An Interview With Collabro
Collabro sit down and talk about their new album, their UK tour, tour bus rules and panto! Read the whole interview here:
Exciting times, you've announced a new tour...
Michael Auger: '52 dates all around the UK, ending at the Royal Albert Hall before we head off to Ireland for another few dates. It's our biggest tour yet. What we wanted to do with this tour is go further to the nooks and crannies of the country, as Tom would say, and make sure we got to as many home towns as possible rather than just doing the major cities. To finish at the Royal Albert Hall is absolutely incredible. It's one of our favourite venues and hence why the album and tour are called Road To The Albert Hall.'
It means a lot to the fans when you go to little places. Is there anywhere you'll visit for the first time you're looking forward to particularly?
Matt Pagan: 'There's quite a few isn't there that we haven't done before. Small venues really work for us. What we do - musical theatre - is tell a story through song. The fact that we can see the whole audience, and see their faces and reactions is really special. It's amazing to do the big venues but just as special to do the smaller.'
Michael: 'Isle of Wight.'
You get such the best atmosphere in smaller venues.
Jamie Lambert: 'We did our album launch last night and it was a 340 seater in London. The atmosphere was ridiculous. We have some similar sizes on this tour. We also do Birmingham Symphony Hall which is 2,000 and it's incredible. That's got a completely different feel to it but equally as good. It's nice to be able to experience both on this tour.'
What made you decide to do the tour this way?
Tom Redgrave: 'We listened to our fans. We listened to feedback from our previous tours and lots of people said: 'I love you guys but I couldn't travel far enough to be able to see you' or 'You didn't come quite close enough to me'. With this whole tour we wanted it to be a journey around. We wanted to go further afield so we could get to all our fans and get to meet new people that we hadn't seen before.'
Is it life on a tour bus the whole time?
Michael: 'We will travel in a tour bus but we do stay in hotels to get some space away from each other. Not because we need it...'
Jamie: 'We do.'
Tom: 'When you're working in each other's pockets the whole time it's nice. We can spend the day laughing and having fun then we go back to our room and recharge and the next day we come out and joke and have fun again. And sing - that's the important bit.'
How do you amuse yourselves on the tour bus?
Jamie: 'We have a bus that was designed especially for us, by a lovely guy called Gav. He put some beds in the back for us. There's a TV either side of the table so we can watch TV and play PlayStation. It's important because it's a lot of travelling. Some journeys are five or six hours. Sometimes we go home after gigs. I remember last year we did a gig in Folkestone and I think I must have slept the whole way home. It's nice to have that special space.'
What are the rules on the tour bus?
Jamie: 'Clean your rubbish out.'
Michael: 'Jamie gets first dibs on the bed.'
Jamie: 'I did it once last year.'
Tom: 'Only because he's the longest member.'
Matt: 'There's a double bed and a single bed.'
Michael: 'You preferred that over the seats.'
Jamie: 'I did.'
Matt: 'I slept on the floor.'
Michael: 'When all three of them are in the beds or on the floor I get the seats so I'm basically in a bed as well.'
Jamie: 'Obviously we're always wearing seatbelts.'
What are the things you're not allowed to do on the bus?
Jamie: 'Clean up your rubbish.'
Michael: 'Tom left a banana skin...'
Jamie: 'We have found banana skins tucked away behind seats, behind curtains...'
Tom: 'I use it as a little pouch so I don't forget it.'
Jamie: 'And then you forget it. We're like: 'What is that smell?' And it's some rotting food somewhere. If we have our own personal phones or games or music you have to have headphones in. It's unbearable.'
Matt: 'If somebody's trying to watch and film and somebody is reading panto lines or something...'
Michael: 'That was a dig at Tom.'
Jamie: 'We were all in panto last year and Tom decided to learn his lines on the bus so I think we all ended up learning Tom's lines. Eventually I was like: 'Tom, I am learning YOUR lines and I need to learn MINE'.'
Michael: 'When I get to my room all I want to do is sleep.'
Jamie: 'I was in Beauty and the Beast and kept coming on stage like: 'Hello Tink', which was Tom's line.'
Michael: 'Literally the day after tour you had to go to dress rehearsal.'
Tom: 'My dress rehearsal started on the 28th of November. I didn't get off tour until the 2nd of December so I missed a good chunk of the rehearsals. They went: 'OK, come in learn all your lines and the dances in three days'. I had no time.'
Jamie: 'It was a lot to do a tour then go straight into 40 odd shows.'
