Russell Watson International singing sensation
The story of Russell Watson is inspirational. It depicts the meteoric rise of a humble factory worker from Salford who was catapulted into international singing stardom.
He has sold millions of records worldwide and has performed for some of the most influential people of our time including the King of Malaysia, The President of the United States, the Emperor of Japan, our very own Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prime Minister of Germany, various powerful Sultans, The Beckham’s and even the late Pope John Paul II who requested a private audience with Russell at the Vatican in Rome.
After staging a recent concert at Windsor Castle in the presence of Prince Charles and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles requested Russell’s services as an ambassador for his coveted charity The Princes Trust. Keeping it in the ‘Royal’ family, Russell has been invited to numerous functions hosted by Queen Elizabeth II including a recent visit to Buckingham Palace.
This success did not happen overnight. As the son of a factory worker, Russell found himself following in his father’s footsteps working 12 hour nightshifts in a nuts and bolts factory to earn his living. It was only when he entered a local radio talent competition, beating 400 other hopefuls, Russell decided to throw down the proverbial oily rag and pursue his passion, music! Russell spent the next few years completing his musical apprenticeship in the North West working men’s clubs.
Russell’s big break came in May 1999 when he was invited to Old Trafford to sing before Manchester United’s Premiership-winning match. His performance of the World Cup anthem “Nessun Dorma” received a standing ovation. To quote respected sporting journalist, Paul Hince, present at the game: “You know when you have just witnessed something special when even the cynical hacks in the press box rise to their feet and join in the ovation. I swear, even the pigeons on the roof of the stands flapped their wings”.
Inevitably this triggered a series of sports-related performances. He was invited to perform so often that one journalist was quoted as saying “there is only one person to have appeared more times at Wembley this year than David Beckham, and that is Russell Watson!”.
The sports theme has stayed with Russell and in 2002 he was invited to perform at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in front of a worldwide television audience of 1 billion people.
Russell was signed by The Decca Music Group to a five-album deal and in September 2000, his debut recording The Voice was released to huge critical and public acclaim. This mix of repertoire along with Russell’s majestic vocal performance delivered an immediate impact.
By October, it had climbed to No.5 in the UK pop charts and broke worldwide records by holding the No.1 position in the classical chart for a year, only to be knocked off by his follow up release, Encore. It broke further records by quickly reaching the No. 1 spot in the US, making Watson the first British male to simultaneously occupy the top of both the UK and the American charts. This multi million-seller went on to win two Classical Brit awards for Best Classical Album (voted for by the British public) and Best Classical Debut album.
Encore followed Russell’s innovative trademark mixture of popular Italian arias with pop classics (including songs recorded for the Hollywood blockbuster Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and the theme tune to the Star Trek TV series Enterprise). It went multi Platinum in the UK (where it was at No. 1 in the classical charts for 30 weeks), multi platinum in New Zealand, Ireland and Gold in numerous territories around the world. Russell won a further two Classical Brit Awards for Best Classical Album and Male Artist of the Year.
Watson’s third album Reprise, released in 2002, went Platinum in the UK within two weeks, reaching No. 9 in the pop charts and No. 1 in the classical charts. In fact every UK release to this day by Russell has reached top ten status in the national UK album charts.
His recent scare aside, Russell has been no stranger to career and life threatening scenarios. One of these life changing experiences occurred just after his third album when he began experiencing problems with his voice. “It was probably one of the single worst days of my life when I went to see the specialist. I told him I was having problems with my falsetto. I could sing chest notes, but I knew I was bypassing the problem. He stuck a pipe up my nose and down my throat and said you’ve got a lump on your vocal chord and that they were going to have to surgically remove it. He was totally honest with me and said that I could lose some of my top register, he couldn’t give me any guarantees. I walked out of the place in tears. Fortunately the operation was a complete success and Russell returned to full health.
The next album, Amore Musica, was extraordinarily beautiful. It included lyrics by Dianne Warren and Gary Barlow (Take That). This was a record that Russell felt truly reflected his state of mind at that time saying “this is a record about love, music, peace, happiness and hope”. The record-buying public seemed to be inspired.
In 2006 Russell released The Ultimate Collection, a compilation of his greatest hits so far. With a debut at no. 2 in the national album charts, his highest position to date, and a fifth number one in the Classical charts it really proved Russell is here to stay. In the same year he embarked on a new challenge in the form of BBC televisions smash hit show Just the Two of Us. Partnered with UK TV actress Sian Reeves (Cutting It, Holby City, Where the Heart Is) the two of them sang their way to an overwhelming victory on the show.
Whilst recording 2007’s That’s Life, Russell And it was while recording at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles that Russell fell ill with a brain tumour. “It was very emotional for me,” says Russell, “For two days while I was waiting to find out if the tumour was cancerous or not, I couldn’t help thinking that these might be my last vocals. When I listen to That’s Life (the title track), I can hear all the meaning in the words.” Despite this news, he kept it secret from everyone and soldiered on to complete the record.
Russell’s new album Outside In, sees him tackling iconic repertoire with a newly invigorated love of life and a maturing singing voice. Recovering from his illness, he is living every day to the fullest, and has thrown everything into the new recordings. The album includes everything from classical tracks such as ‘La Califfa’ and ‘Time To Say Goodbye’ to classic songs such as ‘Unforgettable’- and even a new 2007 version of ‘Nessun Dorma’, which is dedicated to the late Pavarotti. With all this and a voice which is now better than ever, Russell proves once again that he can imbue popular songs as well as classical with his own unique style and grace.
Guest vocals from Jocelyn Brown, Denise van Outen and Hayley Westenra provide the finishing touches to a very special album. And it’s clear that last year’s trauma has neither dimmed Russell’s love of music, nor altered the stunning voice that started this whole story off. Outside In finds a slightly wiser Russell Watson on world beating form, and truly ready for anything.