BWW Interviews: PHANTOM's Simon Bailey About His New Album LOOKING UP
Simon Bailey, currently on tour as Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera, has had a secret project on the go this year, and it's finally come to fruition with the release of his debut album Looking Up.
"It was always just meant to be a passion project," he says now. The album is a tribute to his late father, and combines the favourite songs of them both with new material Bailey has written himself.
It also features some of his closest friends from musical theatre as guest vocalists - Ramin Karimloo ("he's one of my best friends in the world - that was a no-brainer"), Katie Hall ("we get on so well. People don't hear her sing anything apart from the classical soprano stuff, and she has a really versatile talent") and Sabrina Aloueche ("she was incredibly supportive to me at a difficult time. She has such an immense voice, and people are used to hearing her up in the rafters on We Will Rock You - here it's nice to her hear sing intimately and with such warmth").
Bailey was always wary of performing his usual repertoire. "I wanted to do songs that meant something to us," he explains. That meant that he and his musical director Tom Deering approached the material, both old and new, with an awareness of the stories they wanted to tell.
"With some of the covers, I wanted to make sure people could hear my voice and recognise what I was trying to say," he says. "With something like Tears in Heaven, which was one of my dad's favourites, that was originally about a man who'd lost his son. I wanted to approach it as a son who had lost his father, and make it sound childlike - you can hear that in the high piano notes."
Certainly Bailey's voice and the stories he wanted to tell have resonated with reviewers and listeners so far; our own Jenny Antill described the album as "a recording from the heart".
"I'm humbled by the reaction," admits Bailey. "That's one of the good things about Twitter, the response has been lovely."
And although the album was never intended primarily as a showcase of his talents, or a springboard to anything else, he adds, "I hope there might be something I can do [in terms of a potential cabaret] once the tour is finished."
Watch this space.