I was in huge Noughties pop band but ended up working as a fencer & my album flopped… then I got an unexpected lifeline | The Sun

HE was part of one of the biggest bands of the noughties and had been used to performing to sell-out crowds around the country. 

But by 2015, things were very different for Liberty X star Kevin Simm as he stood outside in “the freezing cold” digging holes for a fencing company. 

Kevin had fallen on hard times when the group – most famous for UK No 1 Just A Little Bit – split in 2007 and his solo career hadn’t gone to plan.

To support his wife Laura and two children Charlie, 12, and Oliver, ten,the self-confessed “grafter” had tried a number of normal jobs including working as an electrician, a fencer and a wedding photographer between occasional singing gigs. 

Kevin, now 43, tells us: “When Liberty X finished I had no idea what to do. I didn’t know how to get gigs. It was strange coming out of a big pop group and having to start again. 

“I was singing in pubs and clubs for £150 a gig but there wasn’t a lot of work going around and typically it was only Friday or Saturday night. 



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“Then sometimes I’d get a call the night before saying the gig was cancelled and that’s half of your income for the week gone. 

“I ended up trying to work as an electrician, a fencer, and a wedding photographer because I got frustrated with the insecurity of the singing. 

“I thought, ‘Why not try some other things where you know you will get paid at the end of the week’. I had a family so it was doubly important to put food on the table.

“If I was good enough at them, I would have continued but I’m not a skilled worker and knew I would never be at that level where I was happy.”

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Kevin on the TV show Popstars back in 2001Credit: Rex
Liberty X split in 2007Credit: Rex

'Demeaning' gigs

Kevin, from Chorley, Lancashire, rose to fame in Liberty X alongside Michelle Heaton, Tony Lundon, Jessica Taylor and Kelli Young.

They formed the group after being the runners-up in the ITV talent show Popstars in 2001 and went on to have 10 UK Top 20 singles before splitting six years later.

Subsequently, Kevin’s solo career failed to take off and he played at festivals, pubs and clubs until ITV’s The Big Reunion in 2013.

The documentary series, which brought chart-topping bands back together for a special performance, led to Liberty X going on a year-long tour in 2013 before parting ways again.

Between performing with the group, Kevin found it hard to carve out a career as a singer and would regularly “put flyers up” and “call pubs” to see if they wanted to book him in. 

He recalls: “It was embarrassing and a bit demeaning going around saying I’m available for bookings but I had to suck it up and swallow my pride. 

“When you’re putting flyers through pub doors, you’re kind of kneecapping yourself as far as bargaining power because they know how desperate you are. It was a strange time.

“There were some people who told me, ‘We didn’t know if you could sing and thought it would be a good laugh.’

“They just booked me because I was ‘Kevin from Liberty X’ and thought it would be hilarious if I was tone-deaf and couldn’t sing.” 

11-hour wait

It was those struggles and a confidence boost from Liberty X’s brief reunion tour, which led Kevin to apply for The Voice in 2016.

He says: “I was frustrated and it felt like I had gone back to the beginning, music career-wise. I thought, ‘Maybe there’s a bit of fight left in me’. 

“When I applied, I thought, ‘Even if none of the judges turns, maybe it could open a few doors for me’. I didn’t want to be famous again, I just wanted a challenge and to bump up my gig money.”

Before getting through to the Blind Auditions, Kevin had to get through “two or three rounds” with the production team and says they tried to influence performers’ song choices.

He says: “I think they have a bunch of songs they want people to sing. The one they gave me was by One Republic and I’d never heard of it in my life.

“I was determined to sing Chandelier by Sia. Fortunately, I got my way, I don’t think I would have got through with their choice.”

Kevin admits going on the show “was a massive, massive gamble” and he was fully aware he risked “looking like an absolute fool” if things didn’t go well. 

'Kick in the teeth'

On the day of the Blind Auditions, Kevin waited from 7am until 6pm before he could perform and says it was the “scariest thing I’ve done in my life”. 

