Wed 2 Jun 2021

Interview with… Collabro

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Ahead of their greatest hits tour taking place across the UK in October and November 2021, we sat down with Collabro group members Michael Auger, Jamie Lambert, Matt Pagan and Thomas Redgrave. Read on to find out how they kept creative over lockdown, their exciting plans for the tour, and much more!

How has pandemic life been treating you?

Jamie Lambert: We’re all alright but looking forward to getting back on stage. It’s been far too long since we had a live audience. The last time was August. We did an event at Virgin Money arena socially distanced in Newcastle. That was the first time we’d been together with a live audience since March. We played one of the last shows in London – Love At The Musicals in Cadogan Hall the day before the first lockdown happened. We played it again in August and that’s all we’ve done live in front of people. We have done some streaming work and keeping on our socials.

Michael Auger: When we first decided to push back the tour, we all thought: ‘Wow, a whole year back that’s going to feel too long’. Now to be here with only five months to go… It’s so strange the lockdown has lasted longer than we thought. But we’ve been keeping busy with the fans on Facebook Lives and Patreon. Matt’s been amazing at editing. We’ve been singing duets virtually and he’s merged them together. Like Jamie said, we can’t wait for all of us to be singing together on a proper stage with a proper audience.

How do you feel about going out to perform your Greatest Hits on tour?

Michael: It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to perform or do anything. It’s hard for us because it’s our passion to go out singing live. Recording is amazing, album cycles are incredible but the main thing that brings us joy is being out there in front of an audience sharing. It’s like an emotional story every time you sing a musical theatre song. Sharing an emotional story with the audience is something you don’t get other than live performances. Being able to look out and see the front row crying their eyes out, it means we’re doing a good job. It’s lovely to see stuff like that.

Have you planned how the stage is going to look and your outfits?

Jamie: We’re planning costumes. We know how the stage is going to look. We’ve just approved that, which is great. This year we’ve decided we’re going to travel on a bus together, which we’ve never done before. We’ve always travelled between venues together, but we’ve had hotels. We wanted to have that experience of being on a big tour bus.

Matt: Rock and roll.

Tom: Very rock and roll. We’ve got a bus for us and a bus for our crew and team. It’s very exciting. We’re going to get to be on the open road throughout the night.

Michael: What’s great about this tour is we’ve been together now for over seven years. To be able to do a greatest hits tour and do all our favourites from right back at the start… Every year we normally just tour the current album. To be able to look back and do songs from the first and second albums more I think is going to be really special for the fans.

What are your favourite tracks you’d like to ensure are on the setlist?

Matt: We’ve had so many big songs out there. That’s the thing. What defines our greatest hits? The fans all have their say and we have our say on what we think is our best. We always listen to the fans. I think Stars always has to be in there. I don’t think we’ve ever done a show without Stars being in there actually. That would be mine, doing Stars.

Michael: I agree. Stars is a definite. We have conversions every year about where to put Stars in the setlist. I think people expect it to be right at the end, but we always like to do an encore of something more up-tempo that the fans can have a dance along to, so watch out for that.

Jamie: The one thing I’ve always really enjoyed performing, it doesn’t matter where we are or what mood I’m in or what gig it is, is Defining Gravity. We do a really rocky version. You can definitely tell we all feel it when we sing it when we get to the end bit. We did it on when we were special guests on the Barry Manilow tour in the arenas. Singing that song there was mad. That’s something I’m really looking forward to hopefully doing. Have we said we’re doing that? That one’s been announced.

Michael: Another thing that probably comes into your mind Jamie with Defying Gravity is we tried for three years in a row to get a version that was right for an album. We didn’t manage it the first two times. To now have a version that we all love and really enjoy singing – and as Jamie said when we have moments like singing it at The O2 when we were supporting Barry Manilow – makes it even more special.

Tom: Another track that I think absolutely NEEDS to be on the list is Lighthouse. It was our first original song and we dedicated it to the fans. I think after not having live music for so long it would be nice to rededicate it to the fans again live onstage as we wouldn’t be here without them.

Will there be rules on the tour bus?

Jamie: Ours is an artist tour bus. There’s two living spaces, a work space and kitchen downstairs. Upstairs there’s the living space with panoramic windows where you can look at the road, which I’m really excited for, and the bunks. The bunks are all lovely but there’s an artist suite with a double bed at the back and an en-suite. Luckily the tour is four weeks long, so we’ve made an agreement that each of us is going to get a week in there. That’s one of the rules that we share that.

