Russell Watson Q & A

“What I’ve been through has changed the way I perform. I sing with a passion that I could never have done before”

How have your priorities changed? 

My children have always played a huge part in my life. The significance of my relationship with them and with my family has been massively intensified after what I’ve been through. But that’s a natural thing for anyone to experience. You draw from the people you most love in your life. But my relationship with my children is very, very strong. They mean the absolute world to me. 

Has your experience changed the way you sing? 

There’s no question that what I’ve been through has changed the way I perform. I sing with a passion that I could never have done before. It’s like that old thing of the 18-year old singing My Way. Come on – you can’t sing it with any sincerity at that age! I used to sing it as a lad and thought I was the best thing! But the best singers have really been through it and it makes them the artists they are. You need to have been through life’s experiences to be able to tell stories. That’s what singing is all about – telling stories – and people forget that. They think it’s just about the technicalities of singing note perfect, of being in tune. Rubbish! People feel and sense what is good and passionate. You can’t see performance on a record but you can hear passion. 

Seeing you on TV’s Last Choir Standing, no one would have known you’d been so ill… 

I really enjoyed the series. All the top four choirs were of an incredibly high standard. They all had something very good. Any of them could have won. But I did feel Only Men Aloud would get the vote for their technical ability and of course, we know more ladies than men vote in these things and they probably got the female vote. I was singing at the Salford Prom last night and invited ACM Gospel, one of my favourite groups from Last Choir Standing, to perform. I’ve done a couple of shows with them and they’re fantastic. 

Talking of women voters, did you know you were voted the Nation’s Favourite Male Singer by Classic FM listeners? 

I’m always over the moon when I’m in the top 10 of any poll, never mind number one, especially when it’s the public who have voted. You’ve got a new album coming out… It’s a fine old collection of soul and spiritual classics ranging from Ray Charles to Sly and the Family Stone – a cavalcade of tunes I grew up with. I enjoy listening to and performing this style of music very much. 

Will you ever return to classical music? 

I will, for sure. I just think there’s been a dip in the writing of my sort of repertoire, classical crossover. There was a period, especially towards the end of the 1990s, when there were some really good classical crossover songs being written – Time To Say Goodbye, Queen’s Barcelona of course, Caruso, Miserere – but the market in crossover performers is saturated now and there’s not enough new material coming through. The public want to hear either original material or music they’re familiar with and it takes a lot of time to get good songs together. 

Yes, we’re hearing a lot of the same material… 

Three or four years ago I’d have said crossover was great for classical music. There were a lot of new performers on the scene – Katherine, Charlotte, even Il Divo – but there are so many new names appearing now on what feels like a weekly basis. Record labels are throwing so many different artists at the genre, the market has been saturated. It’s incredibly competitive now.