"The whole thing was a dream come true" – hmv.com talks to Bob Blakeley
56 is an unusual age to be releasing your first album, but Stockport crooner Bob Blakeley is an unusual singer. A club singer for most of his working life, he tried his luck on BBC reality show The Voice last year and, despite wowing crowds and receiving praise from coaches Sir Tom Jones, Kylie Minogue, will.i.am and Ricky Wilson, he failed to turn any of their chairs.
However, veteran songwriter and Wombles creator Mike Batt saw him and decided to step in. During an appearance on BBC Breakfast, Batt offered Blakeley a record deal live on air, an offer which moved Blakeley to tears.
He has since recorded his debut album Performance, which includes covers of Justin Timberlake, David Bowie and The Righteous Brothers as well as seven other tracks. It is released on Monday (May 19th) and we called him up to find out all about it...
Your debut album Performance is out in a few days, how are you feeling ahead of it coming out?
"I'm very nervous to be honest, it's a big first step."
You recorded the album with a full orchestra, how did you find that process?
"It was a real eye opener for me. Working with Mike (Batt) and watching him arrange was such an experience, hearing his arrangements come to fruition was so amazing. The whole thing was a dream come true, I remember walking into the studio for the first time and just being in awe of everything."
How did you go about selecting the songs?
"In our first meeting, me and Mike Batt went through them all. I knew there were a few songs I didn't want to. Mike wanted me to do a couple of his songs like 'God On The Drums, Devil On The Bass', which was one of his collaborations with Katie Melua.I was happy to."
"There was one time where I wrote down this song called 'Kites' and I thought 'I'll have a go at that one'. The next day I went to see Mike again and walked into his flat and on the table was a piece of paper with 'Kites' written down on it. I asked him about it and he said 'Do you that song? The Simon Dupree track' and I told him that I'd tried it last night. It was so weird, I feel like some of the tracks were chosen by a higher plane."
You must have been really keen to include 'Cry Me A River' on there, the track you performed on The Voice…
"Yeah, but we couldn't do the Michael Buble version, the one I did on The Voice, so Mike did a brand new arrangement for it."
Were they any tracks you pushed to include on there?
"I really wanted 'Abracadabra' on there, the Steve Miller Band version. There's also this track called 'Just One Smile' that I really wanted on there too; it's my favourite on the album. There are some really great numbers on there."
Did you push to not do any?
"I didn't want to do 'Fix You' by Coldplay' and 'My Ship Has Come In', I said no to both those ones."
Mike Batt has clearly had a big impact on you in the short time you've known him..
"He's an absolute darling, a gentleman and a genius. You don't realise what a genius he is until you go in the studio with the man. He wrote every note for the orchestra, I was just in awe of him."
What kind of mentor has he been?
"Fabulous. His direction has been 200% right. It's been like a teacher pupil thing, I've learned a hell of a lot in real short space of time."
Finally, are you planning to take the record out on tour?
"I hope so. Touring this album is a must. It'd need the orchestra to try and recreate the album live, but I absolutely want to."
Bob Blakeley will giving a short performance and signing copies of his new album 'Performance' at hmv Manchester on Monday 19th May at 5.30pm. You can pre-order the album out in store now.