Aled Jones MBE, a Welsh singer, radio and TV presenter chats with Kevin Cooper about his friendship with Russell Watson, how they came to be recording and touring together, their album In Harmony and their forthcoming tour of the UK

Aled Jones MBE, is a Welsh singer and radio and TV presenter, who reached widespread fame in the mid 1980s.

Having won the Cerdd Dant solo competition for choristers who were aged under twelve in 1982, he was spotted by a member of the congregation who approached Sain record company on his behalf. He then became famous for the cover version of Walking In The Air, the song from Channel 4’s animated film The Snowman based upon Raymond Briggs’ book. He reached number five in the UK charts with that song in 1985.

By the time that his voice broke aged 16, he had already recorded sixteen albums, sold more than six million copies and sung for Pope John Paul II, the Queen, and the Prince and Princess of Wales in a private recital.

After studying at The Royal Academy of Music and The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School he went on to take the leading role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat in 1995. Since then he has played many roles, particularly as Bob Wallace in White Christmas.

He has regularly presented Classic FM and is one of the main presenters of BBC One’s Songs of Praise.

Last year saw him collaborate with English tenor, Russell Watson, with the release of their joint album, In Harmony. They will be embarking upon their first ever joint UK and Irish tour later this year.

Whilst preparing for the tour he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Good morning Aled how are you?

Hi Kevin I’m good thanks how are you today?

I’m very well thank you and before we move on let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

Not at all, it’s always a pleasure whenever we get the chance to speak to one another.

And just how is life treating you?

Life at the moment is really good thank you. I’m currently working on a few scripts that I have been sent and then I have a few weeks of Classic FM coming up where I will be on the requests show so I am really looking forward to that. After that I will be spending most of my time learning the tour material ready for when I get out on the road with Russell (Watson). So whilst life is good, it is currently very busy (laughter).

Surely you are not trying to tell me that two seasoned professionals such as your good self and Russell have to rehearse (laughter).

(Laughter) if only life were that simple, things would be oh so much simpler. So I’m sorry to disappoint you but in answer to your question; oh yes, of course we do (laughter). The thing is that both Russell and I are used to being front men and neither of us have ever done anything like this before. We have only been onstage together once before and that was when we launched the album, and I have to say that it was such a great experience. We were able to bounce off one another and I have to say that, for me, it felt totally natural. The whole thing has been amazing really.

I have been told that both you and Russell were slightly nervous at the outset worrying as to whether your voices would gel or not, is that correct?

(Laughter) just who the hell have you been speaking to (laughter). Yes, that is absolutely correct. As you rightly say, both Russell and I were both slightly nervous as we didn’t really know if our voices would blend together naturally for the album. In fact we didn’t know until we had finished the album. I can remember being on a bus over in Australia when the tracks got sent over to me, and I was amazed at just how simply our voices blended together. So before we head out on tour we need to get that back up and running. Also you have to remember that we recorded the album last year so we will also have to relearn the repertoire as well.

You mention the album, In Harmony, and I have to say that I think that it is a stunning piece of work.

Thanks Kevin that is really nice to hear, thank you for saying that.

Were you and Russell both happy with the final product?

We were both more than happy. The album is far better than we ever thought that it could be. Neither of us have ever done anything like this before. I had previously recorded a duet with my own boy voice on three previous albums but I had never recorded a duet with anyone else. The fact that Russell comes from an operatic background with the big, big voice that he has got, and the fact that I am more lyrical really, then on paper you really wouldn’t have put us together. But I have to say that in my opinion it really does work a treat.

Whose idea was it to put the two of you together?

To be honest I have to say that it was both of us really. At the time Classic FM were counting down their most successful chart of the last twenty-five years and Russell was up there as the biggest selling male artist so I sent him a rather condescending text saying ‘congratulations’ through gritted teeth (laughter). To that Russell replied ‘we should do something together’ and I said “well it is funny that you should say that, I was thinking exactly that yesterday” (laughter). And then fast forward two months and we were in the studio together (laughter).

Fans of both Russell and yourself loved the album which must have made you feel pretty damn good?

Do you know what; I still have to keep pinching myself about that. The album has recently gone gold status here in the UK and yes, I think we actually surprised quite a few people with the album. What I love more than anything is that people are always commentating on the harmony aspect of the album. It would have been very easy for us to have gone into a studio and record me singing a verse, Russell singing a verse and then both of us singing in unison. However, throughout the album the harmonies are really intricate and exciting so when people take the time to comment about that I love it, I am really pleased.

Just how long have the two of you known each other?

