Tony Cowell talks to Alfie Boe
‘I remember waking up one morning with this crazy urge to be on stage… I needed to sing’
Alfie Boe, 45, is now officially the UK’s favourite singer. And, after duetting with Michael Ball, he’s going it alone with a new solo album,
As Time Goes By. Here, he talks about why he dedicated it to his mum and dad…
Hi, Alfie! Your new album celebrates the music of the 1930s – how did that idea come about?
It’s music I listened to as a kid, really – the songs my parents would play at home. These songs come from a very romantic era, and were originally sung by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. But they also have a dark history, coming between two world wars. Regarding my own musical influences, my mum told me a story dating back to when she was pregnant with me. She was watching the jazz drummer Gene Krupa on TV and she immediately felt me kick. She knew I was connected to music – I was feeling it even before I was born! So, this album is very much a dedication to my mum and dad. It also celebrates the songs that brought about the birth of pop music.
Your dad influenced your early love of music…
Yes. He would play a Glenn Miller album, then a country album, followed by some opera. He had a very eclectic taste, and that music always stayed with me. In those days, you played whole albums – today, the kids just download a song. That’s very different.
You once worked in a car factory. Were your parents supportive when you felt music was your calling?
Very supportive, though most of it was born of my own motivation. But it was Dad who drove me all around the country – to auditions, shows and amateur productions. He never once complained – I think he just knew what I was destined to do with my life. I remember waking one morning with this crazy urge to be on stage. I rode my bike to work, thinking, ‘I can’t do this any more.’ I needed to sing. Something deep inside me told me this was what I had to do. That was the last day I ever worked in the factory.
So, what was your first big career break?
I was 19 years old, and I found out there was a company in Preston planning a production of West Side Story – but I was told they had already cast the lead roles. But I still went along with my dad. They asked me what I was singing, and I said Maria. I sang the song – hit that big note at the end – and they cast me in the lead role of Tony.
How often do you think back to those early days working in the factory?
All the time. I think, well, if I wasn’t there at that time, I wouldn’t have got frustrated. I wouldn’t have looked for work as a singer, and things
might have been different. Who knows? It was fate. It was my destiny.
You recently returned to your home town of Fleetwood in Lancashire. Tell us about that…
Yes, I went back to Fleetwood to film a TV documentary about the Royal National Lifeboat Institution for the BBC. These people are amazing and save so many lives in such dangerous situations. It was a huge honour to go back there and film on the boat with these guys.
You recorded your new album at the famous Capitol Studios in Los Angeles. Did you feel a sense of history about the place?
It was amazing to stand there in the same spot where Frank Sinatra had stood, singing those famous songs all those years ago. You can feel the atmosphere as soon as you walk into the room. It’s a very special place, so I feel very blessed to have recorded there. It’s full of history.
Frasier star Kelsey Grammer appears on your album – what was he like to work with?
I’ve known Kelsey for a number of years and he agreed to do Minnie The Moocher with me. We had such a laugh together, and I was so grateful he was there with me.
The British actress Kara Tointon also features on a song – are you a fan?
Yes, a big fan. Kara is hugely talented, so it was really fun to have her work on one song on this album [called Stompin’ At The Savoy]. Her voice is very distinctive.
Are there plans for you and musical theatre star Michael Ball to work together again in the near future?
I love working with Michael and I hope he feels the same. There are no plans this year, because we are both focused on our solo careers. We work so well together, though, so I’m sure we will do another venture in the future.
I hear you are planning to do a duet with singer/ songwriter Shawn Mendes – is that true?
I would do a duet with Shawn, simply because it would give me huge credibility in the eyes of my daughter, Grace. She’s a big fan of Shawn’s! I don’t hold out much hope, though.
Is it true you’re looking to do a song for the next Bond movie?
I wrote and recorded a few songs which I’ve sent to the producers. I think it would be amazing to be able to sing a Bond theme. People like Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey and, of course, Adele have all performed themes. As Time Goes By, the new album by Alfie Boe, is out on 23 November.
Alfie with his friend of old, Michael Ball
Actor Kelsey Grammer features on the new album Actress Kara Tointon guests on Alfie’s new album With wife Sarah, daughter Grace and son Alfred