The fans and the garden give strength

The English singer Kim Wilde (53) is known by many from the Eighties, when she reached the charts internationally with her hits and played live with Michael Jackson and David Bowie in front of millions of viewers. It is less wellknown, that Wilde studied horticulture and is a landscape architect – and after that even more recently became again very successful as a musician. For the first time she has released a Christmas CD, her “Wilde Winter Songbook”. Uwe Schmalenbach spoke with Kim Wilde about all this.

A short look at the Kim Wilde advent: the day before yesterday you were on ITV’s “This morning”, then it was directly off to BBC Radio, where you have also sung. “London Tonight” has interviewed you and then there was a performance in “Magic’s Sparkle Gala”. Then it was off to Munich, where you helped out Carmen Nebel on ZDF to raise money for charity. The next morning, after a night ride and three hours of sleep, you were in the ZDF studio in Dusseldorf at “Volle Kanne” and a local Christmas market; Wouldn’t you have liked to stay home and bake Christmas biscuits?
No, I am so proud of “Wilde Winter Songbook”, that we promote it with these performances – it gives me all the energy I need. And there is still lots of time to make “christmas biscuits”! (laughs). Of course I do miss my home – I always love returning home. But it is a great time here in Germany just before Christmas. I love Christmas markets and I get lots of warm response from the people here!

But it’s hard work just before the holidays: next to live performances in Germany and Holland there is a live tour in England to resolve, the last concert taking place at London’s legendary Shepherd’s Bush Empire on the evening of December 21…
Yes, yes, that’s right. But then I have a wonderful Christmas holiday. I am looking forward to that too. But because of the music and the album we have lots of fun right now too.

It all started with a YouTube-video, which shows you on the train between King’s Cross and Potters Bar after a Christmas party of London radio station Magic FM – plenty tipsy, right?
Yes, the video was the last piece of encouragement for the album, because the response on it was so extremely positive! When it turned up on the internet, I thought: oh my, this could be tragic! A woman at my age, drunk in the trani… My brother Ricky, who accompanied me, and me, well, we had a few cocktails. Normally I don’t drink cocktails, some wine at the most. Those cocktails really threw me.

And didn’t it bring you – after two and a half million “views” on the video – back into the consciousness of the public?
It has, yes. The Brits liked the video a lot. Everywhere I went, I was reminded of the video. When I got into a taxi, the driver immediately went: “I saw you on the train…” Everyone in England used to say: I saw you on the tour with Michael Jackson in 1988. Now they say: “I saw you on the train…” and they always have a laugh. And I think it’s a good thing.

It shows that I don’t take myself so seriously!  I take my music very seriously. And I always try and emphasize that. That’s the reason why I make myself so available to the media. I think, the more people hear me talk about my music, especially in Great Britain, the better! Because I haven’t released any new material there in a long time – contrary to Gernmany.

“Wilde Winter Songbook” is your very first Christmas and Winter album! It is very different from what you’ve made during the last 30 years, isn’t it?
Yes. I have always wanted to do it, because I love Christmas so much, and I like Christmas music, the hope it shows, and all the wonderful things about being a human being! These thought should be on everyone’s mind more often. Christmas is a good opportunity to focus on all the wonderful aspects of life. It’s an opportunity that shouldn’t disappear. I am very happy, to finally have a Christmas album. And it got some good reviews, which makes me very happy.

Do you see the album as a chance to prove you’re more than just a singer, but also a songwriter? Because all six new compositions are written by you!
Yes, when you’re a singer and writer at the same time, it’s good when that is noticed.

Does it give you a higher quality as a musician?
It does. I wish it could have been that way earlier. But during the Eighties I didn’t have the confidence to sit down and write songs myself. On the other hand: my father and my brother wrote fantastic hits for me. I was busy with that, creating the personification of those ideas. I mean: I did enjoy doing that too. But in the end it wasn’t enough for me. And near the end of my career at the time, nothing I did was good enough! That’s why I left the music business, got married and had children. But then this other life came back, and forcefully too! You know, I never lost my love of music. And somehow I managed to get in front of audiences again! That gives me so much positive energy! It was the same with the video: the reaction of the people was so heartwarming, they have given me the benefit of the doubt (laughs). Seriously: they have laughed about my train ride, and not made it painful. We live in such a cynical world, many things are viewed in a negative way. The response to the train video shows a lot about my fans, but also the people beyond them.

You just mentioned “positive energy”, Kim. When one sees you live at the time of the Top 10 CD “Come Out And Play” in 2010 in Europe and even in Australia, it is unbelievable: there is so much energy in the hall, the intensity was hard to take! Where does this enormous energy come from?
It is great, you are right. The feeling has become stronger and stronger through the years. The experience can’t be described. I am part of a fantastic team, consisting of my brother, my genius band and my manager. They are all very creative and make sure there’s always enough water under the ship. And then there is the wonderful audience: it is not hard to dive into this and give something back. It is a right privilege!

But somehow you have to load your own battery, don’t you? Where does your new energy come from?
The more you give, the more you get back! That’s the fact of life! The more you invest in something, the more you can take out of it for yourself.

And that’s your experience after the last few years on stage?
Oh yes, yes! I use this knowledge in all parts of my life – in my relationship, in my music, in my garden.

In the newspaper “The Independent” you were cited that the winter is an exciting time for you, because the energy can be felt under the surface, which makes everything grow in spring. Do you really feel that as a gardener?
Sure! Many people think the winter in the garden is a sad, monotonous, boring time, one of passing. It is dark, there is little green, the leaves have fallen. But that depends on the way you look at it.

