WORKING class hero Russell Watson, the self-styled People’s Tenor, admits that even after 17 years of classical singing success he still appreciates every day of fame.

“I know that the music industry is probably singularly the most transient industry on the planet, where artists can come and go as quickly as they appear. That’s even when they have apparent and gigantic success for two or three years at the very top, but then you’re not hearing anything from them. The music industry is a cruel mistress,” says Watson.

The man who survived two battles with a brain tumour a decade ago, is one of the star attractions of Darlington Hippodrome’s opening season with his Canzoni d’Amore tour arriving on April 4 plus an April 18 date at Sage Gateshead and April 20 at Harrogate Royal Hall.

“Whatever or wherever my career catalysed I’ve always had this sense or feeling, even when I was a child, that I had no other aspirations other than to be happy. That was it. As long as I had my Action Man and weekly subscription to The Beano, that was me. I’m not too dissimilar today. There are a handful of things in life I like doing that makes me happy. I don’t over-indulge on any side of the fence.

“My life is fairly simple apart from being one of the best-selling classical artists that this country has produced. I’m still grateful for that. A journey throughout my life has brought me here, but it was never pre-planned. I remember seeing reviews that the Universal machine had got behind me and hyped me beyond belief. I thought that was interesting,” says Watson.

The west Yorkshireman was also taken aback with his “overnight success” tag in the media. “I’d got to number one in the charts, and stayed there for about a year. I thought the overnight success thing didn’t take account of me appearing for ten years in the working men’s clubs.”

Watson feels it was this lower level exposure to audiences that helped him become an all-round entertainer as well as a singer. “I was not doing a dissimilar circuit to what Gary Barlow used to do. He did the same route to me and that put me in good stead for when I hit the big stage. I remember doing Wembley Arena the first time and stepped out in front of 14,000 people.

“People said, ‘Are you nervous?’ and I replied, ‘Nervous, is walking onto a stage in Ellesmere Port where there are four people drinking lager and more interested in the first house of bingo than anything you’ve got to sing or say. That’s nervous. Walking into an arena to people who have paid to watch you perform, and want you to sing, is a wonderful, wonderful feeling.”

Watson recalls there were plenty of times, early on, when he felt “this is my lot”. “I wouldn’t say I was ready for giving up because singing is something I’ve always done. I can’t imagine myself ever wanting to go back to factory work. Good lord, that feels inconceivable at this stage in my life.”

Watson knows other soloists can guard their voices quite carefully but feels you can create problems in your own mind if you start getting paranoid about speaking too much before a show.

“I’m not one of these who won’t speak throughout the entire day, although I know there are artists who are like that. Fair play to those who can keep shut up for six hours, but sadly I can’t keep my mouth shut for more than six seconds,” he jokes.

For the forthcoming tour, Watson likes to keep things fresh while retaining a number of his “standards” .

“For a while I stopped singing Nessun Dorma... and no one was happy about that. I was delighted because it always came at the end of the night when it was the toughest aria to sing. If you’ve not sung something like that then there’s always someone who starts chanting ‘Nessun Dorma’ when you feel it’s not a request show,” Watson jokes.

He has got some classical arrangements of “modern songs” but quips that modern, to him, can be anything from over the past 20 to 30 years. “The song choices for this tour make me very excited about getting on stage and let people have a listen.”

On the question of a report saying that today’s songs are more miserable, Watson agrees. “I think there is a genuine reason for this. I think we’re living in a time where there is a lot of unpleasantness and newspapers, TV and social media is laden with what is going wrong in the world. Nobody reports on anything remotely happy. I think these occurrences have always been there, but they are now presented on a platform that we can’t seem to escape from. When I was a kid growing up in Salford there was no mobile phones or computers and internet. News came on the three channels we had. So, my little world in Sunningdale Drive, Salford, was wonderful. Now we’re subjected to everything coming in on our ipads and mobile phones. I also think that people are choosing the medium of music to escape from this onslaught of bad news,” Watson says.

The father-of-two almost had the almighty on his side when he agreed to become the voice of God in a touring musical called Heaven on Earth. “I was really excited, but the company we were working with didn’t get enough financial backing. It was a real shame because a lot of artists are going to be without work next year,” he says.

The one song that will always be part of a Watson programme is Volare. “The audience always wants this and we have a little singalong. I’ve survived quite a few things up to the age of 50, but I always maintain that age is just a number because you are who you are inside.”

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