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Oliver Sim of The xx is telling his own story with his first solo album


And finally today, we're going to listen to a new album that dropped this week. You may not know the name Oliver Sim, but he's the bassist for the band The xx. And now he's telling his own story with his first solo album - and language alert here - "Hideous Bastard."

OLIVER SIM: I think, this being my first album, does feel particularly vulnerable. I've been in The xx since I was 15 years old. And it's been great stepping out of it, but it has been hard.

MARTIN: Hard because he didn't hold back. For the first time writing songs for himself, Sim referred to a love interest specifically as a man.

SIM: "Fruit" was probably one of the earliest songs I wrote for the record. And it might sound like a small thing, but it's the first song I use - as a gay man, I use a specific pronoun, a gender-specific pronoun when talking out to someone, which is something I've never done in The xx.


SIM: (Singing) Just look at his face, what a beautiful face, how it makes you feel inside.

It's very much singing to my younger self, you know, me as a 13, 14-year-old gay kid. I had a lot of confusion about maybe shame that I felt and taking on other people's views and shame as my own. And this song is a love letter to myself.


SIM: (Singing) I'm ugly. I'm up and down right now. I'm down and bloody, but I don't feel as though I've been unlucky. I wrote "Hideous" two-thirds into the making of the record, and I very much knew what this record was about. And it was about fear, and it was about shame.

MARTIN: In the song, Sim also reveals that he's been living with HIV since he was 17.

SIM: And I was writing about those things not to wallow or to beat myself up but quite the opposite, quite a celebratory and joyous thing to do.


SIM: (Singing) Radical honesty might set me free if it makes me hideous. Been living with HIV since 17. Am I hideous?

I recorded that two years ago, and I was in a very different place. I think even just having people in the room, like a sound engineer or a vocal coach who I - weren't part of my inner circle and singing those last lyrics about my HIV status, it was a really big thing. And it was - yeah. It was a really uncomfortable in times, but a special song to record.


SIM: (Singing) Am I hideous?

This record for me - I get really worried when I'm explaining it that I'm painting it out to be darker than it is because it is a record about shame and fear, but it's writing about those things in a bid for them to feel less heavy and less overwhelming. So though it may have moments and may have heavy moments, I also see it as being very joyous. The whole act of making this has been a joyous one.

MARTIN: That was Oliver Sim talking about his debut solo album, "Hideous Bastard."

(SOUNDBITE OF OLIVER SIM SONG, "HIDEOUS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michel Martin
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.