It’s been 10 years since you were contestants on the X-Factor. Since then you have all gone on to achieve success as solo artists. What made you decide to come together for a reunion concert?
Mike: A year ago I decided to approach the guys as I knew our 10th anniversary was coming up this year, and just wanted to test the water to see if they’d be interested. I just thought it would be really fun to hang out together and sing in harmony again, and a great opportunity to celebrate what we achieved together as a group.
Jonathan: Mike has been discussing the idea of a reunion show for a while now and realizing the decade milestone, we decided that it is a wonderful excuse to recreate our trademark sound and bring our fabulous audience a night to remember.
You have an incredibly supportive group of fans. Can you tell us about your favorite moments with them?
Jonathan: My most memorable moment with a fan was the reveal of my face tattooed on a ladies side! She also now has our logo, my initials, song lyrics and our actual autographs on her upper back that were copied by the artist directly from our sharpie signings on her skin.
The fans have always been amazing and what’s also wonderful is there continual support of us all as individuals too. They make our careers possible and for that we are deeply grateful.
Mike: I remember on our live tours, some of the fans would also tour and come to all the shows.
It’s great to have that support and ultimately it’s essential if you’re to have a successful career in such a difficult business. There are many fans we know by names and it makes for a better experience, and it’s always nice to catch up with them after a show and ask for feedback.
Jonathan, you were signed to a recording contract with Universal music and have now released a new album, “Two Hearts” with the help of your fans and Pledge Music. Do you have any advice for indie artists who are looking to finance their records in the same way?
Jonathan: Pledge Music is a revolutionary way of artists taking control and cutting out the middle man, the record labels. I have been blown away by the support and success of my project and would highly recommend it to other artists out there. The key is to create and engage your fan base via whatever means possible, mainly social media these days and try and provide them with a fun and involved process of music creation that makes the once concluded album even more special to all involved.
Mike, you wrote the opera, “The Miller’s Wife” which premiered last August. The opera was inspired by your own ancestors. Tell us a bit more about this exciting project and your hopes for future performances.
Mike: It was an amazing experience to premiere my opera in London – such a dream come true – and it has since inspired me to start new composition projects. For The Miller’s Wife, I hope to do some site-specific performances next summer at windmills to give the opera its original setting, which would make for a very special event, as it would take place outdoors with people eating picnics and bringing the local community together.
Ben you have a lot of experience performing for both popular audiences and operatic fans – two very different crowds. What would you say are your favorite parts about singing for each of them?
Ben: Singing is something that you have to enjoy in order for others to enjoy it. I treat every experience the same, be it in a living room, or a major concert hall. Seeing people enjoy music and being a part of that process is the thing I look for, and that could be in any genre of music. The Royal Albert Hall was a second home for G4: I remember subsequently being booked in my own right to sing the tenor solos there in Handel’s Messiah in 2010 with The Really Big Chorus and being reminded what
a special, important and historic place it is.
While the reunion concert is no doubt an extremely nostalgic occasion it also reflects change with the addition of Nick Ashby. Nick, were you a fan of G4 before this event? And how did you become involved in this concert?
Nick: I’ve always enjoyed G4’s sound and style. I’ve performed with Ben many times over the last few years and enjoyed hearing about his exciting G4 days. In fact it was he who approached me about the reunion concert after they heard Matt couldn’t be involved. Naturally I jumped at the chance – who wouldn’t!
Tell us some more about your special guests at the concert, Funky Voices.
Jonathan: I am delighted that Funky Voices are joining us for this show. They really left a strong mark with me after performing together at The Princes Theatre, Clacton for a solo show in April. The energy and enthusiasm of this community choir was infectious and led me to add them to more collaborative songs on that evening which they picked up so quickly and with such sparkle that I can’t wait to recreate some of that excitement for this special show.
We also have another special guest – Charlotte Jaconelli, Soprano and Britain’s Got Talent runner up with duo Jonathan & Charlotte, who is gracing us with her glorious voice. I met and performed with her recently at the Royal Albert Hall. We hit it off straight away and have a few other shows booked together this autumn as well as the G4 reunion. We joked that it was ironic that we will be performing together since her split with Jonathan Antoine earlier this year, creating a new Jonathan & Charlotte
Jonathan, share some of the highlights of playing, “The Man” in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Whistle Down the Wind.”
Jonathan: Whistle Down the Wind was a huge thrill and a wonderful role to get my teeth into, ‘The Man’, an escaped convict on the run from death row. Bloodstained, disheveled with long hair, beard and tattoos was not the obvious choice of role for me but I relished the experience and loved creating this powerful character live every night. The highlight for me was the intense personal training laid on for me by the producer before the show to hone my body and also the fun I had growing my beard and hair,
totally transforming me and meaning I was confused for a student or even occasionally a tramp throughout the run!
Mike, you have been singing professionally since you were eight years old. Was there ever a point you considered another career path besides music?
Mike: I wanted to be a vet for a time as I grew up with many animals around, and did work experience at a veterinary practice when I was 16. I remember watching a dog’s hip operation and being absolutely fascinated. Then I wanted to do set design – I remember seeing Oliver! the musical in London and being so inspired by the set I recreated the whole thing in miniature at home. But in the end I realize that music and singing was my biggest passion!
Ben, since the disbanding of G4 you have continued to pursue your vocal studies. What was been the most rewarding part of your educational journey?
