‘I never for­get where I’ve come from’

As the na­tion’s favourite tenor, Al­fie Boe, re­leases a new al­bum, he chats about stay­ing true to his roots and all the joys of a fam­ily Christ­mas

YOURS (UK) - - Star Chat - By Ali­son James

As set­tings go, they don’t come much smarter than Lon­don”s Savoy Ho­tel. In the Princess Ida Suite, Al­fie Boe ser­e­nades us – over a cup of Earl Grey, fin­ger sand­wiches and scones – with a cou­ple of songs from As Time Goes By, his voice so pow­er­ful, we mo­men­tar­ily fear for the crys­tal chan­de­liers.

Al­fie, im­mac­u­lately stylish in suit and tie, looks com­pletely at home here – as if he was born into five-star lux­ury. But noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth. The youngest of nine sib­lings, he’s the child of a work­ing-class fam­ily

from Fleet­wood in Lan­cashire – some­thing he feels very proud of.

“I’m a Fleet­wood lad,” he says sim­ply when we get a chance to chat, “and I want to fly the flag for the town as much as I can. It’s a strong, won­der­ful town. It stands you in

‘I want my chil­dren’s Christ­mases to be just as spe­cial as mine were’

good stead for what­ever you might want to do. You know that what­ever hap­pens, it will al­ways be there for you. I’m glad that I’m Al­fie Boe from Fleet­wood in Lan­cashire and that I’ve never for­got­ten my roots. And that I speak my mind – maybe, per­haps, a bit too often! I have a lot of pride for Fleet­wood and ev­ery­one who lives there.” It’s clearly mu­tual.

Fleet­wood is equally proud of Al­fie and last year a blue plaque was un­veiled in his honour at the town’s Ma­rine Hall where he made his first pub­lic con­cert ap­pear­ance, aged 14. “To say it’s an honour is not a big enough word,” he humbly com­mented at the time. “I’m over­whelmed, to­tally blown away.”

Al­fie may have made his name by singing clas­si­cal mu­sic and, more re­cently, he’s en­joyed great suc­cess as part of the duo Ball and Boe with fel­low singer and great friend, Michael Ball. Al­though there are plans afoot for the two to re­unite at some point, for now Al­fie’s back on his own and As Time Goes By is quite a de­par­ture for him. It cel­e­brates the golden era of mu­sic from the Thir­ties and For­ties – a time that, mu­si­cally, is often over­looked, sand­wiched be­tween the roar­ing Twen­ties and rock ’n’ roll. Time­less clas­sics, such as La Vie en Rose, My Funny Valen­tine, Sing, Sing, Sing, and – ap­pro­pri­ately enough –, Stomp­ing at the Savoy, fea­ture on the al­bum and get the Al­fie Boe treat­ment.

“It’s the kind of big band mu­sic I grew up with,” he says. “My mum and dad were re­ally into the big bands – Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Ar­tie Shaw, Count Basie… and they used to go danc­ing at Ma­rine Hall. My mother told me when she was preg­nant with me she was watch­ing a TV show and Gene Krupa started the drum solo from Sing, Sing, Sing. She had a cup of tea on her tummy and im­me­di­ately felt me kick and the tea went up in the air. She al­ways told this story and I re­alised I was con­nected with mu­sic even be­fore I was born!

“Th­ese are the kind of songs that can be sung with a pi­ano ac­com­pa­ni­ment, or with a full big band. When I sing them, I like to imag­ine my­self in a small, dimly-lit lounge bar in New Or­leans with a spot­light shin­ing down and a three-piece band be­hind me.”

The record­ing ses­sions took place at the cel­e­brated Capi­tol Stu­dios in Los An­ge­les, where Frank Si­na­tra made so many of his iconic al­bums. Al­fie had a spe­cific sound in mind for his.

“I kept say­ing to the play­ers in the stu­dio – mu­si­cians from Los An­ge­les and New Or­leans – ’Please don’t play clean, please make it dirty’,” he laughs. “My ar­ranger spoke to his brass sec­tion who went out and bought spe­cific mouth­pieces for their in­stru­ments that would have been used in the Thir­ties, and they cre­ated that cer­tain sound. We could have done a clean- cut im­pres­sion of bands and singers of the time, but I wanted to find the right route for me and we did our own ar­range­ments.”

Al­fie be­lieves it was this golden pe­riod that gave birth to the pop­u­lar mu­sic in­dus­try.

“For the first time there were record com­pa­nies, record la­bels, writ­ers, ar­rangers… It in­flu­enced mu­sic in Bri­tain, specif­i­cally in the North West with north­ern soul in the Six­ties and Sev­en­ties. So, what we’re also try­ing to do is to show how it all came to­gether and how it in­flu­enced the mu­sic scene in the UK. You could say it was like a rev­o­lu­tion.”

Al­fie (45) em­barks on an ex­ten­sive tour of the UK in March, which he’s very much look­ing for­ward to. “I can’t wait,” he smiles. But, first, he’s ex­cited about cel­e­brat­ing Christ­mas with his wife Sarah, and their two chil­dren, Grace (9) and Al­fie (6) – es­pe­cially as the fam­ily re­cently moved back to the UK from the USA.

“I’m so glad to be home. I want Grace and Al­fie’s Christ­mases to be just as spe­cial as mine were,” he says. “I was so lucky to have such a spe­cial child­hood. Christ­mas was al­ways won­der­ful. It was re­ally nice to have such won­der­ful par­ents who re­ally made it spe­cial. We just had the best of times.”

■ As Time Goes By is re­leased on Novem­ber 23, rrp £10.99

■ For more de­tails on Al­fie’s tour visit www.al­fie-boe.com/live

Al­fie in a per­for­mance of Les Mis­er­ables at the 02 Arena in 2010

Al­fie and wife Sarah are look­ing for­ward to a fam­ily Christ­mas with their two chil­dren

Friends Al­fie and Michael Ball (left) plan to re­unite with their mu­sic at some point in the fu­ture

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