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WISE WORDS: Nik Kershaw On The Perils Of Fame, And How His Biggest Hits Don't Belong To Him

Elton John called him 'the songwriter of a generation'.

13/06/2017 16:46

For the latest in our WISE WORDS interview series - where stars from a whole range of fields share the important life lessons they’ve learned along the way - we’re posing some of the big questions to singer and songwriter NIK KERSHAW.

Nik Kershaw remains one of the most memorable solo artists of the 1980s, with a string of hits that included ‘Wouldn’t It Be Good’, ‘Dancing Girls’ ‘I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’ and ‘The Riddle’.  He spent 62 weeks in the charts during 1984 and 1985 alone. Elton John has called him “the best songwriter of a generation”.

In the years since, Nik has never stopped recording, writing and performing, and takes off again this summer for festival season, including an appearance at the Rewind South 80s Music Festival in August. Ahead of all this, Nik sat down with HuffPostUK for a chat about some of the biggest lessons he’s learned along the way... 

How do you switch off from the world?
Funnily enough, my thumb was hovering over the Facebook app on my phone last night, wondering whether to delete it. For the last week, I’ve just had everyone telling me how to vote. I didn’t delete it, but I should. There’s one place I do go, which is the golf course. I’m not claiming to be a golfer, just a bloke with a golf club. It’s like carrying a dog lead for no reason, but it always calms me down. 

Michael Putland via Getty Images
Nik in the 1980s, complete with samurai sword

How do you deal with any negativity that comes your way?
I try to ignore positivity, because then I don’t feel guilty about ignoring negativity. To borrow from Kipling, I just try to treat both those imposters the same. You can’t cherry-pick the good stuff. You either take it all on board, or none of it, and I go for the latter. 

When and where are you at your happiest?
At home, around my family. That’s my safe place where I know I’m loved. I have five children from two marriages, so there’s always plenty going on. 

What has been the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Someone told me right at the start of my career, “Don’t take any of it too seriously. It’s not life and death, it’s pop.”

What has been the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn?
That you really can’t please everyone all the time, despite your best efforts. No two people think the same of you. The thing about fame, early on, was that there were loads of people ready to tell me how great I was, and that can be really bad for you. Fortunately, I’ve always had people around me to tell me the truth, whether I’ve wanted them to or not.

What would you like to tell your 13-year-old self?
I wouldn’t want to change any part of my path, because I feel genuinely blessed to be where I am now, so I’d probably keep quiet and stay out of my own way.

What three things are at the top of your wish list?
Peace, quiet and a trip to India. 

PA Archive/PA Images
Nik hasn't stopped singing, writing and touring

What do you think happens when we die?
I’m a confirmed atheist, so for me, it’s all about the here and now. I have a sneaky envy for friends who have faith. And I have a couple who have, in their later years, found God, which I found remarkable. 

When have you felt in the presence of something larger than ourselves?
Being in a massive crowd, whether it’s football or music. Sometimes I feel like a third person looking on. It’s scary, but wonderful too. And then I have to snap myself back to reality to concentrate on what I’m doing. 

What quality do you most treasure in your relationships?
Honesty.

What keeps you grounded?
My loved ones. And having enough kicks in my career to take nothing for granted. Success isn’t really about money. Some of my later music that hardly anybody’s heard is more valuable to me than the hits. My biggest songs, the ones that became famous, I don’t really feel responsible for anymore. They belong to everyone. Even when I play them, I’m just a conduit. But something recent can be very precious. You’re only as good as your last song. 

What was the most recent gesture or act of kindness you received?
I bought a sandwich in the Co-Op this morning and the lady who served me had a big smile. And she meant it. A smile that reaches the eyes, that’s always valuable.

Nik Kershaw plays Rewind South 80s Music Festival at Temple Islands Meadows in Henley-on-Thames on Saturday 19 August 2017.

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