I wouldn’t be a kid in America now, or anywhere else…

Blonde and impossibly glamorous, Kim Wilde was one of the 1980s biggest stars. Selling more than 10 million albums and 20 million singles worldwide, in Britain she became the most-charted female solo act of the decade, with no less than 17 Top 40 hits, including the unforgettable pop anthems Kids in America and Chequered Love.

A teenage boy’s bedroom wasn’t complete without a poster of the husky-voiced singer on his wall and her popularity saw her plucked from dozens of hopeful acts to join Michael Jackson on his 1988 world tour.

Today Kim lives an altogether more calm life with her husband Hal and their two children in rural Hertfordshire, where her days are generally spent enjoying the quieter pastimes of dog walking and gardening. Yet as she approaches her 60th birthday Kim insists that, given the choice, she would much rather keep what she has today, than swap it for the frenzied fame of her pop heyday.

“Youth was a confusing, tumultuous time,” she says candidly. “These days I’m really glad that all the feathers have settled. There’s a clarity and a calmness in my life that never existed then and I’m enjoying it. During my 20s I was quite opinionated and maybe a little judgmental and thinking I knew all the answers. I’ve thrown all that out of the window in the past 20 years, which is one of the many reasons why I’m so contented now. As I’m getting older I’m far more sanguine about the ups and downs of life.”

Kim was only 21 when she released her debut single Kids in America. It reached Number 2 in the UK charts and was a hit around the world, propelling her to international stardom. It became her signature song and for a while she grew tired of singing it. But almost 40 years on, Kim has decided to embrace it and will be performing it during her nationwide Greatest Hits tour next year. (The tour was originally planned for this autumn but rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic.)

“I fell out of love with Kids in America, but the affair is very much back on now,” she smiles. “I feel physically and emotionally that I can really have fun with that song again. I’ve had a new love affair with Chequered Love too. I’ve got eight people in my band and we do a bit of choreography – there’s a lot of jumping around and antics! This year is a pretty big year for me as I turn 60 at the end of it, but age has never been an issue and I still feel like I’ve got a big chunk of life ahead of me.”

Kim’s decision to return to performing is perhaps all the more surprising, considering the fact that she turned her back on the music business for decades. After meeting Hal when they appeared in the musical Tommy, they started a family and quite by chance Kim discovered a hitherto unknown passion for horticulture, which saw her launching a new career as a TV gardener and even win a Gold Medal at the Chelsea Flower Show.

“When I married Hal, I’d bought a barn, which I’d converted, but the garden was just a bit of grass next to a field. There were no trees, bushes or shrubs and I said to Hal, ‘We’ve really got to get this garden up and running because we’re going to have two little kids running around’,” she recalls. “At the time I’d just retired, so all of a sudden I had all this time on my hands. That creative energy felt like it needed a home, so I took it off to a horticultural college for a two-week summer course and got the bug massively. “I ended up doing a two-year course on plants and planting design and between all of that I got nabbed by TV who had heard about my passion.” After acting as a designer for Channel 4’s Better Gardens, she recorded two series of Garden Invaders for the BBC and wrote two gardening books – Gardening with Children and First-Time Gardener.

“I had a lot of fun and ended up with an unlikely gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show”, she smiles. “I still garden – it’s a huge strand of our life.” Music too has always been a big part of her life. Her father Marty was one of the 1950s’ most successful rock ‘n’ roll singers, with hits such as A Teenager in Love and Donna, and her mum Joyce had been one of the singing group the Vernons Girls. Her father’s success inspired Kim to enter the music business.

“It was a combination of being around my father as a songwriter and performer, together with the incredible songs and bands that came out during the ’60s and ’70s”, she recalls. “I grew up listening to The Beatles and Cilla Black and thinking music was the best thing. My brother Ricky is in the music business and still produces and writes with me.”

Music took a back seat as she raised her two children (Harry, 21 and Rose, 19), but her passion was re-ignited bizarrely by a chance encounter with what she believes to be a UFO, which prompted her to write the 2018 album Here Come the Aliens. “I toured with Here Come the Aliens and we had such a fantastic reaction to that, I thought I’d love to do it all over again”, she explains.

The incident happened in Kim’s back garden in 2009. “It was dusk and I was sitting in the garden talking to my husband and one of my old friends and I saw a light coming up from the east”, she recalls. “I presumed it was a helicopter, but it moved over to a different part of the sky and stayed. There was a big light remaining behind a cloud, very low down and it hovered. All of a sudden it moved incredibly quickly and then moved again. It did this for several minutes and a smaller one started to follow it. It was amazing and felt other-worldly.”

Almost 40 years on from her heyday, Kim still looks the picture of health and in recent years has given up drink, which presumably means there’ll be no repeat of the hilarious video of her singing on a train wearing antlers after a Christmas party. A fellow passenger captured the moment and it became a YouTube sensation, with more than two million views.

“It was pretty embarrassing being that drunk in public”, she says, wincing slightly. “Every now and again my daughter will play it, because she knows it really winds me up. Now I’ve grown to love it, but I still can’t bring myself to watch it!”

So what will one of the most glamorous women of the 1980s, famed for her leather jackets and mini-skirts, wear as she takes to the stage to perform her iconic hits one more time? Presumably her wardrobe these days contains mainly gardening clothes…

“I know how to do a bit of glamour, but there’s a long way between jumping on stage for a couple of hours and the rest of your life, so I weave in and out of dog-walking items – trousers and padded waistcoats and various old long-sleeved T-shirts, bearing the names of bands that I’ve never even seen!” she laughs. “But I always try to nod to my rock ‘n’ roll heritage and keep away from wearing what women of my age are supposed to wear. It’s definitely not for me.”