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 Article - Daily Mail 9 December 2011

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PostSubject: Article - Daily Mail 9 December 2011   Fri Dec 09, 2011 5:17 am

Posted on OF by Heather:

Making this album almost destroyed us: Simon Cowell's opera group Il Divo reveal how close they came to splitting
By Adrian Thrills

Last updated at 1:41 AM on 9th December 2011

Operatic pop quartet Il Divo felt they had plenty to prove as they took their place alongside Nicole Scherzinger and Pixie Lott at the Royal Variety Performance this week.
They may have sold 26 million albums and secured 150 gold discs, but a spell away from the limelight had left them riddled with doubts.

The making of their sixth studio album, Wicked Game, had been tough. Due out last Christmas, its release was put back 12 months as the cosmopolitan group and mentor Simon Cowell agonised over song choices. It was a year that nearly broke them.

‘We had so many setbacks that it became exasperating,’ says American tenor David Miller, 38. ‘Some songs felt half-hearted and others simply didn’t flow. If we had released the record last year as planned, it would have sunk us for good. It would have been “Goodbye Il Divo”. We knew there were dangers in waiting, but we wanted to get it right.’

Now that they have a spectacular set of songs they feel takes them to a new level, Il Divo want to shout about it — which is why they have been dominating our TV screens with appearances on Strictly Come Dancing, the National Lottery, a host of breakfast shows and that Royal Variety slot, which airs on Wednesday.

‘Wicked Game is different,’ says Swiss tenor Urs Buhler, 40 (the studious one). ‘That’s why we want to tell the world about it. I think it will appeal to people who haven’t been fans of our music before. We’ve tried to kill off some of the old classical crossover stereotypes.’

Wicked Game is certainly a bold step for the group, who were put together by Cowell in 2004. Richer and more cinematic than previous offerings, its songs — many of them from films — bristle with passion and drama.

Among the highlights are a fresh take on Shakespears Sister’s Stay, along with Roy Orbison’s Crying, poignantly sung with San Diego vocalist Rebekah Del Rio.

Proud: Now that they have a spectacular set of songs they feel takes them to a new level, Il Divo want to shout about it
Having overcome the kind of creative crisis more usually associated with wayward rock bands, Il Divo are also happy to offer a frank assessment of their career to date. The message is clear: they may be graduates of the Simon Cowell hit factory, but Il Divo are very much their own men.

‘We are four captains in the same boat,’ says Spanish baritone Carlos Marin, 43 (the passionate one). ‘We are big personalities and Simon knows that. He listens to us, and we tell him if we don’t like something.’

‘He has so much on his plate that his involvement is minimal anyway,’ adds David (the forceful one). ‘But Simon is a good listener. As trained musicians, we can sometimes be too lofty. Simon will come in with the layman’s perspective. He puts the final decorations on the Christmas tree.

‘At first, our record label drilled home the idea that we had to be perfect. They told us how to give interviews, how to carry ourselves on stage. They put us in nice Armani suits, because it matched the music. It was all very polished, but it didn’t allow us any wiggle-room.

‘Now I feel we’ve earned the right to be ourselves. We’re more relaxed on stage and we don’t give perfect answers in interviews.’

Frenchman Sebastien Izambard, 38, (the sensitive one) who describes himself as ‘the only pop singer in the village’ on account of his lack of a lung-bursting classical voice, warms to the theme: ‘Once we had finished our first album, we created an Il Divo sound, with powerful vocals and big endings. This time, we’ve changed all that.’

After seven years, the quartet — who came across as complete strangers in early interviews — have also forged a bond of genuine camaraderie.

‘It was never a case of us not getting on,’ insists Urs. ‘We just didn’t know each other very well. The first thing we did together was to go into a recording studio. It was a bit like stripping yourself naked in front of strangers. It left us all feeling a bit vulnerable.

‘Now we get on fine. I used to get upset when Carlos was in a bad mood, because there would be a lot of swearing. In Switzerland, we have our own boundaries about that sort of thing.

‘But I don’t take it personally any more. I’m more laid-back about things that aren’t important.’

Bolstered by their new sense of purpose, Il Divo are gearing up for a busy 2012. With a world tour looming, it seems the album that almost destroyed them has only made them stronger.

‘I was struck by just how fragile a group could be,’ says Sebastien. ‘It made me realise we have to enjoy things. And this is just the start. I think we could still be around in 20 years.’

Wicked Game is out now. The Royal Variety Performance is on ITV1, 7.30pm on Wednesday. Il Divo open their UK tour on April

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Article - Daily Mail 9 December 2011
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