Classical vocal quartet, Il Divo, celebrate their tenth anniversary this year and with it, the release of a brand new album, A Musical Affair.
Craveon Entertainment’s Tina Campbell caught up with members Urs Bühler, Sébastien Izambard, David Miller and Carlos Marín at the Soho Hotel in London for a chat.
Lovely to see you all! First things first, tell us about your brand new album, A Musical Affair
Carlos: We have a fantastic album for our fans. Obviously it’s nothing to do with the other albums because we have a collection of amazing musical theatre songs and we have chosen the best ones that we have. Obviously we have contemporary musicals; we have used the old fashioned musicals, so we have an amazing compilation
You’ve gotten to work some amazing people on this album too like Michael Ball, Barbra Streisand
Sebastian: It has been mind blowing the opportunity to work with such amazing talent. The greatest thing that I feel with singing duets is really refreshing for the four of us, you know we’ve been performing for the last ten years so having collaborations on the album has brought another dimension and an excitement on stage.
Barbra Streisand in particular is a total legend that must have been exciting. How was that experience?
Urs: Well that was very exciting of course! Especially when we did that tour with her in 2006, it has been a long lead up to that of course and then when we finally met her at the studio in LA to start the musical rehearsals, everyone was I wouldn’t say nervous, but very excited. How’s it going to be to meet Barbra Streisand? She was absolutely lovely! Apparently she was very nervous meeting us! That’s what we’ve been told and at first she didn’t want to come up onto the stage and into the bright lights and stuff. She was absolutely delightful to us which is a very funny thing. I think everybody we’ve ever worked with, be it Barbra, be it Michael, be it Nicole Scherzinger, be it Heather Headly, everybody is delightful to work with. There’s never any diva behaviour, you never get a feeling of competition between an artist when you do a collaboration like that, and it’s always beautiful. You always, as Sebastian said, get inspired. We have been working together for ten years, we know each other very well, we know how we deal with our music; deal with the process of recording, singing live shows and everything. If you get to work with somebody else then everyone has their own way of dealing with it and it’s always inspiring. You can always get something out of it, it’s very beautiful.
Do you have a favourite track on the album?
David: I think my favourite track on the UK release is ‘Who Wants To Live Forever’ which we have pinched from We Will Rock You. I think that is because this is a song that we’ve been wanting to record for several albums now, it’s a track that would very easily have fit on our other albums, so I feel like that is the bridge song between where we’ve been and where we’re currently at. I think it’s a very good hybrid of both styles.
It’s a very iconic song as well, isn’t it
David: It is a very iconic song, absolutely!
When approaching these songs, many of which like ‘Who Wants To Live Forever’ are so well-loved and very much engrained in the public conscious: was there a pressure to live up to the originals?
Carlos: Absolutely! Every single song that we always sing since we started with Il Divo it’s a big pressure because in the past we were doing covers and we always tried to treat the cover as a new song: we always wanted to do our own version. With songs from musicals it was even more difficult because the audience, the people who know these songs from the musicals, they are going to hear our versions, something new with harmonies, that hasn’t been done in the past with the songs that we have chosen. I think our fans are going to be very surprised!
Not content with simply recording these songs, you’re going to actually be performing them on Broadway! Amazing!
Sebastian: That’s right! I mean, what a dream when you’re about to release an album that talks about all the repertoire of Broadway to have that chance. To have residency for six nights, occupy the space, get to know David’s city, you know he’s a New Yorker so that’s lovely, we’ll be able to see some great stuff. I have family coming over as well so I’ll be able to go and maybe see some shows. I think it’s a privilege putting this album out there.
What can people who come to these special shows expect?
Urs: Well we are creating a brand new show again to build the surroundings for this new repertoire. Every song that we’re going to perform will have appeared somewhere in a musical, in a music theatre piece, songs that you wouldn’t expect that they ever have, but that is one rule we’ve made for ourselves on this. Then again, we have got complete new staging, new stage set, we are working again with Brian Burke on this who has created the last two shows because we think he has got just such a beautiful way of creating imagery on that stage that supports the music and that doesn’t distract from it, doesn’t take away from it. We are very excited to see what it looks like in real life; we’ve only seen a computer design so far. I’m sure it’s going to be absolutely beautiful and seeing it all on Broadway will be a unique chance that you don’t want to miss!
American fans will be the first to get a taste of the new album and to witness the show. What do you think their reaction will be?
David: Well I’m hoping that the American fans will have a bit of a background, as I did. Being American, music theatre is part of our musical sociological heritage and it’s different. Even though we have opera in the United States, that’s a borrowed musical heritage from the European tradition and music theatre is kind of the American incarnation of how we bring our voices and the English language into music. I think that there really should be an education about this kind of sociologically America-wide, is what my hope is! Also, when people come to see the show and they hear our versions, they’ll be able to have a frame of reference and be able to appreciate these works that are taken from that tradition and converted into our own way. So I’m hoping there will be a great deal of connection with the American audiences, but until it is opening night, it’s still kind of a dream at the moment and we’ll have to wait and see!
10 years of Il Divo – congratulations! What has changed since the very beginning?
Carlos: Erm, the wrinkles? *Laughs* That’s for sure! It has changed a lot, obviously the start was difficult as we didn’t know each other, now after ten years, we know each other really well! We have like a brothership together because it’s like a little family. It’s very easy to go to the studio and just record. Obviously, as I said before, in this record it was a little trickier because it was hard to find the balance between the harmonies in all of s and to know which parts we should sing. After ten years it’s amazing to still be here, still selling, and to have amazing fans and it’s growing and growing all of the time! For example, tomorrow we’re going to go to Japan to do promotion and we’re going to release a new record and now Broadway, next year we’re going to be on tour again so that’s amazing!
