TheaterMania Logo

INTERVIEW: Alfie Boe Is All About The Music

The international stage and concert star talks about his new CD, singing for the Royal Family, his memoir, and his career plans. logo
Alfie Boe
(© Decca Records)
Alfie Boe may truly redefine the term "crossover artist." The ultra-talented singer has already conquered the worlds of opera (including his Broadway debut in Baz Luhrmann's La Boheme) and musical theater (starring as Jean Valjean in the London production of Les Miserables). Now, as viewers of his upcoming PBS special, Alfie Boe: Live From the Royal Festival Hall, London, which begins airing on June 2, and listeners of his new CD, Alfie, due out on June 5, will discover, Boe can sing every genre imaginable with equal brilliance.

TheaterMania recently spoke with Boe to discuss these projects, his upcoming June 4 performance as part of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee, and the pluses and minuses of performing in the United States.

THEATERMANIA: Your new CD, Alfie, includes songs by Stephen Sondheim, Roberta Flack, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Tim Buckley. Why did you choose such an eclectic songlist?
ALFIE BOE: The mission in my life is to prove there are no divisions between music genres -- it's all one world. I never have been fond of people putting all things in one box or giving them a title. I don't want to be known as a classical singer. I am a singer of songs and a storyteller, whether it's Mozart or the Rolling Stones.

TM: How do you find the music you want to record or sing in concert?
AB: I'm constantly on iTunes or Spotify, listening to so many different artists, and when I hear something I like, then I think about how to put my mark on it or do my own interpretation. I never want to do a note-for-note, carbon copy of anyone else's work.

TM: Are you more attracted to the music or the words of a song?
AB: It's a joint thing. Certain melodies can lift a hair on the back of my neck, but the words are equally important. In order to put across the right emotion, you have to know what you're saying and what your intention is.

TM: Do you have a favorite cut on the album?
AB: I really enjoyed singing Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren." But what makes it so special is that I got to record it with Robert Plant. He is a hero to me. We actually met in a bar and started chatting for what turned out to be an hour, and I got his number and called him a few days later. We started talking about soccer, America, like we had known each other for years, and then I asked him if he wanted to duet on this song. I sent him a demo, and then he said yes.

TM: You also duet with Nick Jonas, your Les Miserables co-star, on "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables." Who else is on your duet wish list?
AB: There are so many people I'd love to duet with, but I might be disappointed if they said no. If pressed, I would say Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris. These are artists I just adore, in part because they are amazing songwriters, which is something I'm starting to do. I could learn so much from them.

TM: As part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, you're going to be singing on the same stage with stars like Paul McCartney and Elton John. What do you think that experience will be like?
AB: One thing about singing for royalty is that there is an element of fear -- because they have the power to send you to the Tower of London. That's a joke. They are a lovely family. I have met them all before and sung for them. Of course, it will be special to share the stage with all these people. I've never worked with any of them before, so I'm looking forward to chatting with them during rehearsals. I'm really excited about meeting Stevie Wonder.

TM: You seem very focused on your concert work now. Does that mean you've turned away from opera and musical theater?
AB: I'm not ruling anything out, and if the right musical or opera came around, I'd consider it. It's always nice to discover a new role, but there are classics out there I'd do as well. It's all about what special element I think I can bring to the role.

TM: You also have a memoir coming out in October. Why did you write this book?
AB: For a while, I did question why I would write the book, since I'm not really old enough yet to have a memoir. And then I decided this book could be part one and there could be another one to come. I'm hoping people will see that it's important to take advantage of the opportunities you get in life and to trust and believe that we each have a path. I am not trying to preach, and it's not about telling you how to live your life. I have had lots of struggles, and heartache, and trials I had to go through to get here, and I want to share a sense of encouragement with people and let them know that whatever they want to do, they can. We all have an opportunity to create.

TM: You'll be spending a lot more time in the United States this year. How do you feel about that?
AB: I love America. The fans here have been so welcoming, and a lot of that has do with PBS. I am doing two weeks of PBS pledges in various cities in June and then I'll be back in October to start my U.S tour. Of course, it's hard to be apart from my wife and children. That can be heartbreaking. Whenever you're feeling tired, you just want to hold your kids.

Tagged in this Story