How do you see it?
For me the winter is a very exciting time in the garden. And I can feel the energy under the surface. It’s my reality, I feel the strength in winter. I was born in November, so I am the winter type, perhaps it has something to do with that. That’s why I even love the garden without flowers! One can admire the shapes of the trees, when the leaves aren’t covering them. There is a very different play of shades during this season. And there are exciting things in the winter garden! When you’re a casual gardener, you may think it only looks great in June, when the roses are blooming, and after that everything is a disaster. I have found a lot of people with this outlook – my mum is one of them. To her, the garden only looks good when all the flowers are out by the end of May. For me, it’s just a different season from autumn. I remember well: when I was taught art in school, my teacher helped me a lot to see things in a different way. She was a very talented teacher, and since she has taught me, I can see the world a lot better. She has opened up my eyes and helped me to see beauty always and everywhere.

Do you think that you could do all these wonderful things as a musician if you dodn’t have the garden?
Do you know, the garden is the place where I charge my battery. The garden is a great source of new energy, it always works. A place for happiness, which I can share with my husband, my family. The music business is something very intense, fantastic, I love it. But the medium that balances it out is working in the garden – just sweeping up the leaves or being outside for a few hours.

Would you go so far as to say that without your garden you couldn’t be as good a musician?
I believe so, yes! The garden has brought the real me forward, has enriched my songwriting. Take for instance “Burn Gold”, the song on “Wilde Winter Songbook”, which I wrote together with my husband: the piece is very tightly connected with the gardener in me.

There are music videos with “Wilde Winter Songbook”, in which one can see you in a garden in the snow. Is it your garden? Was it recorded last winter?
Right! I started writing the album right after Christmas 2012 and it has snowed then! Our sound man, who has worked on the album, is responsible for our live sound and is part of my “entourage” (laughs), is also a film maker (editors note: Sean J. Vincent). He is part of my team, which made filming a possibility – Budget is the keyword. We made the choice to make twelve clips, whatever comes, whether the album is successful or not, we just do it. And it was great fun to do it creatively! We even made a clip in which our dog Jessica has a role (laughs). I wanted to show what makes up ‘me’ in the videos, like the snowed garden. Okay: my husband Hal can not be seen, but it doesn’t matter as he has contributed the wonderful parts in “Burn Gold”, he can be heard in a duet on my record.

You were undoubtedly always a great singer, effectively influenced the Eighties with your hits “Kids in America”, “Cambodia” and “Keep me hanging on”. But: your voice seems better than ever. Is that a good impression?
It is. Singing comes from a very emotionalcorner. And it has become much stronger these days. And of course it has something with physical aspects. The voice matures with age. Take my father, for instance (editors note: Kim’s father Marty Wilde was very famous in the second half of the Fifties as a rock and roller in England and is still touring): he is now 74, and sings better than ever! I feel better with my mature voice and I have lots of appetite to do lots of things with it!

Many who come to your live shows have the attitude: ‘Let’s see whether she can do live what she does on record…’. Many of them are totally perplexed after seeing you live for the first time: ‘Wow, she can really do it!’
(Kim laughs loudly) Now, I believe it comes from the question in the Eighties whether artists sang themselves on their records, or not. The focus was the music videos. That wasn’t very different with me: I have done more live shows during the last ten years than I did in the first part of my career! It is very ironic, but I come from the world of colourful videos. A lot of television at the time was about lipsynching! There was a lot of music on TV at the time, “Top of the Pops” and so on – I was very, very good at it… But I am happier to be where I am now! For instance on a Christmas market here in Germany, just to sing live in the middle of an audience – I love it! I love being so close to the people, to feel the emotions around me.

“Live and “live” isn’t always the same: during a Madonna concert you are 200 metres away from her and may only see her on a video wall. It is perfectly organised and choreographed, but the feeling of being at a simply developing evening is missing…
… and that’s why I love the level at which we are making music! The band is not the only important thing during the evening, the audience is too. And to not include the audience, for whatever reason, seems pointless to me! Seeing artists only on a video wall has nothing to do with live music, that’s theatre. Of course, theatre has its time and place. The big shows are impressive and well organized, but it isn’t “live”! You know my husband works at the theatre, a great thing, but it isn’t the same! There is an ‘invisible wall’ between stage and audience, and you can’t break that.

And you wouldn’t want any boundaries between you and the audience?
No, no, no!

Stylistically, “Wilde Winter Songbook” is different from anything you’ve made during the last thirty years. Can we expect more new things from you – perhaps with a summer theme?
Well, we sure have creative moments, during the making of the previous album. But it was always about strong, melodic pop. And I am very, very happy with this music. I won’t say it is all over with this kind of music, because it isn’t! It will be interesting to see whether we can bring together the best things we have done stylistically for “Winter Songbook” with other musical elements. We will work at it and see where it takes us.

Your live shows are always much harder than your records…
…because I have a rock ‘n’ roll heart! And that won’t change. These are exciting times, and we will see how the next album will turn out. We’re already working on it.

In 1981 your world hit “Kids in America” was part of “New Wave”, a new music era, with clear punkrock influences. Do you think there will be another new music era within the next five or ten years?
Well, we just mix things up – we will see where it takes us.

Will you say it’s important to be surprised yourself?
Yes, and that people have to allow themselves to be more spontaneous and let things fly. We did it with “Wilde Winter Songbook” and it has really worked!

Of course a lot of lyrics on the album are connected with Christmas. Is it still possible to listen to the album throughout the winter?
I would like it if people would still listen to it in February. But most people will like to hear it only during Christmas. And that’s alright too. There will be lots of Christmases in the future.