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Interview with Wet Wet Wet frontman MARTI PELLOW who is currently starring in the UK tour of EVITA

MARTI PELLOW

Marti Pellow is the frontman of one of the most successful groups of the 80s and 90s. Thirty years after Wet Wet Wet formed, and 10 years since first performing on stage, Marti has released a new album of material from the musicals and he’s appearing in the UK tour of Evita. He’s been chatting to Joff Hopkins...

Let’s begin by going way back to when you were first starting out... how old were you when you decided that this, being a popstar, is what you wanted to do? I think it started when we [Wet Wet Wet] were all about 14 or 15 – we were at school together in the same class when we decided to start a band. That’s when we started dreaming!

What a great dream for a school kid to have! I gather your family didn’t buy into it?
I think that’s the nature of everybody – when you get involved in the arts, or you want to be an actor or musician, it’s a bit of unknown territory. People get scared of that, because you’re dealing in the land of dreams. When you come from a working class family, you go for a vocation or you go for an apprenticeship, if you’re blessed enough. I guess my mother and father had their fears, but they stuck by us and I’ll be forever indebted to that.

Your father was a builder, wasn’t he? Yes, and predominantly the family worked in the shipyards. Alas, when I left school, those gates were padlocked shut. I didn’t want to do it, so my heart wouldn’t be in it... but my father had a genuine love for building, and architecture.

When did you start to realise that, for you and music, it was all coming together and that you were actually going to hit the big time?
About a week last Tuesday! I think naivety, youth and arrogance to me was ‘I’m gonna be in a band, I’m gonna put a record out, be on Top of the Pops’. Woe betide anyone who told me that this wasn’t going to be the case! I think when you have that fire in your belly, then you can make it happen, you WILL create it! That’s how I go about it!

Wet Wet Wet
Love Is All Around – one of the most significant songs of the 1990s... how do you feel about it? 
More so, of late: very, very proud.

It spent 15 weeks at number one on the chart – is it true you had it withdrawn?
Bryan Adams stayed there one week longer, which he never stops mentioning! We’d just had enough with 15 weeks at number one, it’s like eating chocolate every day, give someone else a shot! It was time for us to go and record an album, so it made sense at the time.

You’ve had so much success – what did it and does it feel like to be that famous?
That’s other people’s interpretation... I’m just doing what I do. That’s the way it kind of lives inside my head, anyway. I sing in a band, it’s a popular band, it’s fantastic.

Is it true that you flew a curry from your favourite curry house in Glasgow all the way to America?
Aye! We just sent a wee jet over! Have you never done that? You should get your own private plane and then you can do whatever you want!

How does what you’ve done as a soloist compare to being in the band?
With Wet Wet Wet, it’s a pop band. I love my pop music – but my solo career is a whole different sort of sound. For once, the needs in my career have changed. I never consciously set out to write a ‘number 27’ [chart position] record – but that’s just the way it was.

But from there, you’ve branched out into theatre!
Yes, over the last 10 years I’ve done a few shows, and have thoroughly enjoyed that. I love getting out on the road, and the live aspect of it – especially Chicago and The Witches of Eastwick... I enjoy musical theatre!

You're performing an iconic role in Evita - how do you feel about playing Che? It seems now that every role I play is iconic - from Billy Flynn in Chicago to the Narrator in Blood Brothers. I guess musical theatre came to me at the right time in my career when I really suited these kinds of roles. Otherwise - my feelings towards this is that I'm really happy to be working with Tim Rice again - being part of a great piece like this is no bad thing! What can audiences expect from the show? I think its Bill Kenwright's best production and a score that contains loads of hit songs that everyone's familiar with, not just musical theatre, but also in the pop domain. Don't Cry for Me Argentina, Oh What A Circus - these are songs that have been a backdrop to people's lives.

Whose idea was it to get you in to theatre? Pete Townshend – many years ago, he approached me with the idea of doing Tommy. I thought there might be something in there... and when I was singing with Ruthie Henshall in Chicago, the producers came in from New York and they said they might have a Billy Flynn in there!

And this leads nicely into your new album, Hope?
I decided to make an album because I’ve spent the last ten years, on and off, doing musical theatre – so I thought it’d be a nice idea to make a record that touched on songs from that genre, and let me do my own interpretation of the songs that I enjoy. There’s a wee bit of entertaining and educating going on with the record, even for me when we were picking the songs! If you enjoy me as a singer, you’ll enjoy this record because the vocals are paramount in the way the songs are arranged.

I hate to use the word ‘simple’ but it is a very simple arrangement on these tracks, isn’t it?
Piano and voice, and that’s predominantly it! A bit of bass or cello – it’s just something simple we wanted to do. Because these songs are so beautifully written, it’s nice to hear them in their starkness. Don’t get me wrong, though, you can still groove on them! It’s important to have those colours within a record. You can only swoon an audience so much, then they’ll fall off their chairs!

Evita UK Tour Dates 2013
15 - 18 May: New Wimbledon Theatre
20 May - 1 Jun: Milton Keynes Theatre
3 - 15 Jun: Glasgow Kings
24 - 29 Jun: Liverpool Empire
1 - 13 Jul: Lyceum Theatre Sheffield
15 - 27 Jul: Theatre Royal Norwich
29 Jul - 10 Aug: The Lowry Salford
19 - 31 Aug: The Grand Wolverhampton
3 - 14 Sep: Grand Opera House Belfast
16 - 28 Sep: The Hall for Cornwall Truro
30 Sept - 5 Oct: Swansea Grand Theatre
7 - 12 Oct: Hippodrome Bristol
14 - 19 Oct: The Mayflower Southampton

Wet Wet Wet 2013 Tour Dates
December
05 Dublin The O2
06 Belfast Odyssey Arena
08 Manchester Manchester Arena
09 Brighton The Brighton Centre
10 Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
11 London The O2
13 Nottingham The Capital FM Arena
14 Bournemouth International Centre
15 Birmingham LG Arena
17 Newcastle Metro Radio Arena
18 Leeds Leeds Arena
19 Glasgow Hydro Arena

This interview was first published in www.placesandfaces.co.uk and we have kindly been given permission to use on our site.

JOFF HOPKINS, presenter on Norwich 99.9, The Beach and North Norfolk Radio

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