Camilla Kerslake chats with Kevin Cooper about her mum’s health, being signed to Gary Barlow’s record label, singing at Wembley Stadium and the forthcoming release of her new album.

Camilla Kerslake is an English classical crossover singer from London. Born in Dulwich to a Welsh mother and New Zealand-born father

Not one to give up, in 2009 she became aware of a studio where Gary Barlow was recording and she submitted her demo to him every week for six weeks until he finally listened to it. Instantly impressed, she became his first signing under his new label, Future Records.

Kerslake sang the national anthem at Wembley Stadium before the 2010 football League Cup final between Manchester United and Aston Villa. She later sang Abide With Me at the Challenge Cup final between Leeds Rhinos and Warrington Wolves. Similarly Kerslake regularly provides the pre-match entertainment at Twickenham Stadium; having performed there a total of six times, both for international and premiership matches.

In June 2011 Kerslake’s mother, Dr Deborah Kerslake, was diagnosed with breast cancer and Camilla suspended all non-charitable work commitments until Deborah was given the all clear in August 2012. Kerslake has since become an ambassador for The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and Breast cancer campaign.

Whilst busy with her charitable schedule, she took time to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what she had to say.


Camilla good morning. How are you today?

I’m good Kevin thanks for asking.

Thank you for taking the time to speak to me.

You are most welcome, any time.

And how is life treating you?

Things are really good at this moment in time Kevin. I have just bombed half a packet of crackers which I am sure that my dog is now eating (laughter).

Before we move on can I just ask you how your mum is now?

Mum is amazing Kevin which I am very pleased to say. It has been a long old road but she has recently sold her house and she is shortly going to be moving into her new one out in the country. It’s amazing really when you see someone who was very mobile being so sick for so long, you really do celebrate small things like being able to walk upstairs once again. I know that sounds like nothing for you or I but goodness me mum would walk upstairs and have an asthma attack. However she now flies up the stairs and it is all very exciting. Thank goodness for small mercies.

Now I have to ask you, mum is Welsh, dad is a Kiwi; you were born in England, so where do you call home?

As you quite rightly say Kevin I was born here in England but I tell you what, I have always had it from my dad’s side of the family telling me that I am a Kiwi (laughter). Then I have had it all from my mum’s side of the family constantly telling me that I am Welsh (laughter). However, I am defiantly English (laughter) although I have to tell you that it is extremely hard being the only English person in your family. I don’t get that much grief off the Kiwi’s because I get on really well with them all but everyone on my mums side always get onto her asking her why she couldn’t have gone over the border into Wales to have me (laughter). However I refuse to get involved with the family arguments and I still remain defiantly English.

Your single Come Home, were you pleased with just how well it was received?

Yes I really was Kevin. Obviously it is always a gamble as my last single, You Raise Me Up was released back in 2013 for Breast Cancer Now. That single reflected my repertoire together with my previous work and was ideal for the fund raising project. However Come Home is such a departure from my traditional cross-over stuff, it is so Country Kevin (laughter). In fact the whole album is cross-over Country which has happened organically. I was really lucky in the fact that I was given some time to make this record. My new label are really artist led which is completely unique these days.

They have really given me the opportunity to actually write first of all. This album is the first that I have ever written on. It also gave me the time to sit down and think just who has inspired me and actually amazingly they have written with me. I found myself writing with Shelly Poole who was one half of Alisha’s Attic. And for me that was a dream come true. I have been working with writers from New York and Los Angeles and I have to tell you that the album was in fact produced by The Who’s musical director (laughter). It was an interesting position to be in Kevin; being allowed to cherry pick the people who I wanted to work with in order to make the music that I wanted to make. It was all very interesting and I am very proud of the album. It was quite a fun journey.

When can we expect to see the album on the shelves?

That will be sometime in March Kevin. We don’t have a specific date as yet but it will most definitely be released in March. I am really looking forward to that. It will be really exciting. The promotion work for the album is pretty intense but I am ready for it (laughter).

And will you be touring the album?

Most definitely Kevin. Whilst we currently do not have any specific dates or cities, I will be touring the album from March through to December next year. I will be coming to a town near you ladies and gentlemen (laughter).

Do you have a title for the album as yet?

No I don’t Kevin, sorry (laughter). The working title is Album Three how boring is that.

Well if you can’t tell me what the title is going to be, how about you tell me a little about the album itself?

Right Kevin, here goes. It’s not totally different from my previous work; I would say that it a slight side-step (laughter). There is not going to be any Puccini on there I’m afraid but that cross-over vocal will still most definitely be there. It is a side-step towards a more sort of female type of album along the same lines as Celine Dion and slightly Country. It is really vocally led whilst being slightly more contemporary. What is really interesting with this record is that the people who suggested the covers that I have done were the fans.

Every single cover that you will hear on the album was suggested by people that I met when I was touring throughout 2014. I would ask them during the show what they would like to hear me sing and let me tell you they are completely left-field Kevin (laughter). However, I must admit that they do work really well but I would never have picked them myself. When I finally got to perform the songs for the BBC big wigs they have all been pleasantly surprised at the song choices.

All that I will say at this moment in time Kevin is think about 90’s grunge (laughter) and that somehow it really works. In my opinion good music is good music and if some musician wants to reimagine a good song then the result can really only go one way. It’s all very exciting and slightly scary too (laughter).

I have recently read that you cite Kate Bush, Maria Callas and Patsy Cline as being the artists who you were listening to whilst growing up. I have to say that it doesn’t come much broader than that.

