'80s - Tears For Fears (2008)
'Songs From the Heart'
Musician, singer, songwriter and co-founder of the British pop group Tears for Fears, Curt Smith, released his first solo album in 10 years, 'Halfway, pleased' this past May 20th, 2008 on his own KOOK Media record label.
Smith’s 'Halfway, pleased' is an inspirational semi-autobiographical album that delves into his relationships with his children, parents and friends. “It’s where I find myself at this moment,” he says. “Making the transition from my carefree thirties into the responsibility of being a father; from the need to protest into the desire to protect.” The album offers up 15 reflective tracks, including the sensual single “Seven of Sunday,” the lush harmonies of “Greatest Divide,” the compelling progression of “Two,” and the mesmerizing rhythms of “Addict,” as well as four bonus tracks.
This very personal album reflects, obliquely, on his journey and life experiences (so far). “I prefer writing slightly cryptic lyrics,” he confides, “that take some thought, and rely on the things that are left unsaid but hinted at.” Even the title is autobiographical; “I figure I’m about halfway through life, and I’m quite pleased.”
Chatting one-on-one with the British musical legend, and quite literally taking it from the top, I first wondered when he had formed the band Graduate back in 1980 if it had ever crossed his mind that over 25 years later he would still be in the spotlight; still making music; and still equally beloved by both the press and the fans alike? Curt Smith: "To be honest, I've never really thought about it. My prime goal has always been to continue making music as long as I'm enjoying it, and bar a period of a few years in the early 90's that's been the case throughout."
Is it true that your bass playing skills were honed one day out of sheer desperation ... as Graduate needed a bass player, there wasn't one around, and so you picked one up and began to learn it? If so, how easy or hard was that? "That's completely true, I was just the singer when we fired the bass player so I picked one up and taught myself. It was surprisingly easy and intuitive for me."
Being that you began to write 'Halfway, pleased' during 2001 - only stopping due to the reforming of TFF - how has this semi-autobiographical solo album changed in its final outcome from the version that could have surfaced back in 2001? "It's probably a lot calmer. In 2001 I would have just been welcoming my second child into the world, as it is I am now quite comfortable in the role of a father. Also I'm not sure it would have been so introspective, the joy of completing it after the TFF record was the freedom to be completely self-indulgent."
So, taking stock of the new album title we can assume that you are halfway through your life and that you are quite pleased! Based on that theory are you expecting more of the same for the latter half or are there seeds already sown for a differing second half to the big game? "If life has taught me one thing it's never to make plans. My intention right now is to continue to make music and bring up my children as best I can, the rest as they say is just gravy."
When you are writing new songs how easy (or hard) is it to constantly create a new, vibrant, wanted-by-the-public sound that both builds on and surpasses the musical accomplishments that preceded it within the industry ... and within your own TFF history bubble? "I honestly never really think about it whilst writing. My goal is to create something that I think is good and representative of where I am now. Sometimes it's a question of moving sideways as opposed to moving on, I just don't enjoy doing the same thing twice."
Please tell us more about your musical relationship with 'The One and Only' Chesney Hawkes, especially as he co-wrote 'Seven of Sundays' for your album "I've known Chesney since he was seventeen. My wife worked for his record company in New York and we looked after him while he was there. We like the Chesney."
Your voice is so well-known, so instantly recognizable, so powerfully mesmerizing ... and yet Roland did most of the singing whilst in TFF! Why did that happen ... was there a 'spotlight shyness' to you that we never knew about, perhaps? "There's certainly an element of shyness due to my self-esteem issues, but in all seriousness it was due to the fact that some songs suit Roland's voice more than they suit mine."
FTFFQs (Five Tears For Fears Questions):
Going from known-in-Europe-only Graduate to the known-around-the-world TFF in the space of two years must have been a giddy ride. When 'The Hurting' was released and all those appearances on TOTP suddenly sprung up, in reflection did you handle it well? "Not really. We were very young and the hunger for objective advice was never satisfied. The people around us were only interested in the money making machine we had become. There wasn't one occasion when anyone asked "how is this affecting you emotionally and mentally". Luckily we managed to survive."
Knowing that Roland sang most of the songs, it is actually you who sings what could arguably be known as the most famous TFF song, 'Everybody Wants To Rule The World.' So, when this song was being put together why did you choose to take over the vocals instead of Roland? "Again it wasn't a hard decision, the song suited my voice far more than Roland's."
After the 'Seeds of Love' album had been and gone, so did you! I know it was to do (mainly) with friction between yourself and Roland at the time, but as you'd only had TFF together for eight years weren't you afraid that you were (possibly) shooting yourself in the foot by quitting? "The financial considerations were the only negative I could think of, and as I was then wealthier than I'd ever been yet unhappier than I'd ever been I obviously didn't equate money with happiness (it was probably the most valuable lesson I learned)."
As TFF reformed in 2005 for an album and tour I'm wondering if we'll hear more new TFF music sometime soon ... or did you piss each other off again during said tour?! "Nope, no pissing off, pissiness, pissing matches or urinary analogies of any kind. We are still talking to each other and will see each other when we tour in Germany later this year. We've made no plans other than that so far."
OK, cheesy question but one I'm dying to know the answer to: What is your all-time favorite TFF song to sit back and listen to (and why) ... and what is your most cringe-worthy TFF song (and why) to hear now? "It's between "Sowing The Seeds Of Love" and "Secret World" as I believe they're the most complete musical works. "The Way You Are" is the most cringeworthy one because we had no idea "where we were"."
Lastly, and throwing in a personal little curve ball here, back in 1985/86 you brought your 'Songs From The Big Chair' tour to the Hammersmith Odeon one night. Being a huge fan, I traveled all the way up from Cornwall - on 3 or 4 trains - that night to watch TFF perform. But, as we fans were still being kept outside on the steps waiting well past 8.00pm, my worst fears were realized when it was announced that the show had been cancelled!! Believe me, it was a horrible trip back home. And so (if your memory can still recall) my final question to you is, 'Why was that show that night cancelled?' .... and to make up for it (!) would you be willing to send me an apologetically dedicated/signed CD of 'Halfway, pleased' (and/or a TFF CD) as a consolation prize some 20 years on, perhaps?!?! "The only reason we have ever cancelled a gig is when Roland's voice goes, so I can only presume that was the case back then. I would of course be more than happy to make it up to you with the aforementioned signed CD ... and send Roland the bill!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
'Halfway, pleased' CD Purchase Link