Who is Alfie Boe? When I was offered an interview with him, I knew his name. I thought I knew he was a singer (I was right), but turns out he’s also an actor, an Italo-phile (that’s an Italy lover, duh!), and a bit of a flirt. Here’s what went down when I chatted to him last week.
Let’s start with the easy questions to warm you up, so do you have a favourite book?
I have to admit I don’t read very much; whenever I do try and read I feel guilty, that I should be looking at music. But I should try and get into it a bit more.
Does that apply to films as well?
I do like watching my movies, and I have a number of favourites. I like the old-fashioned 1940s films, things with Cary Grant, Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart, so Casablanca, Out of Africa and The African Queen. They’re the best, they really capture a romantic time period that I really love.
A favourite album?
These are tough! [Groans] I love all types of music so I have favourite albums across the board. I love Led Zeppelin’s ‘Houses of the Holy’, The Rolling Stones ‘Exile on Main St’. Dean Martin, Enrico Caruso, but I can’t pinpoint one in particular.
Do you still feel Northern?
I’ll always be Northern. I’m about as Northern as you can be, I think. I’ll never lose my roots. I’ve spent time in America but people say I’ve not lost my English accent and I can’t. I can’t ever lose my identity as being a Northern English bloke.
So it’s not grim up north?
Absolutely not. Morrissey was wrong with that.
I’ve read that a businessman overheard you singing when you were working as a mechanic, and he told you to audition.
Yes, but he wasn’t the only person who was encouraging me. I had a lot of support, but this particular guy told me about the auditions.
So what song did you sing?
I sang a song called ‘You Are My Heart’s Delight’ and it’s an old song written by Franz Lehar – an old classical composer – and it’s one that my father used to play around the house all the time. So I’d hear this song constantly and because it was an opera company I had to try to sing something like that. Because my father used to play it all the time, I couldn’t help but learn it, and know the words. I did it in English, it’s actually originally in German, but I did it in English, and got on. They asked me back for a second audition and I sang some West Side Story for them then and then they offered me the job.
I know what you mean, I remember listening to my mum’s Tina Turner album in the car for ages.
Your parents teach you things.
But not always good! I remember getting into trouble, aged six, for coming into school and singing the words to Tina’s ‘Private Dancer’. That was a tough one for my mum to explain!
Oh my word! Not so good! [Laughing] That’s absolutely great.
Do you still get stage fright?
I do. Not fright, but nerves before I do a show. It’s part of the job, and being a performer. All that nerves are are wanting to do well. It can sometimes be horrible to experience, but then also they can be exciting. Once you turn the nerves into excitement and develop them into your performance, that’s ok.
How do you feel about being known as ‘the Lancashire Michael Bublé’?
[Chuckles] Is that what they’re calling me now?
Really. Well that’s a nice compliment. I’m fine with that. I didn’t expect that.
Is that what you’ll call yourself now?
Completely. I’m going to drop the name ‘Alfie Boe’. Bit of a mouthful for an album cover though.
You were in ITV’s Mr Selfridge recently; what brought about the move from musical theatre to TV?
Well, I’ll always been acting really in the shows, and it’s always been a part of my career, and when I got this opportunity, I jumped at it. It was a great chance, and something that was going to open another door for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’d like to do more. Music is taking up a lot of my time at the moment, but if the opportunity arose to do some more acting on TV, I’d love it. Great fun.
You’re known for your performance of Jean Valjean in Les Mis; what did you think of Hugh Jackman’s version in the recent film?
Well, we’re very different obviously – different people and different performers – he did a good, he did a great job. With that role, it is a strong acting role, if you have the acting and the vocal ability too, then that’s great. Hugh sang it in a very different way than I did; I’m operatically trained and he’s musical theatre trained and he used the voice that he has. It is a very different performance and character that we both play but that’s the beauty of Les Miserables, many people have done the roles and brought something new to it that keeps it alive.
And now you can move on to Lancashire’s Michael Bublé?
Exactly. There you go. I’ll get my dance steps moving.
And get the hip shake?
Get the hips going; that’d be good [laughs].
What question do you wish people would stop asking you?
Oh, my word. ‘When did you decide to become a singer?’ or ‘When did you discover you had a voice?’ That’s the one I get asked a lot.
So what do you wish people would ask you?
Erm, I don’t know. ‘What am I going to have for my dinner tonight?’ Anything but that. I like exciting questions, things that make you think a bit, rather than just coming out with the same old explanation about why I became a singer. You know, ‘What would you advise?’ Well, it’s to work hard, and go for your dreams, and that sort of thing, there’s nothing exciting you can say.
What would surprise your fans to learn about you?
Probably that while I’m stood here talking to you on the phone I’m naked.
[Chuckles nervously] I’m not really. I have just got out of the shower, but I’m not naked.
Wow. And we’ve just been talking about that hip action… Alfie Boe naked. Done. I can knock that one off the list. So… on to do you feel kinship to Italy? Obviously you have your name, the tenors, your new album features Italian songs, and you’ve been cooking over there; is it a country that you really enjoy?
I love Italy, I really do. It’s a great part of the world: the food, the culture, the weather, the atmosphere. The music is something I’ve grown up listening to for a long time, since being a kid, so yeah, I do have quite a strong connection to Italy. I go over as much as I can, and I love the food. There’s so much of Italy I’ve got to discover. Some beautiful areas, I’ve been to quite a lot of different parts but there’s so much more I want to try and find.
I think you get the sense with Italy that it wasn’t really that long ago that is wasn’t a country, that it was almost counties.
Exactly. I suppose it is a little like counties in a way; in England, with the counties, there are different accents for parts of the country.
And you get the sense of pride.
You do, and that’s the same in Italy. You get your Romans, Tuscans, Venetians, Sicilians, and they’re very very different, and make a point of pointing that out.
Well, I’m going to have to stop monopolising you now, but thank you for talking to me.
My pleasure, come and see the show if you get the chance!