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AN INTERVIEW WITH PAUL POTTS In 2007 following the success of programs like X-Factor and American Idol, Simon Cowell’s latest brain child “Britain’s Got Talent” was poised to monopolize television. As with other reality competitions producers needed a strong musical act to add credibility and capture the public’s interest. The talent they were looking for came in the form of an unassuming Carphone Warehouse manager. Paul Potts had spent a lifetime dreaming of becoming a successful tenor. He had studied voice and even stared in amateur opera productions, yet the realization of his dream seemed forever outside his grasp. But when Paul strode onto the stage set of “Britain’s Got Talent” his life changed. His rendition of “Nessun Dorma” went viral and within a year Paul had not only won the competition but quit his job to peruse a full-time career as a classical crossover recording artist and concert performer. His story continues to inspire through his albums, book and motion picture. Classical Crossover Magazine caught up with the tenor to discuss his latest release, “Home.” Natasha Poholka: For some people ‘home’ is a specific location or country, while for others it is a person or family. What does “home” mean to you? Paul Potts: Singing isn’t something I do; it’s a place I belong in. It has always felt like that to me, and was my saving grace through the tough times of my youth. So music and singing have always been ‘home’ to me. Your story was made into a movie called, “One Chance.” What did it feel like to watch your life on the big screen?

I have always struggled with nerves, so it is inspiring to see someone who was able to conquer that and have a successful career. What is the best bit of advice you could offer a fellow dreamer? I think everyone has their own way of dealing with nerves before performance. Mine isn’t ideal as I tend to get ready for a performance at the very last moment as this leaves me with little time to think about what I am going to do. The thought of performing in front of thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands of people (I have sung in front of an audience of over a million before!) can be quite daunting! I think you have to find out what works for you and stick to it as much as possible. If you truly enjoy what you do, you WILL get past it.

“Music and singing have always been ‘Home’ to me.”

It felt really quite strange especially when James Corden (who plays my character) opens his mouth and my voice comes out! I kept saying to Julz [Paul’s wife] that there was no way that I would have asked Pavarotti about the battery life of his phone. She assures me that I would have done. I bow to her greater knowledge!

How do you choose repertoire for your 3|Classical Crossover Magazine, Winter 2014 –

album? Is it mainly your decision, or do you have a team that helps craft the vision for each record? I tend to listen to a lot of music when preparing an album - often the playlist has hundreds of pieces on it. As someone who primarily sings pieces that have been performed by others, I have to consider what I can bring to the table with my interpretation. My wife, Julz often helps with an ‘every person’ view of what she thinks will work. November Rain and the title track Home were both her ideas (she is very much a rock chick!)

sharing who you are. What does your typical day look like when you are promoting a new album? I don’t think there is any such thing as a typical day when promoting a new album, and that’s what makes it exciting and fun. Some days may start ridiculously early after a late night the night before. I have had days when I finish on talk radio in New York City at 2am and have a 5.30am call time the same morning. You have to be adaptable and develop thick skin and plenty of stamina. You never know when or whether you will get another opportunity, so it’s really important you grab it with both hands.

“A performance on stage isn’t just about the singing, it’s about sharing who you are.”

Singing opera requires rigorous training that is often acquired at great expense. Do you have any advice for singers who cannot financially afford lessons?

Don’t skimp on lessons with a bad teacher because they are cheaper. A bad teacher can do more harm than good. Get as many good lessons with a good teacher as you can possibly afford. Choosing a teacher is a challenge as you need good chemistry with them. Don’t be afraid to try a few. You have travelled around the world sharing your gift with others. How do you keep your voice in top form on tour?

How often do you take voice lessons? I take lessons as regularly as I can, bearing in mind I am out of the UK quite a lot of the time. It’s really important that you have someone else listen to your voice and give advice and tuition on how to progress. My present teacher is an Australian called Raymond Connell who teaches in London, and I have made a lot of progress with my voice with him. Do you have any hidden talents?

Stay up late and drink lots of beer! No, seriously, I drink lots of water and get out What, apart from being a pain in the ass and about as much as I can to sightsee for my wife? I do enjoy cooking - though and soak up the local culture and apparently I use every pan and utensil in atmosphere. At the moment, I am in Seoul the kitchen. My other passion is (for the 17th time!) and there is so much to photography, particularly landscape see and do, and a performance on stage photography. My wife says I have too isn’t just about the singing, it’s about many cameras. I don’t know, is 16 overkill?! 4|Classical Crossover Magazine, Winter 2014 –

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Of all the countries you have performed in which was your favorite? The diplomatic answer would be to say that I enjoy all places I perform in. This would be the truth, but some of the places I go to are truly fascinating. I have been to Korea so many times that the people I work with there have bought me Korean language books! Korea is a fascinating place with great scenery as well as the industry for which it is famous. Germany too has some great cities away from the most famous cities like Berlin, Munich and Hamburg. What are some of your dreams for the future?