Tom: 'Do you know how I learned it? There was a trick. I learned my lines on the bus.'
Jamie: 'Out loud.'
What are your memories of the Royal Albert Hall?
Matt: 'I saw Frankie Valli here and it was absolutely incredible.'
Michael: 'We were all just here for the Classic Brit Awards. We saw Katherine Jenkins...'
Jamie: 'Andrea Bocelli, Tokio Myers, Bryn Terfel, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who was incredible.'
Michael: 'At the end they had all these rose petals falling from the ceiling. We looked at Peter and he said: 'Do not expect that on tour'. We have done this venue a couple of times but it'll be great to think we'll be doing it five years after airing on TV.'
Can you believe it's your four year anniversary of debuting on Britain's Got Talent soon?
Jamie: 'That is crazy.'
Tom: 'It seems like no time at all.'
Jamie: 'And sometimes it does.'
Tom: 'That day seems like a lifetime ago.'
Jamie: 'I don't feel like we've been in the band that long then I think back when we were sat in that room for nine hours and it feels like a total different life.'
Tom: 'We were totally different people.'
Jamie: 'Different people, different ways of thinking. This industry teaches you a lot very quickly. It's amazing to look back on the things that we've done. We've been to Japan six times. That is crazy. We did a big Asian tour this year. We went to the Philippines. To think of all these things we've done and that we'll be celebrating them by doing a date at the Royal Albert Hall is fantastic.'
Is there anything else you'll do to mark the occasion? A tattoo?
Matt: 'That's never happening again. I was the only one who did it.'
Michael: 'We said if Stars got to No 1 we would get a tattoo of stars.'
Jamie: 'It was never stars, just a tattoo.'
Michael: 'It was. You changed the rules. Matt got quotes.'
Matt: 'It's on my bicep, all the way up my arm. No-one else did it.'
Michael: 'He got a quote, four stars and the date of our No 1. Tom said he was going to and didn't. Jamie got a quote on his arm of something else. I got a fake tattoo of a star on wrist.'
Matt: 'He convinced us all it was real for days.'
Michael: 'When it was gone I said I'd put make-up on it to cover it.'
Tom: 'Then he said it was on the other wrist.'
Did you actually have any intention of getting a tattoo for real?
Michael: 'I actually thought I would.'
Jamie: 'You didn't. You had no intention of ever doing it, secretly. Look at his face.'
Michael: 'I'm not sure if a tattoo would suit me.'
Anything else you'll do to make the occasion instead?
Matt: 'I think we should go paint balling.'
Tom: 'I've never been paint balling in my life.'
Jamie: 'Is there wine?'
Matt: 'There can be.'
Tom: 'Can you get purposefully shot in the first two minutes then go to a bar?'
Jamie: 'That'll be me. Every year we used to celebrate by going to STK on the Strand. I think we should do that again.'
Matt: 'We should get a box at a gig.'
Jamie: 'We just had one at Britney. It was really good.'
Was that the night she walked Rylan around the stage on a lead?
Jamie: 'That was the night before. Could've been us on leashes.'
As it's been four years since BGT have you thought about doing other reality shows? Would you consider say Strictly?
Jamie: 'Maybe in the future at some point but we haven't had time. Look at this tour next year and it's nearly three months, a huge block of time. We also have other stuff lined up for next year and this album. The Stages cruise in October is going to be really fun. That's a musical theatre cruise. Michael Ball is on that with us, Beverley Knight, Lee Mead, John Owen-Jones.'
Tom: 'It's going to be good to see John Owen-Jones again. Last time we saw him we were doing karaoke in Tokyo with him at 4am. We have been on a cruise before - we use them to get between places on tour. We'll jump on a cruise, do a gig then get off and do a gig on the other side.'
What is the hardest part about touring for you?
Matt: 'Living out of a suitcase.'
Jamie: 'Being away from home is tough.'
Tom: 'The stamina. Keeping your voice throughout the whole tour, which is why we do take such good care of our voices. Beforehand as well we're just about teetotal. We eat very well. We make sure we're getting enough liquids and all that kinda stuff. Stamina is the one especially now we're doing 20 more dates that we have before on a tour. We've really got to look after ourselves.'
Doesn't it get boring having to be good?
Jamie: 'No, because the thrill you get from the audience every night is amazing.'
Michael: 'Every audience is different so it's a different show, even though we're singing the same songs.'
Jamie: 'There's something so exciting about walking into a venue, even if you've been there before, and thinking: 'Everyone's coming here tonight to see us'. That is really cool.'
