Belfast Telegraph

Irwin Sparkes: 'When we were No1 there was a lot of pressure which I don't miss'

By Andy Welch

The Hoosiers frontman talks about success eight years after their debut album The Trick To Life hit the top spot, the power of social media and the band's young following.

Q: You've been touring lots of universities lately. How have the shows been going?

A: Really well. We've been having a lot of people come up to us and say our debut was the first album they ever bought, so it's quite humbling. What a difference eight years can make. The students look so young, it's like playing to a room of drunk children, but that probably says a lot about how old I am.

Q: How's the new album?

A: I'm finishing up now, listening to the final masters. It'll be sizzling away in record shops soon, and of course, online. We're right up to the deadline, but we need that, and of course being on our own indie label means we can do more things ourselves, and faster. Our fourth album came out last year.

Q: You were signed to RCA and dropped by them just after your second album came out. Do you miss the major label?

A: You're always going to miss having the multi-million pound marketing budget behind you. When it comes to that, there's a reason artists, even ones as big as Prince, go back to major labels to get their music out after leaving them.

Q: What can you do instead?

A: There is a lot we can do. Social media means we can get in touch with fans directly, for a start. More importantly, it's about managing expectation. There's always pressure to be in the top 3% that's banging out number one singles, otherwise you're not seen to be doing well. But we are still releasing music, playing to crowds, and it's taken some getting used to, but we're pleased with it all.

Q: Lots of bands would've split after being dropped ...

A: I think it's testament to our stubbornness, determination and lack of having anything else to do.

Q: That can't be true.

A: No, I have been writing with other artists, and the other members also have their own projects. We had a lot of mainstream appeal, and we weren't up for the idea of curling up and dying. It was worrying at the time, and we thought, 'This is our life now', when we were signed to the label, album, tour, album ... We were No 1, and there was a lot of pressure to promote it and follow it up, so I don't miss that pressure. I can't imagine what it must be like to be someone like Beyonce, with that expectation. Those stars just can't be free to do what they want.

Q: What did the experience leave you feeling?

A: We all handled it in different ways. For me, it didn't sink in for a few years. Like whenever you're having a bad time, there's some denial and I think I held on to it a bit too tight. But after a while, I adjusted and what constitutes success for me has changed. Lots of people think artistic success is based on commercial success, but it's not. It took me a while not to equate commercial or chart success with artistic success. Being happy is a massive thing. And we are all happy.

The plug

The Hoosiers first album The Trick To Life, released in 2007, went to No 1 in charts. They are due to release their fifth album, The Secret Service on October 9, and start a UK tour the day after. Visit to find out more.

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