Friday, 23 May 2008

Simon Webbe

Fresh from the massive success of his debut solo single ‘Lay Your Hands’, Simon Webbe finally unleashes his highly anticipated debut solo album ‘Sanctuary’, released on 14th November, through Innocent Records.

At only 26 years old, Simon has already gained more experience in the music industry than many artists attain in a lifetime. As a member of Blue he has achieved phenomenal sales figures not only in the UK, but all across the globe. Blue have had an amazing forty No.1 singles worldwide, selling over 9.5 million albums and 3.5 million singles.

As a solo artist, Simon’s debut single ‘Lay Your Hands’ stormed into the UK charts at No.4 this August and remained in the Top 10 for an amazing three weeks, garnering massive radio airplay in the process. Now with the single ‘No Worries’, and his debut solo album ‘Sanctuary’, Simon‘s position as one of the UK’s leading singer/songwriters will be established once and for all.

But how did Simon reach such dizzy heights?

He pinpoints his childhood church experiences as a major influence on his musical journey. As a boy, Simon’s mother would take him to church four times a week. Here Simon would sing along to gospel songs and learn the harmonies. Unsurprisingly, at the age of eight Simon announced to his mother that he wanted to be an entertainer, letting her know, “I’m gonna do well in whatever I do!”. A keen drama student at school, Simon took part in many productions as a young actor, even winning the lead in several performances.

Music was always played in the Webbe family home, and Simon grew up to the soulful sounds of acts such as Bill Withers, Bob Marley and various gospel acts. As Simon says: “I grew up listening to music, writing songs and singing to myself. I’ve always had passion for singing and song writing”.

However, as Simon grew into his early teens, it became clear that his first love was football. His heart was set on becoming a professional footballer, and he spent every spare second practising and honing his skills. A natural talent, Simon was signed to the Port Vale “School Of Excellence” for four years from the age 14. After completing his training, his playing skills were scouted by both Liverpool and Aston Villa and a successful pro-football career beckoned. However, disaster struck at the age of 17 when Simon suffered a torn ligament during a match, with the injury preventing him from ever playing professionally.

It was after this injury that Simon’s single mindedness to succeed came into play. If he wasn’t going to make it as a professional footballer, then he decided he had to succeed in another career. His attention again turned to the entertainment industry.

Simon began auditioning as a singer and rapper for various bands and music projects, all the while writing songs for future use. In 1998, at the age of 19, Simon was spotted by a model scout and put forward for the prestigious Pride Magazine’s “Face of the Year” competition. Simon’s good looks and distinctive features won the competition and a modelling contract.

Offers of work around the Manchester area flooded in, but although he had taken the first steps to a successful modeling career, Simon still had a hunger to be a singer and performer. Continuing to hit the audition circuit he met Duncan James, Lee Ryan and Antony Costa, Blue were formed and an incredible rollercoaster of success began.

Signed to one of the UK’s leading labels, Innocent Records in 2000, the band Blue released their debut single ‘All Rise’ in May 2001. From the moment this uplifting track hit the airwaves it was clear that Blue had something special, a certain X factor. Suddenly it was OK to like pop again no matter how old you were. The next year saw the band achieve a meteoric rise to fame, becoming the hottest new act to emerge from the UK in years.

Blue gave Simon the chance to develop his natural song writing talents and explore his production ideas. Simon was the key songwriter on many of Blue’s biggest hits including ‘All Rise’, ‘Fly By’ and ‘One Love’. In fact Simon either wrote or co-wrote six tracks on their first multi platinum album ‘All Rise’ and even more tracks on the two albums that followed ‘One Love’ and ‘Guilty’.

For Simon, song writing is a non stop project. He says: “I always carry a Dictaphone with me in case ideas strike whilst I’m on the road. A melody or lyrical idea can hit you at any time and you have to be prepared!”

2005 has seen Simon sign a solo deal with Innocent Records, with the company allowing him to grow and develop his own sound organically. Simon has been involved in the song writing and production of his debut album every step of the way. “I had a very definite idea of what I wanted the record to sound like. I think it has surprised everyone, including my record company!”

His debut solo album ‘Sanctuary’ showcases a new Simon Webbe, a softer, more soulful singer with thoughtful lyrics and beautiful melodies. Each of the twelve diverse tracks perfectly showcases Simon’s smooth vocal talents, highlighting a new maturity to his voice.

As Simon explains; “I didn’t want to produce a UK r&b record. You’ve got Usher and Mario and they’re doing r&b, and doing it very, very well. I chose not to go down that route as I wanted to create my own sound. It’s all about the melody. I call my sound “urban folk”. It’s a mixture of soulful vocals, urban beats and acoustic guitars.”

Simon has spent the last nine months working on the material, creating an exceptional first album that will appeal to pop, r&b and country fans alike. “Sanctuary” is a confident collection of twelve perfect pop songs that is sure to establish Simon as one of the most exciting artists on the current music scene. Opening with the massive hit single ‘Lay Your Hands’, and straight into the infectious new single “No Worries”, the album moves from the smooth acoustic groove of ‘After All This Time’ to the soulful and uplifting ‘A Little High’, through the country funk of ‘Unjustified’, on to the sweeping beauty of ballad ‘Free’ and the indelible melody of “Sanctuary”, finishing with the Caribbean influenced ‘Star’.

At the heart of every track is a killer song, with Simon taking the co-writing duties on all of the tracks. As Simon explains, the album explores a diverse range of lyrical themes. “’No Worries’ is about making life changing decisions and getting closer to the ideal life we all strive for. ‘After All This Time’ is about a strong lady who holds down a household, but has a husband who thinks he’s 17 when he’s really 60. They’re a couple who’ve been through thick and thin and back again, they still love each other, after all this time. ‘A Little High’ tells of a marriage that goes stale. It’s about rediscovering why you fell in love in the first place and getting that initial magic back.”

Simon adds: “The single “Lay Your Hands” was inspired by the Bill Withers track ‘Grandma’s Hands’. I love the sentiment of that track. “Lay Your Hands” is about life in general, about me being a man and asking for help. You immediately feel better when someone gives you a hug and lays their hands on you”.

However, despite recording such heartfelt musical material, Simon is not afraid to say he’s scared at the prospect of becoming a solo artist after five years of being in a band with his best mates. “I’m used to seeing three other faces on stage and in the studio. It’s all about me now, and only I can let myself down. I’m very nervous. It’s a nice responsibility though.”

In addition to his musical career, Simon is also pursuing his talents as an actor. He has to date filmed two movies, both due for release in early 2006. In ‘The Truth About Love’, Simon stars opposite Jennifer Love Hewitt, ironically as a professional footballer. The movie has already been a No.1 Box Office hit in Asia. The second film is UK Brit Flick ‘Rolling With The Nines’, a underworld drama which sees Simon star alongside Jason Statham, Vas Blackwood and Billy Murray.

Outside his music career, Simon is also a loving father to his eight year old daughter. Simon says: “Being a parent is a massive responsibility and one I take very seriously. Everything I do, I do for my daughter and she knows that.”

Simon also owns a Manchester based modelling agency, ‘Industry People’ and runs a production company, ‘UK Team’ responsible for developing UK urban artists.

With the release of ‘Lay Your Hands’, Simon undeniably established himself as major player in the UK and overseas charts. Now, with the release of a new single “No Worries” on November 7th and the album “Sanctuary” on November 12th, he is truly a solo superstar in the making.


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