Date: 19 August 2008
Originally published in: Daily Record (UK)
Written by: John Dingwall
She might now be a successful gardener, but eighties pop legend Kim Wilde can’t wait to strut her stuff on stage again at this year’s Retrofest.
Kim Wilde’s career as a gardening expert is blooming, but she admits she will always be remembered for her hit song Kids in America. The mum of two loves to juggle a career in the garden with being mum to Harry, 10, and Rose, eight. Not to mention her touring commitments.
And Kim, 47, can’t wait to return to the stage at this year’s Retrofest music festival at Strathclyde Country Park, which takes place from August 29 – 31. “I’m all set,” she admitted. “We enjoyed it so much last year at Culzean Castle. It’s fantastic. So I am really looking forward to it. It is a brilliantly put together festival with the emphasis on family. It is great to be involved. Last year, it was fun hanging out with all the other artists from the Eighties. It was also great seeing lots of people dressed up in Eighties wigs, black and white tops, shoulder pads and white stilettos. People got right into the spirit of the whole thing and it is a very warm audience.”
Famous for the song Kids in America, which reached No.2 in the charts in 1981, Kim has released 10 albums and 30 singles during her career. She topped the singles chart in America – a rarity for a British artist – with You Keep Me Hanging On, in 1986. And she says her dad, Marty Wilde, a Fifties pop icon, played a key role in helping her to keep her feet on the ground when fame hit.
“I was hugely advantaged without a doubt,” she recalled. “I grew up in a musical family. People know my dad as a Fifties heartthrob, but he was also an extremely successful songwriter and penned songs for people such as Lulu and Status Quo. So I spent a great deal of my childhood in recording studios, hearing my dad writing new material and trying new styles. I sometimes sang backing vocals for him. Once it all kicked-off for me, he was a huge part of my career. I had already been on the road with him, so I had a wide experience of the music industry. I knew from an early age that I wanted to sing and have a career in music.”
Kim began to consider quitting the pop business after touring with Michael Jackson in the late Eighties, though it was years later before she finally let go. She recalled: “He kept very much to himself and was surrounded by people protecting him. It is often a big price people pay for superstardom. It isolates people in hotel rooms, otherwise they are pray to the press and mad fans. It can be lonely being that famous. I remember thinking, ‘Is this really what I am trying to chase, ever more success and breaking America?’ Ultimately, if I got what I wanted, it would have made my life a living hell. So I did have to think very seriously during that tour in 1988 about fame and how much more of it I wanted. I’m glad I did that tour, it planted the seed of doubt that eventually got me out of the industry eight years later. If I hadn’t got out of the music industry when I was in my mid-30s, I might have kept my head down and gone for an elusive hit record and missed the boat. There’s a chance that could have happened and it would have been very sad if I had not had my children. I knew if I didn’t stop and take time to smell the coffee I might never smell any coffee, so it was a huge relief to make that decision to stop. But it had been my career in my head since I was a child. I was 36 when I stopped and it was exactly the right thing to do.”
After a short stint presenting with Chris Evans on Channel 4’s groundbreaking Big Breakfast TV show, Kim accepted a role in the West End musical Tommy in 1996. She met and fell in love with fellow cast member Hal Fowler. The pair married within six months and now share a 16th century home in Hertfordshire.
Keen to create a garden for their children, Kim went on to study horticulture and did TV work on Channel 4’s Better Gardens and the BBC’s Garden Invaders. She won a gold award for her courtyard garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2005. Her first book, Gardening With Children, was published the same year, followed in 2006 with The First-time Gardener, and she now helps out at her brother Marty Jr’s landscape gardening business.
“It’s something that I got into as a private passion and it has taken me into lots of fascinating areas,” Kim said. “But I’ve never seen it as a career. It has just been a succession of very challenging opportunities that have helped me learn more about the subject, while at the same time creating our own garden. I had a blank canvas of grass and I just wanted to make a beautiful garden for my children to grow up in. I never dreamed I would get involved in making beautiful gardens for other people. My brother Marty has set up his own landscaping business, so I have done a few jobs for him as the big sister who mucks in and comes up with some ideas then disappears off into the horizon. I get all the fun and not too much responsibility and let him deal with all those things. It was always my therapy and that’s how it began. But it wasn’t until I had the children that I felt strongly motivated to make a garden. I have been involved in some fantastic projects and may set up a small design company at some point in the future when I have more time on my hands. But with a 10-year-old and eight-year-old, it’s hard juggling everything.”
Both her children are already showing an interest in music.
“Rosie is pretty clear on what I do,” Kim explained. “If you ask her what she wants to do, she will tell you she wants to be a gardener and a pop star like mummy. Harry wants to be rock guitarist Slash. He is very good on his guitar and he’s had lots of extra tuition from his grandad. I have a bit of thing about lead guitarists. I just think it is one of the coolest instruments to play. I have always been in love with the guitar since I was a child and dad had one on his knee. So it’s nice to see my son take to it so effortlessly.”
Kim added: “I may well bring my daughter to Retrofest. It depends on school. She hasn’t really seen me live apart from a few years ago when she was a baby. It’s a dim memory for her, but this will have a big impact. She is not used to seeing me prancing around like this at all. She is used to me peddling around in the morning getting breakfast ready and shouting at them to get their school uniforms on, so it would be an eye-opener. She loves singing and is word perfect on the new Jack Johnson album, so I’m sure music will feature highly in her life.”