Collabro chat with Kevin Cooper about working with Simon Cowell, drinking red wine, the release of their third album and their forthcoming appearance at the first annual Donington Live Classical Concert

Collabro are an English group who won the eighth series of Britain’s Got Talent in 2014. Only a month after forming, Collabro auditioned in London for the series and received a standing ovation from the audience and judges for their rendition of the song ‘Stars’ from the musical Les Misérables.

Specialising in Musical Theatre, the group now consists of Michael Auger, Jamie Lambert, Matthew Pagan and Thomas J Redgrave. Previous member, Richard Hadfield left the group in June 2016.

The band have an enthusiastic fan base who are known as the ‘Collaborators’ and famous fans include Jade Thirlwall from Little Mix. Their debut album Stars was released in August 2014 and debuted at number one in the UK. Their second album Act Two, charted at number two.

Whilst busy preparing for the first annual Donington Live Classical Concert, they took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what they had to say.

Good morning guys, am I speaking to Michael (Auger), Jamie (Lambert), Matt (Pagan) and Thomas (J Redgrave) today?

Matt : Hi Kevin, yes you are. We are just grabbing an early morning coffee together (laughter).

That’s good and how are you all today?

Michael : We are all pretty good today, thanks for asking.

Let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me.

Jamie : Anytime, it’s our pleasure.

And just how is life treating you all?

Thomas : Things are really good at the moment. We are very happy as we are doing a lot of summer gigs at the moment. Plus we have got our third album in the mix as well so things are looking pretty good.

On the subject of the third album, your first album, Starts, went straight into the charts at number one, Act Two went in at number two so now you are recording the notoriously difficult third album, so no pressure there then (laughter).

Michael : It would be really quite nice to get the third album into the charts at number three just so that we would then have the one two and three (laughter) but seriously I think that going back to number one is what we are seriously striving for (laughter).

And just what can you tell me about the album?

Matt : We are obviously going to be staying loyal to Musical Theatre which is what we were known for on Britain’s Got Talent. Having said that we really do like trying new genres and we have even started adding a few swing numbers into our set list when we perform live at both corporate and arena gigs, and being totally honest they seem to go down really well. So we are thinking about putting some of that on the new album. We are also at this moment in time thinking about writing an original song for the new album but we are not quite sure that we will get it past the record label (laughter).

You mention writing, who is in charge of the writing at the moment?

Jamie : At this moment in time we basically do have a lot more control over the arrangement of the third album; we are having a lot more say as to what is going to be on there. It is all working out quite well simply because we really do know what our strengths are.

At what stage are you at with the third album?

Michael : We have actually come up with a set list of around twenty songs and so it is just a case now of us cutting that down in order to make the perfect album. When we made the second album we actually posted on both Facebook and Twitter asking the fans which songs they liked, which worked out quite well so we might actually do the same again. The problem at the minute is that we like all of the twenty songs and can’t decide which of those to leave off the album (laughter).

Why not kill two birds with one stone and save the tracks that don’t make it onto album three for album four, it’s that simple (laughter).

Jamie : That’s brilliant (laughter). We have actually recorded albums three and four at exactly the same time. Why didn’t we think of that (laughter).

Do you have a title as yet?

Matt : No (laughter).

Michael : That’s Matt for you, a man of few words (laughter).

Have you got a release date in mind?

Michael : We are not quite sure yet as we are trying to decide between either earlier ready for Christmas or later in time for Mother’s Day, but at the moment we are not sure. We want to make sure that it is as good as possible so we are looking at available studio time, and just how long we can spend in there making the album perfect.

Are you all pleased with what you have recorded so far?

Thomas : We are very excited with the songs that we have come up with. There are some which we really wanted to put on both the first and second albums but as of yet we haven’t had the chance to do that. We have also been looking for an opportunity for us to include a song by the great musical theatre composer Stephen Sondheim but again, that opportunity has as yet not arisen. However, as we now have more control over the choices of the songs that will be going on the third album we will just have to see what we come up with.

Coming right up to date on Sunday 4th September you are going to be performing at the first annual Donington Live Classical Concert. Are you looking forward to that?

Jamie : We absolutely can’t wait; we love performing at these open air festivals. In fact I would go as far as to say that these are our favourite concerts that we do. It is the perfect time of the year to have a lovely balmy evening hopefully (laughter). Everyone always appears to be having a really nice time.

Have any of you been to Donington Park before?

Matt : No, not as yet. The closest that we have got to Donington is when we played at the Leicester De Montfort Hall. We didn’t quite make it to Donington (laughter).

How did the fans treat you over in Leicester?

Thomas : It was totally amazing. One of our most prominent memories is when we first performed there. When we left the theatre after the show people were going crazy; we even had a few trying to jump into the van. The crowd were incredible, it was totally unbelievable.

