Portsmouth singer-songwriter Simon Kent launches new album with fundraiser for Down Syndrome Association
Portsmouth singer-songwriterÂ Simon Kent's new album In Another LifeÂ is not just an admirable affirmation of one of the UK's most notable singer-songwriters in melody-driven, electronic pop.
It's also an acknowledgement of absent friends.
Three years in the crafting, the album arrives on the heels of the hook-laden single Never Stop BelievingÂ which has gained the support of BBC Radio 2's Janice Long, dozens more stations around the UK and across the Atlantic too.
After touring with classic bands such as Echo and the Bunnymen and China Crisis and modern-day troubadours including Nell Bryden and Blair Dunlop, Kent is primed for the next step into a bright future.
As he unveils these new songs both on record and on stage, he does so with a nod to two key figures: the father he lost recently, who helped shape his musical influences in the first place, and the close friend and intended collaborator on the album, whose personal problems made Kent all the more determined to finish what they'd planned.
In Another Life, released a week today,Â reaches us with impeccable credentials, written and produced by the frontman himself at Aubitt Studios and featuring the fine musicianship of Simon's regular live band. The album was engineered by Rob Aubrey, admired for his work with Big Big Train, and three songs were mixed by Soren Andersen, who's produced both Bryden and Jack Savoretti. They helped finesse the ambience, but the big, soaring melodies and inspirational, finely-tuned lyrics are Kent's very own.
'After I finished my second album in 2012,'Â he explains, 'I met up with my best friend from school. My first band was with him. We got chatting and we agreed to write this album, and that gave me a path to follow and a chance to focus on doing something a bit different.'
Kent always had admiration for the '90s British rock swagger but his early touchstone had been Depeche Mode, who in turn led him back to classic David Bowie and Roxy Music.
'Then it was early-to-mid-'80s things, even the commercial stuff like Duran Duran,'Â he says. 'Then I really got into Japan, because they were a bit more leftfield.'
Other bookmarks include the electronic artistry of Tears For Fears, whose name often crops up in complimentary comparisons with Kent's own creativity, as well as 21st century protagonists such as Empire Of The Sun and MGMT.
The pair mapped out dates to make the album, but the collaboration never materialised, and Kent came to realise that his friend was battling alcoholism that would almost claim his life.
'I said to myself that I was going to do it as if we were doing it together,'Â he recalls. 'So I followed this electronic path, and that's where it got to.'
And the friend?
I played it to him the other week, and he really loves it. Five of the songs are about him, because as it evolved, I realised he was in trouble. The first song we ever wrote together at school, I found on an old CD and finished. It's called Dreams and Memories,Â and I tailored the lyrics from where we were then to now.'
The result is an album to restore your faith in the power of pop music.
'At times,'Â says Simon, 'I've railed against the pop thing, but I do genuinely love the big pop song.
It's the magic of those three and a half minutes and wondering why something so trivial can move you in such a great way.'
The album launch will also be a charity fundraiser for Portsmouth Down Syndrome Association. Tickets Â£5 advance, Â£6 on the door.
The Loft, Southsea
Friday, April 27, doors 7.30pm