We interview Tommy Blaize, Strictly Come Dancing’s Lead Singer
Tommy Blaize is lead singer on BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing. Here he talks a little about strictly, his love of live performance and his personal choices of music.
How do you cope with the vast range of songs you have to play for Strictly Come Dancing
It can be quite scary the range of songs we have to perform on Strictly come dancing every week , you could be singing The Jam’s (going underground) like we did last week and the very next song could be Boom boom shake the room by Dj jazzy Jeff followed by Shirley Bassey and then maybe an Argentine tango, but because we have a team of great singers with very different styles we manage to cope with nearly everything they throw at us. Andrea Grant will sing all the big female Ballads and most R&B type tracks, Hayley Sanderson who can sing Ella Fitzgerald and then switch to Karen Carpenter or Chrissy Hind in an instant and I tend to sing most of the soul and big male ballads on the show as well as some swing and big band songs and Chris Madin and lance Ellington will cover the rock and show side of the material. Every now and then a curve ball is thrown at us like we may have to sing in a different language or get really classical, last year we even had to sing Tamil and Punjabi and that was a real challenge but we love a challenge.
If you had the choice of seeing an artist live then who would it be ?
I regret not seeing Louis Armstrong who is my most favorite musician singer on the planet. If he is singing or playing the trumpet it gives me proper goose bumps. He is music personified, it pours from his soul like Ray Charles or Sam Cooke.
How do you decide who sings what song?
The songs normally decide the singer, what I mean is if there is a Whitney song or a song of that ilk then we know that Andrea is going to be singing it or if it’s say a Cilla Black song or an old jazz tune like Ella then it has to be Hayley. A song has to fit into the singers range and as we don’t like to change the keys of the songs because that changes the overall sound of the track we tend to keep to the original keys.
How does it compare playing for a hugely successful television show than say for a more intimate environment such as the 606 club
It is a huge difference, TV is very demanding and scripted and scheduled and everything is vetted and timed placed and groomed to produce a slick show and I have to play music that I have been told to play
If I am gigging at the 606 I am playing music I love and want to play, I can be much more relaxed at the 606 as its my own band Dave Arch on Piano, Trevor Barry on Bass ,Paul Dunne on guitar Andy Caine on guitar and vocals and Ian Thomas on drums.
What advice would give to a school pupil that wants to be where you are?
Practice makes perfect, the more you play or sing the better you get. Singing all the time builds up the vocal muscles to get you through a tough 15 hour day like what we have to do every Saturday. You may have to sing all 15 songs up 5 times before go live so that muscle really needs to be on point. Listen to as many styles of music that you can even if it’s not your preferred style this will give you a wider knowledge of your craft. Be polite and try not to be late and look after your instrument. You can’t change your voice box like you can change the strings on a guitar so look after your voice.
When you have a special guest artist such as Seal for the results show do they have their own band?
Most of the guest artists bring their own band which is normally a mime band while the Artist sings Live over a backing track but every now and again an Artist will use the house band
What 5 things do you find yourself doing if you want a great day?
I love this question.
1 I have to play the piano everyday or my day is never fulfilled
2 I love to bake so if I’m in the kitchen making cakes or biscuits I am relaxed
3 walking the dog in the woods while listening to music, I could be learning new songs or just listening to my I pod on shuffle
4 Having a nice dinner with the family
5 Going to watch Liverpool fc with my son
If you are feeling unwell how easy is it to continue as normal when performing live?
It is very difficult to perform Live when you are not feeling too well. If the throat isn’t affected and you can still stand up then the show must go on but if it’s a cold or chest infection that gets to your voice then there’s nothing you can do but rest. You should never risk damaging your voice.
What style of song do your prefer singing? Do you have a particular song that you really don’t like?
I love to sing ballads at the piano but I don’t really have a preference on the style, as my idol Louis Armstrong says there are only 2 types of music, Good and Bad. What I don’t like is modern music with Auto tune. This is an effect that tunes the voice and gives it a robotic sound that makes the human indistinguishable and void of any personality and has been widely used over the last 5 years. A true singer will not use this effect.
What type of music do you listen to if you are on your own?
I love to put the I pod on shuffle and see what comes up. I have a very large eclectic collection of music that will take me a lifetime to listen to but I always tend to look back at older music, for example I am listening to the great blues player Lead belly at the moment and that dates back to early 1930’s
I never get bored with Marvin Gaye and Louis Armstrong.
Tommy will be playing at the Jazz Cafe Camden on 21st December
Interview by David Ridings