Russell Watson Biography
Last updated: 11/23/2013 10:09:34 PM
Sometimes you can hear somebody's soul in their voice, and that's what makes the sound beautiful. Sometimes they're born to sing that way. And sometimes an even stranger phenomenon occurs, they are born singing beautifully and confidently, technically brilliant: and then they find their own soul and you hear it. That is what has happened with Russell Watson.
Everybody knows by now of the meteoric rise of the factory worker from Salford who became miraculously catapulted into international singing stardom, sold millions of records and sang for The Pope, presidents, prime ministers, Posh and Becks, Camilla and Charles.
This past year though he has remained quiet. Perhaps we assumed he was singing to Royalty and Gentry in more far flung places. Some people thought he'd just gone missing. Only a few close friends knew that it was his voice that had gone missing.
"It was probably one of the single worst days of my life when I went to see the specialist. I told him I was having problems with my falsetto. I could sing chest notes, but I knew I was bypassing the problem. He stuck a pipe up my nose and down my throat and said you've got a lump on your vocal chord and that they were going to have to surgically remove it. He was totally honest with me and said that I could lose some of my top register, he couldn't give me any guarantees. I walked out of the place in floods of tears."
After being given the names of the top people around the world, a man with a knife in Boston, a man with a laser in France, and a man with scissors in Manchester, he decided to stay on home ground. "I liked him because it was a family unit. His wife afterwards gave me advice on vocal hygiene. I felt comfortable to be near home, how could I take that flight to Boston, sit there for eight hours not knowing what was going to be at the end of it?"
"Luckily I've never been in hospital before, never had an overnight stay, never even had tonsillitis. For the first time in my life my mortality came into question, and the idea that this is an instrument that you can't put in a box, lock it up and forget about it at night. What comes out of my mouth is not like a guitar or a violin, I have to look after it.
I knew that if I were to get my voice back I would have to make some changes. Imagine you're doing a gig with the Pope and you don't even bother to do a warm up. I would never do that now."
After the operation he was told no talking whatsoever for ten days and no singing for two weeks. This was terrifying for him, not only because,
"I'm a habitual talker, it's a kind of disease, once I start I can't shut up. And because I had to wait and see if my voice had come back. Well I couldn't wait. After day three I just had to know."
...and then he sings in that impossible Russell register that sends goose bumps up and down the nation. But these days it's different kinds of goose bumps, not just because of the place it goes, the intensity of the pitch, but because of where his soul and psyche have been. He has come from the dark into the light. The experience of nearly losing everything made him revalue what he had.
"I changed everything in my life. Everything. I changed my attitude to myself and my work. Before I’d been like a giddy puppy taking everything for granted, excited, but on a runaway rollercoaster, directionless. Now I’ll take nothing for granted.
I take vocal coaching very seriously. I understand that the voice needs a lot of care and a lot of work.”
After the operation he went to vocal coach Patrick McGuigan. He started off with15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon for the first week. The second week it was 30 minutes, until he built up to three 45 minute sessions. This was a learning curve for the boy who is used to having everything at once and had to learn the difference between instant gratification and deferred pleasure.
The resulting album is extraordinarily beautiful.
“I had really lost my focus on my career on pretty much everything and it took that huge shock to re-focus. Like an actor needs a good script a singer needs good songs and I needed good material, ones I could put my individual stamp on.
"The first album was easy. All the choices were obvious. Your Nessun Dormas, your O Sole Mios, the tunes everyone knows. By the second album there were still good ones left. The third album was "oh shit". In fact I don't know how I managed to make album three. In the beginning of last year my friend said, 'You bringing out a record this year? I've thought of a name for it: Not another bloody Russell Watson album.' So if this hadn't happened, who knows how album four could have turned out."
As it happens album four is unbelievable, unexpected. Everything has at its core Russell's unique twist. With lyrics by Dianne Warren and Gary Barlow, and Elliot Kennedy who Russell believes to be the greatest songwriters in the world.
"All the songs are about love, music, peace, happiness and hope. That reflects the way I feel right now. It's a record to hold hands to. I want this record to be something that people think about affectionately. Songs that can be played at weddings or funerals. I've never generated as much passion in my lyrics. It's a different sound. It's not about Russell Watson and the way he sings it, it's about Russell Watson has sung from the heart and I don't think I've ever done that before."
From the swingy Amore e Musica to the melodramatic Gladiatore to the gorgeous Alchemist, a track with Lara Fabian. There's the inspirational I Believe, the rousing You Raise Me Up. Throughout all this what is most palpable is it's a different sound coming from a different place. His voice channels compassion, empathy, the certain knowledge that however low or however high you're feeling he's been there with you.
"I wouldn't say that's what I had planned to happen or that's what I wanted, but that's what did happen. I listen to my stuff from the past and thought I could do that better, different. But if anybody says now I don't like the way that he sings, the sound of his voice, I know that I can't do any better. It's not going to get better than this. At this stage for me, this record is the optimum performance of my own ability. I'm not saying I'm the best singer in the world, but I am saying for what I have got inside me this is the best I can do and I am very happy to be here."
The Voice is Back!!! Do not listen to pale imitations!!