How does it feel getting ready to get back out in front of a live audience on your Christmas with Il Divo tour after the industry was closed for so long due to the pandemic?
David Miller: “We’re musicians, who love making music. But we’re performers on top of that. Interacting with the audience it really fuels what we do as artists. Earlier this year we did a live broadcast so that our fans could have something to enjoy of our music. For me it was the weirdest experience of all time. Trying to banter back and forth with each other and banter with an audience that wasn’t there… I have missed it terribly. It’s been really hard.”
Urs Bühler: “For me as well it’s been very strange. I kinda cherished the time to be home and do stuff I love besides Il Divo, because we haven’t had much free time since we started almost 18 years ago. In the beginning we thought: ‘In a couple of months we’ll be out there again’ and it’s been almost two years now. In my heart I come back to Il Divo, being on stage and performing – that’s where I want to be. Even though I’ve tried other things, that’s where I wanna go back to ASAP. I’m incredibly excited it looks like that’s finally going to happen in the UK in December.”
Carlos Marin: “Being off the stage for two years has been really hard. The good thing is when we did the live stream for Mother’s Day on the eighth of May we went to the States to do it. The strangest thing has been recording the Motown album not being all together. Seb, David and Urs were in America. I was in Spain. Alberto Quintero, who was the producer, was working with them via Skype at 2am his time then with me in Spain going to the studio, sometimes also with him on Skype. It’s been an interesting way to do this album. The end result was fantastic. We are really excited to start in the UK in December. From then on we have already about 100 shows for next year.
What can we expect from the Christmas show?
Sébastian Izambard: “It’s a show that we’ve luckily played here in the US. It’s a lot of the big standards on our Christmas album that we recorded. It’s such a beautiful show because it’s classic songs. We have a lot of Christmas lighting, a Christmas tree on stage. It’s very warm and cosy. The audience is in that festive mood and it brings people together. Playing in the UK for me personally is something I’m really looking forward to because I find it’s stunning at Christmas. I lived in the UK for 10 years and there’s something really special about it that I don’t find in other countries. It’s a sense of family, getting together – and we also switched on the Christmas lights maybe 16 years ago. It’s very symbolic to me to be able to share our traditional music to the UK audience.”
There’s a worry there may be a shortage of Christmas trees in the UK this year so people might have to go for artificial rather than real ones.
Urs: “We can dress Carlos up as a Christmas tree.”
Seb: “What about if we get some pine-scented air freshener and we pump it into the theatre?”
Which Christmas memories do tracks from this tour’s setlist evoke in your minds?
David: “Most of the time it doesn’t matter if it’s a Christmas song or one of the Il Divo originals or one of the covers that we’ve done, I’m always trying to keep myself in the present moment and paying attention to the words. I’m worried about vocal technique and things like that. I don’t really take the time to stop and think about the emotions that are being evoked from the songs. Now I’m thinking about it I’m having this memory of being a kid. There’s one particular Christmas that my parents had gotten me a drum kit. I was about six-years-old and just recently broken my arm playing at the park, so I wasn’t actually even able to use my Christmas present. It was terribly disappointing. That aspect of it aside, the idea of family, togetherness, and closeness – my family was very small. It was me and my two sisters and parents. My dad was in the Navy and we moved around every couple of years so we really just had that family unit. Christmas was the time that we really spent concentratedly together. It means family and togetherness. All of these songs evoke a different quality of that.”
Do you have a favourite Christmas food?
Seb: “I once said stuffed donkeys when I meant turkey when we were speaking to Donny Osmond. His face was cracking up.”
Urs: “To me the most important thing is Christmas cookies. My mother used to make a whole truckload of them. 15 different kinds. We were a big family of seven. That’s an intrinsic Christmas food for me – sweet tooth.”
Do you buy each other gifts?
