Alfie Boe: From opera to classics of rock
“There’s obviously downs with any aspect of life and career,” says Alfie Boe. “You have the ups and the downs, it’s how you handle them, how you deal with them and how you grow from them and learn.”
“I’ve had my challenges in my life. I’ve had my moments that I have needed to work through and deal with, move on from.”
The famed tenor has been candid about his struggles in his past over the years, including suffering from depression after splitting from his wife Sarah during the pandemic after 16 years of marriage.
He explores these lower moments alongside the highs of his career and life, and there have been many, in his new memoir Face The Music. Performing at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and her 90th birthday, playing Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, taking to the stage at the Royal Albert Hall are among a few of his highlights.
“I appreciate my success, I appreciate what I’ve done in my career”, he says. “I’ve done a few things that I’ve been fortunate enough to have the ability to do and the chance to do. It’s lovely to remember those moments.”
Raised in Lancashire as the youngest of nine children, the singer got his break with the D’Oyly Carte after he was encouraged to audition for the opera company when a customer overheard him singing in the car factory where he worked.
After training with the Royal College of Music, he was selected to play the lead in Baz Luhrmann’s Broadway production of La Boheme, which won him a Tony, and shot further to fame starring in the West End’s Les Miserables.
His long-term partnership with fellow singer and friend Michael Ball has also led to performances across the world and a string of number one albums.
After five recent projects together, Boe is stepping out on his own again with his first solo collection since 2018. The Symphonic Songbook – Open Arms sees the tenor pair his signature vocals to bold, orchestral renditions of rock classics such as Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer, Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters and Bryan Adams’ Summer Of ‘69.
“I think every artist that I cover on the album, I admire as a musician and performer,” he says. “Growing up as a Metallica fan, or particularly a Bon Jovi fan.
“But I appreciated their ability to present their music and it’s nice to have this opportunity to give them homage to their art form.”
He brought his worlds closer together by recording the album with a contemporary band and a symphony orchestra – hoping to reflect how the genres can, and have often in the past, intertwined.
“It’s not anything that hasn’t really been done before by some of the classic rock bands anyway,” he adds. “They’ve always added stringed elements and orchestral elements to their music, but I wanted to really point that fact out really and portray that music and this beauty.”
It may come as an unexpected departure for those who are more accustomed to his operatic and musical stylings, but Boe feels this is a natural progression from his lifelong appreciation of the genre.
“With my career, I do a lot of varied genres, a lot of different styles and this is a style of music that has been a part of my life, really, from a very early age, from growing up in Lancashire,” he says as he reflects on how the album came about.
“But it’s not me trying to be a rock singer. And I want to hold that down as a fact, it’s not me trying to be something that I’m not, I want to literally just show people the beauty of classic rock ballads.
“There’s a lot of ballads out there, a lot of rock songs that lend themselves to different styles of presentation.”
Aside from releasing his emotions in his memoir, Boe reveals he has been writing his own music for the last few years, provoked by wanting to express himself during the pandemic.
“I wanted to be creative”, he recalls. “I wanted to try and keep my mind going with music and I started writing every single day.
“It was a productive time, I came out with some good songs and songs that need work, some songs that I’m satisfied with and happy with, and I continue to write now.”
The singer says it has been “lovely” to create his own melodies alongside some other “wonderful” people and hopes to record and release them someday when the opportunity crosses his path.
He adds: “To write your story down and sing your story, and write the lyrics to your life and your moment in time, or whatever you’re singing about, whether it’s your child, or your parents, or your partner, or whatever, it’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to do that.
“I suppose it makes me more connected with my art form and who I want to be.”
At this stage in the game, the 50-year-old no longer has a bucket list of things he wants to do or achieve, but instead wants to remain open to any project or opportunity that may be on the horizon.
And it is this sage advice that he would like to pass on to up-and-coming artists. “I would like to tell people to take every opportunity that they can.
“If they want to pursue a career as a singer or performer, then take every opportunity that comes across the path, don’t hesitate and also don’t ignore your roots, your grounding, your family, your friends.
“Don’t disconnect from people. Talk, keep open-hearted with the people that are close to you and communicate and when things are getting you down, talk about it.”
Alfie Boe’s album Open Arms – The Symphonic Songbook and memoir Face The Music is out now.