THE VOICE, Part 2: Russell Watson Talks New Schonberg-Produced Album!

Your new album, Only One Man, is a collaboration with Claude-Michel Schonberg. Tell us a little bit about how this came about.

It was one of those surreal moments. My manager rang me up - he's French - he said, "Hello, Russell, I was doing my yoga lesson and I came up with this idea. Tell me what you think."

So I said, "Yes, of course - fire away."

"I was thinking if you were to make your next record with Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil."

I went, "Right."

"And they write new songs for you."

"Yeah, OK, and later on I'll give President Obama a call and ask him if he wants to pop out for a pint with me."

The writers of the world's most successful musical are just going to step up and write me a brand-new record for Christmas. Right. And a day later, no word of a lie, he rang up and said, "I spoke with Claude-Michel's people and they want to see you tomorrow at his house."

So off I toddled to Claude-Michel's manor. It was quite daunting - he's one of the most phenomenal writers of the last century. I sat down in his lounge, surrounded by his numerous awards and pictures of work he's been involved with, Grammys and Oscars and what have you. He looked at me and his opening gambit was, "What do you want from me, Russell?"

I looked back and said, "Access to your vast body of work would be amazing; your endorsement, as well, would be amazing; but I'd like you to write something original for me."

"We don't write original material, Russell; we write musicals. We don't write for solo artists. We just don't do it."

And then he asked me to tell him my life story - I went through the A to Z, born in Salford, working in a factory for six years of my life, covered in muck, 12-hour night shifts, got a lucky break singing at Old Trafford the season Manchester United won the treble, went to Barcelona, sang at Camp Nou, got a record deal with Decca, sold a million records, got ill, nearly died, came back, and here I am.

He looked at me, and said, "I love your story. I love it. I'm going to write for you." And that was it.

Russell Watson's new album is in shops now. Part 3 of the interview - about his forthcoming tour - will follow soon - watch this space!

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