of success. If what you do is what you love doing, then by definition, you are successful. Is there any particular message you would like to impress on the minds of your listeners? I am incredibly grateful to those who enable me to do what I love, so my message is a simple one: THANK YOU! Paul Potts album “Home” is out now. Visit:

Photos copyright Max Dodson. I just want to continue to do what I love doing. For me, that is the ultimate definition 6|Classical Crossover Magazine, Winter 2014 –

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Faryl Smith may seem like any other lovely young starlet gracing the pages of magazines these days, but she has something that is far too often missing – real talent. The nineteen year old mezzo soprano first caught public attention at the age of 12 with a startlingly warm version of “Ave Maria” on Britain’s Got Talent. According to Faryl she began singing at the age of seven as many children her age did. Her parents did not pay particular attention till a few years later. “I think the moment that my family noticed that my voice was something special was when I won the Llangollen International Eisteddfod in Wales,” Faryl says. She was ten at the time. “I think it was just the fact that I was so young and that so many younger singers aged 10-15 from all over the world had entered. “

attempt to sing material beyond their abilities, Faryl choose to perform Bach’s “Ave Maria” which suited her range and years. When it was her turn to perform, Faryl performed the piece with an evenness of tone throughout her range, a pleasantly dark color to her voice and vocal maturity beyond her years. The audition prompted Cowelll in his usual charismatic style to proclaim that Faryl was “literally one in a million.” Faryl speaks fondly of their encounter. “To even have the opportunity to perform in front of Simon Cowell was crazy enough, but to get such lovely comments from him too was amazing. It didn't really sink in at first.”

“It is extremely important for young classical singers to protect their instrument… I have always wanted to protect my voice, as I want my career to be long term.”

Faryl developed her talent through private lessons and involvement with choir. She was encouraged to try out for Britain’s Got Talent. “I have always watched shows like BGT, The X-Factor & American Idol,” Faryl shares. “My family always used to say to me ‘I’m sure he [Simon Cowell] will get to hear you one day.” They were right. Out of millions of hopefuls that audition every year, Faryl found herself selected to take part in the television audition round in front of Simon and the other judges. Although Simon Cowell has developed a reputation for being “Mr Nasty,” due at least in part to the theatricality that serves to boost ratings, but Faryl needn’t have been nervous.

It may not have sunk in for the young performer but viewers certainly realized the quality of what they had witnessed. Faryl was the favorite to win the competition and Simon Cowell saw to it that she received additional training. Faryl eventually placed third and was immediately flooded with offers from recording labels. Faryl’s parents decided against signing with Cowell’s label “Syco” despite his admiration for her talent. They were concerned not only with the immediate potential to sell albums but protecting their daughter’s personal life and vocal longevity. Faryl remains passionate about the same saying, “It is extremely important for young classical singers to protect their instrument. My teachers always made sure

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that I wasn't singing anything that was completely out of my range or too difficult for me. I have always wanted to protect my voice, as I want my career to be long term. I didn't want to wear my voice out at such a young age.” She is grateful for the support of her family claiming that the best reason for her success was the fact that they could share the experience together. “Because of my age I always had to have a family member with me at all times and it was great to take them with me on the journey.” Of course the spotlight does not come without its difficulties. “The worst part was probably missing a bit of school, it just meant that I had to work ten times harder to pass all of my exams.” Faryl eventually did sign with Universal Music Group and released a self-titled debut album. “I had never sung in a studio before I recorded my first album, so the whole experience was exciting for me.” The material on the album firmly placed her in the ranks of classical crossover singers and many saw her as poised to become the next Katherine Jenkins. Faryl’s personal favorite? “If I had to choose one song, it would probably be Calon Lan, which is a Welsh Hymn. The reason I loved recording this song is because my granddad is Welsh and he taught me all of words before I went into the studio. My great nan used to be a professional singer and she used to sing this song too, so the piece meant a lot to me.” Once released the album “Faryl” broke records making it the fastest-selling classical solo album. The exposure from Britan’s Got Talent allowed Faryl the ability to also market the album in the States. “It was fantastic,” Faryl says of the experience. “I sang on the Ellen DeGeneres show and the Bonnie Hunt show. I received so many lovely comments

