Paul Potts Biography
Last updated: 12/18/2013 06:50:38 AM
Born in 1970, Paul Potts was raised in Fishponds, Bristol, by his English father Roland, a bus driver, and Welsh mother Yvonne, a supermarket cashier. He has two brothers and one sister, and attended St. Mary Redcliffe school where he first developed his love of singing. He was a boy treble in the choir at Christ Church in Bristol city centre. “They had to put me in the organ loft because I sang louder than anyone else.”
From the age of six Paul was bullied at school for being poor. To escape the bullies, Paul joined music clubs and retreated even more into his singing. Despite encouragement from his parents, and from his music teacher, Philip Weaver, Paul’s self-confidence dwindled away.
Paul’s first experience of classical music came at the age of 11 when he was entranced by the score of the film ET. “It involved me. I saved up my pocket money to buy the CD and then I’d conduct it with one of my mum’s knitting needles.”
At the age of 14, whilst dashing to school for choir practice, Paul ran into some scaffolding, badly damaging a tooth and leaving him with a less-than-perfect smile. Four years later, a week before his A-levels, he was knocked down by a car, breaking one of his vertebrae and suffering extensive bruising. As a result Paul failed his exams and had to stay on an extra year at school.
Paul studied for a degree in philosophy, theology and film and TV studies at Plymouth University, graduating in 1993. After graduation Paul spent 10 years working his way up from stacking shelves at the same branch of Tesco where his mother worked. He was also a Liberal Democrat member of Bristol City Council from 1996 to 2003.
Paul first performed opera in 1999 at the age of 28 when he dressed as Pavarotti at a karaoke event. That same year he appeared on the Michael Barrymore talent show ‘My Kind of Music’ and although he didn’t win the competition, he did take home £8,000. Paul used his winnings from the show, together with his life savings, to pay for three months of opera singing lessons in Italy in 2000, and a further 3 weeks in 2001. During his second visit Paul was given the opportunity to perform in front of his hero, legendary tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, whilst attending his master-class. “I sang an aria by Rodolfo from La Boheme and ran out of breath and Pavarotti said, ‘Rodolfo wouldn’t run out of breath – you’d better sing me something else’. I was the only one he asked to sing again so I took it as a great compliment.”
Paul first met his wife Julie Ann on an internet chatroom in 2001. Two years later they were married in a church ceremony attended by 100 family and close friends. After the service Paul serenaded his bride with the German love song ‘Ich Liebe Dich’ (I love you). Julie Ann later remarked "There wasn't a dry eye in the house”.
Between 1999 and 2003 Paul appeared in four productions for the Bath Opera company, including The Marriage Of Figaro, Don Giovanni, Don Carlo’s and Turandot. He also performed with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in front of an audience of 15,000 people.
However in 2002 Paul was admitted into hospital with complaints of constant stomach pains. Paul was diagnosed with appendicitis and had to have his appendix removed. Not long after his treatment Paul had to be readmitted to hospital, where doctors discovered a benign tumour on his adrenal gland. Doctors wanted to operate immediately but Paul was midway through rehearsals for a part in an amateur production of ‘Aida’, and persuaded them to wait. “I was in lots of pain but was determined to take on the role. I had spent £10,000 of my life savings on two summer schools in Italy and didn’t want the money to go to waste.”
After Aida Paul began sending off tapes, with his CV to operatic agents, but received no responses. “I didn’t get a single reply. I’ve never had a great deal of self confidence and I started to wonder whether it was all worthwhile.”
Just four days after returning to work, following months off recovering from his tumour, Paul was knocked down by a car whilst cycling home. He cracked his collar bone, suffered whiplash and was again off work for months. Unable to work, Paul mounted up £30,000 of debts and did not sing another note until his audition for ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. "It meant for a couple of years, instead of thinking about singing, I was lying on the sofa in agony.”
In 2004 Paul took a job at Carphone Warehouse where he kept his talent hidden from his colleagues. He later moved to Port Talbot, where he took the position as Team Leader at the branch in Bridgend.
In February 2007 Paul came across the online application form for Britain’s Got Talent. Hoping only for the opportunity to perform at the initial audition at Cardiff’s Millennium Centre, Paul filled in the form. However unsure of his talent, having not sung in four years, he was reluctant to submit the application. After an hour of deliberation he eventually decided to entrust his fate to the flip of a coin. “Heads I entered, tails I didn’t. Thank goodness it came up heads!”
His first audition for Britain's Got Talent was on 4th March 2007, where he performed a capella. His performance proved enough to see him through to the next round where he sang a condensed version of Giacomo Puccini's ‘Nessun dorma’, in front of a panel of judges, including Simon Cowell, and a crowd of 2,000 people. His performance received a standing ovation and currently resides amongst YouTube’s all-time most viewed videos.
He went on to perform ‘Con te Partirò’ (Time To Say Goodbye) in the semi-final on 14 June, and eventually won the final three days later with a second performance of Nessun Dorma. For winning the show, Potts received £100,000 prize money, a record deal from Simon Cowell, and a place on the bill of the Royal Variety Performance.
Since the show Paul has received worldwide acclaim with his debut album ‘One Chance’ due to be released in 15 different countries. Released in the UK on the 16th of July, the album shot straight to number one in the official album chart, outselling the rest of the top ten albums combined.
Sources: BBC Wales, Wikipedia, Hello, Daily Express