If heaven exists… rolling timpanis will part the clouds, soothing strings will swing open the pearly gates, angels’ tongues will greet you in Italian and God will sing opera like Paul Potts.
Passione is the Welshman’s second album, and on it, unfiltered emotion drips from the tenor’s tonsils. The nimble legato of “La Prima Volta” is like a gentle, but lasting pull on ever y one of your heart’s strings. It reminds you of the warmth that wrapped your soul when you first saw your true love’s face. In the Chopin-inspired “Tristesse,” the minor key strokes and painful journey to Potts’ upper register will leave you longing for a lover that has taken away her embrace. Cello and piano waltz with Potts in a captivating arrangement of “Un Giorno Per Noi” that will beg your mind to flip through Shakespeare’s pages again in search of hope. “The album touches on many, many different kinds of emotion,” Potts says after a recent concert in Madrid. “It’s full of everything we go through at some point in our lives.”
The new album follows Potts’ debut release, One Chance, which sold more than three million copies and topped the charts in fifteen countries. He has energized opera – a genre known as much for temperament as talent – by fusing classical with contemporary. He’s sung R.E.M., Josh Groban and Roberta Flack in Italian, and on Passione, he tells Procal Harum’s tale about “A Whiter Shade of Pale” as poignantly as the miller. “It’s important not to be too precious about music and its divisions,” he says, “because I think that music is used in so many ways to unite people. It goes past languages, it goes past levels of education and how much money you have in the bank. The most important thing about music is how it makes you feel.”
Many weren’t sure what to feel when Paul Potts first took the stage two years ago on “Britain’s Got Talent” with a cheap suit, a wide waist and a confidence problem. The struggling mobile phone salesman was pestered by bullies as a kid and was afraid to smile because he was so ashamed of his ver y crooked teeth. Music had always been one of his only respites from the world’s cruelty. In fact, Paul and his wife, Julie Ann, whom he met through Internet chats, worked 13 hours a day to pay for his voice lessons, including a master-class taught by his idol Luciano Pavarotti. But Potts never thought he was good enough. In fact, the final impetus for his audition on national TV was the flip of a ten pence coin. It landed on heads, and he soon landed in front of millions on one of the U.K.’s most popular shows. “It felt like I was sitting on the edge of The Coliseum two thousand years ago with two thousand lions that hadn’t been fed in a week staring at me. I’m not sure what made me walk out.” When he told the judges he was there to sing opera, no one gave him a chance. But after he belted out Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma,” ever yone stood as high as the hair on their arms clapping with all their might.
Potts went on to win “Britain’s Got Talent” in 2007, YouTube hits of his performances have topped 100 million and he’s sung for the Queen of England and Oprah. He used the money from his recording contract to take his wife on a luxury vacation and got his teeth fixed, too – a procedure that took seventeen shots to numb the pain. (He says he could still feel everything, anyway). But this average Joe turned singing sensation has many reasons to smile these days as he embarks on his second world tour. Simon Cowell, who called Potts’ audition in Cardiff “one of the best I’ve ever seen,” is planning a film on his life. “Music has broken down virtually ever y barrier for me,” Potts says humbly and graciously. “It doesn’t belong to any one person; it belongs to everyone. That’s why I think that music is one of the most important things on earth, to be honest.” Potts admits that he still struggles with confidence, but says it’s a good thing because he’ll never rest on his laurels. His story has inspired many who possess incredible talent but lack the superstar profile, like the U.K.’s newest rags to riches celebrity Susan Boyle, who never stopped dreaming the dream either. “I compare life to driving along a road,” Potts says, “except you don’t get sign posts, you don’t get a map and you certainly don’t get GPS. You never know what change of direction you’ll get. When I did that first audition, I thought it was a dead end, and it ended up being a crossroads. So don’t allow obstacles that may be in your way to dissuade you from doing what you love doing. You never know when the break you’ve been working so hard for will come. So, keep at it.”
Written by: Ben Bamsey
Artworks Magazine: Summer 2009