Michael: I feel like I need to make a rule of no pranking on the bus because I’m just imagining getting woken up in the middle of the night by Matt going: ‘Aragh’.

Matt: Rules are made to be broken.

Jamie: Matt is going to be the most organised person in terms of when he goes to sleep. You always are. He’s back to the hotel room, shower, bed, get up, breakfast, on the tour bus. Tom is going to be on that PS4 all night ever night. He’s going to be the unruly one.

Tom: I’ll have to give myself a cut-off time of 10pm. I hate being responsible, I feel like I’m my own mother! Either that or I’ll get Michael to put the parental lock on the PS4!!

Michael: Hahaha I can do that for you Tom! Jamie, I worry for you. The beds are only six foot long and you’re six foot four.

Jamie: Give me a glass of wine and my sleeping pill and I’ll be alright.

Is it going to be a party bus as well? Will you mark the first show with a celebration?

Matt: There’s always opportune moments for a glass of wine or two. Sometimes after a show we’ll go into the hotel bar and have a drink before bed. Being on a bus together will be great because we’ll go: ‘Have a bottle of wine? Go on then’.

Michael: There’s going to be moments when it’s spontaneous. Someone will go: ‘We’ve found this bottle of something’. Everyone will have a drink and we’ll all start singing. We’ll go: ‘We’ve just been on stage singing for two hours, why are we all singing now belting out Jennifer Hudson?’.

Jamie: The driver is going to be absolutely sick of his life by the end of the tour.

Matt: Where are we going to find a bottle of wine, Michael?

Jamie: I’ve already provided for it, don’t worry. It’s all sorted.

Are there any particular cities you’re looking forward to going back to?

Michael: The ones that always stand out to us are values like the Royal Albert Hall, headlining there was amazing.

Jamie: I maintain the best gig we ever did was the Home tour in Glasgow Theatre Royal. I have never in my life seen an audience that excited about seeing us. They always are wonderful, but they were on their feet the entire gig. Then when we did Jersey Boys at the end it was like we were at a proper rock concert. We came off going: ‘What has just happened?’.

It’s been seven years since you got together. Do you mark dates like when you first met, first BGT audition etc?

Jamie: The 3rd of November is when we first met.

Michael: Which is the date we’re at the Palladium this year. Eight years since we met for the first time.

Jamie: February 13th is when we first performed our audition at Hammersmith Apollo but it didn’t air until April 12th. Then we won on June 7th. So yes, we do have dates. The fans all know them, they’re brilliant. They remind us actually.

How do you see BGT working post pandemic?

Jamie: Truthfully I think we’re moving into an age now where talent shows have had their day. BGT has had 14 series. That’s incredible. I’ve not watched X Factor in years. BGT we always all watch every single year. It feels like the public buzz for talent shows, even Strictly, has declined a little bit. The only one I think is still there is the jungle, which everyone watches every year and loves it. It’s a very different bag.

You guys did AGT: The Champions. How was that?

Tom: AGT was fun! Although we didn’t get through to the next round gave a good performance which I’m glad the American audience enjoyed. We sang Shallow which was from our newest album at the time ‘Love Like This’. Because of recent world events, AGT is actually one of the only times we’ve sung that song live so I like to think that we gave them something slightly exclusive!

Jamie: We were in America or three days. Heidi Klum in all her singing wisdom didn’t like our arrangement, which I always find amazing because she’s such a world-famous singer.

Matt: However, being in Little Pasadena was very nice.

Michael: The overall is we love performing together. We have to take those competitions with a pinch of salt. We enjoyed being there and singing and everything is always a nice story to look back on.

Jamie: They put us out on lovely flights, put us in a lovely hotel and we ate some lovely food. We met the host Terry Crew, who Matt loves.

Michael: We all put our hands in before a show and say: ‘Collabro’. We got him to do that as well with us before our performance.

Are you thinking about a new album yet?

Jamie: Not exactly, that’s all we can say.

Michael: During lockdown we released a Christmas album, and we would love to tour that. It’s working out how to do that and we know the fans always want new music.

Jamie: We may have a surprise.

Tom: When we’re doing one album we’re always thinking: ’This would be a good song for the next album’. It always goes through our heads. We never really stop planning albums.

What’s next for Collabro?

Matt: We keep going as long as our incredible fanbase will have us. We’ve always got ideas for new albums and tours. We’re always making plans so it’s a case of watch this space.

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