No you are right Kevin, it really doesn’t. My mum liked all of the divas so she would be constantly playing Celine (Dion), Barbara (Streisand), Whitney (Houston), Maria (Carey) and then she would also be playing things like The Phantom Of The Opera and Aspects Of Love. But then my dad was into things such as The Pixies Where Is My Mind which obviously isn’t really appropriate when you are three years old (laughter). Dad would also be listening to Supertramp, Brian Eno, Pink Floyd, and then Tchaikovsky. My god I have never met anyone who is as obsessed with Tchaikovsky and the romantic composers as my dad, which has hugely influenced me (laughter).

So as you can see Kevin I had a really broad education musically. I have to say that it was mum who laid the ground work for me to be able to emulate these incredible female vocalists and then dad gave me an intelligent musical education. Even though when I was twelve years old my dad would be listening to Pink Floyd I would tell him that he was really boring as everyone was listening to Missy Elliot (laughter). It was only as I got older that I actually realised just how immense these musicians really are and so I took it all back (laughter). But now it is me who is introducing dad to amazing new bands and we both have a real passion for Elbow, The Gipsy Kings and Real Big Fish. It feels as though I am repaying the favour by introducing dad to these incredible musicians.

So putting you on the spot, what was the first record that you bought?

(Laughter) oh my god, ok, Kevin here goes. The very first record that was bought for me was Michael Jackson’s History which I think is a blooming good album and immediately makes up for the fact that the second record that was bought for me was The Spice Girls (laughter). However the first record that I ever bought myself was, and do not judge me, was Barbie Girl by Aqua (laughter). I know Kevin its disgraceful (laughter).

And following on from that who did you first see playing live in concert?

That would be Michael Jackson and he was insane Kevin. I was six years old and I saw him over in New Zealand and even now I can remember just how seminal he was. Obviously now I see shows all of the time and I get to see some incredible people, but no one even comes close to Michael Jackson.

What was it like working with a certain Mr. Gary Barlow?

That was absolutely amazing Kevin. When someone with that level of experience both good and bad takes you under his wing, you can’t help but feel really honoured and also really lucky. Gary opened up so many doors for me; he is so well liked. He is such a good guy and such an intrinsically musical sort of guy. He didn’t necessarily know much about my genre of music but he always supported me, and he knew what sounded good. I guess that is what I really needed at that stage of my career.

Would you say that performing in front of the Royal Family is rapidly becoming a regular occurrence for you?

(Laughter) well Kevin, what can I say (laughter). The Royal Family have been really good to me. Obviously before you get to sing for The Royals you have to jump through lots of hoops whilst they carry out a background check on you. But once they have decided that they like you, and I am fortunate enough to be able to say that they like me, then it is fantastic. Technically I have had conversations with the Royals but all of them have been one sided because once they start speaking to you your mind goes to mush (laughter).

You have performed in front of tens of thousands of people at Wembley Stadium, Twickenham and The Millennium Stadium, do you ever get nervous?

My god yes Kevin. The very first time that I sang at Wembley Stadium I was so nervous that I was actually genuinely worried that I would not be able to go through with it. Whenever I get to that level of nervousness my whole face starts to shake. Luckily for me, mum is a hypnotherapist and so she hypnotised me so that I could get through the performance and so I don’t really remember that much about my first Wembley appearance (laughter). I can remember being in the tunnel and then I remember being in my seat. Other than that I genuinely could not tell you what happened in the interim. I have absolutely no idea Kevin, no idea whatsoever.

I have since seen all of the photographs of it happening but personally I have a complete mind blank. Wembley was my first and I think that the whole place is so iconic, that didn’t help the situation but then when I went back there for a second and then a third time I absolutely loved it. The first time that I did The Millennium Stadium I was fine until someone told me the viewing figures (laughter). It was the rugby World Cup opening ceremony and 250 million people were watching. Right up until that part I was fine and then they told me the viewing figures when I was in the tunnel just about to step out onto the pitch (laughter).

At that point I dropped my mobile phone and smashed the screen. They could have told me when I had finished (laughter). However I do remember it and it was really good. But let’s just say had that have been my first ever stadium, then it would have been a very different story (laughter).

You have toured and performed with the likes of Russell Watson, catholic group The Priests, Il Divo and Andrea Bocelli. Who has given you the most pleasure?

To sing with, that is a rather leading question Kevin but I would have to say Andrea Bocelli hands down. I did two sold out shows with Andrea at the O2 in London and it simply doesn’t get much better than that. He had a full 60 piece orchestra with him together with a 40 piece choir. The sound is immense. It is a real musical experience which hits you straight between the eyes. I can’t even begin to tell you just how immense it is Kevin. However having said all of that I must say that Il Divo were amazing too and I did a Christmas show with them at The Hammersmith Apollo. I love a Christmas show anyway and the boys are such cheeky chappies that it was just so much fun.

Where do you see your future?

At the moment Kevin I really want to get this record out and I can’t wait to see just how the public deal with it. Honestly it is simply an honour for me to be able to do this every day for a living, it is an insane privilege. I am trying to split my time 50/50 between my music and charity work. If I can continue making records and enjoying them then I will be the happiest girl alive.

Camilla I think that is a nice place to finish so I will thank you for taking the time to speak to me and good luck with all that you do.

You are more than welcome and we will definitely speak again Kevin. Bye for now.