Joe McElderry, who won The X Factor and went on to play the lead in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, is touring his new album.
He will perform tracks from Saturday Night At the Movies at Buxton Opera House on August 4.
Ahead of his visit, he took time out to answer a few questions: It’s five years since you last released an album. Why was now the right time?
When I first started, I spent three years just recording and promoting albums. I released four albums pretty much back to back. I needed a breather from it, so I toured for two years. Then Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor® Dreamcoat came along and introduced me to a massively different style of performance. I’d done little bits of musical theatre before, but nothing as iconic as Joseph.
The show’s producer, Bill Kenwright, said “Let’s do an album.” I’d had incredible feedback from doing Joseph, so it felt a natural way to celebrate that. I recorded a pop album when I did The X Factor. I did an opera album when I did Popstar To Operastar. Now I’m doing musical theatre, it felt absolutely right to do an album that nods towards that as well.
Saturday Night at The Movies is a collection of incredible songs from movies and musicals. How did you choose them?
A huge and talented team of people work with me behind the scenes. Everybody suggested their favourite songs and we put together a brilliant list. I recorded it on my days off from Joseph. It was pretty intense, but I like to focus, cram everything in together and just get it done.
Of all the fantastic songs on the album, which were the ones you really wanted?
I love Don’t Want to Miss a Thing. That’s one of my absolute favourite songs. Saturday Night at The Movies was another one for me. Doing a movies and musicals album, that just had to be in. And Love Is All Around is actually one of the very first songs I ever performed as a singer. It was a staple song in my repertoire when I started performing as a 15-year-old.
How do you feel about recording your versions of iconic songs?
It definitely can’t be a copycat version and it can’t be something so hugely different from the original that it spoils the song. I’ve always been very wary of that. It’s just about telling the story truthfully in your own way.
How are you feeling about touring the album?
I’m at my happiest when I’m doing a live performance. I thrive off an audience, so I’m really looking forward to it. The album comes out on the very first night of the tour. People could have just got the album and then be able to hear it performed live straight away. That’s extremely rare. It’s a really exciting prospect that adds something a bit special to the show.
What can audiences expect from your show?
It’s going to be a massive celebration and I’m going to perform pretty much the whole album. But I’ve also got some fantastic special guests joining me – Ben James Ellis, Keith Jack and Lloyd Daniels, who’ve all been in Joseph too. I’ve never had other performers on my solo tours, so I’m really excited about the fresh new vibe that will bring. We’ll each be doing our own solo songs as well as performing a few fantastic numbers together. It will bring a brilliant mix of styles and voices to the show. It’s going to be great.
My shows are always for everyone. All ages can come along and have a good time. I like to chat to the audience and involve them, make them feel they’re part of the show, as though you could be performing for them in their living room. When you do that, everyone enjoys it 10 times more and we all have a blast.
Which venues are you most looking forward to playing?
There aren’t many venues in the UK that I haven’t performed in, which is a wonderful thing to be able to say. Each one is so different because of its audience. Newcastle and Sunderland are hometown shows for me, so I’m really excited about them. I used to watch musicals and pantomimes in those theatres, so stepping out in front of an audience that has come to see me is massively overwhelming. I love Windsor and Wimbledon. I’m looking forward to playing Liverpool and Manchester. I can’t wait to go back up to Edinburgh again. To be honest, I’m hugely excited to visit everywhere.
How different is performing your live show to playing Joseph?
With Joseph you can hide behind a character, you have 25 people on stage with you, and you’re not on stage the whole time. With my shows, normally there’s just me. I know I’ve got to hold that audience’s attention for two hours every night.
I love the moment just before I start one of my concerts. You think “This could either be incredible or it could all go terribly wrong. Either way, I’ve got to deal with it.” Before you know it you’ve got to the end of the show and you’ve had a great time. I used to be petrified of that feeling. Not anymore. I welcome it. I know that’s going to help make the show fantastic. The minute I think “I don’t care what happens tonight,” would be the minute I need to retire.
How did you feel about taking the lead role in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor® Dreamcoat?
I was nervous. Massively famous successful people have played it before and were loved and adored for it. Also, I’d been on one of the biggest reality TV shows in the UK. That comes with a stigma. People think “He only got that job because he was on TV.” I didn’t want people to think I didn’t deserve to be there, and I didn’t want people to think I was the worst Joseph they’d ever seen.
So I worked extremely hard. I worked for months before rehearsals started. I knew everything before I even started rehearsals. I’m not a trained actor, so I had to learn on the job in a short space of time. I’ve been very fortunate that people have enjoyed my performance in Joseph, and I don’t take that for granted for one minute.
Why do you think people love Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat?
It has everything. It’s got sadness, jealousy, happiness; all the emotions you go through in life. It’s got a brilliant story and happy ending. It’s a show you can just watch, relax and enjoy; a really great family-friendly musical.
What’s it like having a showbiz legend like Bill Kenwright supporting you?
It’s lovely that somebody that successful, who’s been in the business as long as he has, still wants to help artists. I’m massively thankful for the opportunities he’s given me and excited for people to hear the wonderful album we both worked on.
l Joe McElderry’s concert at Buxton Opera House on August 4 starts at 7.30pm. Tickets are £30-£32. For more information or to buy tickets, call 01298 72190 or visit www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk