Tenor's tumour recovery is a True Story told in song

In recent years, things haven't exactly gone smoothly for singer Russell '˜the voice' Watson, after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour, but he eventually came out the other side, writes Martin Hutchinson.
Dont miss Russell Watson at Blackpool Opera House on ThursdayDont miss Russell Watson at Blackpool Opera House on Thursday
Dont miss Russell Watson at Blackpool Opera House on Thursday

“Erm, yes, the recovery is pretty much as complete as it’s gonna be, but it took a long time,” he said, Salford accent still standing out.

The main fear after the tumours were removed was that it would affect his voice.

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“Well, originally it did,” he admits. “It was the effects of both the illness and the radiation.

“It not only affected my voice, but also my energy levels. It was a close thing as after my second tumour haemorrhaged I had to have a five-week session of radiotherapy. But being a Salford-born driven lunatic, I got through it.”

After a number of years where he was known as the best classical tenor of the generation, which has resulted in Russell being the most successful classical singer, we discovered that he had another voice – a ‘soft-rock’ voice, rather akin to the best bots of Rod Stewart.

Maybe this caused problems in the choice of songs and which voice to sing them in.

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Russell replies modestly. “For me, I don’t think about it. It’s the most natural thing in the world.

“If I’m singing Nessum Dorma then it’s gonna be done classically and I’ll go to the training I’ve had.

“Then with songs like Strangers In the Night I make a transition. I just don’t think about it. For me it’s a complete and utter natural progression.”

And all this voice-changing started early, as Russell recalls being a ‘natural mimic’ as a child and it’s a skill which opened his voice to another group of fans - the Trekkies.

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The makers of the series ‘Star Trek – Enterprise’ asked Russell to record the theme for the show entitled Faith Of The Heart.

“Yeah, when we got the call to do that, it was a massive production. We toddled off to LA and the producer was very specific that he wanted a ‘Rod Stewart’ voice.

“For a lot of songs, the emotional attachment I have with them dictates the voice I use.”

It’s been a few years since Russell toured the UK, and this time he’s back to his classical roots.

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“That being said, I’m really looking forward to getting back to the classical side of things as I’m touring this time with a full orchestra,” he said.

Russell’s latest album, entitled True Stories was released in November and has gone down well, with one of the songs - I’m Alive - on the album having a special meaning to Russell.

“I wrote it and it’s the story of when I first found out about my illness and how I got through it,” he said. 
“It’s very emotional and there are some poignant lines at the end.

“I was writing about a difficult time, It was very cathartic and it was also a way of drawing a line under it.”

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So what can fans expect from Thursday’s Blackpool Opera House show?

“Quite a bit of the new album to be fair,” Russell replies. “However, I like to give the fans what they want and there are certain tracks like Volare and Nessum Dorma that I will always do.

“It’s a cross-section of all the records I’ve done. There’s a nice mixture and some nice orchestral suites going right back to the first album and some big pop ballads too.”

n Russell Watson, Opera House, Blackpool, Thursday. Call 01253 625252 to book.