After a fantastic 12 months in 2002 you'd have thought things couldn't get much better for Simon Webbe, but believe it or not 2003 has been his year. "Signed Sealed Delivered" featuring the one and only Stevie Wonder saw Simon singing and performing with one of his own childhood heroes and throughout the year he's been putting the steps into place with his company Industry People to allowing people to follow their own dreams. Singer songwriter Sara Lowes and the new urban group Vs are just two of the artists set to burst onto the scene in 2004. Designer Magazine caught up with Simon to find out all about them.
Q: "Signed Sealed Delivered" rounded up 2003 for you and Blue. What a way to end another fantastic year?
A: Yeah, "Signed Sealed Delivered" with Miss Angie Stone and the legend Stevie Wonder. It's like man, you can't even explain it - it's unexplainable. It's one of those experiences which we've experienced which we will never forget. And we've got videos as well as the memories upstairs as well.
For me, I've made my family proud and hopefully for the kids round Moss Side...cos they don't know who he is...but the mums and dads do. Growing up with someone's music like that, you grow up singing his songs for karaoke and then the next thing you know you're singing with the guy and it's the same with Elton John innit'. I was just over the moon and for him to say that we've got longevity and he likes the way we sing was too much.
Q: What is it that artists like that see in Blue that they don't necessarily see in another band like Westlife?
A: I think there's a lot of people that know about Blue, but there's also another big chunk of the market which aren't quite sure of us as well. We sort of Urban-ish, Motown back in the day, but those people that go out and buy say the Black Eyed Peas album wouldn't think of buying a Blue album cos they don't think we've got tracks on there like that, but if they bought the album they'd see that we have.
Q: The singles in truth have suggested you're moving away from the Urban sound and more into more straight-forward pop. Would you agree?
A: Yeah, on this album we have. But "Signed Sealed And Delivered" has brought it back up with a more uptempo song. It's got that funky motown sound which we've always done on our albums. We've always had the flavour of Motown on the album.
Q: On the recent album "Guilty" you all taken a fairly equal share of the songwriting. Most people wouldn't associate you guys with actually writing your own songs, it's not common knowledge at least anyway.
A: Yeah, we did about 4 songs each but I did more songs on the first and second albums. I wrote 6 of songs the songs on the first album and 9 on the second album and only 4 on this one. "All Rise", "Fly Be" and "One Love" were all my hooks and the songwriting is important to me, but we're not that big headed that it's all about that. It's just about what's the best songs that suit the album, yer know. There was a song that I wrote for the album that was definitely on the album till the last minute and then I was like I'm not really feeling that being on the album. So we all agreed and put another track on there.
Q: If we link the past with what you're doing now - the post gig dj-ing. Do you always try and play as many British artists as possible in your set? Someone like Jamelia for instance who's single has been massive, but the album's struggling to sell.
A: I do try and play as many British records as poss, but it's hard to promote someone like Jamelia so the album won't sell. I'm afraid it's all about image and sometimes I afraid music doesn't speak for itself in this country, it's all about profile and stuff. But the more you play it in clubs, the cooler it becomes and the more people want to buy it. People that go to clubs, they work hard all week and they wanna go out and hear some stuff they know and be a part of the cool crowd so I try and play a lot of the cool stuff as much as I can.
Q: You're in Blue, a pop band, and then you've got the DJ-ing side of things. What do you play as Simon Webbe as home?
A: At the moment mate i'm rinsing that Lemars album right now. Lemar and 112's album. I don't really buy music that much cos I'm always writing and doing my own stuff anyway, but I do try and listen to see what's about. But I like to create my own little flavour and stuff.
I'm doing my own underground mix tapes as well called "Love 4 Music" Mixtapes. Basically stuff that isn't on the Blue album or one one of my artists album like VS.
Q: When I think of famous or well known people from Moss Side, it's only really you and the Cleopatra girls from a few years back. Is that why you set up something like Industry People, to break out the new talent from the area?
A: I set up Industry People for people with talent. Industry People is a people's agency. We've got actors, actresses, models. But at the end of the day it's still a business and we don't want to waste people's time. I don't get involved in the model side of things because obviously I've got friends and it's like 'Oh, I could be a model' and all that, well let the booker be the judge of that cos I'm no expert on how models should look.
Before I was in Blue I was a model and I always used to walk round Manchester with my book. I never left the house unless I was immaculate because I always thought I could meet someone today and one day I met someone and it all fell into place. I can understand the people who go into Pop Idol and stuff cos I think i'd probably be doing it.
Q: If you could tell us about some of the people you've took on at Industry People. We know Sarah from a few months back so tell the readers a bit more about her? (Click here for an interview with Sara Lowes)
A: There's Sara, the girl group Vs and a boy group who were debating about the names at the moment.
Sara I think is absolutely amazing. I'd heard her voice before I saw the picture cos I wanted the music to speak for itself and Bruce (Simon's partner as Industry People) was like i've found this girls blah blah blah and he emailed me over the music. From there it just catapulted forward. She just sounds so British and that what I love about her. She's gorgeous looking and I think she could offer something to the industry and the world as a British girl. And her music is just as credible as Coldplay or something like that. We've just finished recording her album and were going to be ready to go in 2004.
Vs are going to be my flagship for my other company Love 4 Music and they're releasing February 23rd. They're really high in the R&B charts at the moment, a brand new entry at number 16 three weeks ago the same week Michael Jackson went in at number 11. Last week it had climbed up to number 9 so they're my tip for the top for next year. The band is 2 girls from Moss Side and 3 guys from London and the name is Vs meaning girls versus guys. Hip hop vs R&B so it's more of an urban feel to it.
Q: Have you heard of a band from Moss Side called the Moss-siders?
A: I've heard of the Moss-siders and M16. The think with that is obviously we know Moss Side is a bad area and stuff like that and I know that what these guys are doing is singing about what goes on around them and they're telling the truth. And there's a lot of people out there that could relate to it, but it's down to those people that relate it to support it...they'd rather bootleg it and obviously if you don't buy it they don't get heard of. So it's down to the regular person out there to go and support their own because we never do. We'll run out an buy the 50 Cent album, yer know what I mean, but the Streets come out and only 350,000 people go and buy it even though there's over a million people that know of them. That's why we've got no-one representing Britain in the hip hop section.
I think it will happen. I've got another rapper called Blaney (spelling possibly incorrect) - he's amazing lyrically and he sounds British. He's singing about what British people wanna hear - council flats and things people can relate to. Garage music was our equivalent of hip hop so we have go a British sound, but now those MC's have turned to slower hip hop beats while still having the essence of garage music. The Americans are coming over here and loving the garage bass lines and things like that so it will happen sooner rather than later.
Q: And I guess we better finish it off by asking what's happening with Blue for 2004?
A: Were going to Japan to tour. And possibly Europe and China as well. Doing the same as we always do - promoting our singles here, there and every where. With the songwriting you write a song and then you place it. I might write a load of songs and then none of them be for Blue.
"Signed Sealed Delivered" is out now on Virgin
For more info on Blue and Sara Lowes check out
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