Kim Wilde on her career and life in Hertfordshire
PUBLISHED: 15:43 27 March 2018
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Over two decades since her last album, Codicote's Kim Wilde is back and hasn't lost any of her lust for life
Scoring 25 singles in the UK charts between 1981 and 1996, and selling more than 30 million records worldwide, Hertfordshire’s Kim Wilde has had more success than most in the music business. Now, 37 years after her brilliant debut single Kids in America catapulted her to stardom, the singer has released her 14th studio album, Here Come The Aliens, and is heading out on a 19-date UK tour.
‘It’s the first album I’ve released in the UK since I got married in 1996,’ says Kim, ‘I’ve had a kind of dual career, writing, recording and releasing music in Germany, Austria and Holland. It’s been quite nice to just get on with life over here, but now I feel brave enough to put my head above the parapet again.’
The album, released last month, was recorded at London’s legendary RAK studios and features 12 tracks including a duet with Swedish star Frida Sundemo. The songs, such as the immediately catchy Kandy Krush, offer a blend of fresh pop with a 1980s twist.
‘The new album has lots of ’80s flavours and sounds,’ explains Kim. ‘I’m still working with my brother, Ricky, who’s a producer of the album and the co-writer for most of it, so there’s a musical thread that’s been there from the very beginning. We still love pop music, we love playing live, and the tour just brings all of that together - the past and the present.’
The daughter of ’50s pop sensation Marty Wilde, the family came to the county in 1970 after Kim’s mum and dad fell in love with a thatched cottage near Tewin. Kim and Ricky attended Tewin Cowper JMI in the village, ‘which we loved,’ Kim says.
‘Dad was always buying the latest records and playing great music in the house, as well as always travelling to gigs at weekends while everyone else’s dads were fixing bikes and watching football! Rick and I loved music and mum and dad encouraged us by enrolling us locally for piano lessons. We were very aware our father was famous, and had to contend with swooning mothers at school pick up time, but otherwise we had an almost normal upbringing.’
When she started out in the music industry her main ambition was to be on Top of the Pops. ‘I just loved pop music so profoundly and I was desperate to be part of that world from a very young age.’
Her debut single was followed with hits including Chequered Love, Cambodia, You Keep Me Hangin’ On (number one in the US), You Came and Four Letter Word. She won a Brit Award for Best British Female in 1983, toured with Michael Jackson in 1988, saw her album Close go platinum and appeared as David Bowie’s special guest on his 1990 tour.
‘When they asked me to do the Jackson tour, I couldn’t believe it and I remember saying to my mum “this is ridiculous!” But she gave me that conversation that mothers have with their daughters and told me that I was the best thing since sliced bread, and I fell for it! I was completely inspired by watching him when he was at the top of his game.’
After the glamour and whirlwind of the music industry, at 36, Kim realised she was not enjoying the life anymore. Back in her Herts home near Codicote she reinvented herself as an award-winning horticulturalist, partly so she could spend quality time with her actor husband, Hal Fowler, and their children, Harry and Rose. ‘I wanted to become Mrs Fowler instead of Kim Wilde,’ she explains. ‘But there was also a spiritual necessity for me to get back to earth, literally. Gardening was a sanctuary. It was beautiful to be connected to the soil and make things grow.’
There was also a deep desire to be feel at home. ‘I have always loved Hertfordshire. I grew up here, met my oldest friend Clare here, went to school, college and eventually got married and raised our children here.
‘Having lived in London through much of the ’80s, the thing I really missed was the countryside and a sense of community. Hertfordshire is still a beautiful county, so close to London, but far away enough to feel well and truly out of the rat race!’
Kim did not give up on the music business though, with appearances in a series of successful ’80s revival tours. And it was the British public’s positive response that encouraged her to release the latest album.
‘I love performing, songwriting, singing, all the same things I loved doing back in the ’80s, except I love them a little bit more now,’ smiles Kim. ‘I think part of that is the confidence that comes with age. We’re at a point in our career where it doesn’t matter if our album goes to number one or number 100 – it’s not going to materially change what we do. We’ll carry on writing, we’ll carry on performing.
‘I’m just having a great old time. I’ve been married for over 20 years and I’m really excited about the careers of our children, who are both musicians. This is as good as it gets. I count my blessings every day.’
Kim in the community
Patron of gardening therapy project, Waste Not Want Not, Stevenage
‘Waste Not Want Not is a fantastic plant nursery near the Roebuck Inn just off the Stevenage Road, which is run by volunteers in the local community, and uses horticulture as a therapeutic tool. I became a patron several years ago and have since become more involved as my husband Hal is chair of the organisation. I firmly believe horticulture has so much to offer everyone, but especially those feeling excluded, lonely or struggling in any way with mental health issues, or physical disability. WNWN has expanded its potential to reach out to all the community and provide a safe and happy space, nurturing plants and people.’
Wilde Winter Ball in aid of a radiotherapy unit at Lister Hospital
‘The Wilde Winter Ball was established in 2014 after my sister-in-law Mandy had treatment for ductal carcinoma in situ, resulting in a double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery.
The last ball at Christmas (featuring performances by Kim and many of her ’80s pop contemporaries at Knebworth House) raised £127,000, and the project to date has raised around £250,000 in total. Every penny is going towards building and setting up a new radiotherapy unit at Lister Hospital in Stevenage.
I have known Vicki Adkins MBE for many years, and it was her incredible energy and determination that succeeded in creating a Breast Unit at the QEII in Welwyn, but this unit has no radiotherapy facility (the nearest is Mount Vernon in Middlesex). Mandy and Ricky are determined to bring a radiotherapy unit to the very heart of Hertfordshire at the Lister, and I’m very proud to say they’re well on the way!’