Russell and I have known each other for over twenty years now. The music business really is a small world; you tend to bump into one another backstage at various events all of the time, and on top of that Russell and I were always sending each other texts and we have always got on right from the very first time that we met. So the album simply felt like the most natural thing for the two of us to do. And that is what has been lovely about the whole thing; we are not manufactured, we haven’t been put together by a record company, and we have come up with the idea and the music, so it really is all hands on.

You mention the fact that you and Russell have been friends now for over twenty years. Together with the positive response that you received from Russell regarding the project, have you not kicked yourself and thought ‘why didn’t we do this sooner’?

To be totally honest with you there really is no point is there. These things tend to happen for a reason and I am just glad that we have done it now really. There really is no point in looking back. Russell tours a hell of a lot, in fact it seems like he is always on tour, so the timing for us to get together really had to work, and this time it just did work. We had the idea, we ran with it, and everyone and everything simply dropped into place.

There are fourteen tracks on the finished album, how many did you start out with?

(Laughter) firstly let me say that I am terrible at this. If anybody out there ever needs to record an album, then let me tell you, I could be their ‘go to’ man (laughter). In the old days when I was selecting tracks for a new album I would usually start with around one hundred and twenty tracks (laughter). However, there were not that many tracks to choose from for this album, as time really was against us. Russell made a list of the tracks that he wanted to record, and I made a list of the tracks that I would like to record, and to our surprise there were quite a few of the same tracks on both our lists; things like How Great Thou Art and You Raise Me Up. So it really was an easy process, and three emails later between Russell and I and it was done.

So there were no heated discussions?

(Laughter) no, or at least not any that I am going to tell you about (laughter).

Well I have to say that I currently have three go to tracks, they are; You Raise Me Up, Volare and Where Should This Music Be.

Thank you very much, that’s very kind of you. The Nimrod one, Where Should This Music Be was actually quite a tough one because everyone knows the melody line so well, and I have to tell you that the harmonies really were quite tricky. Sir Karl Jenkins wrote Bright Horizons especially for the album and the harmonies on that song was particularly difficult for me and Russell to learn. I actually sent Sir Karl a text when I was learning the harmonies saying “thanks a bunch for this, it has taken me back to my choirboy days” (laughter). However, having said that I have to say that it was well worth the investment, having one of his original tracks on the album really was amazing.

It was great for me to sing Volare which is something that I wouldn’t normally do. That really was a lot of fun and will most definitely be performed on the forthcoming tour.

Is there one particular track on the album that you are really looking forward to performing live on the tour?

I actually think that every track on the album is great but for some reason I really do like Cinema Paradiso; I absolutely love that song, it really is lovely. At this moment in time I currently love to sing How Great Thou Art, because that too really is a beautiful song and I love singing it.

Looking back, are there any tracks that didn’t make it onto the album which you now feel really should have been on there?

If I had to say yes then maybe something by Howard Lindsay Goodall CBE or something like that. Having said that it was a good experience doing the whole thing so I think that all of the tracks on the album are the ones that we wanted to do, so no, there are no tracks really that I wish that we had put onto the album.

Work commitments permitting, will you and Russell be undertaking a similar project later in the year?

Who knows, at this minute there is a lot of talk about it but other than that there is nothing set in stone as yet.

So at this moment in time you cannot confirm or deny that we will be seeing a battle for the Christmas number one slot between Jones and Watson and Ball and Boe? (Laughter).

(Hysterical laughter) who knows? I have not thought about that one bit but we will see (laughter).

The tour starts in September, are you looking forward to getting out on the road and performing the album live?

Yes I am, more than anything. These for me are really exciting times, so yes I can’t wait.

What format will the show take; will you and Russell be on stage together all night or will you both have solo spots?

For most of the evening Russell and I will be onstage together although having said that I think that both Russell and I will most probably have a short opportunity to sing a few songs of our own. But having said that, we will be on stage together for the majority of the time.

Will you be performing the album in its entirety?

I wouldn’t say that we will be performing the album in its entirety but I do think that we will be performing most of it. At the moment we are toying with the idea of performing a few more duets but I would have to say that we will be performing the majority of the album.

What was the first record that you bought?

That was Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.

Who did you first see performing live in concert?

I was lucky as a kid because I used to go to all of the rock and pop concerts, and so if my mind serves me correctly it would have been either Simply Red or Spandau Ballet.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

That would have been anything by Sergei Vasilyevich Rachmaninoff because I really am an old romantic.

On that note Aled let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been delightful. You take care and I will see you here in Nottingham.

Thanks Kevin, really looking forward to seeing you when Russell and I get up there to Nottingham. Bye for now.