You’ll know this iconic face from our 30th anniversary issue, if not his blink-andyou’ll-miss-it cameo in Pride. The former Bronski Beat and The Communards singer Jimmy Somerville is back with a brand new album, with a brand new old sound.
Over the past few years, Jimmy has worked on low key releases, from three EPs in 2012 to last year’s stripped back piano rendition of Smalltown Boy, marking 30 years of the gay anthem. Fast-forward to today, and we’re catching up with him about how his latest record Homage came about.
“We were writing and suddenly it just popped into my head,” he says, “I really should do a homage to disco. I thought, ‘I’m just going to do it where I completely try and recreate as close as possible how it would’ve sounded.’”
Mission accomplished. Homage is made of 12 upbeat tracks of capital D.I.S.C.O. From opener Some Wonder to Overload, it’s awash with funk guitars, brassy flourishes, string ornaments and those ever present soulful backing vocals supporting Jimmy’s well known and distinctive falsettos. It sounds organic – and that’s not just down to the lack of synthesisers.
“I realise through the process and how I’m writing at the moment, I find myself in an industry and place where I want to be creative, but I was always plagued by lack of confidence and lack of ability,” Jimmy explains. “But every so often there’s a point where I tap into something coming from the heart and soul. I want to try and make something that reaches out to people and taps into an emotional being, place and person. I feel more in touch with an honest and emotive sound.”
Basically, Jimmy has written the album for himself, and where he’s at right now. Which is a much happier place, having wrestled his demons and settled into a calmness that comes from being older. There’s a distinct lack of melancholy on the album, and even the politically charged lyrics of songs like Travesty don’t betray the upbeat focus of the album.
“It’s almost as though there are certain lyrics where I’ve managed to capture the essence of how I am politically. There are so many things I look at and I think, ‘What the fuck is happening?’ But at the same time, there’s a part of me that thinks I’ll carry on regardless. I’ll try and be as positive, up and optimistic as possible. If I can do that, I can break through a fear and uncertainty, or else we get in a really dark place.”
There are no dark places on Homage. Even tracks like Freak are simply a rejection of heteronormativity, in our words. In regards to using the word ‘freak’ his were: “It’s a word that’s part of disco history and that’s something I seem to have done all the way throughout my career. I’ve taken certain things, but because of my sexuality and politics and my openness, to give it a certain twist. I think we got to a stage within gay identity, gay politics and gay life of desperately seeking the normal. And what the fuck is normal? It just doesn’t exist.”
Hallelujah. Jimmy is on such a roll he’s already written the next album, such are his creative energies right now. He’s definitely found his disco groove. “I’ve never been so creatively sure or confident. It’s not an arrogant egotistical confidence, it’s more, ‘This is right, this feels good.’ That’s the best way to describe it.”