You’ll no doubt be aware that UK pop phenomenon S Club 7 recently announced their arena reunion tour. The seven piece TV and pop outfit achieved a fairly decent amount of chart success here in Australia via hits including ‘Don’t Stop Movin’ and ‘Bring It All Back’. But what widespread Aussie audiences don’t know is that at their peak, they had their own spin-off kids band, S Club Juniors.
So for this #TBT interview, we thought it would be interesting to look at the pop world from a child star’s perspective.
Our #TBT interviewer Brad got in touch with S Club Junior’s Calvin Goldspink to chat about his journey through the pop scene at such a young age. And what a journey it seemingly was!
Calvin divulged all, from hanging out with Baby Spice, to developing his own sound and how he intends to straddle the line between embracing his pop star past and working towards a future as a credible musician.
He begins by telling us that he first heard about auditions for S Club Juniors through his vocal coach in Scotland.
“I wasn’t really an S Club fan, I was more a Limp Biskit or Linkin Park guy,” Calvin tells us from his home in the UK.
“When we got there it was a pretty big deal; we’re talking ‘X Factor’ type auditions with two to three thousand people. I never thought I’d get through!”
But get through he did, beating the likes of Paolo Nutini for a spot in the newly christened S Club Juniors. The band was initially put together to support S Club 7 for three nights of their ‘Carnival’ tour, but things quickly escalated.
“Once we got put together, we went to Simon Fuller’s (manager of the Spice Girls and head of 19 Management) offices in London,” Calvin tells us. “They had taught us the dance routine to ‘S Club Party’ at the auditions and they got us to do it and they had people from the record company come down to watch us. From there, they decided that they wanted to make it into a band.”
“We were on tour with one of the biggest bands in the country and we had the same name,” Calvin explains. “We were teed up as if it was a golf ball. It was pretty much ready to go, you just had to hit it.”
That’s all well and good but the group members were all pre-teens. We were keen to know how they balanced the commitments of being in the band with the rigours of an education.
“We would do nine hours with the band then the schoolwork, but they looked after us well,” Calvin admits. “I remember it was 15 hours of schoolwork a week. We worked literally up to the legal limit every day. It was pretty intense, but they weren’t whipping us or anything,” he laughs.
Calvin adds that, despite entering the spotlight at just 11, he was able to adjust pretty easily.
“I think when you’re a kid, you’re kind of on autopilot. I’m sure you remember when you were a kid; it’s sort of a crazy world at that time for you. At that age, it’s like you’re drunk in a way. I wasn’t actually drunk though!
“It was just kind of normal, which is weird. Because I was 11 when I got into it, by the time I was 16, we’d had fame for so long it just becomes normal that people are always looking at you and wanting to take a picture. I understand now why people do that ,but at the time I was like ‘Why do you want my picture?’
“I remember one time we did an open-air concert and we were coming out of the tour bus and these girls were flashing us,” he laughs. “We were all at the window laughing our heads off. I think they had written our names on their tits. Our chaperones freaked! They stopped the bus, got off and started screaming at them!”
Calvin is quick to explain that the band was always surrounded by their chaperones on outings, though they would occasionally get some interesting (and famous) visitors.
“Simon would show up randomly at the apartment with Emma Bunton,” he reveals. “I don’t know why she was there; she was just there to hang out. She did give us some advice, but it was just one of those things!”
Unfortunately, however, the Juniors didn’t get much face time with the band they got their name from.
“The guys from S Club were cool but, although we were entwined with each other, we had totally different schedules. We’d run into them a lot but we weren’t able to have an S Club Party unfortunately,” Calvin laughs.
S Club Juniors’ first three singles, ‘One Step Closer’, ‘Automatic High’ and ‘New Direction’ all went to No. 2 in the UK charts in 2002. But perhaps the most infamous S Club Juniors song is their take on ‘Puppy Love’, as seen in the Christmas movie favourite ‘Love Actually’. Despite it being… well, incredibly cheesy, Calvin is unashamedly proud of the song.
“That was right before my voice broke,” he recalls. “I remember recording the song and being like ‘You want me to record the whole thing?’”
It wasn’t all snow fights and smiles for the teen pop sensations, with Calvin’s voice breaking right before their ‘S Club United’ tour in early 2003.
“They got me to do ‘Puppy Love’ on tour and that was probably one of the lowest points for me in the band,” he divulges.
