had finished with the mix and when everything was done I was like “Oh my goodness! This is everything that I have always wanted to do on a record!”, so for me it is a real treat. It’s an interesting one because it’s very much kind of full on and really loud and bangin’. It’s everything that you expect a disco track to be but it’s got this real kind of social common lyric. It’s a very optimistic lyric and for me it’s about dealing with where we are, kind of where I am and how I feel in this moment in time regarding politics and world affairs really.

BV: Travesty comes ahead of the new album which you have titled Homage. Is the style and general vibe of Travesty indicative of the rest of the album or is it going to be a mix of genres?

JS: It’s all disco which is why the record is called Homage – it’s a homage to an era; it’s an homage to a sound which is so kind of, the life that it has and no matter where you go it’s like people still play a lot of disco to lift everybody’s feeling and to give everyone a good time. Disco is always good to lift the soul a little and that’s what I wanted to do; I wanted to do something that was kind of a celebration. There is a ballad in there to which is a homage to the ballad and is fun.

BV: What else can you tell us about Homage? Any guest appearances or covers within the record and when can we expect the record to land?

JS: There aren’t any covers on the record; they are all self-written which has been really good fun. The album is coming around March next year and it’s going to be great because it’s also going to be pressed on vinyl with a gatefold sleeve and for me that’s always been a dream for me as a kid because if it was a double album I would go home and the gatefold would open up and I would just be in vinyl heaven!

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BV: The last few years has seen a lot of success go in the way of comeback by 80’s artists like Alison Moyet, Erasure, Human League, Culture Club and Nik Kershaw. How are you feeling about being an artist these days and where do you think you fit within the industry?

JS: It’s a really strange term, that thing about “comebacks”. I always think, “Where have I been?” and “Where did I go?” I’ve always been doing what I do and I’ve always been making music and it’s a shame because what that says to me is that if you don’t have commercial success that somehow you’ve suddenly disappeared.

I’ve always been making music but it just hasn’t had commercial success and while it’s nice to have commercial success, for me as an artist and as someone who just wants to sing and to write it’s just about the actual process of creating so I’m just doing what I usually do and I’ve come up with a new album and it’s been really well received and it’s great to know that there are so many people that are really enthusiastic.

I’ve got a really great team. I haven’t worked with record labels for a while and it’s a really small company but there are some great people working on it who have just given really great energy and that’s really nice to have people who are working in the record industry that like music (laughs) and who are working with you because they love music so that’s really cool.

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BV: As an openly gay musician you have been honest and open about your lifestyle choices all throughout your career and you have always been a huge supporter of the LGBT community and for the equal rights of gays and lesbians around the world. There is obviously still a long way to go for the gay community, particularly for those in certain countries like Russia and parts of Africa. How do you feel about the developments of gay rights and what do you think it will take for the whole world to be accepting of the LGBT community?

JS: Ever since I was a kid I’ve always had this realistic idea that no matter how things change and no matter how progressive we get there will always be people who shun you for the colour of your face. There will always be people who will bat you around the head with a bat because of who you love and all that kind of stuff and it’s never going to go away. That’s the sad thing. That’s part of the human condition.

For me, my optimism is about the fact that the human condition is a journey and hopefully that journey carries on and we become much more understanding of each other and basically just accept each other and it sounds a bit wet but it’s not actually, it’s very simple but sadly its so far removed from where we are at the moment.

All it is about is accepting one another for who we are and to get on with our own lives and stop interfering in someone else’s. But that is always going to be the case and it’s what keeps me optimistic is that I actually do have faith and belief, as I say in Travesty – “believe in a better day, believe in a better way”.

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BV: What career moment do you regard as being your finest? What are you the most proud of when you look back over your lengthy career and why?

JS: Umm, today I guess the thing that I am most proud of, well in some respects Smalltown Boy kind of has to be up there because it is a classic and it still has the power to reach deep into someone’s soul and into someone’s emotional framework and for me that’s pretty cool. Even when I listen to it I’m kind of, not detached from it but it’s quite distant from me because if I listen to it I can hear where it’s coming from and there is a real emotional cry in that song and that’s what makes the song so powerful because there is something really emotional and from deep within in that song so that song probably would be my proudest moment.

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BV: Social media is a fundamental tool these days to an artists’ success and the promotion of records. Have you embraced social media or is it something that proves to me more hassle than a tool that is worthwhile?

JS: It’s kind of interesting. I use Facebook with my work but I don’t use it personally. I use things like WhatsApp with my friends. I have my iPhone and various things but I don’t really use social media so much.

It’s interesting because it’s definitely a generational thing because there is a younger generation where social media is the norm but for me personally it’s not the norm because a lot of my memories and a lot of my past is based in a very different way of communicating and getting around but at the same time it’s kind of amazing.

I have involvement in various organisations and there’s one that is called and the power of that organisation is quite amazing – it’s absolutely incredible because you basically just get sent a text or an email and you sign a petition and before you know it hundreds of thousands of people have signed a petition and suddenly the issue gets noticed and I just think that’s amazing and for me that is when social media is really brilliant; it can bring to someone’s attention something that we can be involved in rather than feeling helpless.

BV: What are the plans for touring Homage and Travesty? Will you be taking to the road over this year or next to promote the releases and what can you tell us about territories and dates?

JS: Next year we will probably be doing some live stuff and some promotional stuff so at the moment it’s all about finding the musicians and finding the way and means to do that but it’s all possible but it just takes a lot of organising and we have an expression here called ‘ducking and diving’ to try and find the cash. It’s all about the cash (laughs)

Jimmy Somerville’s new single Travesty is out now and available on iTunes and and Amazon and Jimmy’s new album Homage will be released in 2015.

Check out the Robbie Leslie Mix of Travesty here and a video of Jimmy talking about the new single here.