SIMON HOUGH (BIG COUNTRY) INTERVIEW
Having originally “banded together” back in 1981, Scottish pop-rockers Big Country have written and recorded a staggering amount of anthems over the past thirty-five years. They’ve even toured with the likes of The Rolling Stones. Here, in the run-up to the band’s appearance at Bridlington Spa on 20 August, “new” band frontman Simon Hough tells “Pulse” author Steve Rudd what’s it’s been like to join a band with such a loyal following…
Hi Simon, how are things, and how has 2016 treated you so far?
2016 started on a bit of a low, with my brother passing away after a nine year battle with cancer. He was only 59. But life goes on, of course, and gigs have given me something positive to focus on. They have been excellent so far, especially those on the intensive “80’s Invasion” tour, which virtually took up the whole of March.
So what was it like joining such a well-known and respected band as Big Country? Were you nervous when you first joined, or did you manage to take it in your stride?
I think I took it pretty much in my stride. I’ve worked alongside quite a lot of well-respected names over the last thirty years or so, so experience kicked in. Big Country are, of course, a very creditable band with a lot of fans who know exactly what they want, and who don’t suffer fools gladly! It was a very difficult learning process for the audition, particularly because I only had a few days’ notice to come up with the goods as it were. I was surprised just how complex their melodies and lyrics are. Luckily, my voice range is very similar to Stuart’s (Stuart Adamson, the original Big Country frontman, died in 2001), which meant that the band could go back to playing the songs how they’re meant to be played. I think that was another key part in me securing the job!
How much of a fan of the band were you before joining? I mean, how many of their songs did you already know, and how many did you have to learn?
To be perfectly honest, Big Country weren’t a band that I’d listened to much. Although I kind of knew a couple of the hits, it pretty much meant me having to learn everything from scratch.
How did your joining the band come about? What process was involved?
I’ve been under the RAM Management umbrella with Pete Barton for almost thirty years. Peter has always looked after my interests, and he’s put me forward for some fantastic “gigs” over the years, including the B.C. one. He now looks after them along with many other top names. I was actually rehearsing for another “gig” when Peter called me to ask if I fancied doing the audition for the band. My reply was “yes,” which meant that I had to immediately get stuck into some intensive “homework.” You really have to go into these things knowing your stuff inside-out; if you’re not “up to standard,” there are no second chances. Consequently, there were some very late nights with headphones glued to my ears! “In A Big Country,” “Fields of Fire” and “Wonderland” were the opening tunes performed at the audition. It was a little scary, as they had quite an entourage in situ! The audition was over after around an hour. The next day they offered me the job.
Your joining Big Country has coincided with the band being busier than ever, not least because this year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the release of “The Seer.” How have you adapted to the rigours of touring?
As I said, I’m quite used to being busy. One thing you have to do is make sure you look after your voice; performing night after night can take its toll.
Do you have a favourite Big Country song?
My personal favourite is “Ships.” I love the lyrics and melody. What’s more, Bruce and Jamie play it with so much feeling.
Back in May, you played with From The Jam at a special “one-off” event in Hull. How did that come about?
We’ve worked with From The Jam a few times at some festivals. They’re an awesome band who play an energetic, “full-on” set.
So, the question that every fan wants answering: have you guys written any new material together with a view to recording and releasing an album in the near future?
There are various things in the pipeline; it’s a case of “Watch This Space!” I’ve been writing songs for many years, and I have my own project and album that I’m still trying to finish. I will be doing a few shows here and there, which will keep my hand “in” playing guitar, too! I’d like to say that B.C. will hopefully have some new material in the near future. I think Bruce is really the best person to answer that question!
Finally, what’s the best way for folk to find out more about future Big Country concert dates and releases?
The best way of keeping up-to-date with the band is by checking out www.bigcountry.co.uk — all dates are on there!
Big Country will be performing at Bridlington Spa on Saturday 20 August. Visit www.thespabridlington.com for tickets