Tony Cowell talks to Aled Jones
Aled Jones, 46, talks about the biggest ‘pinch me’ moments of his career, and singing with his son, Lucas
By the tender age of 16, Welsh singer Aled Jones had recorded 16 albums and sold over 6 million records worldwide. Aled, who currently fronts ITV chat show
Weekend, has sung for some of the most famous people in the world, including the late Princess Diana. He talks about those unforgettable moments, plus his new album – which features vocals from his son – and reveals why the late Sir Terry Wogan was his true hero.
Your schedule is hectic – have you always had a strong work ethic?
When I was a kid, I was always complaining because I was tired but, back then, I was always touring. I was only in the public eye for four years – I think my life is more manageable now. I enjoy my work, and it’s not as if I’m going down a coal mine every day. I have been very lucky.
You had your first hit in 1985, with Walking In The Air from The Snowman. How important were your parents at that time?
They were fantastic, given that neither of them had any experience of the entertainment business. They both had normal jobs. What they were really good at was keeping the pressure off me. We would make all the big decisions together, sitting at the kitchen table. My parents never exploited me, which was lovely. They even turned down an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson because I wanted to go to Disneyland!
During that four-year period of fame, you sang for the Queen, the Pope and Princess Diana. How do you look back on it now?
Well, singing in the living room at Kensington Palace, in front of the Prince and Princess of Wales, takes some beating. It was quite surreal.
How did that come about?
Prince Charles rang my dad at work and said, ‘I want to hear your son sing before his voice breaks,’ and my dad went, ‘ Whatever,’ and put the phone down. But they did ring back and, two days later, we were in their living room. Diana came in with wet hair, having been swimming, and we sat down and sang for an hour. I dropped a glass of water on the carpet, and she said, ‘The boys [ William and Harry] do it all the time, so don’t worry.’ It was really one of those moments you just don’t forget.
You also sang at the wedding of Sir Bob Geldof and Paula Yates in 1986…
Yes, that was an amazing experience. But I was still so young, and I remember that all I was interested in during the day was chasing around trying to get the pop group Spandau Ballet’s autographs!
Do you recall meeting with Sir Richard Branson when he signed you to his label, Virgin Records?
Yes. I went to meet him on this houseboat where he lived. He was lovely. I remember him saying to me, ‘I haven’t a clue how we are going to sell your record.’ I learned he’d signed me because his dad used to play my songs in his car.
You had a hit record with Sir Terry Wogan for Children In Need – what was he like?
He was such a big hero of mine. He made more impact
on me than anyone else. I think I went on his TV show, Wogan, seven times. Knowing him in adult life, I learned so much from him. I was lucky to be able to call Sir Terry a mate – he was a maverick, but also a very kind man. The song I did with him in 2008, Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth, turned out to be my biggest hit. We got to No.2 in the charts.
On your new album, you duet with your younger self. How did that happen?
My parents found an old tape of me singing – in their airing cupboard! They were songs that had never been released, so I tried singing along with some of them and I found it quite emotional. I made what was the first album in a trilogy. This new album is the last.
Tell me what happened when 78-year-old Brian Saunderson got in touch with you…
Brian was a tenor who worked on my early albums. He found an old reel-to-reel tape on his bookshelf of me singing, aged nine. Again, these were some of the very first songs I’d recorded, but they had never been released. So he sent them to me and we used them on the new album.
Your 12-year-old son, Lucas, joins you for a track on the album. Tell me how that came about?
I heard him singing around the house and thought, ‘ Wow, he has a good voice!’ So I asked him to come to the studio with me one day. He just rattled off a version of The Lord Is My Shepherd in one take. Now he thinks my job is really easy.
Your daughter, Emilia, 15, is an actress. How do you feel about that?
I have nothing but good things to say about what has happened to Emilia in her industry. I’ve always supported her in every way. All I’ve said is, ‘If the joy goes out of it, don’t do it any more.’ I’m very proud of her.
Aled’s album, One Voice: Believe is out now on Classic FM Records
Aled was 15 when he sang at Paula Yates’ wedding in 1986
Lucas, 12, lends his talents to Dad’s latest album Performing for Princess Diana is a fond memory