Alfie Boe Talks "Alfie", Collaborating with Robert Plant, and More
Mon, 26 Nov 2012 06:39:50
Alfie Boe's got one of the biggest voices out there.
The Broadway star continuously dazzles and impresses audiences worldwide with his classical prowess and towering delivery. On his latest recorded effort Alfie, he tackled a combination of musical theater and popular songs, yielding quite wondrous results. Hot off a United States tour, he's already got his sights set on what's next too…
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Alfie Boe talks Alfie, working with Robert Plant, and so much more.
How did you choose the songs for Alfie?
We wanted to do something not too far dissimilar from Bring Him Home. We tried to knock out a number of musical theater songs. For Alfie, we only did about six or seven musical theater songs on the record. The rest were pretty much standard popular songs. The way it materializes is you sit down in meetings with your record company and management and make the list of your favorite songs you've wanted to sing for your life and things that suit your life. There are things you discover along the way. There was one song I found on the album called "In My Daughter's Eyes". I wanted to find a tune that was associated with a Disney movie, similar to the Bring Him Home idea. That album had "Pure Imagination" on it. I wanted to find another song like that. I started looking on YouTube and all over the Internet. I found a clip of The Little Mermaid with Martina McBride's song "In My Daughter's Eyes" playing. It had nothing to do with Disney or the movie, but that was how I discovered that song. There's a beautiful sentiment behind it. I read the lyrics, and I related to it so much with my children. I decided to put it on the album. It's a funny process. Each song has its own individual story.
What song speaks to you the most on the album?
One of my favorites has to be "Song to the Siren", which is the duet I did with Robert Plant. The biggest reason why it's one of my favorites is partly because it's a great song, but the fact I got to record it with Robert was something else and quite a moment for me to achieve in my career. He's a great fella. We keep in touch now. He's amazing. The song itself has a really haunted melody. The words are incredible. It's a wonderful story. While I'd been on the road in America, I happened to meet Larry Becket who co-wrote the song with Tim Buckley. He came to my show in Portland, and it was such an honor to meet him and discuss that song. We talked about how it materialized, how he got the idea, and how Tim put the music to it.
Were you and Robert in the studio at the same time?
We were! We booked the studio in London, and it was really cool actually. I thought it was going to be pretty rock 'n' roll. We had coffee and apple pie, and that was it though [Laughs].
Was it important you to preserve the live feel of the songs on the record?
I like to record like that. I hate being locked away in a booth when I'm singing. Inevitably, you have to be sometimes because they like to get a separate track on your voice. I like to record live in my sessions. I like to be in the same room as the orchestra. I like to feed off their playing. I think they can feed off my singing as well. I think that's captured on the record itself. It does have a live feel. The best albums I've made have been made like that. I enjoy being with the orchestra and band and playing live with them.
How do you construct a set list for a show?
We start off in one place, and we adapt as we go along. On this American tour, the shows have been so different for every performance. We've added songs, we've moved songs around, and we've always got a new setlist. It's never the same show twice in a row. It's a completely different thing. It's an ongoing process. I like to mix it up, add songs, and take songs away or do them in a different style. It's about constantly perfecting it. I don't think you can ever reach perfection. When you're there, there's no other place to go. You constantly keep working at it to keep the audience guessing about what's going to happen next. A show has to have high points and low points.
Do you feel like you imbue a part of yourself on these songs?
When I perform a song, I have to make it my own. That makes your performance better. There's no point in going out there and singing the song exactly like the person who wrote it or performed it originally if you're doing a cover. Then, you just become an impersonator. We do an Elvis medley, and I do a homage to him because I'm a huge fan and we have a similar vocal range, but I don't profess to be Elvis on stage and I never could be. It's quite funny to sing that music and make it my own. I'm putting my own spin on the words and tune. It's nice to have the license to do that.
Did writing a book came from the same creative place as singing?
My book is out in the UK, and it's coming out in the States. I never thought I'd write an autobiography at this early stage. I thought I'd have to be in my '60s or '70s. It was a great process and brought up a lot of memories! The thing that links writing and music together is emotion. There's a lot of emotion in singing, and there's a lot of emotion in writing a book. With writing a book about yourself, the emotion is really high, and you're remembering back to that time. I talk about my father's death in the book, and it's quite an emotional time for me to go over again and remember those moments in detail.
What's on your playlist?
I've got a lot of different things on my playlist. I'm a big fan of Brandon Flowers and The Killers and My Morning Jacket. There are some wonderful artists over here. In the UK, I'm a fan of a Manchester-based band called Elbow. Predominantly, I listen to a lot of classic rock and older stuff. I'm a big fan of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and The Rolling Stones. It's a mixture of things!
Have you heard Alfie?