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Interview: Aled Jones, singer, actor, and broadcaster

06 November 2020

‘I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t singing to people since I was 11’

Everything I remember from my childhood singing is a pleasure. It was a whirlwind four years of singing all over the world and a terrific experience. One of the first successes was singing on a programme called Voices from the Holy Land with the BBC Chorus. My parents weren’t expecting anything to come of it, or the recording that was made; so they were amazed to learn that 250,000 copies of it had sold after that performance.

From singing at rocks stars’ weddings to singing for royalty — I wouldn’t have missed a minute. I was an only child; my father was an engineer, my mother a primary-school teacher, and none of us really knew what we were doing, or had any knowledge of the music business, but they were my best friends, and we just went for it. They came with me all over the world, there was no pressure, and we had fun.

There’s nothing I would change or try to forget, although I wasn’t too keen to go back to school on a Monday if I was singing in LA over the weekend.

I never performed for the publicity; I sing because I love to — that’s my connection to a greater being. I never looked for an audience: they found me, thankfully. My voice isn’t suited to opera, and I get most pleasure from singing spiritual music. I remember being transported to Bangor Cathedral on rainy Tuesday nights, and standing up to sing, not many people being there, but that was our moment, and I really grasped it. Whether I’m singing on stage at a concert, or in a church, I sense that connection.

Who knows what I would have done if I hadn’t had a good adult singing voice? I’d done a lot of media work as a child; so, if I hadn’t been able to sing, I’d probably have gone into TV or radio. As things turned out, I went to the Royal Academy of Music, and studied for three years — and then let time run its course. I believe my voice is better now than ever.

Terry Wogan was my radio dad: a man I loved and admired. I learnt so much from him. I was asked to go on his TV show when I was very young, and we always got on. Years later, I met him, and worked with him as a broadcaster. He was the best broadcaster in the world, but he was also full of kindness, and he had such a nice family. I miss him massively.

I just try to be personable and use my voice to communicate with my listeners directly, speaking personally to them, even though I know that I’m broadcasting to lots of people.

I’m in no position to comment on today’s up-and-coming presenters. I’m still up and coming myself, though I have interviewed nearly everyone I’d like to. I’ve done 390 hours of interviews since 2000.

I’d love to have my own long-form chat show, as I’m naturally nosy. I think I’d ask Dame Judi Dench to be my first guest. I’ve known her for 25 years, and she has the kindest heart I know. She is singing on this new album, Blessings.

All the broadcasting I was doing was done from home during lockdown, but now, thankfully, we’re back out and about filming safely, and I’m loving every moment.

I’m a stickler for prep, but I’m very lucky that I have a very good short-term memory. I can learn links quickly.

I always do my homework, so that I know everything about my guest. I love to do that research, because then it makes me feel comfortable, which, in turn, makes the guest relax.

When you present live daytime TV, there are always hairy moments, as a story can break at any time. I was lucky because I had the best presenter, Lorraine Kelly, sitting next to me. Nothing fazes her.

I love recording. My latest album has been such a great project, combining music from all faiths.

Of course, I love singing live. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t singing to people since I was 11. But, with recording, I love the process of choosing the music and taking time to think about the idea behind the album.

I don’t make recordings anywhere very flash, like Abbey Road Studios, but I like working in my small studio with my sound engineer, and there’s no pressure. I start with maybe something like 60 songs, and then whittle them down. I want to put my whole heart and soul into what I’m singing, so people listening aren’t just getting a voice.

There are many many greater singers than me, but I hope that when people listen to my music it resonates deep in the soul. I love the music I sing, and feel a presence when I perform it. I hope my new album can take people somewhere else: a place where calm and contentment prevails.

This album is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. Some of the tunes were in my mind, but others not. I believe that at the core of all faiths are love, kindness, and peace; so it’s been an honour singing these multifaith pieces. There are also tracks on the album that don’t link to a recognised faith, but they’re still uplifting.

Because of the pandemic, the orchestra recorded the backing tracks in a museum, and then I had three weeks to rehearse my singing with them, which is unheard-of luxury. It meant that, when it came to the recording, I was able to do the whole album in just over 12 hours.

With two teenage kids, I listen to all music; but, from 7 to 10 a.m. on a Sunday, it’s always Classic FM, when I’m presenting the Breakfast Show.

I love Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books.

I was brought up by two loving parents in quiet north Wales, where I had a very free childhood. My parents were and are my best friends, and I now have a similar relationship with my family. My wife and children are my entire world. The sound of crashing waves always reminds me of home in north Wales and my favourite holiday destination.

My experience of God is always through music — always was and always is. My soul becomes alive when I sing religious music.

I want to just carry on and sing, and maybe take my music to other countries. I’m lucky that I get to tour Australia once a year, and I’d love to try Japan and the US, too.

I try not to get angry too often. As I get older, I get more apprehensive about stuff, but I try to remain positive and upbeat.

What makes me happiest? Arsenal winning a north London Derby.

There is always hope — even during these terrible times of Covid. It’s so important to always look for the light.

I pray most for the health and happiness of my children and family, and peace for those in pain.

If I could choose anyone to be locked in a church with for a few hours, it would have to be my friend Simon Lole, who is one of the best organists around. We’d have a great time banging out some hymns.

Aled Jones was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.

Everyday Blessings: Inspirational words of comfort and hope is due to be published by Hodder & Stoughton today, and the album Blessings is released on BMG. Aled Jones will be touring the UK in May 2021.

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