He added: “I was the last person to perform, everyone else had gone by that point. You didn’t know how they got on, which added to the tension and drama.

“The crowds always cheer on The Voice and because the buzzer sounds are added in post-production you couldn’t tell if any of the coaches had turned for anyone.

“The wait to perform was horrendous and on stage, I was really nervous. Everything felt like it had slowed down. It felt like I was out of time and out of tune.

“When all four coaches turned for me, I couldn’t believe it. It was the best experience of my life on stage. I don’t think I’ll get anything close to that feeling again.”

Kevin chose Paloma Faith as his coach – rejecting Boy George, will.i.am and Ricky Wilson – but was nearly sent home when she dumped him after his next performance, of Jennifer Hudson's Spotlight. 

Instead of choosing to take the Liberty X star through to the next round, she selected 17-year-old Faith Nelson. 

Fortunately, Ricky stepped in at the last moment and used his ‘Steal’ option, which allowed Kevin to join the Kaiser Chief singer’s team and prevented him from leaving the competition.

Kevin says: “Not being picked by Paloma felt like an absolute kick in the teeth. She told me things that made me feel like I was in her plans going forward.

“I felt like I nailed the song – even though it was in a woman’s key – and felt I’d done enough to stay in. Fortunately, Ricky took me under his wing.

“Ricky was very good at motivating me and made me feel like I was worthy of being on the show. I don’t think I could have won the show with Paloma as my coach.”

Shock win

Kevin admits he was “gobsmacked” when he reached the finals and “never for a second” thought he would go on to win the competition.

He tells us: “I felt like I was too old to win it, everyone was young, good-looking and ready to be a pop star. I thought getting to the live shows would be the ceiling for me. 

“I thought the public would want someone young too, I never thought I had a chance of winning but strange things do happen sometimes.”

Kevin says he was “on cloud nine” after being named champion and believes the show helped to change the public’s opinion of him. 

He explains: “Even though I sang a lot in Liberty X, I think people thought only the girls sang and so they didn’t know whether I could sing or not.

“There was also this belief that no one could sing in a lot of noughties and nineties bands and that everyone was miming for the majority of the time.”

That same year, Kevin released his single All Your Good Friends, which reached No 24 in the UK charts, and then the album Recover.

Unfortunately, neither took off. The singer believes more should be done to help winners – and other stars – to break through after the show. 

He says: “I have plenty of good things to say about The Voice but the only negative thing was that I wasn’t allowed to go back on to perform the following year, unlike previous stars.

“Because the show had moved from the BBC to ITV I was told I couldn’t go back on. It would have been a big boost for my music performing in front of however many million people.

“It’s not me slagging the show off but how many seasons have gone by and you’ve never had a winner who has become a successful commercial star? I think they need to change the format.” 

New band

Eventually, Kevin returned to performing on the circuit but due to the exposure of the show was able to book “better venues and bigger gigs”.

In late 2018, his fortunes changed dramatically when he was contacted by the group Wet Wet Wet, who were looking for a new lead singer after the departure of Marti Pellow.

Kevin says: “They asked me to meet up with them and sing some of their songs. I literally got a call from them one hour later asking if I’d join the band.

“I was asked by them because the wife of [bandmate] Neil Mitchell saw me on The Voice.  So really I have to be grateful to the show for that."

Kevin says playing with Wet Wet Wet – who are back on tour in January – is “massively different” from his time with Liberty X.

He explains: “The buck stops with me, if I lose my voice I’m kind of buggered whereas with Liberty X someone else could sing my parts or we could just mime.”

Kevin admits he is “very grateful” for all that singing has given him and feels his hard work has “finally paid off”.

He says: “I loved my time in Liberty X and Wet Wet Wet has been an amazing experience – I guess there are not many people who get to be in two big bands in their lifetime. I’m very lucky. 

“I’m not a big name and I’m not in the charts but I have been able to make a living singing since I left school and that’s not a bad place to be.”

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