Wicked wanderers circle the globe
by David Dunn
Published on the 29 March
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IT must be a hard life travelling the world wowing ears and eyes alike from Singapore to Sheffield.
But somehow classical multinational male vocal phenomenon Il Divo, pictured, seem to make it work.
“We have grown to know each other so well over the course of the last eight years that we are like four brothers,” explains Swiss-born Urs Buhler, shortly after finishing a show in Taipai. “That comes closest to describe our bond.
“We are like a family with ups and downs, individually as well as collectively, but nobody else in the world shares all the intense experiences we have lived through together since we started with Il Divo.
“That makes our friendship unique and irreplaceable. And I’m sure some of it shimmers through in our performances. We often get asked if we really have as much fun together on stage as it looks. The answer is: Much more than that even. There’s so much going on on-stage between us that the audience doesn’t see. We’re always having a ball performing together, because we love it so much.”
Il Divo, owners of more than 150 gold and platinum awards from 33 countries, are currently midway through a six continent tour with fifth album Wicked Game, a record fuelled by clever re-workings of some very familiar songs.
While the idea of tackling covers may seem an easy one to some, Sebastien Izambard says the process wasn’t as straightforward as it could have been.
“It took us two years to put these songs together,” confirms the Frenchman. “The A&R at the very beginning of the song choice stage was wrong and predictable, but we knew we had to experiment again and try some new songs to move forward. Finally, after four months, it began to take shape after these few attempts of recording.”
In fact, Seb’s wife Renee had an input into the content when she heard Rebecca Del Rio’s version of Roy Orbison’s Crying on TV drama Prison Break.
“We are open to anything,” he says. “In all fairness we were talking about how great it would be to do something with Jessie J or Eminem or Bjork. It would be fab to do something out of the ordinary.
“We try as much as possible to not be predictable but Il Divo is Il Divo. I think the next record we have in mind you are going to be very surprised. It keeps us all on our toes with excitement.”
Either way, the formula – re-imagining other folk’s songs with an opera/classical makeover – has worked well from day one and just about everywhere, no matter the language.
“We are definitely entertainers, we love putting a smile on our audience faces,” says Seb, simply. “They come to have a special time and we are at that time the luckiest men in the world to do what we love doing.
“Music is so powerful, it recalls in people’s heart a moment, like a perfume does. It brings you back to a good or bad moment. Music is a necessity. People will not live happily without music.
“We all have to listen to music and love a musical song in our lives. This is why music matters so much, because it helps us to live.
“For instance in Japan when the horrible tragedy occurred a year ago, our music was played in the street and the journalist who told me says it helps them to move forward and rebuild some positivity. The power of music is limitless.”
Surely there is some connection also made by the fact Il Divo comprises different nationalities, rather than men from one country or culture?
“I don’t necessarily think it makes it easier for the group or for our music to get accepted,” says Urs.
“However, I am convinced it makes for a colourful configuration which has not been replicated, and that is surely one of our great strengths. The concept seems so obvious and easy, and yet…”
“This is how music is intended to work, to reach people everywhere without boundaries of language or culture.
“It is music’s great power that it can be understood by anyone without needing any special training or formation or knowledge, as long as it reaches you on some level, be it emotionally or intellectually.
“There are even deaf people who come to our concerts and enjoy our music because they can feel the vibrations.
“We are the fortunate ones who can serve the music, create and transmit it to so many people.”
By the time Il Divo reach the Motorpoint Arena on April 7 they will have clocked up more Air Miles on this tour than most of us do in a lifetime. Such extreme travelling can take its toll on the healthiest of us, let alone four voices that need to be at their peak every other night.
Not much room for partying with fans, then?
“You have got a great responsibility, so you have to be very careful how you pace yourself,” confirms Urs.
“But as with everything the golden way lies in the middle. If you get paranoid about everything you very soon don’t have a life any more, and you probably get sick or depressed much easier.
“I love a big after-show party, but not if I have three more shows to sing on the following three nights. That would be not taking your job seriously. You have to get very good at listening to your body and mind and feel when they need rest, just as when they need to step off the treadmill and gather some new inspiration and energy – hey, we’re only human.”
As for what follows the current bout of globe-trotting? Seb knows how to spin a finish to an interview. “The great thing about the four of us is we do not sit on our laurels. We always look for the next big thing,” he concludes.
“Looking back is great. It makes you look to improve but now and tomorrow is really what is important.
“Maybe a duet with Beyonce one day?”