Beyond Talent with the Classical Dark Angel – the Lucy Kay interview

What’s this? Talk of talent show contestants on the writewyattuk blog? Surely not. Well, yes actually, because there’s much more to the story of Lucy Kay than all that, as your humble scribe found out.

Lucy Kay: Enjoying life beyond the TV talent circuit  (Photo: Paul Monaghan)

Lucy Kay: Enjoying life beyond the TV talent circuit (Photo: Paul Monaghan)

Forget for a minute – if you possibly can – all talk of Belgium-based Blackpool dog-act Jules and Matisse, and cast your mind back to 2014’s Britain’s Got Talent final.

In that year’s hit ITV series climax, 10.7 million tuned in as five-piece musical theatre boy band Collabro won a showdown with Lucy Kay Allen.

And Lucy Kay – as she is known professionally – remains on a high 12 months later, while she prepares to showcase her classical vocal talent at Lancashire landmark Hoghton Tower next month.

The quirky soprano co-headlines Symphony at the Tower on Saturday, July 4, along with Brit Award-winning classical vocal group Blake, with esteemed backing from the Heart of England Philharmonic Orchestra.

It promises to be a spectacular affair too, closing with a firework finale, and it’s just the latest of several glittering career highs for the Glasgow-based 25-year-old.

But how did it come to all this for Lucy (who was incidentally still in her pyjamas when we caught up on the phone last week)? It must all have come as a bit of a shock.

”Absolutely! I’ve been watching the show when I can this year, and seeing the live semi-finals I was nervous. I know how it feels to be on that stage.

“I didn’t think I’d even get through to the semis, let alone the final. It’s been incredible.

“I realise it’s like Marmite – you either like Britain’s Got Talent or you don’t, and shows like that either help make your career or dream happen or have the adverse effect.

“But luckily for me, and quite a few others, we’ve managed to live out our dreams – and are still doing it.”

True Talent: Lucy Kay has found success beyond BGT  (Photo: Paul Monaghan)

True Talent: Lucy Kay has found success beyond BGT (Photo: Paul Monaghan)

I confess to Lucy that I steer clear of most TV talent shows – although my girls have enticed me into the room for The Voice from time to time  but from clips I’ve seen, it’s fair to say this gifted classical music lover with the big voice is clearly no novelty act or manufactured pop puppet. You only have to hear her rendition of Nessun Dorma to know that.

“Well, I can’t really say too much, but first and foremost it is a TV show, so they have to make it interesting, throw anything in they can to make it emotional.

“It was an emotional time for me too, but little did I know how they’d ‘dramatacise’ it.

“In the beginning, I think people were put off by my sob story and wanted me to just go on and sing. I’d love to have too! They do delve about a bit … yeah.”

More of that ‘sob story’, as she put it, shortly, but I bet it’s been a bit of a blur since, Lucy having gone straight into a multi-album deal with Sony as the series ended.

“I said to Collabro throughout that week, ‘You’re going to win!’ I could see how it was going, with a lot of older women into them.  Not so many men watch it.

“I was just so happy to come second. Then, soon as the show went off air, I was approached by my manager, who said we had a couple of record labels very interested.

“He said, ‘We’re going to choose which one we think is the best to go with’. I was just like, ‘What? No! As if!’

“I went for a meal with Liam Toner (Sony’s Head of Classics and Crossover), and he got the champagne out. I thought, ‘This is so weird!’ I’d never even had a champagne lunch before.”

There have been many more such ‘OMG’ moments for Lucy since, including her invite to perform at a birthday party for BGT creator and judge Simon Cowell just before her album came out.

Simon Says: Lucy Kay with BGT creator and judge Simon Cowell

Simon Says: Lucy Kay with BGT’s Simon Cowell

Is she still in touch with Simon and the other judges on the show?

“I’m in touch with Alesha Dixon’s manager, so find out what she’s up to. And when I’ve met Amanda (Holden), she’s just hilarious and one of the most down-to-earth people I’ve met.

