“You wouldn’t want to sing with someone you did not like. That would be miserable.”
Michael Ball is reflecting on his partnership with Alfie Boe – an Avengers-fashion meeting of musical superheroes, which has to turn out to be one of the industry’s biggest fulfillment tales.
The duo first became pals after they regarded in a disastrous staging of Kismet on the English National Opera, but it wasn’t until remaining 12 months that they had time to make an album collectively.
Together they went on to emerge as the largest-selling album launched in 2016, and a Christmas number one, to boot.
“It outsold the Stones, Elvis, Gaga, Little Mix,” says Boe, still sounding barely bewildered.
“You felt a piece responsible about that,” observes Ball. “I changed into first-rate.”
This is how Ball and Boe talk. They’re a linguistic tag-team, riffing off each different’s answers and competing to make the pointiest barb.
Their 2nd album, imaginatively titled Together Again, has just long gone to primary, beating The Stereophonics by the narrowest of margins (simply 35 copies separated them).
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“It’s a bit potty, isn’t it?” says Ball. “We had no clue all this changed into going to take place.”
Settling in for a chat on London’s South Bank, the singers appear supremely at ease – their blended 51 years in showbusiness inoculating them in opposition to media-educated stock answers.
As you will quickly see…
Aflie, it sounds like you’re suffering from a chilly.
Alfie: I understand I were given it from meeting and greeting fans.
Michael: Did you see that female at HMV? [coughing and spluttering]. ‘I’m dying, however, I couldn’t leave out you. Can you sign that? Could I have a kiss?’
And now why Michael Jackson wore surgical masks in public.
Michael: But also due to the fact his nose turned into falling off…
Ahem. You toured together for the first time last year. What did you learn from that enjoy?
Alfie: Well, we travel on separate buses now… and we live in exclusive resorts. Sometimes one of a kind cities.
Michael: Genuinely? I discovered it is higher by a percentage. We had been carried alongside on this wave of exhilaration every day because the records came in, and new tour dates have been brought. I do not think I would have enjoyed it by myself. I would have felt a lot of extra strain.
Why do you watch Together have become the biggest-selling launch of 2016?
Alfie: We get asked that pretty loads but it is now not something I need to cognizance on. Instead of analyzing it, I simply respect it.
It felt like there has been an urge for food to the tune. Bradley Walsh had the first-rate-selling debut album of the year, too, with a similar choice of covers.
Alfie: It wasn’t that comparable, become it?
Michael: No, he changed into greater swing song.
Alfie: And he is unsightly.
Michael: Nasty as well.
Alfie: The quantity of botox he is had is ridiculous.
Do you understand you’ve now labeled humans in the space of 5 minutes?
Michael: Oh, we are able to libel Bradley. [Leaning into the microphone] Bring it on, Bradders.
Your new album opens with an outstanding suite of songs from West Side Story. Did you document it live with the orchestra?
Michael: We did it the identical way we do all the tracks. We sit and paintings the structure of it, then we put down a manual vocal…
Alfie: …And then we play every man or woman tool inside the orchestra. Michael starts on percussion and I’m at the bassoon.
Michael: Do,y track instructor at school as soon as requested me what instrument I wanted to play, and I said, ‘the piano’. He looked at my fingers and said, ‘Hmm. Have your notion of the bassoon?’ So I by no means discovered a tool.
Why the bassoon?
Michael: Because I actually have large fingers. Look at the dimensions of these hands! I imply they are chipolatas.
Alfie: But huge palms are accurate for the piano, aren’t they?
Michael: No! I hit keys right now.
Alfie: Les Dawson may want to play piano and look at the dimensions of his palms. What about Fats Domino?
Alfie: I wasn’t endorsed to sing.
Michael: My faculty did not want me in the choir due to the fact I couldn’t combination! But thankfully there has been an English instructor who used to position on plays and I might get worried about the ones.
What was your first manufacturing?
Michael: It was simply King Lear. The 6th form has been putting it on due to the fact they have been analyzing it for A Level – and that they brought me in to play the idiot.
I’d already been to see it, clearly. My dad took me to the RSC to peer Donald Sinden do it with Judi Dench, and it simply made Shakespeare come alive for me before they ruined it at school. So I talked to this teacher about that and he stated, ‘Right, we’re putting you on this manufacturing.’ It changed into the kind of a coup that a younger whippersnapper changed into allowed to enroll in the sixth shape.
When we spoke ultimate year, you said you desired to do a Wham! Medley. After George Michael’s death, I idea you would possibly have recorded one for the album – however, I bet you decided against it?
Michael: Oh, however, come to our excursion and notice what takes place. I’m making him do it!
Which songs are you doing?
Michael: We’re nevertheless working on it.
Alfie: I suppose we are starting with…
Michael [singing]: J-j-j-jitterbug!
Alfie: No! It starts offevolved with a real quiet one…
Michael: You recognize, the one that is going “do, do, dooo, doo… Had I been there.”
A Different Corner
Michael: Yes! It’s a remarkable music. He turned into 16 while he wrote that. [Singing again] “They say love is a curious aspect.”
Alfie [scornfully]: You don’t have to do this now.
Did you ever see George Michael play stay?
Michael: Many times, and he becomes a fantastic live performer. That voice becomes clear as a bell.
There are lots of truly moving lyrics on the album. What’s the only that resonates with you the most?
Michael: The Rose. It’s a completely private song for the circle of relatives. I recorded it for charity when my sister-in-law died. We commenced a charity for her – ROC, studies into ovarian most cancers – and I think the lyric is so stunning and so poignant. And I’m so thrilled Alfie did it, due to the fact he takes it over to a whole new size. I love it.
Do you hear songs and think ‘this will be ideal for us to carry out collectively?’
Michael: Yes, exactly. But we are each going to be doing solo tasks subsequent yr, so obviously each of us are preserving things in the returned pocket.
Will you be competitive approximately whose album does fine?
Michael: I suppose we will without a doubt document the equal tracks. The equal album, identical arrangement.
Alfie: And my album might be the harmony strains, so you’ll have to shop for each and play them collectively.
After Together and Together Again, will those solo albums be called Alone?
Alfie: Or, ‘Having a Break’.
Michael: ‘I Need Some Space’.
And will there be a 3rd duets album?
Michael: We’ll call that one ‘Not Again’.
Alfie: I assume a Christmas album would be cool.
Michael: Together at Christmas!
You should do an album themed around The Christmas Carol, with the songs of Christmas beyond, present and future.
Alfie: That’s a simply suitable concept.
Michael: I know the one we might do, as it’s my favorite Christmas song: Oh, Holy Night!
Alfie: No, I’m now not doing that one.
Michael: And for songs of Christmas future we would have new songs. Let’s write a Christmas track, Alfie!
Alfie: That’d be properly. I can see the quilt now. Bad sweaters, a golden retriever with antlers on, I dressed as Scrooge and Michael because of the fairy at the tree.