An English rocker is back on the road again after a 16-year, self-imposed retirement as a gardener, Paul Stewart reports.
At first it would seem a very radical career move for an international rock star -- retiring to the country to grow flowers. But it has proved to be a breath of fresh air for Kim Wilde. The English singer turned her back on her singing career at the height of her fame in the '80s. Wilde was riding high -- very high, in fact. She had produced 10 hit albums and more than 30 hit singles. She also had performed to more than two million people while supporting Michael Jackson on a five-month European stadium tour.
Wilde, who will perform in Australia soon as part of the 1980s-inspired Here & Now Tour, admitted her early retirement had been a "big step". The former rocker not only took up growing flowers and plants at her country home, she has become an expert on the subject. In recent years, she has hosted the BBC's Garden Invaders series and has been a judge and presenter at the Chelsea Flower Show. She also proudly boasts winning numerous medals at flower competitions, and she writes for a number of gardening magazines. Speaking from her home where she lives with her husband, Hal, and two children, Harry, 5, and Rosie, 3, Wilde said her interest in gardening had been a natural progression from being a rock star.
"It was an 'earthing' for me because I had lost a lot of motivation for being in the music industry," she said. "After 16 years of doing that, I ended hating being cooped up inside doing interviews, recordings and photo shoots, when I could see the sun shining. I had had enough. I really just wanted to get my hands dirty and not care about how I looked or about what I was wearing or who I had to compete with that week in the charts. Gardening -- I just love it."
Wilde said she had grown up in a small village in Hertfordshire county.
"I was always a country girl," she said. "Getting back into the garden was like going home for me."
Wilde said she still took her hobby very seriously and had recently returned to college because "there is so much more to learn". She said she was keen to inspect native Australian plants on her tour. "I know I have a few days off in Melbourne and I would dearly love to visit a nursery or garden," she said.
After 16 years of self-imposed retirement, Wilde was approached to appear in a succession of '80s nostalgia shows in England. At first, Wilde was reluctant to become involved. "I was not sure how I would go because I had such a long break from performing," she said. "I really did not know if I would enjoy it. It was a shock to the system doing it again, but I ended up having a fantastic experience. The crowds were great."
Wilde said a highlight of her comeback performances had been the opportunity to meet other '80s stars, including Paul Young, the Human League and Belinda Carlisle. "Believe it or not, there was not much interaction between us all at the height of the '80s because we were all so busy," she said. "As well, I am a fan of the bands playing on the tour. We have been having a great old time and are now all good friends who stand around comparing baby photos and the like."
Wilde said she could understand why the music of the '80s was going through a resurgence. "A lot these songs have stood the test of time," she said. Back then, rock and pop stars were a lot more individual with their images and styles. We were all very different. Nowadays, when you watch a show like Idols, the artists all look and sound good, but they all seem the same, really. They all seem so inter-changeable."
It is ironic that Wilde is probably best remembered for her hit song Kids in America, which every new Hollywood teen movie seems to include in its soundtrack. "I have been told before it was an unusual song for an English girl to sing," Wilde said. "But I do not think Kids in Hertfordshire has the same ring to it, do you? That song is a real anthem now. That song was written by my father and brother -- they wrote most of my hit songs. I was very lucky to have them in my camp during my career. Dad still performs, while my brother, Rick, will be in my band that comes to Australia."
Wilde said she had begun working on new material after recently having a No. 1 European hit with a duet recorded with the German singer Nena, responsible for the '80s hit 99 Luft Balloons. "I really enjoyed it -- it has my interest up again," Wilde said.
Here & Now Tour, featuring Paul Young, the Human League, Go West, Eric Weideman and 1927, Belinda Carlisle and Mondo Rock, will be held on Wednesday, November 19, at Rod Laver Arena.