“When we first got together we were looking at cruise ships, but we knew had to make this so much bigger” – hmv.com talks to Collabro
Most 18-month old artists are usually still gigging in pubs or slogging it around the country on the toilet circuit, but Collabro aren’t most artists.
Formed back in 2014, the fivesome put their career on an express train when they auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent and ended up going all the way to the final and coming out on top. They recorded their debut album Stars in the space of 10 days and spent the following year touring it up and down the country. After scarcely taking a breather they’re back with a new album, which is, fittingly, called Act Two.
Once again a 10-track collection, it’s largely comprised of songs from musicals, including ‘I Dreamed A Dream’, from Les Misérables, ‘Music Of The Night’ from Phantom Of The Opera and the iconic ‘Memory’ from Cats. There are also more contemporary covers, including Christina Perri’s ‘A Thousand Years’ and Kodaline’s ‘All I Want’.
We sat down with Collabro’s own Thomas Redgrave to find all about the making of Act Two, touring the thing and their plans to write their own material one day…
How long did Act Two take to come together?
“We started demoing before Christmas actually. We got the demos together after we did this big poll on social media, we asked all our fans what songs they wanted on the next album and we had hundreds of suggestions. We went through all those and we whittled them down to about 20. We demoed and then we picked the 10 best. It really is an album by the fans for the fans.”
Last time we spoke to you it was when your debut album was coming out and you’d said you’d had about 10 days to get the album done, did you get a little more time on this album?
“A little. Not counting the demos, it was probably only nine or 10 days, but we knew the songs really well this time and we were well prepared, we didn’t have that luxury last time, we had to learn the songs and record them all in 10 days. It was a bit more relaxed this time, this is a bigger and much better album.”
How did you go about picking the 20 songs? Did you have a goal in mind?
“Not really. We picked the songs we did because we love them, it’s not because anything in particular is en vogue right now, we wanted songs everybody could relate to. We wanted songs that told stories, that’s how we whittled it down, there were some obvious choices, ‘Music Of The Night’ from Phantom Of The Opera, we had so many people suggesting that one. We’d done it live on tour too, so we knew it really well."
There are some more unlikely choices on there too…
“Yes there are. ’All I Want’, which is a Kodaline song and was on The Fault In Our Stars soundtrack, wasn’t a song we knew too much about, but a lot of fans suggested it and we knew we could get a lot of emotion in it. That’s what we look for, which songs are going to be the most impactful with our voices.”
Do the five of you agree easily? Or does it take a long meeting to decide which songs to do?
“It’s half our choice, and then half of it is down to SyCo and Simon (Cowell), who put their input in. The good thing about Collabro is we’re all on the same page 99% of the time. We agree on most things, disagreements are rare, but when we do there are five of us, so someone always has the casting vote. Nobody goes away feeling badly treated.”
How has touring changed you as a band? Your voices must gel that much quicker?
“We spent a huge amount of time together on the road and we’re still learning about each other. When we first got together we were looking at corporate events and cruise ships, but once we started singing together we knew had to make this so much bigger. We were quite close from the beginning, we all love harmonies and making our voices work together.”
Did the songs that went down well on tour end up on the album?
“We haven’t been going very long. It’s literally been a year. A few of these were choices for the tour that we’ve ended up recording, Christina Perri’s ‘A Thousand Years’ and The Rembrandts’ ‘I’ll Be There For You’.
It’s a very different ‘I’ll Be There For You’ isn’t it?
“It’s quite different. It’s very slow and tender and we’ve had fans telling us that it’s given the song a whole different meaning to them. It’s become a real fan favourite.”
You spoke about Simon Cowell and SyCo’s involvement earlier, how much is Simon still involved day to day?
“We see him at events and he has his say on what goes on the album. Nothing goes out on SyCo without his approval, he listens to everything, everything goes through him.”
Is it strange having him there in the background? Is he someone you strive to impress?
“It’s nice. We know he’s got a business to run and a really strong image to maintain. He doesn’t have a lot of time, but when we do see him at events, we just chat, I think last time we saw him it was all about who was doing well on The X-Factor. He’s just normal around us.”
You’ve followed up Stars quite quickly, is this the plan from now on? An album a year?
“I hope so. We have so many ideas and such a passion for this that we want to give the public as much as we can. We love doing it and as long as people love hearing it, then we’ll keep going.”
What about the next step? Would you be up for writing your own songs? Or having originals written for you?
“We’d love to do that. Matt has already started a bit on that. We’re very musical and an original song would make us very happy. We work with this guy called Richard John, who’s a great arranger, he’s done things like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in the West End. He gives us arrangements and we learn them, then we make changes and suggest things. We’re all heavily involved in the arrangement and it feels like the natural next step.”
Would you write individually? Or would it not work without all five of you?
“It wouldn’t be a real representation of Collabro unless we’re all involved. We could write individually, but it’s not the way we’d want to do it. We’d all want our say, we all feel like we’ve got a lot to give, I don’t think one person could write it.”
Finally, you’ve got a big tour coming up, is there an appetite for arenas?
“Yes, absolutely. We want to keep upping the ante and I think these songs would sound brilliant in big spaces.”
Collabro’s new album Act Two is out now. The band will sign copies in hmv Southampton today (June 1st). Click here for more details.