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

“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