Jones, Aled


As a boy soprano Aled Jones was used to recording and releasing albums. They were all part of the job of being a child star, notching up 6 million sales in a remarkable eight-year career. In those days he took it for granted his albums would go Top 5.

When it came to releasing his first album as an adult he felt differently. He was nervous about how it would be received. The emotional commitment was still there in the singing, but now he was involved in the entire creative process from choosing songs to the design of the CD booklet.

Within days of ĎAledí the album being released in September 2002 apprehension was replaced by elation. ĎAledí went straight to number one in the classical charts where it stayed for four weeks, and entered the pop Top 20.

'Iím not massively ambitious. I donít want to conquer the world. I just wanted the album to be liked by people. When youíve been quite successful as a youngster,' says Aled Jones modestly, 'and you come back and release an album, youíre waiting for everyone to knock it. And the relief of knowing youíve gone to number one in the classical charts, and into the pop charts, is just a terrific thrill.'

'Iím so proud of that album. Thereís been an amazing reaction; itís not just the sales, but the letters Iíve had. Like people saying theyíve lost loved ones and this album has helped them get through it. Itís had a deeper meaning for people and that is so humbling.'

ĎAledí has had sales in excess of 300,000. Its success has transformed Aledís professional life. All the years of uncertainty after his voice broke at the age of 16 instantly disappeared. At the age of 32 he is confident of his artistic direction in the knowledge that singing will truly be his lifelong career. His new album ĎHigherí continues in the same stylistic vein as its predecessor, mixing classical with a few, just two, pop tunes - ĎYou Raise Me Upí by Secret Garden, and ĎSan Damiano (Heart And Soul)í, a hit in 1984 for Sal Solo. The rest is a collection of traditional songs, classical and sacred, guided on their way to the heart by Aledís pure, heartfelt and unpretentious interpretations.

'There are so many people the industry describes as Ďcrossoverí,' says Aled. 'I donít understand what that is because Iím singing the sort of music I did as a boy, in exactly the same way I did as a boy, but as a boy they called me a classical artist. Iím in this for the long term, itís definitely not a flash in the pan thing.'

There are no gimmicks, just a newly svelte Aled. Heís lost a stone and a half in the past year, not with the help of a trainer or diets, simply because of his new fast pace of life as the demand for his presence has exploded internationally. In 2002 he gave two public concerts. In 2003 there is a 14-date autumn tour with orchestra, possible dates in Australia, and throughout the summer heís been performing at open-air concerts and festivals.

More fundamental than the weight loss has been the change in Aledís warm and distinctive voice. His high baritone has got higher, edging its way towards a tenor.

'My voice is changing timbre, it has gained about four notes in pitch. On the first day of recording the album, after singing a few tracks my producer Robert Prizeman, who worked with me on my first album, said there was a real difference. It was much more confident and rounded.'

As a boy Aled was an instinctive singer, picking up a piece of music and being able to interpret it almost immediately. But when he started out again last year he hard to work at it.

'It was a hard slog. I had to really think about how Iíd phrase a piece, whereas now thatís come back to me, I can just do it. And itís so exciting for me because then it means I can put the emotion into a song.'

Aled wants to keep stretching the boundaries of his ability. He plans to take singing lessons, for the first time since his comeback. 'I think it would be interesting to push it a little bit to see where it would go.'

Insanely busy, he is combining his singing career with an established career as a TV and radio presenter. It was his appearance on ĎSongs of Praiseí that brought him to the attention of Universal Classics and that job continues with Aled presenting ĎSongs of Praiseí on a regular basis.

He also presents a Sunday morning show on Classic FM. Recent figures have shown the station bringing in 500,000 listeners between the age of 15 and 24. 'Iím getting loads of letters and emails from young people saying that theyíve bought the album and they really like it.'

Thereís also a recorded Sunday morning show for BBC Radio Wales, and he presents the arts programme ĎOn Showí for BBC One Wales.

Through all his work, whether singing or presenting, the same philosophy applies. 'I hate this attitude that classical music or the arts have to be highbrow. I want everything I do to be accessible to everyone. It has to be entertainment.'

Despite the crescendo of success, the qualities that endeared Aled to the nation and beyond are still there: his unfailing politeness, generosity of spirit and sensitivity. His life has changed dramatically not just professionally. He and his wife Claire now have a baby daughter Emilia, born in February 2002.

'When the last album was launched I was doing a concert in St. Davidís Hall in Cardiff - you know, small venue, no pressure,' he jokes. 'Songs of Praise were filming. I was absolutely nervous. I had to go on stage, present it and sing. And dad came in with Emilia on a papoose, and she just saw me and grinned, and I thought to myself, God why am I worried about doing this. This is whatís real.'

Itís a new Aled, and the world has had to shift its perception of who he is. The man himself feels privileged to be on this incredible journey. 'Iím having the time of my life. I feel really fortunate Iíve been given the opportunity to have a chance and for it to go well. Iím on cloud nine.'

ĎHigherí will be released on September 29th, Aled Jones will be touring the UK throughout October 2003.

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