from people in America and they seemed to enjoy the album.” Faryl released one more album with Universal before moving focus to her studies. She has continued to train and perform at various events including the FA Cup Final and the Epsom Derby in front of the Queen and other festivals. Faryl has also been a guest of Russell Watson & Rhydian Roberts of whom Faryl is particularly fond. “I always enjoy performing with Rhydian, he is always really nice to my family and is very easy to work with.” Faryl is equally enthusiastic about performing for sporting events. “My favorite sport to play is football and I like watching both football and rugby games. I always love singing at sporting events, the atmosphere is always great and you get to watch the game afterwards too!” She enjoys the fashion side of performing too. Of her performance style Faryl says, “I try to make my style on stage sparkly, glamorous and sophisticated.” When asked to name three random facts about herself Faryl shares, “I have a cat called Socks, I used to play football, and I love my Nanna's beetroot on toast.” Recently Faryl has been featured on the album for the International Harp Ensemble. “Both the harp ensemble and myself are signed to the same agency and we thought that it would be a good combination for a theatre tour,” she says practically and goes on to note that, “The voice and harp work great together and we are all young performers too.” Faryl has certainly matured with grace since our first introduction to her on television. Her instrument remains as beautiful as ever, though with increased range and confidence. It retains its purity and color which is a rare gift. Moreover

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Faryl’s passion for music remains the same. “Music is such a big part of my life and has given me some experiences so far that I will never forget.” Speaking of the future Faryl says, “I would hopefully like to be accepted into a music conservatoire at some point, just to get as much training and knowledge as I can. All of the conservatoires are at the same standard so it would just be great to attend any of them.” When questioned about the direction of her music Faryl is open to both continuing a recording career and pursuing the operatic stage. “I don't know what will happen in the future. I didn't think that I would be signed to Decca and have released two albums by the age of 14, so I never know what to expect anymore! I love performing and I think that I always will. I think that it would be great to have a part in an opera one day. I watch the professional opera singers and aspire to be as good as them in the future.”

area, it’s always great to be part of a group and makes the experience fun when you’re with friends too. Most importantly, enjoy it.” To keep up to date with Faryl’s career please visit her official website:

Her conscientious choices to protect her voice so far seem to indicate that Faryl will indeed have a long career as a singer perhaps even in opera. She offers the following advice to other young performers.

“Try to get as much experience in performing as you can, as it will bring your confidence out. Join choirs in your area, 10 | C l a s s i c a l C r o s s o v e r

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Like Paul Potts & Faryl Smith, Jonathan Antoine was introduced to the world as part of a duo on “Britain’s Got Talent.” After releasing two albums with his friend, Charlotte Jaconelli, the pair parted ways. The teenager with the rich booming voice is now ready to take on the world as a solo artist. We were privileged to interview Jonathan at the very beginning of what promises to be an exciting career. much. Russell Watson, Leone Magiera, Natasha Poholka: I love how you say music Rolando Villazon, are all incredible people, has given your life a purpose. How and teachers. I am very much a 'learn by important do you feel it is to find and follow doing' type of guy. I have regular singing your dreams? lessons, access to a brilliant accompanist and language coach too, despite not Jonathan Antoine: As long as it doesn't hurt being at an institution to train any more. anyone else, you should take every step possible to achieve your dreams, whatever After two albums with your friend Charlotte, they may be! you are now ready to pursue a solo career. Can we expect the focus of your repertoire I think the incredible part of your story is to become more classical or do you intend that you inspire people to look beyond to keep a strong crossover influence? their narrow views and see the beauty inside. Do you have any words of I feel like the crossover element is kept, but encouragement or advice for other young in an entirely different way. As opposed to people who are being bullied? modern pop songs with a classical twist, I have I know most things anyone included some 1950s could say wouldn't help, but classics, some opera arias just know that you are not the such as ‘La donna e source of the problem. It is not mobile’ and Panis your fault, tell someone. And Angelicus which I have remember there is always been singing since I was someone that cares. 13. Hopefully this is an album that all can enjoy You have studied at the Royal a little cliché, I know - but Academy of Music’s junior there’s definitely division. Please tell us more something for everyone. about the experience and training you received. Who is your greatest tenor role model? I've been extraordinarily privileged to be able to have such excellent tuition from Luciano Pavarotti. great teachers. Always at the forefront for me were my singing lessons, although to Laura Wright pursued a degree in receive training in composition and sight performance while maintaining her reading (I'm not very good yet!!) were big recording career. Is attending university assets too. I have since had the something that interests you? opportunity to travel across Europe and the US to perform and take part in master Not at present. I don't have the time to classes, and I have learned so maintain my regular life! That said, I have

“You are not the source of the problem. It is not your fault… And remember there is always someone that cares.”

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the support network and advisors to learn from without being at university. It’s not to say it won't happen in the future, but I know it'd be at a time that was right for me. I do know that I will be studying/learning in one way or another throughout my whole life!

and if so, how do you cope?

Tell us a bit more about your guitar skills. Is that something we can expect to hear from you in the future? Maybe at an upcoming concert?

Tell us a little bit about the behind-thescenes process of making an album.

I'm nervous before every single performance! I usually take some quiet time to myself before going on stage, but nerves can help you deliver a great performance.