Carlos: “Of course when it’s each other’s birthday then we sing on stage then we do a big party. Usually we’re not with each other at Christmas time on the 24th and 25th so we don’t give any presents. In my house we eat a lot of fish and drink a lot. We are usually 30 people in the party. After eating everyone is drunk and the family play cards. It’s a typical, loud Spanish party.”
Seb: “I used to eat turkeys not donkeys. We eat a lot of seafood in France and celebrate that on the 24th. Then eat the leftovers on the 25th. We have a cake called a Christmas log – I don’t know if that exists in the UK. Now I’m a pain in the butt because I don’t eat meat. Everybody else eats the meat and I eat the vegetables and am really happy with that.”
What preparation do you do in order to get your bodies and voices in shape for going on tour, particularly after so long off the road?
David: “I think each one of us has methods of keeping fit. There’s physical fitness, vocal fitness, mental fitness, and emotional fitness. Each one of these things has different needs at different times. One thing I’ve found out from these two years of being at home is really having the time and space. Being on the road is an unpredictable process in a lot of ways. You’re going from city to city to hotel to hotel and sometimes you don’t get time at the hotel. Maybe the hotel has a gym or doesn’t, so every day it’s trying to navigate how to stay fit, how to eat fit and trying to get enough rest. Number one is getting enough rest. On such an unpredictable schedule going from different time zones that’s one we always try to do. Try to hydrate. During this pandemic I’ve really had time to set a routine with working out. I’ve downloaded some apps to help me track my fitness goals and I’ve been systematically trying to keep on it. If I don’t spend that excess energy I start to go a little stir crazy. I get antsy in my mind or emotions. For me working it out every day for half an hour every morning – going for a run down the mountain or doing some weights – it sets my tone for the rest of the day. Going on tour in the UK luckily we know all the places but I’m curious if I’m going to be able to maintain this fitness. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life and don’t know if I’m going to be able to maintain that when I go back on the road, but I hope so.”
You’ll have to get the driver to park the tour bus next to an open field so you can run.
Carlos: “I’ll watch you. That’s my exercise. I’m going to have a stopwatch and I’ll see how long you run for. I’m quite lazy. This summer I tried to do something because I was eating a lot and you get a little overweight and can’t fit inside your suits. Our stylist is going to say: ‘What’s up with your body?’. I’ve done a little bit of exercise as much as I can. The recording process was good to keep the voice going. That’s been my training session.”
Do you have an Il Divo tour bus or travel separately?
Seb: “A lot of the time in the UK we do a lot of driving because things are not too far away from each other. We have a wonderful tour manager called Phil, who is extremely good at making sure we are travelling in nice conditions. The touring aspect can be tricky when you go from one place to another in the US. You wake up and don’t know where you are. It can be tiring and difficult being away from family and friends. We have this really good way of making sure it’s comfortable and not crazy hours. In the UK I like the train. Driving is beautiful because you get to see the countryside a lot. We’ve had travel sometimes with a helicopter, which was funny and tour buses in the UK. I liked the double bus personally. It was really nice. It had a kitchen and coffee machine and video games for those that play them. It was very spacious. David and I probably watched TV in the back and Carlos was probably busy calling his friends on his phone.”
Carlos: “Yes, it’s all the kids that I have around the world.”
David: “I think someone provided that because it was just once as a special extra. Then we never saw it again.”
Seb: “We got it when we recorded the soundtrack for the World Cup.”
Carlos: “I get sick on the bus. We took it once in the US. Sebastian and I were watching a video but in the end we were so car sick we were lying down. I remember coming off the bus looking white. I’m not really a big fan of buses. Usually I fly or go in cars if it’s not too far away.”
Are there any UK cities you have particularly fond memories of?
David: “I remember going to the oldest pub in Nottingham. There’s a place in a castle and I went there with our drummer at the time before the show to see the history. I can’t even have a cheeky half pint before the show. For me that is one of the things about the UK. There is so much history in every town. Each town has a unique feel. Even although it’s a compact area that would fit in many of the states of the United States but there is such variety from the north to the south, east, and west. A variety of people, local culture, and personality. The audiences all respond differently in the cities. They all have a different feel – some are on the seaside and some in the city. I love how much variety there is across the UK. I do like going to all the cities.”
