Prince Charming: An interview with Edward Bell
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Olympics performer Edward Bell is no stranger to prolific shows. Before his voice even broke the Windsor-born singer/songwriter had performed for her Majesty the Queen on numerous occasions during his days as a chorister- but that was only the beginning of his musical career. He's already won an album deal thanks to the support of his fans; but proving the theory that good things come to those who wait, it's still in the process of being made. 36 months may seem a little excessive to some, but think of all the other things that improve with time. Cheese. Wine. Cured Ham. Other... non-consumable items... anyway, it's on it's way, okay?
In anticipation of his enchanting appearances on our exclusive stage in the Olympic Park this summer, we wanted to find out a little more about this Edward Bell character. What keeps him going? What inspires him? Will he ever let us see his cassock again?
You take the word 'emerging' to the extreme having won a £15,000 album deal, securing plenty of media attention...you even have a Wikipedia page. Yet you're still waiting for that big break- how do you keep the faith?
I think media attention is putting it a little strongly! Although I am somewhat of a darling of the Ascot Gazette covering the infamous Warfield and South Ascot area. Last week I believe it had a double-page spread on a squirrel named Cyril with a penchant for Jelly Tots. I try and compete for their attentions, but most people would rather read about Cyril the Squirrel than yet-another-aspiring-local-musician.
In all honesty though, it can be tricky to keep the faith in terms of trying for the big leagues. Throughout my life I've had brushes with it, or close friends who've gone on to do very well in music. 2 years ago I was sharing the stages of North London's gigging circuit with Ed Sheeran (who I would dare to call a friend). Seeing him deservedly win awards for his staggering talent is as sobering as it is inspiring.
Personally, I keep the faith through the music itself. There is nothing more satisfying than nailing a performance, knowing you've hooked an audience, or hearing that you've moved people afterwards. These things are rare, but when they happen I realise I can't have any higher ambition than doing it full time, full-scale.
Even though the Olympics gigs are a pretty big deal, you've already had some rather high profile gigs- singing for the Queen, as you do. Could you offer any advice to Cliff Richard and Cheryl Cole for future performances after their dire Jubilee slots?
It's SIR Cliff Richard, and you mustn't offend him in the question and expect me to answer you politely! The man is an institution! A force of nature! He sang 'Bachelor Boy' for goodness sake!!! If I can sing that well when I'm 71 I'll be delighted! No advice for Cliff, except maybe to do a Tom Jones and go grey with grace.
As for Cheryl, she's the definition of icon isn't she? As in, it's not about the product, it's about recognition of the packaging. I don't blame her though, offer most people the chance to do what she's done and they'd take it. She also seems gracious about criticism which comes her way, so fair play to her. Her songwriting team should be deported though. I have a running joke with a session guitarist friend of mine about her song 'Make Me Cry'. Get it up on YouTube, have a listen. Listen out for the lyrics. Count the repetitions. Someone was paid to write that! Extraordinary.
I take back my answer to the last question. THAT is what gives me faith.
Your Olympic and Royal performances on your artist credentials are going to make you look rather patriotic. Apart from reliable rainfall and left-side driving, What's the best thing about this rather great Britain?
A boring answer, but we gave the world rules for things. We codified and exported things like 'honour' around the world, albeit rather forcefully. Whatever the world thinks of us, on average we queue VERY well. We might hate ALL strangers (particularly those in front of us in the queue at the bank), but we still seem to have an innate respect for the average person on the street.
People stereotype it, but only yesterday I was walking past the vegetables in Sainsbury's and there was only one onion left. Two old ladies were going through the 'after you...', 'no, go on, you take it' bit. I couldn't help but laugh. Mostly because I didn't need an onion. That would have put the cat amongst the pigeons.
Your career has taken you from choir boy to rising superstar- when you were stood in your cassock all those years ago did you ever imagine you'd be where you are today with your music? Will you be whipping out the cassock again in the future?
Is that a chat-up line? I had to do an interview for something-or-other when I was 11, and they asked me what I wanted to be when I was older. I said, without hesitation, 'I will be a classical pianist'. Sadly, I didn't realise you had to practice rather a lot to get there, so I'll settle for playing Adele covers and writing ballads about above-average-seasonal-rainfall.
In all seriousness, I'm delighted to have got this far, but I want more. I want to be singing for people every day. Being on stage every night on the Stranglers tour recently made me realise that making music, playing with a band, firing up the part of your brain that deals with creativity...it's all I want to do.
Coincidentally, 'Throwing Stones' builds your own voice into multi-layered harmonies like an Edward Bell Clone Choir. It must be a little fiddly to achieve... how do you go about that? Would you like to acquire some clones to save time?
A friend of mine who is a dubstep DJ (the very talented @billpostersdj) happened to need to test out his new music equipment. He asked me to write a song and I had about half an hour to do it, so it had to be simple, chordal. When we came to record it that same day, we suddenly realised we had no instruments, so we decided to make it an Imogen Heap style vocoder track. It took about an hour, the only hard thing being staying in tune with so many notes!
I would like some clones to make future projects that bit more streamlined, but I'm worried I wouldn't use them very sensibly. I'd form a 9-piece thrash metal band complete with string section.
Does being a pianist becoming a bit trying when you hit the road and are without a Mary Poppins bag for easy packing?
You joke but it is very limiting indeed. I'm trying to improve my guitar playing so I can just carry that to gigs, but people keep coming over and breaking my strings. I could use a Mary Poppins just to carry the ruddy keyboard for me! Weighs a tonne. A lot of places I play have their own piano, which is a cool thing to go around and do, although they are often unbelievably out of tune.
Your sound has been described as 'just lovely' by BBC Radio Berkshire. It may sound a bit like an Alan Partridge quote, but you really do seem to be a thoroughly nice chap. Has this served you well in your career so far?
You should hear what I say about people behind their back! Just kidding. But really...
Who can say?! I know people with a real 'killer instinct' in the way they deal with people to accomplish their goals. It's distasteful, but these are people who have really punched above their weight by doing so. It's not something that appeals to me though. I'll just have to hope that being polite and being forgettable aren't too closely related!
Correct us if we're wrong, but you do seem like a great big soppy romantic. Have you ever used your songwriting talents and heaven-sent voice with an ulterior motive in mind...? Come on, Casanova. We won't tell anyone.
Here's a dirty little secret. I only started songwriting to impress someone. I was 15. It almost worked. Although it was a god-awful song. "I think I now see why they say that I must go away. I'll miss you, miss kissing you, but I can't see another way". VOM. VOM. VOM.
Songwriting became much harder when I stopped writing songs about people. I don't know how Coldplay do it.
Finally, as it's Jubilee year and you're a regular favourite of Her Majesty, is there any well wishing you would like to offer her here?
I would merely tell her that if I could go back in time to 13 and become a castrato if it meant I could still sing every day in that Castle, I would!I'd probably add "Gratz on the Jubilee shizzle"...one can never be too polite about these things.
You can check out more from Edward and listen to his tracks here.