In­ter­view Se­bastien Izam­bard

Irish Daily Mail - - Weekend - BY MAEVE QUIGLEY

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

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