Music

Kevin Rowland: I was full of fear and too dictatorial

The Dexys mainman reflects on the perils of pop stardom in a Letter to My Younger Self

Kevin Rowland

Kevin Rowland. Image: Eliza Hill

“I enjoyed success… for a couple of weeks. You think it is gonna take away all your feelings of low self-esteem and it doesn’t.”

Kevin Rowland, frontman of pop outfit Dexys (previous Dexys Midnight Runners), has learned a lot about fame.

In this week’s Big Issue, he looks back over a colourful career so far and pinpoints the band’s first showing on Top of the Pops as a turning point – but not in the way he expected.

Speaking of the quickly-growing stardom he experienced at the time, he said: “It’s an illusion. It doesn’t solve everything. I started to feel like people could see through me, like ‘they know I’m not worthy’. I felt it even more after we’d had a number one single.

“Now there’s a phrase for it, imposter syndrome, but I didn’t know any phrases like that. These thoughts totally dominated me. Me being me, I didn’t tell anybody. You are worried people can smell weakness. It’s a ridiculous way to live. It’s exhausting.”

But he feels differently about the band. If anything, the Come On Eileen singer wishes his younger self had trusted the band more. “Certainly with Kevin Archer,” he told The Big Issue. “He is such a great guy to have in a band.”

Rowland added: “As is well documented, I was too influenced by demos he played me in 1981. But I was also too dictatorial. I was full of fear so I was trying to control everything around me.

“I didn’t know that at the time, but I know it now. I have apologised for that.

“I don’t think success suits me and I don’t think a music career really suits me. My ego is very easily seduced, probably because of the low self-esteem. They are two sides of the same coin.”

This is an excerpt from a candid interview in this week’s Big Issue magazine. It’s available now from vendors all over the UK. If you’re unable to reach your local vendor, you can still subscribe to receive the magazine directly to your door or purchase through the Big Issue app.

Image: Eliza Hill

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Soweto Kinch on ripping up the jazz rulebook and how his new BBC show is building community
Soweto Kinch
Music

Soweto Kinch on ripping up the jazz rulebook and how his new BBC show is building community

How a band formed in an asylum hotel is giving refugees hope: 'Each note comes from the heart'
Ardavan of The Unknowns
Music

How a band formed in an asylum hotel is giving refugees hope: 'Each note comes from the heart'

Grassroots music venues need your help to survive now more than ever. Here's why
The Nefarious Picaroons play at Fiery Bird in Woking
Venue Watch

Grassroots music venues need your help to survive now more than ever. Here's why

Iron Maiden legend Bruce Dickinson: 'You don’t need some rock star saying war is a bad thing'
Bruce Dickinson
Letter To My Younger Self

Iron Maiden legend Bruce Dickinson: 'You don’t need some rock star saying war is a bad thing'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know