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Blake A Classic Christmas interview

The classical crossover trio talk to us about their festive album.

Blake and Shirley Bassey
Credit: Blake & Shirley Bassey

Classical crossover trio Blake recently released their new album A Classic Christmas.

The festive set features the lead single The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) with Dame Shirley Bassey alongside a selection of festive covers and an original song. Band members Ollie Baines, Stephen Bowman and Humphrey Berney have decided to donate a percentage of the profits to charity Variety.

We caught up with the boys to talk about the new album, find out how the Dame Shirley Bassey collaboration came about, and to discuss the band’s plans for 2016.

Hi guys. How are you today and where does this Q&A find you?

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Today we boys are in South Wales continuing our epic Christmas tour of the UK, bringing festive fun to audiences across the country, with snow machines, huge Yuletide video projections and ‘Blakeoke’, a great finale with a mass singalong! We’re having huge fun on stage, especially with the snow!

Your new album A Classic Christmas is out now. What can your fans expect from the record?

This album celebrates Christmas in a fun, ratpack, glitzy Hollywood kind of way, with big orchestras, big bands and lots of lush harmony, wrapped up in a velvet jacket and a bow tie! Classy fun!

You’ve teamed up with Dame Shirley Bassey for The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire). How did that collaboration come about and what was it like working with such an icon?

We sang at Dame Shirley’s 70th birthday at the beginning of our career, then earlier this year we bumped into her at the 70th birthday of Variety the children’s charity. She asked us what we were up to, we mentioned the Christmas album and she said she’d never ever recorded a Christmas song. We took a gamble and asked her to be on our album and surprisingly she said yes! She’s been a joy to work with, extremely professional and a lovely sense of humour; not the slightest bit of a diva, but she likes things to be perfect!

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How did you decide which songs to choose for the record?

Each of us had a big list, with tons of ideas from YouTube etc, then we all met at Ollie’s house to whittle the list down from about 150 songs to just 13! Lots of songs left for future festive albums.

The album contains one original track – Back In Your Arms (For Christmas). Tell us the story behind that song.

We wrote Back in your Arms one afternoon with a friend in London called Helen West. Helen has written dozens of hits, so it was a pleasure to write this song with her. We’re really proud it.

A percentage of the album’s profits will be going to charity. Why did you decide to do that?

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Well we met Dame Shirley and decided to record our song with her whilst at a Variety fundraiser and we’ve been ambassadors for the charity for over five years now, so since this is the time of year for remember those less fortunate than ourselves, we felt it was totally right to donate funds to Variety, for disabled and disadvantaged children. They’re an incredible charity!

You’ve been in the industry for a long time now. What would you like to say to all of those that have supported you over the years?

Next year we turn 9 years old, which is centuries in the music industry! We owe our time together, our amazing journey and the joy we have in the job we do, to all our fantastic supporters around the world. We’re nothing without our fans.

What would you say has been your highlight of 2015 and why?

Appearing on the Graham Norton show was an absolute dream come true. We’ve all imagined what it would be like to perform and be interviewed on his red sofa, and there we were. We all pinched ourselves just before we started singing! A big bucket list tick!!

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What does 2016 hold for Blake?

Lots of big concerts, here in the UK and around the world, plus another album, which will very likely be a ‘Blake plus friends’ affair. We have lots of singer friends we’d love to duet with!

Lastly, what will you be doing for Christmas this year?

Christmas is a rare week in the year when we boys get to have a week apart to spend time with family, friends and partners. We have 50/51 weeks of the year together 10/16 hours a day, thank goodness we’re still best mates!

Blake’s new album A Classic Christmas is available now. Watch the music video for The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) below:

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