SINGING star Russell Watson is visiting Bournemouth next month as part of his nationwide tour.
This week he talks to The Guide about how his near death experience changed his outlook on life, and why he is determined to sustain his music career - just don’t ask him to sing Nessun Dorma!
He’s known as ‘The People’s Tenor’ and is the UK’s biggest selling classical artist. He spent 52 consecutive weeks at number one in the UK and the US classical charts at the same time.
Since 2001 he has sold more than seven million albums, achieved six top ten album placements and received four Classical Brit Awards. But Salford-born Russell’s road to success was not a stereotypical one.
He left school at the age of 16 with no qualifications and spent the first eight years of his working life in a factory making nuts and bolts.
“I would sit there all day doing the same thing - it was mind numbingly boring,” he says.
Although he loved singing, he never dreamt that one day he would make a career out of it.
“I never had an aspiration to be a performer,” he says. “Singing was just a hobby. I almost stumbled into my music career.
“I entered a local talent competition and much to my surprise, and everyone else’s, I went on to win it. I then spent the next ten years singing in pubs and clubs in the North West.
“It wasn’t until 1999 that I was in the right place at the right time (he sang at Old Trafford when Manchester United won the treble) which really kickstarted my career.
“But it’s funny, after my first record went to number one, some newspapers described me as ‘an overnight success’. I’d done ten years in the clubs by this stage and it made think it had obviously been a very long night.”
He says his “I admire many artist but my stand out artists would be Nat King Cole because of the uniqueness of his voice and Pavarotti who is one of greatest tenors that have walked the planet.
“There are plenty of artists out there that have made - how such a incredible group of insanely gifted musicians can collide and meet at the right time to create some of greatest music ever.”
Russell’s battle with ill health has been well documented (he has survived surgery for two brain tumours) and he says that keeping fit is an important part of his life.
“I get a real kick out of working out, in fact if I don’t go to the gym or play tennis, then I start to feel a bit flat and down and not good about myself.”
He is also a big advocate for what he calls “vocal hygiene”.
“On the days of a concert I try to keep the use of my voice to a minimum although I’m not completely silent.
“I also avoid spicy foods which can cause acid reflux which can damage the vocal chords. I also drink lots of water and stay away from fizzy or sugary drinks.”
When looking back over his career highlights he cites his Old Trafford moment, singing for Pope John Paul 11 and The Commonwealth Games in 2002 in his home town of Manchester.
But the real turning point in his life was surviving surgery for a second brain tumour.
“Whenever you go through anything where you feel your life mortality is being threatened, it changes your outlook on life. But I went through it twice.
“The second time was even worst than the first because the tumour haemorrhaged and I nearly died.
“The positive slant on all this is that I view life now much more positively. Little things that used to get me down don’t bother me so much.
“The music industry is a cruel mistress - one day you feel as though you are on top of the world and the next it’s as though the rug has been pulled out from under your feet. Now I don’t tend to let those things bother me so much. My relationship with my friends and family has also intensified.”
Like many artists who have been in the business for some time, there are some music pieces he enjoys singing more than others.
“I just love singing, but there are certain pieces I have been singing for over 20 years like Nessun Dorma.
“I admit there are times when I think not Nessun bloody Dorma but if I don’t sing it, people at the end of the night will be calling out Nessun Dorma and I think oh shut up!
“I did cut it out of my act for a time because I felt I wasn’t doing it justice because I like to keep the energy up in the songs.”
Russell who will visit the BIC on May 12, says he always looks forward to visiting Bournemouth.
“I always love Bournemouth because it’s right by the seaside and I always do a few seaside gags. It’s a good size place and people are usually up for a good time.
“This time we are taking the orchestra and we will perform a mixture of everything I’ve recorded over the last 17 years combined with material from my new album. I like to involve the audience too and have a laugh with them.”
When asked if he still has any hopes dreams for the future Russell adds: “In relative terms, it is easy to achieve success, but sustaining it is incredibly hard - it is a lot of hard work and effort - so my three hopes for the future are to stay happy, to stay healthy and to sustain a career in the music industry.”