RUSSELL WATSON WILL BE HEADLINING A SUMMER PICNIC CONCERT AT TONBRIDGE CASTLE ON JULY 9TH. AHEAD OF HIM TAKING TO THE STAGE AT THIS BEAUTIFUL HISTORIC VENUE, EILEEN LEAHY CAUGHT UP WITH THE SINGING STAR TO FIND OUT WHAT AUDIENCES CAN EXPECT FROM HIS SPECIAL PERFORMANCE AND WHY AFTER TWO DECADES HE STILL REMAINS THE UK’S BEST-SELLING CLASSICAL MUSIC ARTIST.
Can you tell us a little bit about your forthcoming concert at Tonbridge Castle?
It came through the organisers of the Rye Jazz festival. Now, I don’t really do jazz but I am really looking forward to performing at Tonbridge Castle. The event is a picnic concert so if people want to they can bring along bring a hamper of fine food and a bottle of champagne and just sit there and watch the show.
What can people expect to hear you perform?
We’re going to give a varied repertoire. The evening will conclude with a ‘Best of British’ section which will be full of all favourites such as Land of Hope and Glory, Jerusalem and Swing Low Sweet Chariot. We also include some of the Italian favourites and some material from my new record True Stories. There’ll also be a little bit of West End Theatre in there too. We’re always inclined to drop a little bit of Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables. So in short it’ll be a good old mix of songs and essentially lots of uplifting music.
What do you personally enjoy singing?
Well when I’ve got something new then I feel like ‘Oh I can’t wait to sing that and hear how it sounds live with the orchestra’ as opposed to a studio recording. But basically I love singing – I found a vocation that I love. My dad hits the nail on the head when he says ‘So when are you going to get a real job?’ Ha!
You’ve been enormously successful over the past two decades. What do you put your longevity down to?
I’m a driven lunatic – and refuse to be taken down! The music industry is a tough one and as I’ve said all along you’ve got to be more than just a voice to be able to get by. You’ve got to surround yourself with people you trust so most of my family now work for me. My daughter is my personal assistant and travels everywhere with me. My sister is my business manager – and my wife just tells me what to do! There’s an infrastructure of good people around me that I trust. Having a good business mind is also key.
Are you busy at the moment?
Yes I’m all over the place. I’ve done gigs recently at the London Palladium, the Royal Albert Hall and then I’m back into the studio for a new musical I’m working on which will be an arena tour next year. It’s called Heaven on Earth and is a massive spectacular about the story of Adam and Eve and I’m playing the voice of God. It doesn’t get any bigger than that does it? You could say I’ve gone right to the top with that role! There’ll be a running waterfall, state of the art animatronics and an incredible sound system to make you feel like you’re encapsulated into the show. It’s pretty amazing. Hugh Maynard of Lion King and Jesus Christ Superstar fame is also in it along with Kerry Ellis who’s the queen of the West End at the moment having starred in shows like Wicked, We Will Rock You and Oliver!
It certainly sounds different to what you do as a day job?
The script is fantastic and the music does have an almost operatic feel to it so there are parallels. But before I tour that next year I’m going to the States to do the annual US military concert in Washington, I’ve also got a duet with Olivia Newton John lined up, some more live dates here in the UK followed by trips to New Zealand and Dubai towards the end of the year. So yeah, life’s good.
What do you love most about your professional life?
Well as I’ve always said I’m lucky to be doing what I enjoy doing and there’s nothing more I love than walking on stage, when the light hits my face and I hear the response from the audience. It gives me such an incredible buzz – all that adrenaline and the euphoria is a wonderful feeling when I walk off the stage.
What still drives you after two decades of successful performing?
All of the above and I’m just not one to sit at home and stagnate. I have to be out and doing something – even when I’m on holiday. That drive is what got me from a factory floor to being one of the best-selling classical artists in the world and also helped me through the difficult time of being diagnosed with a brain tumour. Don’t ever say ‘no’ to me – it’s a fatal mistake as I’ll just say ‘I’ll show you pal’.
Do you enjoy being in the studio and writing your own material?
I like the creative side of being in the studio. When you’re performing on stage it’s millisecond by millisecond, you’re delivering your heart and soul, whereas in the studio it’s like building blocks, everything’s layered and created over a long time, it’s a slower more intricate development. I’ve written two tunes for the new record True Stories and wow, what a feeling when I sang them for the first time – the audience went nuts! When you’re singing something like Nessun Dorma everyone’s heard it but when you’ve written something and it means something to you personally and you’re singing it on stage it’s a really good feeling and quite cathartic.
Is there anyone in particular you’d like to work with?
There are so many artists out there who are so great. I head something by Jonas Blue the other day and it was a brilliant remake of the old Tracey Chapman track Fast Car. I also really like The Weeknd – as he has a real Michael Jackson sound. As far as duets are concerned Adele would be an obvious choice as she’s got a big gob on her and I have too! We’d make a good combo – it’d be like the clash of the titans!
And lastly, your fans – they absolutely love you don’t they?
The relationship between me and them has been organic. Over the years they’ve seen me at Wembley arena playing with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and then seen me get poorly and have to come back. I think they can empathise with the frailties and see me as a real person and not some untouchable star because I do interact with my fans. I like to stay in touch with them and I never say no to an autograph. I love what I do and I think people can see that.