“Then there’s Simon – love him or hate him.”

Well, I guess we just see the public side of these people. It’s all too easy to knock them, and I definitely have over the years. But Lucy stands up for him.

“When I sang for his birthday, he didn’t know I was going to sing Nessun Dorma. He told me it had made his night. He was so lovely.”

Had she a favourite act on BGT this year (preferably one that didn’t do doggy tricks)?

“There are so many, but I loved the older guy group, quite jazzy. Then there was Emma Jones, kind of like a younger SuBo (Susan Boyle), very shy. She’s incredible. I really hope they make the most of her.”

And is Lucy still in touch with the boys from Collabro, who she toured with after her series ended?

“Yes, it was great being with them, and I did a few pranks on them. I’m quite mischievous, and so far they’ve not been able to get me back!

“They’re on their second tour now, while I’m on my first this autumn – delving into more musical theatre, a bit of jazz, as well as a bit of classical and the big opera arias.

“I like to get lots of genres in there, see what people really like. I’m doing a lot of corporate gigs, then Sunday at the Musicals at the Hippodrome in London.

“Then there’s Symphony at the Tower. I’m really excited about that, not having done an outdoor show before.

“And I’ve worked with some of the Heart of England Philharmonic Orchestra before on the Collabro tour, which was incredible.”

It’s fair to say Lucy’s been pleased with the success of debut album Fantasia, which was recorded with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and carries interpretations of 12 well-known operatic favourites.

“It did very well, getting to No.1 in the classical charts and No.18 in the main charts. I was higher than Paloma Faith, and I was confused by that!

Chart Rival: But Lucy Kay is a big Paloma Faith fan

Chart Rival: But Lucy Kay is a big Paloma Faith fan

Are you a Paloma fan then?

“I am. I love her to bits. She’s crazy!”

At times like that, it must all be a bit ‘pinch me’.

“Yes! I remember looking at the computer, seeing I’d made it to No.1, then Classic FM did a piece on me and made it Record of the Week.

“It’s all a bit odd. This Lucy Kay always seems more like a character to me really. When I’m just Lucy Kay Allen at home, I’ve got my ‘jamas on – as I have now!”

Well, that certainly paints us a picture. So when she turns 26 next Tuesday (June 9), will Lucy get Simon Cowell to sing for her at a special party?

“That’s a good idea! I’m going to the Download Festival at Donington Park though – that’s my birthday present.”

Hang on – that’s classical crossover gone mad, surely. Does Lucy enjoy a bit of heavy metal on her days off then?

“I am a bit of a metal-head! I went to my boyfriend’s gig last night. David’s in a band called Centrilia. They’re incredible.”

Who does she want to see most at Download?

“Oh my gosh – Marilyn Manson! I’ve never seen him live. Then there’s Clutch, Slipknot … oh, all of them!”

This isn’t just a soft metal fixation then.

“No! Not at all!”

That said, I can’t really see Slipknot sharing a bill with SuBo (that’s Susan Boyle, in case you wondered), whereas Lucy appeared live with the 2009 BGT runner-up while studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

“There was a Scottish tour she was doing and we had auditions to back her on I Dreamed a Dream and a couple of other songs. And I got through!

Fun Days: Lucy Kay was a backing singer for Susan Boyle

Fun Days: Lucy Kay was a backing singer for Susan Boyle

“She’s hilarious, so sweet, and has a really funny side. It was one of the most fun tours I’ve been on.”

Again, perhaps that’s not the SuBo some people might expect.

“She’s very vulnerable, and I think that’s what the audience saw. First time she met us she was quite frightened of singing in front of us, and doesn’t cope well with those situations.

“But we all made friends before and she opened up. Then you see that other side of her. I just hope people continue to look after her. She’s so lovely.”

