In a climate where artists are lucky to have one big break, Charlie Simpson has truly broken the mould. His endearing ability to cleanse his musical palette and break into new sonic territory has seen the Suffolk-born musician enjoy success via three entirely different outlets, and it doesn’t seem like he’s content on stopping there.
Today, he’s visiting HMV Southampton for a short acoustic performance and signing in the midst of a promo run for his second solo album, Long Road Home. It’ll officially hit the number 10 spot in the UK Album Charts, but in the mid-week update it’s sitting more than comfortably at number 4. “I try not to get too wrapped up about the charts – it’s great when the reaction is good to a record and people go out and buy it, but first and foremost I want to make records that I’m proud of”, he says with a gentleman’s demeanour – suitably matching his suave appearance.
With an abundance of followers eagerly queueing up to snag a signature and a photo, it appears that Simpson can revel in both immense pride and satisfaction with his latest work to hit the shelves – but the journey leading up to the album’s completion was an arduous one. For the first time in his career as a songwriter, he encountered writer’s block – a crippling state of mind that halted the creative progress on the album at its midway point. The consequences could have been dire – but a stint on the US edition of the Vans Warped Tour proved to be the relief necessary for him to pick up the pen and paper once again. “Warped Tour is unlike any other tour – it’s crazy. There’s like eighty bands, there’s barbecues every night, it just felt like summer camp”, he beams. “I didn’t feel like I was on tour – I felt totally stress-free, and when I got back I felt excited to write music again. I don’t know what it did to me, but it was one of the best summers of my life.”
Given his time spent across the Atlantic, it’s perhaps unsurprising to see that there are moments where aspects of the Americana movement ooze into the final product of Long Road Home. The album’s opener and title track is rife with many of the iconic tropes often associated with the work of American musical heroes such as Bruce Springsteen – jaunty piano sections and vivid vocal harmonies resound throughout with hearty aplomb. “I’m heavily influenced by American music and that whole West Coast seventies sound – it was the stuff that my dad used to put on when I was 8/9 years old”, he reminisces. “Those influences definitely come out in my solo stuff.”
It’s evident that solo material remains Simpson’s priority for now, but as an artist he’s constantly pivoting – plans for the distant (and not-too-distant) future are always lurking in the crevices of his mind. There’s already rumours circulating of a return from his post-hardcore outfit Fightstar with the 10th anniversary of their debut EP They Liked You Better When You Were Dead approaching next year – but he’s also got his sights set on traversing further into the world of film scores, with a recent interview with Drop Dead revealing legendary motion picture composer Hans Zimmer to be his current inspiration. “It’s the True Romance [1993 Tony Scott/Quentin Tarantino film] soundtrack, man”, he opens up about his appreciation for Zimmer. “I love films, and Hans [Zimmer] has done a lot of great work, a real eclectic selection of films. Later on in life, I really want to pursue more film work – I’ve just done an independent film recently [2013’s Everyone’s Going to Die, scored by Simpson] and I loved it.”
As his audience contentedly depart from the store, Simpson’s time in Southampton draws to a close. As he leaves, one thing is clear – his desire to thrust his creativity to new and exciting levels will continue to lead him to success, no matter what stumbling blocks he may hit along the way.