Do you still get excited when you see your name on the stage door?
Jamie: 'Oh yeah.'
Michael: 'Always have to take a picture. Or the sign on the dressing room - it might just be a bit of A4 paper with the word Collabro on it - we're like: 'Who's going to keep this one?'.'
The day that stops being exciting is perhaps the day you start thinking it's time to do something else?
Jamie: 'I think if you stay grounded it's hard for that to stop being exciting. The fact that we've created something and it's been a success is wonderful. But even now, four and a bit years on, people still want to come and see us - and they're there for us and nobody else - I can't imagine how that would never be exciting.'
Michael: 'Even the fans today, people have driven five or more hours to come here. It's amazing.'
Your fans generally seem to be ladies of a certain age. What's that like for your parents?
Matt: 'I think it ranges. Previous tours we've done we've had people come to the meet and greet and it's been a grandmother, a mother and a daughter. That spans over three generations and I think that's amazing.'
Tom: 'We love the mums and the mums love us.'
Jamie: 'What's nice about it is you'd think because they're of a certain age they wouldn't be that intense with Twitter and following you around venues but they're always there. It makes us have a bit of the celeb lifestyle.'
What's the best present you've had this time round?
Jamie: 'We got a lot of Moet last night, which is really nice.'
Matt: 'There are so many talented people who draw our faces.'
Tom: 'I sent mine home with my mum. She's making a little collection. I got a few (presents) last night because today is my birthday. I think I'm at a certain age now where I unwrap something and I go: 'Yes, socks. More socks'. The more socks I have the less washing I have to do.'
That's handy for going on tour.
Michael (to Matt): 'Is it you that does washing in your bath?'
Matt: 'I take travel wash.'
Jamie: 'It was very useful in Asia where we didn't speak Taiwanise. You washed some of my stuff for me.'
Is that on your rider now in case you run out?
Michael: 'It should be.'
Jamie: 'And God forbid people forget Haribo. That's the top thing on the rider. We say it's for gelatine but it's also so nice sitting eating Haribo when you're backstage.'
Michael: 'If you suck on a gold bear it coats your throat.'
Jamie: 'A lot of opera singers do it.'
What does the gelatine do?
Jamie: 'It helps your throat. When you have dry ice on stage it makes you very dry. It helps keep everything nice and lubricated. It's also a really good reason to eat loads of preservatives.'
Michael: 'There wasn't any Haribo last night.'
Jamie: 'I got you M&S Percy Pigs and worms.'
What else is on your rider?
Jamie: 'One bottle of white wine, one bottle of red wine.'
Tom: 'We always have herbal tea and honey and lemon, that's everything you need for your throat right there.'
Jamie: 'Also those Naked bars in case we haven't had time to eat.'
Tom: 'Loads of water. We're not very demanding. Dark chocolate is probably the most diva-ish thing we have on our rider.'
Matt: 'We used to have Coca Cola and Red Bull. I wasn't allowed that anymore.'
Tom: 'Not after the incident.'
Jamie: 'It wasn't one incident. It was every time he drank it. Hyper on stage. Last year he wore a fake turkey head.'
Michael: 'We used to have a section in the show where Matt came on in fancy dress. The fans started bringing different fancy dress items for him to wear.'
Matt: 'In Blackpool I had a fake bum.'
How did that feel?
Matt: 'It was great. This is going to sound really weird. I had a pink tutu on and a fake bum underneath that.'
Did you go down Blackpool Pier after?
Matt: 'No, I think we should have.'
Jamie: 'Blackpool are always a terrific audience, really up for a good time.'
Will there be costumes again this time?
Jamie: 'I want some sparkles this time.'
A whole sequin suit?
Jamie: 'Everything. I want us completely decked in sequins.'
You have a special fan from America coming over especially for this tour. Tell me about him...
Jamie: 'We have a fan called Mike from America who has supported us from the very start of American gigs we ever did. He lost his sight this year and has sold his car he won't use anymore to come over here to the Albert Hall. We've given him two VIP tickets so we can see him. We've met him before and we will meet him at the Albert Hall. It's a lonely trip, especially if you've lost your sight. It must be a really daunting thing to do. We had a lady once from New Zealand and we found out here bucket list was to see us. BGT airs over there. She turned up and we brought her backstage.'
Tom: 'She said all through doing chemo she would listen to our albums and it would keep her strong. That was really touching and nice to hear.'
Jamie: 'We try as much to give something back. It's special to us that our music can help.'