Lucy knows all about struggling to fit in, as anyone who’s picked up a red-top tabloid in the past year and read a BGT story will probably know. In fact, quite a lot of those stories revolve around her troubled school days.

“Yes, it was bad, and I was badly bullied. And you have to be honest, because it will come out eventually, so I told them what happened.

“I’d moved from Leicester when I was four, to this new city, Nottingham, and didn’t really know anyone, and nor did my Mum.

“We had a different accent, and I just wasn’t very good at making friends. Also, Dad had left, and sometimes children need that stability. For me, my only rock was my Mum.

“I was bullied from around the age of seven upwards. It went on until my 20s, actually.

“When I joined the Cantamus girls choir, I was with them every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That made me unpopular and uncool, singing ‘God music’, as certain people saw it.

“By the time I was 10 or 11, people were saying they’d seen me on Songs of Praise. Well, if I’d had any guts I’d have questioned why they were watching that in the first place!

“But at the time I was frightened, and just wanted to keep my head down. People do anything to fit in. Some of those that bullied me were just doing it because others were doing it, thinking that was the way to gain power.

“So I went through all that, and my Mum didn’t really know what to do. It was just so painful. The reason I decided to talk about all that is that my singing helped me through those bad times.

Debut Album: Lucy Kay's Fantasia

Debut Album: Lucy Kay’s Fantasia

“I think that’s important for young boys and girls in that situation – if you have a passion for music – or anything really – you’ve got to hold on to it.

“Whether you’re having a bad time at home, at school or anywhere, things like that can help. Music did it for me. I hate that it happened, but it makes you who you are.”

Is it right that your Dad’s been back in contact since your big TV break?

“Yes, but he’s always been there for a few minutes here and there. I think the loss of his Dad was a turning point – he realised what was important to him.

“He rings every couple of weeks and we have a natter. It’s nice. Obviously, he saw a lot of things written about him and that probably made him feel even worse.

“But I don’t think it’s anything to do with Britain’s Got Talent. We were coming into contact before. It’s just building bridges really.”

Lucy’s move to Glasgow came in 2010, and it’s been her happy home city ever since.

“I failed my GCSEs because I was hardly ever at school. I was either in the girls’ toilet or skipping school because I was too terrified to go in.

“Mum didn’t know that at the time, and was most upset I didn’t tell her about it. But I felt I couldn’t. I didn’t want to upset her any more.

“My singing teacher, Pamela Cook, who sadly passed away before she saw my success, knew there was something special there, and helped a lot with vocal lessons.

“Mum wasn’t in a position where she could pay a lot, so she helped out every now and again.

“There was also Elaine Guy, another singing teacher who lived around the corner and helped too. I re-sat my GCSEs in English and Maths then got my A-level in Music so I could actually move away and start a new life.

Cantamus Founder: The late Pamela Cook was a major inspiration for Lucy

Cantamus Founder: The late Pamela Cook was a major inspiration for Lucy

“She did that off her own back, spending every night of the week with me, never wanting anything for it. So credit to those ladies – they really helped me.”

She still had a big geographical decision to make though, with two other options available.

“It was either going to be Manchester, where I’d been a few times with the choir, or Scotland, which was more of a back-up.

“I wasn’t strong enough for London. I didn’t think I would have been nurtured a lot there, and I needed that support.

“But I went for an audition in Glasgow and fell in love with the city. They offered me a place on the day, saying, ‘You must come here!’ And I was like, ‘OK!’”

Has it always just been about the voice, or can Lucy play music as well?

“I can play piano a little, but I still need to work on that. I remember in one of my exams I had this big shiny ring on, and got distracted when the light hit it.

“I just got lost and had to restart and re-sit that year. So there’s a tip for others – never wear any rings when you’re playing for an exam!”

Five years on from her move north of the border, Lucy’s working on a second album, ‘a bit more classical crossover’, some of her fans wanting more ‘out there stuff’.