Looking back over the last ten years, what has been your biggest highlight?
Sebastian: Wow, there have been so many! Singing at the Queen’s Jubilee, that was my highlight! Having been living in England for the last ten years, having that privilege, it’s only going to happen once! Mind blowing! It’s a wonderful memory!
Urs : Well I think we’ve got one just about to come up being our first performance on Broadway, those six shows that we’re going to play there. I’m incredibly excited about it because Il Divo on Broadway! Broadway is such a term, the ring that it has to it worldwide, it’s a dream come true, so if you ask me in a month’s time that will definitely be the highlight!
How are you going to top Broadway?
David: Yeah! I guess Broadway will put anything up on Broadway now! *Laughs* If they’re going to have us, they’ll put anything up! No! How would we? It has been an amazing ten years for us. You say ‘what is the one highlight’? It’s absolutely impossible! Everything has happened in its course of firsts for us. Obviously being put together the four of us being complete strangers having had success in varying degrees of our own careers and bringing all of that to the table and trying to figure how to navigate coming together and then, out of this utter chaos and confusion, going straight to number 1 in the UK charts and going to number 1 on most everywhere’s charts! Having this kind of how in the world did this even happen!? I guess you can say it’s the result of the four of us bringing our passions together and blending them into a single voice and a single approach and from there just going on and on and on! The first time we went to this country, the first time we went to that country, the first time we went on tour, the first time we went on the Oprah Winfrey Show, first time we sang for the Queen, the first time we sang with Barbra Streisand, I mean it’s just like the list just goes on and on! It’s just a bunch of crap really! *Laughs * I like that load of fuss though! You look ahead and think, ok, hopefully going to Broadway is not the end of Il Divo, hopefully it’s the beginning of the next chapter, you know! It kind of feels like the beginning of the next ten years and there’s a seeming feeling of chaos like going back to that first album of like, what are we going to do? How are we going to make this continue? Especially in a digital age where music seems to be very difficult at the moment to keep as a commercial entity. So how do we keep this viable for ourselves? And there is a lot of confusion, there is a lot of kind of, when you look at the future in those terms, it seems kind of bleak! When you look at our ticket sales and how people keep coming to our shows and they keep coming back, so clearly it’s not because people aren’t enjoying what they’re experiencing, so I’m very hopeful for the future and I think this will be the beginning of like I said, a new chapter and a new way of approaching our music rather than it being a complete smattering of all different songs. Finding a focus and exploring that focus, exploring a genre as a singularity like music theatre for example.
Recently here in the UK there was an opera album by Richard and Adam, former Britain’s Got Talent finalists, which debuted at number 1 and remained there for 4 consecutive weeks beat the likes of Justin Timberlake and Daft Punk with that achievement and seems unprecedented. Where do you see opera as being as a genre at the moment?
David: Is this an opera album or is it Britain’s Got Talent does opera?
Urs: Well it’s really interesting because I had a driver who took me to the airport here in Central London and we were chatting all the way. He knew who I was, what I did and he said that he felt that opera is living a renaissance at the moment – certainly here in Britain. He said that he got into it, that he had been to a concert at the Royal Albert Hall, also where they all played classical repertoire, but the really popular things and really kind of an educational happening where there was host who said you’re all probably classically curious, but you think you know nothing about… well, let me tell you this! You know a lot about it, much more than you think! Let me play you this, ok, how many people know this? Everybody knows this and that is true and it’s great that a lot of people seem to be getting more and more interested in classical. The man told me that he thinks we contribute to that and I’m very, very happy and very proud if we do. I always say classical repertoire, the operatic repertoire is so rich, so beautiful and people do not have to be afraid of it: you do not need to know it, you do not need to know in which year it was written and by which composer, it’s music and like all the other music it’s just there to entertain you and you should enjoy it! Don’t be afraid, just give it a try and listen to it!
Once Broadway is done and dusted, what’s next?
David: Well after we finish the shows on Broadway, that’s simultaneous with the release in the UK, then in December will be the release here in Britain and so, we go into promo mode where we visit all the countries and we do the TV shows and we sing selections and give people a taste of the album and that’s kind of our focus for the rest of the year. Next year, we plan to take this show around the world as a World Tour and there are absolutely plans to spend a good deal of time here in London and we’re looking very much forward to that!
Brilliant! Thank you for your time, good luck with the album and Broadway AND bring on that World Tour!
Il Divo’s album A Musical Affair is released in the UK on 2ND December.
Il Divo 2014 UK tour dates will be as follows:
Sat 18th October – Birmingham LG Arena
Sun 19th October – Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
Tues 21st October – Newcastle Metro Radio Arena
Wed 22nd October – Glasgow SSE Hydro
Fri 24th October – Nottingham Capital FM Arena
Sat 25th – Manchester Phones 4u Arena
Tues 28th October Brighton Centre
Wed 29th October Bournemouth International Centre
Fri 31st October Leeds First Direct Arena
Sat 1st November – London, The O2 Arena
Tickets will go on sale from 9:30am on 22nd November 2013 from gigsandtours.com, ticketmaster.co.uk and all other reputable online ticket vendors.
Take a listen to a preview of the track ‘Memory’ featuring Nicole Scherzinger on Il Divo’s A Musical Affair album: