BWW Interview: Alfie Boe Talks TRUST, MR. SELFRIDGE, and Career
Cover art courtesy of Manhattan Records (Universal).
Alfie Boe, who is internationally recognized for his tenor voice, first gained recognition in the United States when he starred as Rodolfo in Baz Luhrmann's Broadway staging of LA BOHÈME. In 2010, he took on the role of Jean Valjean for the 25th Anniversary Concert of LES MISERABLES. Now, he is gearing up for the US release of his latest album, TRUST, and his appearance as music-hall singer Richard Chapman in an upcoming episode of Mr. Selfridge. Recently, I chatted with Alfie Boe about these projects and his career.
BWW: Your latest album, TRUST, will be released in the United States on April 29, 2014. What was it like recording this album?
Alfie Boe: It was an amazing experience recording the album. I got to work with some fantastic musicians. I got to work with an amazing record producer, Larry Klein. The musicians we used, in particular, Booker T. Jones, who played the Hammond Organ, is quite a legend actually. The bass player was Leland Sklar. He's played for Toto and Phil Collins. He's been around. I was very fortunate to get the experience to work with these guys and to collaborate with them on the creative side of the arrangements.
BWW: On TRUST you sing a set of songs ranging from country and blues to folk and gospel. How did you decide on this track list?
Alfie Boe: The track list is really a collaboration between myself, the record company, and the producer. We all put our heads together and came up with a list of songs that we all agreed on. Then, we narrowed it down to what would work together and make a good album, really. I was very fortunate that lots of the songs on there were my choice, so I was lucky about that, really.
BWW: That's cool. The track list took me by surprise because I think of you more as a Broadway and operatic vocalist. These songs appeared to be out of your typical box, if you will, of choices.
Alfie Boe: Yeah, I wanted to really show my fandom and the public what the classically trained voice is capable of doing. It's the technical ability to sing, but a trained voice can adapt to many different styles as long as you're legitimate to the sound you have and you're legitimate to The Voice you've been given, and you don't try to be a different kind of singer. You don't try and become a blues singer, a gospel singer, or a country singer. You just use The Voice that you've got and adapt it to that music. And, it seems to work. I'm one of those artists that appreciates all different types of music, and I wanted to share that with the public too.
BWW: TRUST was released in the UK in November of 2013 and debuted at Number 8 on the UK Album Chart. What do you hope US audiences take from this album?
Alfie Boe: I'm hoping that they'll see the diversity of my singing, and I hope they'll appreciate the musicianship on the album and the collaborations that we all worked together to create for this body of work. I hope that they basically get enjoyment from it, that they enjoy listening to it, and hearing those songs done in a different way with a technically trained voice, I suppose.
BWW: What is your favorite aspect of recording in the studio?
Alfie Boe: If I make a mistake, I can stop and start it again. That's always a good thing. (Laughs) Basically getting to work live with the musicians. That's something that is a real blessing to me, getting to share a studio with musicians and create music together really.
Alfie Boe: I thoroughly enjoyed filming Mr. Selfridge. It was a great experience for me. I've not really done much of that stuff before, but it'll be interesting to watch my performance on US television and show my American audiences a different side of me. Hopefully, they'll like my performance in the show and just enjoy it.
BWW: Do you prepare differently for television appearances like this than you would for a stage performance?
Alfie Boe: With a TV performance, you have to do it so many times. You have to repeat the scene and repeat the song over and over again. They get different camera angles, they try different lighting, and they get something new from the actors every time that it's done; every time the lines are delivered. But, in a live performance, you only get one shot. You can't really stop and start. That's the difference.
I prefer really to do live shows. I mean the live shows have a lot of energy behind them and a lot of adrenaline running. You have to be on your game to not make mistakes.
But, also, I did enjoy the preparation and creativity of filming Mr. Selfridge. That was a lot of fun as well, and seeing how it all works. I was a novice to it really.
BWW: You'll be performing four songs on the episode, including the classic "Danny Boy." How did you choose your set list for Mr. Selfridge.
Alfie Boe: That was actually chosen for me by the writers. There are specific reasons why they chose those songs. They are suitable to the scene that I was playing. So, it was really out of my hands.
Check out a clip of Alfie Boe singing "Danny Boy" here:
BWW: From starring in Baz Luhrmann's legendary production of LA BOHÈME to playing Jean Valjean in the 25th Anniversary Concert of LES MISERABLES, you've gotten to play many "dream roles." Has there been a favorite one?
Alfie Boe: LA BOHÈME was something that has been very close to my heart for years, ever since I first started singing. Playing the role of Rodolfo is a huge part for me. Then, doing Jean Valjean in LES MISERABLES, performing that role, changed my life around. I've been very fortunate to play such great characters and such good roles. I can't really pinpoint one favorite because my favorite may still Turn up. (Laughs) I may end up doing another character soon that I really enjoy, and that could become my favorite. But, if I had to choose, I think Jean Valjean is something that has been very special to me and has been one of my favorites.
BWW: What advice do you offer to others hoping to make a career in performing?
Alife Boe: Work hard. Train hard. Perform hard. Make sure that whenever you're asked to sing that you sing with all the enthusiasm and energy that you possibly can. Whenever you get the opportunity to sing for people, go for it. Don't hesitate. You never know who's going to listening. You never know who's going to be there to take you on board. Just make sure you know your craft, know your artistry, and you know how to produce good quality work and enjoy it.
With his celebrated tenor instrument and a loyal fan following, Alfie Boe should definitely be on your list of artists to watch. Also, if you haven't pre-ordered TRUST yet, it's not too late to do so on iTunes and on Amazon. It's already been very well received in the UK, so you know it's worth buying on April 29, 2014. Lastly, make sure you tune in this May to the sixth episode of the second season of the PBS series Mr. Selfridge to see Alfie Boe as music-hall singer Richard Chapman.