‘This is why I survived’

    Russell Watson is the UK’s number one selling classical artist and he’s coming to Tunbridge Wells this Friday to perform at the Assembly Hall. Eileen Leahy tells of his fight against serious illness and explains what we can expect to enjoy when the world famous tenor showcases his new tour Songs From The Heart

    Russell Watson

    With seven million albums sold, four classical BRITS to his name and having performed for The Queen and several Popes and American Presidents, it’s fair to say that Russell Watson’s career has been nothing short of impressive.

    He first came to the public’s attention in 1999 when he performed a mesmerising rendition of God Save The Queen at Wembley stadium for the Rugby League Challenge Cup final.

    It was this powerful performance that led to his phenomenally successful debut album The Voice – which hit the number one spots simultaneously in both the UK and US – and saw his profile soar to stratospheric heights.

    But in 2007 Russell was diagnosed with a brain tumour and suddenly the dream fairy tale turned into a horrendous nightmare and saw him withdrawing from performing.

    Russell, 49 and from Salford, is made of tough stuff though and after an intensive period of rehabilitation post his illness, which he describes as a ‘dark tunnel’, he slowly returned to the stage, singing his way back to good health courtesy of his unique blend of operatic arias, musical melodies and contemporary classics.

    After headlining last year’s Proms in the Park, Russell decided to do something completely different and so got to work on a far more intimate affair, the result of which is his latest tour: Songs from the Heart.

    He readily admits that it is a far more pared back production and very different to the experience of singing in stadiums but that’s something that Russell is clearly relishing. “Audiences can really get up close and personal” he says.

    “The show is far more condensed compared to what I normally do and the fans have been loving the intimacy.”

    Russell Watson 2

    When Russell performs in Tunbridge Wells on Friday he’ll be a third of the way through his 56 date tour which finishes in August but after all he has been through the singer is enjoying performing more than ever.

    “I feel a real sense of freedom when I walk on stage. It’s like this is what I was born to do. This is what I survived the illness and all those bad times for. If life is good and you’re happy then that shows, people in the crowd can see it and feel it.”

    Songs from the Heart features a collection of classics from a number of musical genres such as Volare, Barcelona and Abide With Me, and it perfectly showcases Russell’s talent for seamlessly switching from dramatic opera numbers to smooth American classics and uplifting hymnal anthems.

    Russell says that the most special element to these concerts is the connection to the crowd. “I can see people’s faces and I love that. These pared back shows have got a really relaxed, easy going feel to them.”

    Russell Watson performs Songs From The Heart on Friday May 13 at the Assembly Hall at 7.30pm. For ticket information visit www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk