The male pop opera group, Il Divo
has shook up the opera world and helped rid it of it's stale reputation. With a busy schedule promoting their newest album The Promise
and preparing for their next world tour, charismatic tenor Urs Buhler took some time to chat with Starpulse about what was currently going on with the talented quartet.
Congrats on the new album by the way, The Promise which came out on November 18th. Now you all agree that this album happens to be the most diverse. To you personally, how do you feel about the work you've all put into the new CD?
-I'm very proud of it. I think it's by far the best album we've done so far. I think it's got the most eclectic song choice. I think the vocals are the best there is and the most beautiful. It's got sophistication about it in this album which the previous albums didn't have. I'm very proud of it. What we kind of wanted to do with this album, after we finished last year's world tour, we've been quite tired and taken a couple months off. Also the producing of the other albums was always done under a very strict time schedule and we just did not want to have on this one. So we've taken the liberty to have a lot of time. We went into the studio in October 2007 to start recording The Promise. We did do a couple songs to what would come out and we indeed threw all that stuff away at the time. We wanted to have that luxury that we could just take it easy in the studio, see what comes out if we were happy with it. If we weren't, we'd just go in later, take all our songs rearranged so that we could end up with an album where each single track we were really convinced and proud of. I think really it's well played off, we're really happy about the album and by far I think it's the best.
Technically this is the fifth album Il Divo has put out. Is it still nerve-wrecking and do you still face anxiety every time you put out a new album, even though it probably is a routine thing for all of you?
- No it's really never-wrecking especially now. We put out an album every year in a row for the first three. We didn't release anything last year and finished a tour, then dropped off the face of the earth for about six months. Immediately papers were saying "they've disappeared as fast as they have come…" which is not true, we were just taking a break yet still working hard at what we wanted to achieve. But you do not know how the audience is going to be since you haven't released an album in some time. Once the album is going out it is very exciting and you're anxious about if the people are going to like it, if the people are going to buy it because that's just something that exists when you're a musician. Something like that isn't something that you just get used to. It doesn't become a routine, it just doesn't exist.
With this album you've done covers such as Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Power of Love" and "Hallelujah" where you've gotten to do your own spin and have control over it. Is there any particular song or musician you personally or as a group wish to cover?
- There's a lot of songs. The sourcing for the material for an album start normally when we finish another album because then you start thinking "You know this would be great to but on the album" or "We can put this on the next one." So there's a lot of stuff there. There are so much, so many songs. We did a Bryan Adams song on the last album, a ballad. Anything that's a great ballad or has strong romantic progression in the song. Maybe something from the Titanic soundtrack. I don't know, there's so many!
So what are you currently listening to? Obviously opera is something you love and it's your job. Are there any current bands or artists that you love right now?
-Well I do listen to a lot opera, not just because it's my job but it's my passion and my first love. But I do listen to hard rock and heavy metal. There are a lot of American bands that I like very much. Not so much contemporary artists but more from the 80s when I was a teenager. Bands like Stryper
. I love good 80s melodic hard rock and heavy metal.
That's what I kind of do as a hobby.
Now let's talk about your Oprah appearance. You guys were actually on your way to vacation but instead traveled over night last minute. What were you guys thinking and what was going on through your heads, especially being so tired?
-(Laughs) We we're thinking that it was wonderful that Oprah
was going to have us on her show. We've been there twice before and she's so lovely and the team over at the studios is great. And of course when Oprah Winfrey asks you to perform on her show, you can't say no. I remember very well getting picked up and David and Sebastian were already at the airport and already had their bags checked in. I was going on a later flight because I was going somewhere different. I was in the hotel lobby and just checked out actually. I was about to get into the car, we were in Mexico City at the time and someone said "Actually you may want to go back to your room for another hour. You're taking a later flight and you're flying out to Chicago." And I remember I just burst out laughing. I couldn't believe it. I mean you're used to it when you're doing promo like that and schedule appearances. Last minute you may have to meet with journalists or have to go to a TV studio. But one minute you in Mexico City on your way home, and now you've got to go to Chicago for a huge TV show. But it was brilliant and I enjoyed it.
That's good. You have to be spontaneous once in a while.
- Oh yeah! Absolutely! You have to take it day by day or minute by minute in this business sometimes.
What I enjoy about you guys is that you've brought a new attention to opera. You have this tie with Simon Cowell and the four of you have brought this young and modern twist, almost like a breath of fresh air. Now, people who may not have given opera a chance are exposed to it and enjoy it. How does it feel to bring back popularity to the genre?
-One of the greatest things we could achieve with doing what we do with Il Divo. With me being a classically trained singer and I do know of a classically trained repertoire, it's so large and beautiful and it mean so many things to me. But I'm sure for everyone that might have a different musical taste, I'm sure there is something they'd enjoy in a classical repertoire very much. But only few people are interested and it's a shame. If we can bring the whole classical music scene out into the general audience and make people more aware of it and discover what there is to discover, then I think that's the best thing we can achieve with out music.
You guys are extremely busy, what's next for you all after things settle down with, appearances and touring?
-Yes, we're still promoting the album till Christmas indeed all around the world. We have a couple weeks of break and then we start rehearsing for next year's world tour. We have a deal with Live Nation, a world wide tour that will take us about eighteen months. We're going to be doing a whole new repertoire from The Promise and we have a whole team of set designers, choreographers, stage mangers, and directors. So we're very busy at the moment but very excited. We will be starting in February in the U.K. and Europe, then the U.S. and Canada in May and June. Touring is the greatest thing you can do as musicians, even better than doing the album promo tour. When we're actually touring, we have more control and you're standing in front of at least 30,000 people out there who enjoy your music and give you immediate feedback. We're looking very much forward to it because that's who we enjoy doing it for.
When I see you guys perform, you all seem very calm, cool, and collected. Is Il Divo the same off stage? I'm pretty sure there are some antics going on off stage. You all are human, guys are guys.
-Oh yeah, of course! (Laughs) But when we're performing, we are very passionate and quite perfectionist about what we're doing. We are very conscious of how we want to present ourselves to the audience inspired by the music we are doing. To me personally, are music has to be beautiful and enjoyable to the people. The whole image and look of the band kind of has to be the same thing, it has to be nice to look at and relaxing. But off stage, we are normal people. When the four of us are in the dressing room together, we talk about things four men our age would talk about. We're just normal people. We have a performing life and we have our private life, which is good to have. You kind of need that if you constantly in the public eye, you need that balance.
With the holidays coming up, is there anything in particular that you are looking forward to doing or that you want?
-I do love Christmas time because I love the weather. I hope it's going to snow, I love White Christmases, I think it's so romantic when you're walking in the street and you see all the Christmas lights and the snowflakes falling. That's the most beautiful thing to me. And of course you do all the Christmas shopping and you wrap up the presents. I love doing that and for me it's the best time of the year. I love all the homey things that go on during the holiday and I'm looking forward to that.
Interview by Angelica Castillo
Starpulse contributing writer