Wednesday, 04 April 2012

Son of a preacher man

He’s the son of the Queen’s chaplain, a leading tenor and, yes, the former Diet Coke Man. But, as Fiona Hicks discovers, Julian Ovenden is happiest being called Dad…

Written by Fiona Hicks

'I've always been musical. In a way, it's my religion.' So says Julian Ovenden, celebrated tenor, husband of opera singer Kate Royal and son of the Queen's chaplain. Julian exudes musicality. As he talks, his face beams, his hands gesticulate, his voice resonates. 'Through all my education, music was my ticket,' he adds. The seven-year-old Julian won a scholarship to sing in the choir at St Paul's Cathedral, followed by a music scholarship to Eton, then Oxford University. 'I was introduced early to the life of a professional musician,' he explains. 'It's something I've done every day, all my life.'

As a television, Broadway and West End star, his good looks have won him much popularity, but it is his talent that has granted him longevity. It's hard to assimilate the topless Diet Coke man (yes, that was him) with his momentous performance on the BBC Proms. 'I've been blessed with a lot of diverse experiences in my career,' he says. 'I've always tried to avoid doing the same thing over and over – perhaps to the detriment of my bank balance, but it keeps it interesting.'

His latest project is an album. Having been predominantly a stage star, the recording process was a new experience, but he knew what he wanted to create. 'I wanted it to feel like it could still be live, with a real excitement and presence.' The record is a compilation of velvety tunes from the golden days of the 1960s. 'I love the music of Tom Jones, Matt Monro, Shirley Bassey... I've always admired singers who took on big songs and were not afraid to be dramatic with emotions.'

Julian's voice is certainly dramatic – manly even. 'I like music to have a bit of macho verve and muscularity. In the 1960s, guys were guys. But there is also a great sensitivity to it.' What about him – is he sensitive? 'I don't mind crying and am not ashamed to show my feelings,' he says. But I still feel like a guy's guy. I like sport and motorbikes and mud...'

A definitive modern man, he also 'cooks and cleans and changes nappies'. Julian and his soprano wife Kate split their time between London and the US, where they both have rigorous performing schedules. 'We have two kids and a dog, so sometimes it gets a little tricky,' he says. 'But we try and keep normal about it. And we don't spend much of our time singing at home!'

His father, Canon John Ovenden, has always been supportive. 'He encouraged all of us [his children] to follow their own paths.' Just as Julian is 'enriched' by his music, his father is greatly satisfied by his own work. 'He is proud to work for the Queen. He's found it an extraordinary experience.' Julian has met the Royal Family and shares his father's admiration. 'The Queen's sense of duty and loyalty are exceptional. She has devoted her life to the country... that's impressive.'

So a television sensation, a darling of the stage, and now a recording artist... where does Julian go from here? 'I just want to keep doing good work and be happy doing it.' Much like his father – and, indeed, Her Majesty.

Julian Ovenden's debut album, If You Stay, is released on 23 April.

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