Show DescriptionAlfie Boe has been described as “one of the U.K.'s most technically gifted talents” by All-Music and as “absolutely extraordinary” by award-winning director Baz Luhrmann, who cast Boe in his acclaimed 2002 Broadway production of Puccini’s La Boheme in 2002. He has also been dubbed “opera’s working-class hero” by Britain’s Sunday Express — a declaration that sums up Boe’s unique appeal. It’s not just his thrilling voice that has captivated audiences, it’s also his dramatic personal story: working-class singer goes from laboring in a factory as a car mechanic to becoming a platinum-selling artist sharing stages with such artists as Queen, Alice Cooper, and Renee Fleming, as well performing at the Diamond Jubilee Concert for Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family on the balcony at Buckingham Palace.
So perhaps it is apt that Boe has titled his latest album Storyteller. A labor of love, it is a true reflection of who he is as a performer. Taking inspiration from Jeff Buckley's approach to Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah,” Boe strips to the heart some of his favorite classic songs — like "Bridge Over Troubled Water," “Angie,” “It’s Now or Never,” and “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” — and brings their beauty to the surface while creating texture with both a band and a traditional orchestra. Boe sang live with the band and orchestra, virtually conducting them as he sang, over a week-long stretch of 12-hour days.
“It was a whole new process for me working with a band,” Boe says. “The freedom we had to make the music on our own was incredible; we were not governed by notes on a piece of paper. It was a great opportunity to do something completely different and show my new direction and progression of where I am going with my music.” Storyteller was produced by Mike Hedges, who has worked with U2, The Cure, and Dido, among others. “Mike is very passionate about music, very emotional, and likes to bring out the best in an artist,” Boe says. “I let Mike have his ideas, he let me have mine, and we met in the middle and produced a great body of work.”
Released in the U.K. in November, Storyteller is already a hit there, where it follows on the heels of Boe’s two BPI platinum-certified albums, 2010’s Bring Him Home and 2012’s Alfie — a collection of timeless pop songs and musical theater favorites from Phantom of the Opera, Ragtime, West Side Story, among others. The album, which features special guests Robert Plant and Nick Jonas, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Classical Crossover Chart.
Boe has sold more than a million albums worldwide, no doubt thanks to his soaring, expressive tenor, which unifies the repertoire as he breathes life into each of the songs. His interpretations allow the listener to experience the tune as if they were hearing it for the first time. “You’re creating an imaginary world for the listener to step into,” he says. “You’re creating an escape. Whatever style a song is — rock, classical, blues — it’s about creating an emotion. If you don’t have an emotional connection to the music, you’re not much of an artist. You have to be able to connect with what you’re singing.”
It was Boe’s stirring version of “Bring Him Home” from Les Misérables that made him a household name in his native England. His performance as Jean Valjean in a concert celebrating the 25th anniversary of the musical at London’s O2 Arena in 2010, later released around the world on DVD, instantly became the stuff of legend. (He surrounded the appearance by playing the role in London’s West End at the Queen’s Theater.) “I’ll never tire of singing ‘Bring Him Home’,” Boe says. “It’s so connected with me and it changed my life.”
That life started in Fleetwood, in the north of England, 39 years ago, where Boe was one of nine children. His parents exposed him to all kinds of music as he grew up. Although he loved rock and roll as much as any other style, the young apprentice mechanic would entertain himself and his fellow workers by performing operatic arias while tending to the cars. One of his discerning customers with connections liked what he heard and suggested that Boe audition for the D’oyly Carte Opera Company in London. Boe was accepted and his days as a mechanic were over.
After studying his craft for several years, Boe quit his opera studies to audition for what became his breakthrough role in Lurhmann’s La Boheme. The production won Boe’s Rodolfo and the rest of the principal ensemble a special Tony for Excellence in Theater. More than anything, the show fulfilled a massive dream of Boe’s: coming to America. “I stepped into Times Square at 4 a.m.,” he says, recalling his arrival to audition for La Boheme. “I’d wanted to be in America from when I was 11. I’d discovered Elvis Presley and rock and roll and the Beach Boys. I loved that world. Being in America made me feel like a kid in a candy shop: that vibrancy, that smell, that taste.”
Boe, who has a home in both the US and UK with his American wife and two small children, is ready for his love affair with America to continue. He hopes new fans can begin their musical journey with him via Storyteller. They can also get to know him better through Alfie Live, a DVD of his first PBS special, which aired in June 2012. His second PBS special, Storyteller: Live at the Royal Albert Hall, will premiere in August 2013. He has also contributed music to the hit PBS series Downton Abbey and two of his songs are featured on the series’ soundtrack. In addition, Boe has published an autobiography, entitled Alfie: My Story, that covers his childhood, being discovered while working as a mechanic, bringing his music to fans across the globe, and singing on Broadway and legendary opera houses — all while developing his successful recording and touring career.
Boe is excited to return to the U.S. early next year to tour in support of Storyteller. “I just love the enthusiasm that American audiences have,” he says. “They seriously go to a concert to have a damn good time. I feel so connected with America. I love the people.” And they will, no doubt, love the singer.