What are you up to?
I am putting some vocals down for the Australia release of Good Ol’ Fashioned Love. We are going to be there for a few months and have some special surprises for the Aussie version.
A classic Australian song you’re not going to be expecting, and one by a group which you certainly won’t be expecting us to cover.
How did The Overtones come together?
The lads had been together for three years before I met them. I used to do a lot of promo work with [band member] Timmy Matley, handing out chocolate bars at London Bridge at 7am, and we became good mates. I started gigging with the boys as I have a big bass voice. When you work in the arts, you’re often working as a waiter or barman or promo staff – we all had two or three jobs. Two of the guys were doing painting and decorating, so they started up a little company, and, if a job was big enough, we’d all chip in and have a little rehearse, too.
And that’s how you got spotted?
We were waiting to do a job on Market Street off Oxford Circus, and were rehearsing. This woman walked past and asked us who we were, saying she had some friends looking for this sort of sound. It turned out that this woman’s ‘friends’ were Warner Music.
Did they sign you up straight away?
No, we had to audition and make a demo. We had to sing in front of a panel of five people,
and were shaking like bastards with nerves.
What songs did you do?
We did a version of Take It To The Limit [by The Eagles] and I Don’t Want To Set This World On Fire [by The Ink Spots]. There was this sense that opportunity had come knocking.
How much did this surprise you?
I was dumbfounded. I moved here to be an actor!
How has it changed your life?
It has sharpened my focus as an artist. When I was doing fringe theatre I wasn’t being paid, I was working in restaurants, and I was thinking about going home. But now I am doing what I love. The good fortune doesn’t pass me by.
What sort of gigs did you do before?
I got to the UK, after buying a one-way ticket for my birthday – it was the best and the most stupid thing I have ever done! After nine months, I got into a project at the Old Vic, with actors all under the age of 25, to do 24-hour plays – they are written and performed all within 24 hours. That was Kevin Spacey’s theatre and it introduced me to a lot of people.
Were the early days hard work?
I was always doing something, but I never got to the National Theatre or film work or some wonderful period piece with the BBC. Everyone back home said, ‘It’ll be hard’ and they were right. Sometimes my determination wavered.
What’s your role in the group?
I have the Aussie larrikin thing on my side. It is important in this industry not to take it too seriously – it can be quite cut-throat – and there’s something inherent in being Australian that helps with that.
What’s been the toughest challenge?
We took over Dancing On Ice last year and sang nine songs that night. Some were from our album, but four were new songs we’d been given by Torvil and Dean. We had 10 days to record them – that’s normally the amount of time you spend on one track. It was insane!
What makes your music so popular?
Today, a lot of music comes through a computer and has been technologically generated, so there is a real craving for live voices and a live sound. We sold out the London Palladium and the Royal Circle of that 200-year-old grand dame of British theatres was shaking.
What’s your biggest rockstar moment?
We got caught in traffic on the M6 once so a helicopter came, landed in a field next to the motorway and shuttled us from Birmingham to the O2. We got there, whacked on a jacket and a pocket scarf with 10 minutes to spare.
Are there any downsides?
I don’t live in rose-tinted bubbles. I don’t see my friends anymore. One of the thrills of my life at the moment is having a four-hour window where I take myself to the cinema!
The Overtones’ Say What I Feel, out Feb 6 on Warner Music.
They play Hammersmith Apollo on Nov 26. W6 9QH