We recorded half the tracks at Angel studio's in Islington, with the orchestra literally in the room performing with me, and three vocal mics. The other half of the album was recorded in a church in Finchley, using five vocal mics for all natural reverb, you can hear the room on the album!

Hopefully there'll be some acoustic versions of songs from the new album coming out, too! What is your favorite thing to do when you are home relaxing. Are you are a Dr. Who fan? I just like to sit on the internet, watching shows, chatting to friends, listening to music or playing guitar! I haven't watched any of Peter Capaldi – Doctor Who, but I'm intrigued to get started. If you could meet any composer (dead or alive) who would it be? Mozart. Purity of form and melody.

If you had to pick two other tenors to sing with in a “3 Tenors” type concert, who would they be? Jonas Kaufman and Russell Watson, I have a feeling that would be such a laugh! Jonathan Antoine’s debut solo album “Tenore” is out now. Visit:

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Natasha Poholka: Classical and Vegas aren't words that usually go together. Please tell us more about your experience as a Las Vegas headliner!

graced the cover of the local magazine, VIM. Now that I am in Los Angeles, I plan on making this town fall in love with classical crossover, as well!

Marisa Johnson: Las Vegas was such a great experience for me. The people there are so supportive and open to new ways of being, and new forms of music. They took my classical crossover singing seriously and loved it! When I released my album this summer, I had a sold-out concert, had articles written about me in all the major newspapers, and even

You sang with Andrea Bocelli on his PBS special. Can you tell us about how you were selected and what it was like to shoot a live concert special? Well, just getting the opportunity to sing with the likes of Andrea Bocelli was one of the most special highlights of my life. He is a role model to me and I can only hope that one day, I can inspire people just as

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he has inspired me. And performing live concerts is my most favorite thing in the whole world. The intimacy between audience and performer is a magical thing and there is nothing like it. You originated the role of Maria in the new opera "America Tropical." What were some of the highlights and challenges of performing a new work?

Absolutely. I am a huge advocate of female original music, especially in the genre of classical crossover. I feel that if we are ever to be seen as our own genre, then we need to write our own music, have our own voice, and appeal to the public in our own way. That is one of the reasons that Renee Fleming endorsed my album, in fact. She said she believed in the genre and that we need more women writing music.

I love performing new, original material. As a singer/songwriter/ composer, it is the most rewarding experience for me to get to create a role and a song in my own original way. When no one has sung the song/role first, you get to do your own take, which is an exciting, creative process that I love.

Although you have a background in both opera and Broadway, you have a special fondness for classical crossover music. What is it about this genre that makes such a connection with the public?

What does your preperformance ritual look like? It always starts with a full 8 hours of sleep. Sleep and water are so important! I try to relax, look over my music, and stay as quiet as possible. I make sure I have nothing to do on performance days except perform. It is important to me to get my head in the right space for the performance. I do meditation, and listen to my favorite playlist as I’m getting ready. Original songs are important to any artist, but do think there is a special need for quality female songwriters in the classical crossover genre?

I was raised in a poor, Mexican family who did not have money nor the accessibility to expose me to the arts. But one day, I happened to see Charlotte Church on PBS, and from that day on, I was hooked. And it is because of her, and classical crossover music, that I am the singer I am today. Classical crossover is the bridge to such high art forms such as Broadway and Opera. It is the gateway drug, so to speak. It appeals to people on a level and in a place that they can understand and appreciate. That is why I feel so passionate about it. I hope to bring classical music to everyone, no matter his or her social standing or financial situation.

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You sang two of my favorite roles, Maria in West Side Story and Carmen in Bizet's famous opera. The roles require quite a wide range and different vocal characteristics. How do you adapt your voice to meet the challenges? Having a solid technique is the most important thing you can master. Singing different roles require a strong technique, especially switching from full opera to light musical theatre. Having a great vocal teacher and a solid practice schedule are two requirements that are crucial in your singing development.

inspire you to be true to yourself? Thank you! It is very important to me to say exactly what I want to say, exactly how I want to say it. I know who I am, and I share it. As any true artist does. The artists who I look up to who have done the same are Madonna, Freddie Mercury, Cher, Eminem, Elvis, Lana Del Rey, and Mumford and Sons to name a few. I try drawing from all types of music as inspiration. Good music is good music regardless of genre.

Your debut album is titled, "My Own Way." The title gives an impression of a woman is very much in charge of her own career. What artists

To learn more about Marisa Johnson visit her official website:

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Winter 2014 Issue  

Classical Crossover Magazine's winter issue featuring Faryl Smith, Paul Potts, Jonathan Antoine & Marisa Johnson.

Winter 2014 Issue  

Classical Crossover Magazine's winter issue featuring Faryl Smith, Paul Potts, Jonathan Antoine & Marisa Johnson.