You will be in good company at Donington as you will be performing with Aled Jones, Laura Wright and the Military Wives Choir.

Michael : Absolutely, we have performed with both Aled and Laura a few times now. They are both incredible artists and so we are really looking forward to it.

What can we expect from the show?

Matt : We will be performing some of the songs from our first album Stars, together with a few from Act Two. There will be quite a few songs from Musical Theatre but also we will not be forgetting a few of the larger pop crossover songs that we love to perform live.

You recently got to perform at The Royal Albert Hall, how was that?

Jamie : It is such an iconic venue and the sound just seems to travel in there. It is absolutely incredible. They filled the entire place with lights and when we did the song from Les Miserables all of the LED lights made the French flag. It was simply one of our best memories I think.

What do you all get up to whenever you get any downtime?

Michael : Judging by the size of the wine glasses that we have just been given, together with the bottles of wine on the table, we drink wine apparently (laughter). We all do actually hang out together and at the moment we all go Pokémon Go hunting which is really good fun. The four of us really do have fun together (laughter).

Taking you back to 2014 how did it feel when you won Britain’s Got Talent?

Thomas : We get asked this every time that we do an interview and I still don’t have a proper answer because there is really no way to describe the feeling, it’s very strange. The worst bit of it all was not the announcement itself, but it was the waiting for it. They leave such a huge gap after they have said “and the winner is……” it actually feels more like twenty minutes. That is the most nerve wracking bit but then there is such a massive rush of relief when we heard the name Collabro being read out (laughter).

Michael : One thing that we all agree on is that none of us ever expected Collabro to win. We managed to get into the top three but we all thought that would probably be where it all ended for us. So when they read out our name we were all in shock and as Thomas said that pause between hearing our name did really feel like forever. We were all so very grateful that so many people picked up the phone and voted for us to get to that position.

Between you, me and this telephone call, just what is Simon Cowell like to work with?

Matt : (Laughter) working with Simon really is great. The thing with Simon is that he is brutally honest which we all think is a good thing. You can’t go as far as he has in the industry without being honest. What’s the point in telling someone that they are good if they aren’t; that achieves nothing at all. I feel that I should very quickly explain to you why we are drinking wine this early in the day (laughter). We are not alcoholics; we are actually filming for Jamie’s Wine Wednesday Blog so that’s why you have caught us drinking wine at this time of the day (laughter).

Taking you back to 2014 you performed at the Royal Variety Performance in front of the Royal Family, any nerves at all?

Michael : (Laughter) we were all so very nervous but I have to say that it was absolutely unbelievable. Basically, when we won the show we didn’t think about anything other than winning the show but then things start to happen like being handed £250,000 for winning. The next thing that we knew was that we were to play at the Royal Variety Performance. Before we knew it we were on the stage with One Direction, Dame Shirley Bassey, Bette Midler, Simply Red, Elle Goulding, Ed Sheeran and all of these crazy, crazy people who are all amazing artists. They are all up in the stratosphere and there we were, on the same stage as them.

It was unbelievable, we really did have a great time and we simply couldn’t have asked for anything more. It really has to be a career highlight for us.

Who has inspired you all along the way?

Matt : I have to say that the most inspirational people to all of us is our families. We all really do get constant support from them, all the way through the show and since. They have all quite simply been the most wonderful backbone to Collabro. Also, and I know that this will sound awfully cheesy but our fans. We have the most dedicated and fantastic fan base that we have ever come across. They are really dedicated to us and because of that we all know that we have got a career with this group whatever happens because our fans care about us so much.

Who do you all listen to?

Jamie : I would have to say that my current obsession is Lemonade by Beyonce.

Thomas : I’m kind of the odd one out here because I am a bit of a metal head (laughter) so I have recently been listening to stuff like Disturbed; all that good stuff that no one has ever heard off (laughter).

Michael : I listen to the top forty and I am still waiting for One Direction to ask me to join them (laughter).

Matt : I pretty much listen to every Musical Theatre soundtrack that there is, over and over and over again. I have the habit of going to see shows around thirty times (laughter). I saw Joseph twenty seven times but that was because my girlfriend was in it for a year. I have now seen Jersey Boys thirteen times. As you probably guessed Kevin, I have got a problem (laughter). However, there are worse problems, such as drinking wine early in the morning (hysterical laughter).

Now that Richard (Hadfield) has left the group does it feel tighter now that you are a four piece?

Jamie : We have all worked really hard to ensure that the harmonies are all covered. We feel that now individually we can all be heard more. We are all having a lot of fun out there and we have all enjoyed every performance. As a four piece we are all very much looking forward to the future.

On that note boys let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me. Enjoy the wine and I hope to catch you in Donington.

Michael : Thanks Kevin it’s been fun. Take care and see you soon.

Jamie : Awesome mate, you take care.

Thomas : Thanks for that, I’m just off for a refill (laughter).

Matt : Bye for now.