WHEN vocal band Il Divo were formed 15 years ago they were dismissed by many as yet another creation by pop mastermind Simon Cowell.
Cowell found four singers with opera, classical, pop and theatre backgrounds, from four different countries, and put them together in one band to sing classic hits in different languages to maximise global potential.
It worked, with over 30 million album sales spread over 35 different countries.
15 years on, the band have left Cowell’s record label and signed with the prestigious Decca for their ninth album Timeless.
“We didn’t form the band ourselves,” American David Miller says. “It did take a puppet master to listen to our four voices and have the foresight think they’d work well together and balance this hybrid of pop and classical. Simon was the man behind what we do. But once Simon put us together in a room it took on a life on its own.”
Miller says Cowell had been stepping back as early as their second album.
“He saw how we interacted with the producers and writers and arrangers and that we had steady heads on our shoulders. We got to the point where we could be the captains of the boat, he trusted us with that. We maybe saw him once in the last four years of being on his label. There wasn’t a falling out, it was just a natural thing where the strings were cut and Pinocchio gets up to dance by himself. We’re very proud of that.”
For the first time in their career, they controlled Timeless themselves, from the artwork to the song choices to Miller directing the video to their version of Adele’s Hello (retitled Hola and sung in Spanish).
“It made such a big difference not having to have a thousand people making decisions and getting things to approve that we didn’t like,” French born Sebastian Izambard says. “Having fresh blood and fresh ideas is great. It’s given us a boost. Doing this record ourselves has changed a lot of people’s perceptions as well as giving us inside the band a lot more happiness and creativity.”
“After being together for 15 years to get the opportunity to be your own boss for the first time it’s great,” Spaniard Carlos Marin says. “We own everything, we say yes or no to everything.”
As well as their usual vintage covers (Unforgettable, Love Me Tender, Smile), there’s more recent hits on Timeless, including Robbie Williams’ Angels (American Miller had never heard the song), John Legend’s All Of Me and Richard Marx’s Right Here Waiting.
While other copycat pop-opera bands were formed after Il Divo’s success, most have split.
“Because our audience is a little more mature they hopefully sustain a longer attention span,” Swiss born Urs Bühler says.
“That’s why we have a very loyal following, and a very ongoing possibility of having a career as Il Divo. It sounds like a plug for the album but our music is timeless. We try to make beautiful music, that’s our main goal. It’s not just about trying to be the next big thing. Our songs will be as beautiful in the future as they are now.”
The band’s latest tour also includes a segment where they get to showcase what they’ve done as solo performers outside the band — Izambard released a pop album this year, We Came Here To Love, the others worked in theatre or musicals during Il Divo downtime.
“It’s a similar vibe to the Rat Pack,” Miller says. “They all had their own careers and when they come together it’s something special. It reminds people of why we were put together and why Simon chose us in the first place.
“For this tour we’ve picked songs that were really the absolute best of the best classic songs that people would be very disappointed if they left a concert of ours with hearing them.”
Il Divo, with guest Marina Prior. Perth Arena October 16. Adelaide Entertainment Centre October 18. H.O.T.A Gold Coast October 19. Derwent Entertainment Centre Tasmania October 20. Margaret Court Arena, October 23. AIS Canberra October 24. ICC Sydney October 25.