“There’s still another side of my fans I have to please as well, with more classical pieces, but others want a few covers and a few curveballs in there.

“I love Katherine Jenkins. She’s still my biggest idol, but she’s very girl-next-door. Image-wise I don’t think that’s me.

“I’m more into my rock, so I suppose I’m going down more of a darker angel side.”

What does your adopted home city make of your success? Are you accepted as a proper Glaswegian yet?

“Well, I’ve lived here about five years now, can vote here, and everything else. Everyone’s been so friendly.

Future Focus: Lucy Kay  (Photo: http://lucykaysoprano.com/)

Future Focus: Lucy Kay (Photo: http://lucykaysoprano.com/)

“From the first moment I came to this city – once I’d learned what people were actually saying – it’s been lovely!”

And what’s your other half’s take on it all?

“David’s very protective. He managed me on the Collabro tour. Because he works in that industry he’s used to it all … and my little tantrums!

“He supports me and watches out for me, if a few people get a bit too close on tour. He’s a bit more cautious, rather than just flattered like me!”

Among Lucy’s other recent highlights was an invite to Prince Harry’s WellChild Awards evening. Did she get to have a word with the main man?

“I didn’t. I did try to stalk him, but there were too many security guards! Maybe next time.”

Talking of charities, it appears that Lucy has already forged links with St Catherine’s Hospice, the Lancashire palliative care centre and charity for Preston, Chorley and South Ribble which is behind Symphony at the Tower.

“I’m very honoured to be a part of this event, and why not use your voice – if you’ve got a gift – for a good cause?

“I also plan to visit the hospice again. Last time I was there I sang in the chapel, during my tour with Collabro earlier this year.

“I also donated to a guy who had a purple Mohican, raising money for the hospice. His spirits were so high and he was so happy to see me.

Hospice Visit: Lucy during her first visit to St Catherine's Hospice in Lancashire

Hospice Visit: Lucy during her first visit to St Catherine’s Hospice in Lancashire

“I was just so overwhelmed with how bright everyone was there. It puts your own life into perspective.”

Will she perform with her Hoghton Tower co-stars Blake on the night?

“We were talking about doing Nessun Dorma together. They were already set to do it, and I said, ‘But that’s my party piece!

“We’re following each other on Twitter, and I’m looking forward to meeting them.”

So can we expect some of that Lucy Kay quirkiness you mention on the night?

“I think so. I like to have a laugh on stage. I’m very light-hearted, never taking anything too serious. I like to make people feel happy and believe in a real connection between the artist and the public.”

And will she be there to see Status Quo headline on Friday night at the same stunning location?

“Yes! I’m doing a gig in Ipswich on the day, but I’ll be there later. I’ve always wanted to see them live.”

So might she end up harmonising with Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi on Caroline or Down Down maybe?

“Hey, perhaps I could jump on stage and join them!”

Remember, you heard it here first.

symphony-at-the-towerFor Symphony at the Tower tickets – including weekend and VIP packages – and more details, visit www.stcatherines.co.uk, or alternatively drop in at the Lostock Hall hospice or call them on 01772 629171.

And for more about Lucy and her forthcoming appearances, including live dates this year with Rhydian Roberts, try her official website here

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About writewyattuk

A freelance writer and family man being swept along on a wave of advanced technology, but somehow clinging on to reality. It's only a matter of time ... A highly-motivated scribbler with a background in journalism, business and life itself. Away from the features, interviews and reviews you see here, I tackle novels, short stories, copywriting, ghost-writing, plus TV, radio and film scripts for adults and children. I'm also available for assignments and write/research for magazines, newspapers, press releases and webpages on a vast range of subjects. You can also follow me on Facebook via https://www.facebook.com/writewyattuk/ and on Twitter via @writewyattuk. Legally speaking, all content of this blog (unless otherwise stated) is the intellectual property of Malcolm Wyatt and may only be reproduced with permission.
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