What do you want people to take from the new album?
Matt: 'Our love of musical theatre. The first two albums we did our voices we sang a line and would sing it again so it kinda doubles up your voice. With Home and this album we've given it so much more of a live feel. What you hear on the album is what you hear when you come see us live. I think that's really important especially in the genre that we do.'
Was that a conscious decision?
Tom: 'The first two albums were obviously under Syco. We had a great time with them but the way that we wanted to make albums was a little bit different. We then had the choice of all the songs. We had artistic license to have a say in the actual music and the voices and the composition itself so that gave us a lot of freedom. We're very proud of Stars and Act Two but Home and Road To The Royal Albert Hall are where we've had our own individual input into all the songs so it feels more special. The last album we called our baby and this one is too because we've done everything for it.'
Jamie: 'You grow and develop so the sound naturally becomes better.'
How do you narrow down the songs?
Tom: 'We get a huge list together. We throw songs into a big pile and come up with maybe 100. Over dinner or drinks we discuss and dissect them. We go: 'This one would work for this reason' or 'We can't have these songs together so we need to pick one of them'. We get down to about 20 then we demo those and out of the best demos we pick 10 and we go: 'Right, that's the album'. It's a lot of fun. It's so casual. It's something I enjoy discussing.'
Jamie: 'You're going to end up performing these songs again and again and again. That's one thing I'm excited about is having new stuff to perform. When you perform it so much, especially on a big tour and you've got to do it at all the concerts you do get to the point where you want something new.'
Which new songs are you excited about performing on tour?
Jamie: 'Never Enough.'
Tom: 'We got a huge reaction last night to Never Enough. It's so powerful.'
Matt: 'The one I didn't expect to like so much was Why God Why? from Miss Saigon. There's a bit in the middle which is really rocky. It sounded amazing.'
Tom: 'Performing them live is very different to singing and recording them. We're finding out new bits about the songs after performing them, new bits we love and go: 'I never appreciated that until I heard it in this context live'.'
We're coming up to the end of the year. Have you started thinking about your Christmas plans?
Tom: 'I'm going to have a nice relaxing break. I don't have a panto, yet. The other boys do but we'll see what's in the works.'
Michael: 'I'm Aladdin in Redditch at the Palace Theatre.'
Jamie: 'I'm Prince Charming in Snow White in Newcastle.'
Matt: 'I'm the Prince in Snow White in Ipswich Regent.'
What's the most fun thing about panto?
Jamie: 'It's a real experience.'
Matt: 'Getting your lines wrong.'
Michael: 'We all did panto last year.'
Jamie: 'It's incredibly hard.'
Tom: 'I did Peter Pan last year and there's a bit at the end where I have to go: 'Cock-a-doodle-do' as Peter Pan does. Everybody on stage then responds. One night I went: 'Cock-caw'. I don't know why. I panicked. Everybody had my back and went: 'Cock-caw'. There was a song right after that and nobody could sing it.'
Do you buy Christmas presents or do a Secret Santa?
Jamie: 'Secret Santa. (To Matt) You've still got to do your whiskey tasting.'
Matt: 'I haven't had my confirmation.'
Jamie: 'You have to tell us when you want to do it and I'll book the date.'
Matt: 'I'll let you know.'
Michael: 'Jamie always gets Matt and one year actually got him a ball with nothing inside it. It was called a ball of nothing.'
Jamie: 'And you got a mini vegetable growing kit.'
Do you set a price limit?
Jamie: 'We say about £30-£40. We are the gift to each other really.'
Will you go home to your families for Christmas?
Tom: 'Last year I didn't. I had to stay where I was in panto and didn't get to see anyone but one of the lovely families I was working with invited me over to them.'
Jamie: 'I'm actually living at home with mum in December for panto. I get New Year's Eve off as well.'
Do you have a big NY Eve night out?
Jamie: 'I just sit at home. I'm being serious.'
Michael: 'We've only done New Year's Eve together when we performed at the Liverpool Echo Arena.'
Matt: 'We're a musical theatre boyband. Picture this. It's 12 o'clock, we're on a big stage with motorbikes flying over our heads and fireworks. How rock and roll is that?'
Tom: 'I remember that. We were one side of the stadium and somebody, instead of putting the speakers behind us, put them on the opposite side of the stadium. Everything was coming back at us a second later. It was a tough gig but it builds character.'
Matt: 'We sang Yesterday by The Beatles. We'll probably have a night out at some point.'