Shirlie Kemp says recording an album with her husband Martin has helped her deal with empty nest syndrome.
Speaking on Yahoo podcast White Wine Question Time, Shirlie said her kids are her life – and the fact that they’ve grown up “makes her heart break”. She said: “The kids have left home and you’re suddenly like ‘Oh’… So luckily this album filled that huge void.”
The album In The Swing Of It features ’50s love songs, and the pair decided to do it together after they recorded a version of You Make Me Feel So Young.
“We put that down and we took the song to Sony,” Martin Kemp told host Kate Thornton. “Sony just flipped over Shirlie's voice because Shirlie has got this voice that sounds like Doris Day and it's absolutely made for those kinds of ’50s standards; it's beautiful.”
Shirlie, a former backing singer for Wham! and one half of pop duo Pepsi and Shirlie, said she was amazed at the response from the record company.
“I don't sing,” she said. “It's something I did when I was younger. I haven't been in a recording studio for 30 years... And I'm not very good at the celebrity thing. I'm not looking for that. I'm quite private. I'll stand in the light, but I don't need to be in the light, if you know what I mean? So, I had to think about all of that.”
The couple were very clear on the kind of songs they wanted to include – happy love songs and ones that tell the story of their relationship.
“We really kind of went and listened to songs that we felt represented us,” explained Shirlie. “I get asked a lot, ‘Oh, what's the secret to your relationship?’ and I really feel when I listen to this album, I'm almost looking at my relationship as an outsider – because of the songs we've chosen, you can kind of tell our relationship in the album.”
Martin agreed saying they wanted to make it for each other and also to leave something behind for their children and future grandchildren.
Talking of their children – photographer and songwriter, Harley, and Capital Radio DJ, Roman – Shirlie said she didn’t know how they would react to their mum and dad releasing an album together.
“Harley told me, 'Me and Roman had a conversation. What if we don't like it?' Because they're very honest. We're all very honest with each other.
“And then I remember Roman coming back going, 'Oh my God, it sounds incredible'. And then Harley said she cried when she heard a song, so I knew ‘Ah, if I can capture those two, it's going to be good!’”
The only two original songs on the album were written for them by daughter Harley: When We’re Apart and Like We Used To Do. Speaking about the latter, Martin said it was a very emotional experience hearing it for the first time.
“When I heard that song,” he said, “I was in tears because… well it was just her version of us, how she saw us, you know? It was a lovely moment.”
Apart from that track, Martin’s favourite song on the album is their version of The Way You Look Tonight as it’s “kind of like letting people listen to our relationship”, while Shirlie favours A Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square as it reminds her of the early days of their relationship.
“London: that was our playground when we were younger,” she explained to Kate. “We were all over London when we were younger – going out everywhere, finding bars, clubs – so that represents my youth. When I think about my time as a youngster, it was London.”
Hear Martin and Shirlie Kemp talk about how George Michael came on their first date, why having children is the best thing ever and how they got through Martin’s brain tumours. Listen now on iTunes and Spotify.