“I just could not control my voice. I think the idea was great but I don’t think that was the time to start singing live. They didn’t listen to me regarding that and because I was young, I wasn’t in a position to stand up for myself.”
The song, which went to No.6 in the UK, sparked a new-found confidence in the singer.
“At that age, I wasn’t thinking about the future,” he admits. “But then I’d read magazine articles and they’d say ‘Calvin’s going solo’. That stuff started opening up those ideas in my head. Those manifested and sort of led me to where I am now, all this time down the line.”
He regrets not asking out S Club 7’s Rachel Stevens, the object of his affection in the ‘Puppy Love’ video.
“I wish, right! I think she was a bit too old for me. I like the MILFs but she was a bit too out of my age range. She’s 35 now, I cap myself around 30,” he cheekily jokes.
Two years, two albums, and a name change to S Club 8 later, the band set out to film their first TV show, ‘iDream’, a move that the group had no say in making.
“We were kind of kept out of the business aspect of it,” Calvin reveals. “It was just ‘We’re going to do this project in Spain.’ We were excited about it, especially with Christopher Lloyd (from ‘80s classic ‘Back To The Future’) being in it. I don’t know why they thought we could all act, they just let us do it. I don’t even remember us getting any acting lessons!”
Soon after, in early 2005, Calvin recalls getting a phone call.
“They were like, ‘We’re not going to do anything else. That’s pretty much it’. I don’t know if I was relieved but I was happy. I was never sick of it but I had definitely had my fill of it.”
Following S Club 8 and a short stint on the American TV show ‘Life Is Wild’, Calvin signed a management deal with Joe Simpson, father of Jessica and Ashlee. Though they no longer work together, the singer has nothing but praise for him.
“Joe’s a big reason why I’m in the position I’m in now,” he maintains, “Through good and bad times together, he really pushed me to a point where I really had to go hard at what I’m doing now.
“At one point, he got me busking on Third Street Promenade in LA. It took a lot of pride-swallowing to be like ‘I’m going to busk’. Once I got my head focused on ‘I’m playing to people, it’s all music’, I realised that that’s what I needed to do to be an artist and it really got me to be proficient.”
Calvin has recently launched his first EP, ‘Lemon Tree’, which is a pop/rock/folk hybrid that he hopes will show how much he’s grown since his S Club days.
“This is the first bulk of work that really came from me with no interference from anyone else,” he says. “I’m getting the best reaction from it, out of all the solo material I’ve ever done.”
We reckon first single ‘Superman’ is a cross between The Killers and The Black Keys, but Calvin is far more diplomatic in his opinion.
“If you listen to ‘Lemon Tree’, you would judge it based on the music you listen to,” he explains. “I didn’t want to go down that pop route solidly but I wanted to make it commercial enough that you can play it on the radio. If you go too left-field, you end up in a situation where you don’t get any traction for it. I want it to be commercial, but I don’t want it to be a sell out, if that makes sense.”
The dream remains to sign with a major label, but at the same time, Calvin explains there’s more than a little hesitation.
“I have friends who have had multiple deals and they’re still not making it work,” he says. “They’ve been on tour with the biggest bands, have a massive entity behind them and it doesn’t go anywhere. So it’s about getting the right team together with the right product. I think I have the right product, so now I just need the right team to marry that.”
The singer excitedly tells us he has a lot of big meetings lined up in the near future to develop that team. And he’s even open to re-inventing some S Club 8 songs.
“I don’t know if I want to sing that stuff again but I would never say I wouldn’t do it,“ he admits. “If there were a cool way to do it, like Radio 1 Live Lounge… it might be quite funny if I did a really folky version of ‘One Step Closer’. I think it would show my range as an artist if I could make it cool. I play a lot of gigs around here to keep my chops up and I get asked to sing ‘Puppy Love’ and I say, ‘Hell no!’” he laughs.
Unsurprisingly, his focus for the future is on a solo career and he would not be open to an S Club 8 reunion.
“’The Big Reunion’ would feel like backpedalling and there was no way on God’s green earth that I would go on there and dance and sing S Club Junior songs,” he confirms. “I’m 25 years old! Those songs are not intended for 25 year olds to sing. It would ruin the nostalgia of what we did as children.”
Calvin Goldspink’s debut EP ‘Lemon Tree’ is available now on Google Play and iTunes.
The S Club Juniors/S Club 8 back catalogue is available online.
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