The Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson has, in his own words, "a newfound relaxedness" when HELLO! catches up with him over Zoom.
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The singer, who presents CBBC's Ricky Wilson's Art Jam and previously judged on ITV's The Voice, used the pandemic lockdowns to get back in touch with his creative side, having studied graphic design at university.
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Newly married to wife Grace Zito – the couple wed in a small ceremony in June – Ricky told us of his new calm outlook on life, how there's new music in the pipeline for the band and how he and Grace are planning a big post-wedding party for friends and family. The star, 43, also shared his hope of starting a family, saying, "It would be the ultimate legacy".
Partnering with Three UK to inspire the nation to get creative with their old smartphones this Black Friday, Ricky has created a very cool sculpture of his beloved dog Reedus out of his old mobile boxes.
Read our exclusive interview with Ricky Wilson below…
Hi Ricky, great to chat with you. It's been a quiet couple of years with the pandemic – how did you find taking a break from the band?
"At first, like most people, I was a bit scared but kind of enjoying the enforced time off. I liked that you couldn't do anything - but neither could anyone else, which was kind of cool because it felt like you weren't having the world overtake you while you took loads of time off.
I'm just trying to put a silver lining on things here because obviously, it was terrible; lots of people died and got very ill, but if I was going to find a silver lining it would be that I haven't had much time off in the last 15-20 years and I had to. I jumped upon the opportunity to do things I wouldn't normally do or that I had put off for years.
I was pottering around catching up on anything that was not band related. I know lots of people in bands or artists say that they wrote loads. I did nothing to do with the band for as long as possible. Then you come back reinvigorated."
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Ricky singing with the Kaiser Chiefs
Have you been writing songs recently?
"There's always new stuff. I'm writing some new stuff with Niall Rogers at the moment, which you'll hear next year. Whether that turns into an album or not, we'll see. I've got a newfound relaxedness to the whole process. It's not as important as it used to be."
And you got married this summer, congratulations! You had to have a smaller wedding due to the pandemic…
"We cancelled it a few times due to Covid restrictions. There were still restrictions but we could still have 20 people outside, so we had a tent in a garden. We will have a big party one day – and I'm not trying to say to people that it was great they didn't come to our wedding – but it was amazing to have such a small one because I remember everything about it and I wasn't overwhelmed like we were performing.
It felt like we were having a really great day and we'll always have that, which is fantastic, rather than it being about other people.
I worked out that if we did have 130 people at the wedding, we'd spend five minutes with every one of them and that's your day gone. So it was really cool to spend a day with people and not feel nervous about giving a speech or anything."
What kind of bigger celebration have you got in mind?
"We are going to have a big party. My friend Robin has hotels – that sounds posh doesn't it! They're called The Pig hotels and we're going to have a big party in one of The Pigs, probably in Bath, maybe next summer, maybe the summer after – but it doesn't matter because we have the rest of our lives."
Are you and Grace planning on starting a family?
"I'm going to see where the wind takes us. It would be a privilege. It's not something that's just a given. Lots of people try for a long time. Of course, it would be the ultimate legacy. You can write songs until the cows come home but you know, it all pales into significance if you could have a real legacy."
Ricky with his wife Grace
Christmas is coming up – what are your plans?
"I've no idea yet. I'm living with my in-laws at the moment because we're having our house renovated.
We're moving back in on December 20th. It'll probably be a big pile of moving boxes! It's been a long time coming so we're really looking forward to it."
You've previously said you took up running when you were 35. Do you still like to run?
"I did yeah. Not at the moment! There are loads of things in life like that… I'm up for anything. Running was something I did because I thought to myself, I'm 35, I look older. Now I'm 43 and I don't look as old as I am, so it was worth it. Now I'll go running this afternoon now you've said that! [laughs] It's good, I need some motivation."
Ricky has more gigs lined up with the Kaiser Chiefs for 2022
You've also spoken about suffering from anxiety before going on stage…
"Always, it's the only thing I've ever known, so I wouldn't be able to compare it to anyone else's experience of being on stage - but in my view, if you didn't have a bit of anxiety about standing in front of thousands of people for 90 minutes, then I think there would be something wrong with you.
I did have anxiety but I think that's totally healthy, like being scared of sharks. It's ok to be scared of sharks and it's ok to have performance anxiety."
So you feel calmer now?
"Yeah because at the end of the day it's just having a laugh. It's always been that and that's the reason I wanted to do it. That's the reason I wanted to be in a band – because it seemed relatively easy and a bit of a laugh.
"At some point along the way maybe it turned into something that, there's a lot of pressure that's attached to it and it really shouldn't because you're not going to be at your most productive when you're pressured to do something that you've got into for enjoyment. It's a lot more about the fun now. A lot more about making cardboard dogs."
What's coming up for you next year?
"I don't really know, I'm taking things as they come now, I really don't plan much ahead. I know that the management of the Kaiser Chiefs are already booking gigs for us to do which I'm feeling good about, but even in the past I never really looked at that kind of stuff.
I suppose now I'm married I need to look at my schedule a bit more but I just kind of go with the flow. I'll see where the wind takes me and it feels quite good. Opportunities come and go and I only really get excited once I'm there."
Tell us about the sculpture you've made for the Three campaign…
"I was asked by Three to make a sculpture out of phone boxes and I'm up for anything creative – especially post-lockdown. During lockdown, I started fiddling about again with art and enjoying it a lot more, and that led to me presenting a couple of shows for CBBC about art. I've got a new one on the way with Vick Hope.
Ricky and his dog sculpture made from mobile phone boxes
I really enjoy art. I find it therapeutic. I find it brilliant if you walk into a room with nothing or just a load of materials and you come out with something that's potentially worth something, whether it's actually monetary or just to stick on your fridge. Anything's beneficial.
So when Three asked me to make something out of their boxes, I thought well this is a great idea because I have probably 10 old phone boxes. I don't know why we can't throw them away?! It's not just me, it's everybody. Ninety per cent of us keep our boxes for more than three months after we bought the phone."
And you recreated your dog, Reedus!
"The reason I made the dog is because they wanted it to be something to do with connectivity. I ran with it in a very broad way. When I post a picture of me, it gets so many likes. When I post a picture of my dog, it gets four times as many likes.
"It's really good for connecting people, having a dog. Even when out walking, people don't want to say hello to me, they want to say hello to the dog. It's made me be part of loads of WhatsApp groups, with local people, sorting out when we're going to go for a walk. Before the dog I walked around the streets blinkered – now I meet a lot more people.
Has your dog seen the sculpture of himself?
"No, he hasn't. He'd probably try and hump it. I will bring it home eventually though; looking forward to it. But you know, he's not that judgmental of my art. He's always been very supportive, and I'm sure he'd love it."
Ricky Wilson and Three UK are inspiring the nation to get creative with their old smartphone boxes this Black Friday. To see Ricky's design, with the rest of these amazing paper sculptures in detail and for a chance of winning one, visit @ThreeUK on Instagram.