Ben: I consider every musical experience part of my education. My performing relationship with the Royal Albert Hall has been a special one – I’ve sung as a soloist in two BBC Proms (one with Nick!) and several other concerts, and every time it has been a wonderful experience.
The final part of my education was studying with legendary tenor Dennis O’Neill at his academy in Cardiff, the Wales International Academy of Voice. I had an amazing time there, and enjoy going back to perform immensely. St. David’s Hall there has a magical aura: I sang there earlier this year as part of a 10 UK tenors concert led by Wynne Evans (Mr. Go Compare!), and I return there before Christmas to perform the tenor solos in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. I can’t wait!
Nick, tell us a little more about yourself. Ensemble singing seems to be an important part of your career so far.
Nick: Yes, it is something I’ve been doing since I was about 6 probably. I grew up in Oxford, and went to University in York. Both those places are alive with choral music, and I learned a lot from their music scenes. When I graduated I moved straight to London and have been singing there and around the world ever since. I perform a lot as a soloist as well. As far afield as Japan, and in some great venues like the Royal Albert Hall (at last summer’s BBC Proms festival alongside Ben in fact!).
G4 seems to have a great balance between ensemble and solo singing. We each get chances to shine, but have to be able to blend in to a matching sound as well. No easy feat!
Having been introduced to the world through the X Factor, how important do you feel reality television is to the music industry?
Jonathan: Reality TV has become vital in the music industry now. It creates huge hype and exposure to acts of immense variety to the wider public throughout the world and this is invaluable to establish a fan base and circulate your music and ultimately create a career. What is then vitally important is to work that career and hopefully enable it to continue and develop. This now becomes harder and harder as new acts are always around the corner. However I feel that these shows play a very important role in the ever evolving music industry and I highly recommend it to anyone considering a career in music.
Nick: I think it’s great for showcasing new talent, and allowing anyone who wants to potentially perform to a large audience. Though I hope that people who get rejected by these shows or are too scared to apply aren’t discouraged from continuing to make music and nurturing their musical passions. It’s by no means the only way to succeed as a musician.
Mike: For some people it can really make a difference to their career and instantly propel them into the spotlight. However, for most it can be a short-lived experience, where they are recognized by everyone on the street but have no ongoing career and nothing to show for what they’ve done, which must be pretty soul-destroying. It’s all about making the most of the experience and working out how your career will develop after the TV show finishes, as it’s the most exposure you’ll ever get as an artist, and something that most artists can only dream of having.
Share with us your favorite songs (both to sing as a group and as soloists).
Mike: In G4, I think my favorite is Bohemian Rhapsody as it has so many amazing memories for me of singing it with the guys, plus it was amazing when Brian May said he really liked our version. As a solo, my favorite has to be Ol’ Man River as I have been singing it for 15 years as my voice has changed and developed and it’s a great way to showcase a low voice.
Jonathan: I personally loved it when we sang Bohemian Rhapsody again for the first time in 7 years! It was a wonderful nostalgia and the excitement in all our faces was tangible. We were all filled with a flood of energy as we realized that the songs we left behind many years before had reemerged with relative ease and reminded us all of the fun we will certainly have on the reunion show. I also love performing Nessun Dorma as it is one of those arias that connects with almost everyone worldwide.
Young and old alike have a strong reaction to hearing it and although I’ve sung it many times on my own I am really looking forward to recreating our old G4 arrangement with the lush harmonies.
Ben: I have a pretty eclectic musical taste. I remember going to see Handel’s Messiah in Ely Cathedral when I was eight; that was the first piece I fell in love with. The first single I bought was Chumbawumba’s Tubthumping – that’s diversity right there! I think the words of a song are really important – I hope that comes across in my singing! – and so anything with a message or a story to tell
works for me!
Nick: My favorite song that G4 perform has got to be Creep. For me Radiohead are the best band around.
What can we expect from each of you in your solo careers after this concert?
Nick: After this concert? Early retirement probably. Why bother doing anything else?
Mike: I’m writing a musical and a TV drama which is taking a lot of time, plus I have various performances lined up and have my ongoing passion for restoring old buildings which I have done for about 10 years.
Jonathan: I am delighted to have many varied shows scheduled before and after the reunion show
all over the world including my first show in my hometown of Bognor Regis at the Regis Centre on 26th October. It is a special Remembrance Celebration show marking 100 years since WW1 on Remembrance Sunday 9th November at Leeds City Varieties and also a fun festive season playing the Prince in Snow White at the Leeds Carriage Works before I head to perform in Hong Kong, and even Honolulu early into 2015.
What will you remember the most about your experience with G4?
Jonathan: I look forward to sharing the stage with great friends for this special reunion show and reliving the fun we shared during our time as G4. The thrill of hearing the sound together during rehearsals is incredible so I just can’t wait to experience that on stage at the Barbican with fans from all over the country enjoying the moment with us too. I doubt any of us will want the show to end!
Nick: Everything! But mainly being able to perform with three other excellent singers in front of a massive and appreciative audience. It’ll be electric.
Mike: The awesomeness of four mates who enjoy singing together performing in front of people who love what they do, as well as performing as such an iconic venue that takes us back to our roots.
Ben: I will remember most the experiences of performing and the passion music evokes in people. We have incredibly loyal and committed fans, and it will be great to reconnect with them in November!