The mezzo-soprano talks about Wales, her whirlwind success, and the new album Living A Dream.
Last updated: 28 January 2009
How did you select the music for Living A Dream?
I always ask the audience to come to the auditorium after my shows and make suggestions of things they would like to hear on the new albums. When it's time to make new album I get my list out and talk them over with the record company. That's how I chose the songs for new album, apart from I Will Always Love You which was my idea.
I believe this is the first time that song has been sung in another language.
I loved the song and thought it would make a great classical song if translated into Italian, L'Amore Sei Tu, and given a rich orchestral accompaniment. But I was told I probably wouldn't be able to because Dolly Parton was very strict about who she allows to use it. So I recorded it on the off chance and sent a copy to her.
I had a letter back saying she loved the version and has allowed me to be the first person to sing it in a foreign language. It's such a worldwide smash of a song that it would have been done in every language, but it hasn't.
Why have you chosen to sing and record songs that a more associated with male singers?
On the new album I sing Nessun Dorma and Music Of The Night from Phantom Of The Opera. I sang Nessun Dorma for the first time at the G8 concert. The organisers had heard a rumour I was recording it for the new album and asked me to sing it because it's a song that would make the audience really stand up. It's so emotional with a climactic melody.
I try and add a little twist to core classical music. O Sole Mio before for example. When something's recorded so many times it's nice to give it a twist and sing it with the female voice. There is no reason why not. Why should men have all the best tunes?
You have also included a Welsh song on the new album.
Yes, Dafydd y Garreg Wen, David of the White Rock. Catrin Finch plays the harp on it for me. It is imperative on every album I make there is a Welsh song on there.
I'm so proud of being Welsh and being associated with the Welsh rugby team. I'm singing at all Wales' internationals this autumn. Although I live in London now, when I say home I mean Wales and Neath in particular. Eventually I will hopefully move back to Wales and I hope to be able to live in Wales permanently.
Do you prefer performing live to recording in the studio?
I really enjoy both. I love the live performance with the reaction from the audience that you don't have in the studio, but I like taking a couple of months out over the summer and really concentrate on making an album. When I make an album it becomes a snapshot of my life. I put all my energy into it and I can remember how I felt at the time. It's like a photo album and I love that.
How involved are you in those albums?
I co-produced this album, which is something I want do more of. I learned a bit about the production side the last time, but I realised I know my voice better than anyone else so I wanted to be more involved in the whole production and arrangement process. In future I would love to produce another artist, to do something completely different.
Is your voice changing?
Yes, definitely. It is both to do with my age - between now and 30 my voice will dramatically start maturing - and the amount of performing I'm doing. I am getting more confident as well and that's helping me in the recording studios.
Are you worried about too much performing damaging your voice?
I went to the Royal Academy of Music and learned about stamina, technique and how to protect my voice, and that has been invaluable. I have a gift I look after and I don't abuse it. You won't see me going out drinking or to smoky places because I know I need to respect my situation and look after my voice.
Do you see yourself on the opera stage one day?
That is my long term ambition. I really admire the way Bryn Terfel has his foot in the opera world and can still make crossover CDs. That's what I would love to do. By the time I am 30 and my voice is fully developed I can consider some opera roles. To sing with WNO would be a dream come true.
Do you ever want to pinch yourself over the speed of your success?
It has been a whirlwind. So much has happened I cannot name a single highlight because there have been so many wonderful things that I didn't expect. That's why I called the album Living A Dream, because it's what I'm doing at the moment. I'm having the best time. It's two years since getting the record deal and I'm still loving every minute of it and not taking anything for granted.
How does it feel to be the new Forces Sweetheart?
After the VE Day celebrations the papers called me that. I told my manager I didn't want it to be just a name. It seemed to me we have occasions when we remember people who have died for us fighting but I think we need to show the troops they are not forgotten. So I will be going out to Basra to entertain the troops with the Ministry of Defence on 22 December.
Are you now working on the next album?
When we finished this one the record company said we need to start talking about the next but I said no way! I'll be promoting this album and touring until Christmas and then next year I'll be promoting it in US, Japan and Australia. I want to put my all into this one. But if people come to the tour and want to suggest songs please do!
Words: Mike Smith