Michael Ball on tour

~ Wales Online by Gavin Allen - 07/10/09 ~

Adopted Welshman Michael Ball was determined to include a Cardiff date on his latest tour. But, he tells Matt Thomas, the reasoning behind it goes deeper than simple sentiment.

WITH a new retrospective album out and a tour underway, Michael Ball is in an expansive mood.

But then again, it's quite hard to catch the singer, who has family up in Mountain Ash, in anything short of full-on “hail-fellow-well-met” mood.

The 47-year-old is always obliging when it comes to waxing lyrical, a great trait in any interviewee, and this week he's discoursing on the subject of Wales.

“Specifically, how pleased he is that his Past and Present tour is going to be bringing him to the land of his fathers tomorrow.

“It's brilliant to be able to do it here because a lot of the biggest milestones in my career have come in Wales, and Cardiff especially,” he explains.

“The opening of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, I did that with Bryn Terfel, Charlotte Church and Shirley Bassey and that was just amazing, in 1999, and then I watched the whole Cardiff Singer of the Year.

“And then opening the Wales Millennium Centre in front of the Queen, as well as the Welsh Assembly Government, three really big ceremonies in Wales that I was lucky enough to be part of.”

But Welsh laurels aren't the only foliage Ball has added to his garlands over the last 12 months.

“A lot of my career highlights have taken place outside Wales of course,” he says. “And a lot of them have happened in the last year. Getting my own prom at the Albert Hall while I was rehearsing Hairspray, for example. That was pretty cool.

“Getting the Olivier award for Hairspray was just massive.

“The last few years have been the most successful and enjoyable of my whole life, personally and professionally and I don't want to sound smug or anything but every career goes through ups and downs and that helps you to appreciate it when things go well.

“As you get older you learn to appreciate it because by then you have seen people come and go, but in this business you know it won't last forever, so you just enjoy it.

“You learn to be grateful to fans for buying your tickets, for being interested in what you are doing. Success is wasted on the young. I'm 47 and I'm glad to be in this position.”

It's a position that Ball is keen to remain in for as long as possible.

“How long am I going to be doing this? As long as I'm not dead basically,” he says.

“People in this business don't stop, they slow down – unless they're Brucie of course – but it's not a job or a career, it's what you do, a way of life, so you can always be tempted back by a good idea or the right role.”

Under the show-must-go-on shtick, however, lurks a man subject to the same doubts and worries as everyone else. That's what Ball reckons anyway.

“What really keeps me going?” he says. “The mortgage. That's always a good motivator and inspiration. It's just the love of it, meeting people, keeping my brain active – listen to me, I sound like I'm 60 – but I'm still a young man.”

Once he's completed the Past and Present shows, which will see him perform hits spanning his career including Gethsemane from Jesus Christ: Superstar right up to tracks from Hairspray, Ball will move on to other projects already lined up.

“There are shows I would like to be involved with on the production and directing side,” he says. “Because I feel like I have learned so much and you want to pass it on.”

Even though he might be moving in a slightly different direction, he hasn't forgotten his commitment to Wales.

“I'm enjoying working with kids from Hairspray and growing them a bit and I will be taking it on tour and it will open in Cardiff.

“It'll be my first time producing a show and I'm really excited about that. I'll be starring in some of the shows when I can fit it in and I will definitely be doing it in Cardiff.

“I'm hoping it will be a new and on-going venture, as producer and leading man and that's going to signal a whole new period in my career.”

Michael Ball's Past and Present Tour will be performing at Cardiff International Arena tomorrow. Call 029 2022 4488 for tickets

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