Michael Ball's misspent youth

- Songs of Praise Magazine, March 2005 -

Mention Michael Ball and you immediately think of words such as ‘good', respectable' and clean-living', but no-one understands the need for a guiding hand better than Michael Ball.

So when he was asked recently to record some inspirational songs including some for the Songs of Praise ‘Unsung heroes' series, he was delighted. “I sang three songs: Be thou my Vision, which I've never sung before, Wind beneath my Wings, which everyone loves, and Amazing Grace, which is absolutely beautiful.

Looking back to the start of his career, Michael admits he wouldn't be where he was today without the help of Kay Dudeney, who ran the Surrey County Youth Theatre, which he joined when he was 16.

“I loved theatre and music but I'd never really thought of it as something I was particularly good at,” he explains. “But by the age of 18 I was failing my A-Levels and had absolutely no direction in my life. I really needed something that I could focus on so that I could find my path and stay out of trouble. Kay arranged a drama school audition and helped me to get a grant for my tuition fees. Sadly, she's dead now, but she was instrumental in getting me started”.

Michael understands that kids often need lots of guidance – and he admits that he got into trouble when he was at school. “I was a boarder at Plymouth College,” he says. “When I was 15 there were some boys who used to shoplift – I never did that – but they used to bring the stuff back and I'd sell it! I have them a cut and did quite well out of it.”

“After a couple of months I got caught and was caned. I was threatened with expulsion, so I got off quite lightly. But up until then we really thought what we were doing was harmless fun. It wasn't until the implications of the whole thing were explained to us that we understood why we shouldn't have been doing it in the first place!”

Michael understands that his music is a huge source of comfort and inspiration to his fans, but what inspires him?

“I'm inspired when I watch the news and see extraordinary acts of heroism in conditions that we can only imagine. Looking at people who were hit by the tsunami, or those firemen who were so heroic on 9/11, I'm struck by their incredible strength and bravery. I also get a lot from people who fight against injustice or personal problems. I hear all the time about fans who have personal issues or health issues and they have such reserves within them that they're a real inspiration to me.”

Michael is currently recording a new album which is due out in May, and he's planning a UK tour in May and June….
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