One might expect classical artists to be posh and upper class, but Russell Watson with a distinctive Mancunian accent and chatting about footbal isn’t a typical classical star.
His extraordinary career which has taken in performing for presidents, emperors and heads of religious state isn’t bad for a lad from Salford, he later says during our chat.
But his latest concert coming to the Royal & Derngate in Northampton is one of his most personal, and he likes it that way.
He said: “The title of the show is songs from the heart and it is all the songs that are very close to my heart and mean something to me.”
“One of the nicest things people say about my concerts is that people say, I felt that concert was just for me. And to touch people like that when there is a room of 2,000, 5,000, 10,000 people really means a lot.”
He is commonly described as a crossover artist, but it is a description that confuses him.
Russell said: “Musically, I’m very diverse. I get confused when people call me a crossover artist. What does that mean? I’m not cross at all!
“But because I am so diverse, it does mean that we can put certain songs into the show. For the Wrexham show, I phoned the musical director the morning of the show and asked if we could do a Tom Jones song. We did The Green Green Grass of home and it went down really well in Wales for obvious reasons.”
It’s well reported that he didn’t set off to have a career in classical music, so what led him to this path?
Russell said: “I don’t think I aimed to be a classical singer, although I have my grandma to thank. Whenever I was around, Classic FM would be on and I think that subconsciously steeped into my psyche.
“I think for a better word, I did stumble into a singing career but I am very grateful. I get to perform songs that I love to audiences that are great.
He performed at the White House for President Bush and discussed football with the Emperor of Japan as well as performed for the Pope.
Russell said: “I was also performing at the Vatican in a concert for Pope John Paul II and had a little look out in the middle of the show and thought, wow, it’s a little bit bigger than Wigan Road Working Men’s Club.”
His concert comes to Northampton on Saturday July 23 at 7.30pm. Tickets – priced from £31 to £46 – can be booked by calling the box office on 01604 624811 or by visiting www.royalandderngate.co.uk.