Skip to main content

Billie Jean and big choruses: the recipe that sent FM into the Swiss charts

FM
(Image credit: Frontiers Srl)

FM singer Steve Overland reveals how Michael Jackson influenced the band’s latest album Synchronized, why he’s embarrassed by his nickname ‘The Voice’, and how during lockdown he made another album with former Free/Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke.

Alt

FM have always made feelgood music, and Synchronized is a perfect example of that

We’re a really positive band. We’re mates as much as anything. We love what we do, and hopefully that comes across. Funnily enough, the last couple of albums have had a lot more AOR stuff on them, which we steered clear of for a while on some of the bluesier FM records. It’s not deliberate, but that big chorus thing has come back into the writing. 

That’s certainly true of Synchronized’s title track

I came up with the idea for that one when we were in a club and I heard Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, with that great rolling bass line. I said: “Fuck, I love that song! I want to write a rock song like Billie Jean.” And Jim [Kirkpatrick], our guitarist, said: “Alright then, off you go!” So that’s how that came out like that, a bit funky! 

We’re not scared to do different stuff. If a song like Superstar sounds a bit Americana it can still get on the album. A good song is a good song, and with this band it’s always been about the songs. 

What were your expectations for this album? 

Well, it came out pretty much when the pandemic kicked off, but we decided just to go ahead with it, and it ended up charting in loads of places where we’ve never charted before – it went top-twenty in Switzerland! But we know we’re not going to become a multi-platinum band. We just get on with what we do and enjoy doing it in our own little way. 

Back in the eighties, when major label Epic was pushing you to become that big-selling band, did you always feel under pressure? 

Yeah. The pressure was immense. When we were writing songs there was a lot of input from the record company. But now there’s nobody telling us what we should be. We just are what we are. And it’s great that we can still do it at the level we’re at.

How much has the pandemic hurt FM? 

We’re quite fortunate. FM has been set up in such a way that we’ve been furloughed. So we’re getting paid. That’s a bonus. But I know so many friends, musicians and crew people, who are really suffering. Right now there’s so much uncertainty. Our tour has gone back to 2022, and when you’re not able to go out and play live, a massive part of your life is gone. Touring is such a thrill, a great buzz, and it’s what I’ve been doing for forty years. 

When everything went tits-up, at first I was thinking: “I quite like this.” Because I get such little time at home. But one day, on TV there was highlights from one of the big festivals, and it just hit me: “God, I miss this. This is what I do.” 

But you kept busy. You made another Lonerider album with drummer Simon Kirke, with whom you played in Wildlife in the early eighties before forming FM

It’s a great record, which will be out next year. I love those old Free and Bad Company albums, and we recorded it the same way those bands did, playing live, with not a lot of overdubs. It’s stripped-back, seventies-style heavy rock. 

It’s amazing that you can still sing like you did in your twenties. Which is why you’re known as ‘The Voice’. 

Let me say that it wasn’t me who came up with that name. I didn’t walk into a rehearsal one day saying: “Look, boys, from now on I want to be known as ‘The Voice’. Never call me Steve again!” 

How is it that your voice still so strong? What’s the secret? 

There’s no secret to it. I’m just lucky. I never had a singing lesson, but a woman I know who’s a vocal coach told me that I sing correctly. So I fluked that. It hacks me off when people say about other singers: “Oh, they’re shit now”, because it’s really just the luck of the draw. 

So as long as your luck holds out, FM will keep going? 

Definitely. People say: “Do you not think you’ve done it and you’ve had enough of it?” But we don’t think like that. We’ll do it till we drop. There’s no reason to stop.

Synchronized is out now.