Singer, presenter, landscape gardener and alien enthusiast, Kim Wilde has been rediscovering her musical past. ALEX GREEN speaks to the Kids in America star ahead of her upcoming greatest hits tour.
She might be best known for her trademark blow-dried blonde mullet and releasing a string of decade-defining hits during the Eighties. But these days, you are more likely to find Kim Wilde at home, tending to her garden or penning songs about off-beat subjects such as extraterrestrial life.
The pop singer and new wave darling, who turns 60 in November, is living her best years, having balanced her career with a happy family life.
Speaking down the phone from the Hertfordshire home she shares with her actor husband Hal Fowler, not far from where her Fifties rock icon father Marty Wilde lives, she sounds sprightly, despite suffering the remains of a seasonal cold.
“We still have our children living at home,” she explains fondly. “There is still a family life to be enjoyed. I’m enjoying every minute that is left before they fly the nest. I have modified my work as a result, but I have always been a home girl and I love being here. I love being in the garden. I love hanging out with my husband and my kids."
Wilde and Fowler, who met as co-stars in The Who’s rock and roll musical Tommy, share two children, Harry who was born in 1998, and Rose who was born in 2000. But despite marital bliss, the call of the road is never far away. This is especially true since the release of Kim’s punky, beguiling Here Come The Aliens – her 14th record, in 2018. The album, which indulged her belief in extraterrestrial life (she claims she saw a UFO in 2009), peaked at number 21 in the charts. It prompted a second wind for the music career she had put on ice to pursue landscape gardening and presenting slots on the BBC, Channel 4 and Magic Radio.
“There is this irresistible lure to get out there and do what we do with our band and play our songs,” she adds. “It’s really exciting to play, because the audience make it that way. They enjoy it more and more each year. I think they are probably relieved I haven’t popped my clogs,” she adds with a sharp giggle.
Recent chart success has added a new lease of life to Kim’s sets. Newer songs such as Kandy Krush and Pop Don’t Stop sit alongside her ubiquitous 1981 debut single Kids in America, covers and other Eighties hits. This year will see Wilde embark on a greatest hits tour across the UK, and revisiting those songs has led her down memory lane. Among the venues will be the York Barbican in September - and more unusually, the Tan Hill Inn - Britain's highest pub located in the Yorkshire Dales - in July.
Andrew Hields, co-owner of the Tan Hill Inn, says it took a year to persuade Wilde and her band to play at their pub in an outside marquee. He says all tickets for her show have gone, with a large reserve list in place. "We could have sold her out three times over", he says. "There will be eight people on stage so it's the full band and it really is going to be a spectacular event in a spectacular intimate setting. It's a great coup to have Kim play our beautiful iconic inn. We are sure she is one of a number of named acts that will spread the news about Tan Hill Inn and how truly unique we are. If we work hard, and have the support of our customers we are sure there's a lot more exciting times to come."
For her part, Wilde says she is looking forward to turning back the years at her gigs this year, with shows planned across Europe as well as the UK in the coming months. "The greatest hits is taking me, personally, on a journey that I haven't gone down for a while", she reflects. “I very rarely sit around and examine my past, or listen to my old songs. And that has been a really emotional journey, going back and knowing how my life panned out, side by side with those songs. It brings back lots of memories. I am proud that I have survived with my sense of humour intact. I have never taken myself too seriously as a performer. I take what I do very seriously, but I don't take myself seriously at all - or anybody else for that matter.”
Raised in London, Kim has experienced her fair share of ups and downs. Highs like supporting David Bowie and Michael Jackson on tour were matched by lows like parting ways from her record label after her third album Catch As Catch Can sold poorly.
With 40 years of experience, Kim says she has always turned to the music when things got tough. “It doesn’t matter whether you had a hit record or not, music is a career that can sustain you throughout life,” she explains. “Maybe not financially, but it will always feed your soul. If you love music, it will never let you down. That’s how I loved music when I started. I have been fortunate and it has been very good to me. But I think for a lot of people who are drawn to fame for other reasons, then they can quickly disappear down a rabbit hole.”
Wilde also recently gave up alcohol and cigarettes, joining her 80-yearold father who kicked both habits some years ago. She says ditching nicotine has “massively improved” her voice. “I was smoking when my career first began. Dad stopped that and neither of us drink now,” she recalls. “That’s quite an interesting thing to talk about, alcohol, but we won’t go there now,” she says, before nevertheless going there. “That is an incredible thing... The way that alcohol is so accepted in the profession. It doesn’t have to be that way.”
Touring with Alice Cooper in 2014 only reinforced Kim’s views – the shock rocker famously quit the booze and reinvigorated his career. She saw the 71-year-old’s boundless energy on and off stage. “He looked great. He had a huge amount of energy. He and his wife were touring constantly around the world.”
Kim has made sacrifices for the life she now lives, giving up her presenting to focus on her family and music. But after four decades in show business, she has no regrets. “Some things have to go,” she says sagely. “Now I have more time to walk the dogs and have a normal life.”