Carlos: “Manchester has a great club. I like the night life. I like the women, of course.”
David: “What about the soccer teams? They have amazing teams.”
Ronaldo is back at Manchester United.
David: “I know. I’d like to go and see a soccer game but I don’t think the season will be on.”
Carlos: “We went to the final at the World Cup when it was France vs Italy and Sébastian was screaming. Performing and watching the final was amazing with 100,000 people around. That was insane.”
The tour starts in Southend and goes to other seaside towns like Brighton as well. Have you had fish and chips on the pier or been to the arcades ever?
Seb: “Brighton is a really cool place. I’ve never experienced it in the winter. I see we’re playing in Bath and have never performed there before. I love Somerset as a countryside. Bath is such a stunning old town with so much history. That’s what I like about the UK. We’re going to Edinburgh and there’s so many castles. I live in America and there is not many of that. I really miss that being European. The culture is so rich. Also, what I personally love, about that time of year is in the UK like in France you do the traditional ornaments, the music, the gathering, cooking together. That’s something I value. I love the values in the UK about that time of year.”
Will there be any tracks from your most recent album For Once In My Life: A Celebration of Motown on this tour?
Urs: “It’s been in the works a long time but due to Covid was delayed. It is out now and that’s what we’re going to tour with around the world next year. We’ve got a lot of stuff in the calendar. We’ve been asked if we’ll put some of that in the Christmas show but we haven’t thought about that yet. I don’t think it’s a particularly Christmassy repertoire but to have something of it when we’re back in the UK to present the new stuff that is a nice idea. We’ll see if we can fit something in. That’s what we’re still waiting to get out there, our new album but we have to wait til we can get out there. The comments we’ve got from people who’ve bought the album is they love it. It’s great fun for us to perform it so we’re looking very much forward to being out with that next year.”
That’s a different sound, which people wouldn’t expect from Il Divo. What made you go in that direction?
David: “One of the things we found over all of these years of touring and recording together, our sound is very unique. For me it’s the variety of what we do, having different languages and four different voices singing individual lines and harmonic all together. One of the things we’ve found is we have a curiosity about different styles of music and wanting to venture into different directions to see how our voices will fit the repertoires. In the beginning it was throw paint against the wall and see what sticks. It was these random collections of music we were pulling from all different genres. Then our first album was an intentional collection of a style of music was A Musical Affair, which was all about theatre. Then came Amor & Pasion, which was Latin. It really felt organic to continue to explore different sounds. 2019 was the 60th anniversary for Motown so we thought this was the perfect opportunity for us to investigate that music. It’s a huge departure for us. So much more pace and tempo and I feel there’s a lot of light that shines through on this album being able to do duets with amazing artists. Working with this new repertoire and balancing it in is going to make for a great show.”
Do you have any hidden musical talents or sounds you like to explore?
Urs: “I always thought we should do a metal ballads album. I don’t know how our audience would react to that but there is so much great repertoire classic rock-metal ballads that would sound fantastic with our voices I think.”
David: “There’s loads of recordings on YouTube of orchestral versions of these songs. If we were to do something like that, that could make a lot of sense.”
Urs: “It’s not that crazy of an idea.”
What are your hopes for 2022?
Carlos: “For myself and the band to be working the whole year, not stopping. And of course that this pandemic is going to finish and they’re going to let us live how we lived before without masks or thinking about anything. That’s my wish for next year. To hope none of the shows will be cancelled so we can have this beautiful love from our fans.”
David: “You guys in the UK are leading the world from my perspective across the pond with vaccinations and showing the effectiveness. Being a role model for the rest of the world. I want to say thank you to the UK. I love that we’re going there as our first tour back after two years and really hope that the rest of the world is focused on playing catch up with you guys. For whatever criticism there is you’re able to resume normal life.”