Interview Sebastien Izambard
I love Simon and we have a great relationship but it was time for us to fly by ourselves
IT’S hard to believe that before the X Factor even existed, when Niall Horan’s age was still in single figures, Simon Cowell had already created one of the world’s most successful all-male singing acts.
The music mogul had hit on an idea to create a young group of singers who could rival the vocal abilities of the world famous Three Tenors - Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo.
A worldwide search brought together German-born Spanish baritone Carlos Marin, two trained classic tenors, Urs Buhler from Switzerland and American David Miller, and French pop singer and songwriter Sebastien Izambard.They became Il Divo and the rest, as they say, is history.
Handsome and elegant, harmonious and eloquent, the four became an international success story, just as Simon Cowell had envisaged.
Il Divo managed to become one of the most successful crossover acts of all time with over 30 million records sold they started out and more than 50 number one records across the world.
Cut to 15 years later and Il Divo are embarking on another adventure after breaking their commercial ties at least with the Britain’s Got Talent mogul.
‘We said to Simon Cowell “Thank you so much for a wonderful experience but we feel like we want to fly alone”,’ explains erudite Frenchman Sebastien Izambard.
‘We no longer work with him. We do everything ourselves. We are producing our own shows.
‘It has been very empowering and it gives the band more credibility rather than just being four guys in suits which has always been some people’s perception of us.
‘I am loving this and I am enjoying the fact that we are so independent now. Not because I didn’t like working with Simon, I love Simon, he is great and we have a great relationship but it was just time for us to fly by ourselves.
‘We are in our 40s and we don’t need all that,’ Sebastien says, referring to being managed and run by other people.
Now the four fellas are masters of their own destiny, they are now also very aware of what management companies do.
‘It’s a lot harder for sure,’ he admits. ‘There is a lot less sleep. It is pretty full on but we are loving it because we know what’s going on now. We are far more in control.’
You would have to wonder how a split with Simon Cowell actually happens as us mere mortals would expect a major bust up with sparks flying and that famous talent show death stare being called into play.
But Sebastien says none of this was the case. In fact, the foursome are very grateful to Simon Cowell. So are they still on speaking terms?
‘For sure,’ emphasises the darkhaired Frenchman. ‘We always hear from him. He is a good friend and we love catching up with him, having a drink and talking to him, learning something from him and he learns things from us too. We have a great friendship.’
IL Divo’s forthcoming album Timeless is their first made without any input from the Syco machine, although the singers have previously said Cowell was less hands-on with them in later years due to his talent show commitments and that it had been a while since they had an intense working relationship with Cowell.
And far from there being any bad blood between Il Divo and their former mentor, in fact, the lads played the finished album to their good pal Simon who gave the new record the thumbs up.
The record will be released on Decca Gold in August and Irish fans will get their first chance to hear some of the tracks when Il Divo perform live at the Trinity College Summer Series on July 24.
Already they’ve released Hola as a single — a very different version of Adele’s Hello, this time sung in Spanish, hence the title. But the songs on the album reach from the 1930s until the very recent past.
‘The way that we actually chose the songs is really simple,’ Sebastien explains. ‘We realised that what people really like about is is that we sing anything and we make it very timeless.
‘I remember when I heard someone say that, I thought it would be such a good idea to take all kinds of songs from every era in time and sing them our way.
‘So on the new album we will have have songs our older audience will already know then more modern tracks that we will make more accessible to them.
‘And then we will also be showing the likes of Smile or The Way We Were to the younger members of our audience, making them more accessible.
‘I think it is pretty amazing that we have managed to achieve a sound that is homogenous and is really working for all of the tracks, regardless of which decade they are from. I’m really happy about the way things have turned out.’
One of the tracks on the album will have a special resonance for the Dublin audience as it was written here by another very famous singer.
‘Angels is the Robbie Williams song,’ he explains.
‘The reason we chose that is because we were working with Guy Chambers,’ he says of the leading songwriter who is a long-time collaborator with Williams.
‘We also wanted to have a song that expressed how much we love it here because we spent so much time here and we thought it would be a great thing to show that on the album and incorporate it in some way. We are taking the song to a very different place and I truly believe we are performing in a much different way than Robbie Williams did.’
But Sebastien admits Il Divo wanted to make sure they did Angels justice, as Williams is a hard act to follow.
‘That’s always the danger, he does such an amazing job singing it you have to do something different or people would be wondering “What are these guys thinking?”,’ he admits.
That was the whole purpose of trying to cover the song but also trying not to copy it in a way that becomes cheesy.’
So coming back to Ireland will be a treat, Sebastien says.
‘We love coming to Ireland — my wife Renée is Australian but she has roots in Cork. We haven’t made it down there yet though. And we are even more excited because this will be the first time performing the new album. We’re releasing it on Decca Gold, we recorded it, produced it ourselves, did everything from A to Z.’
You would imagine this level of
Friends: Simon Cowell and Sebastien