Almost 10 years ago, French pop singer Sébastien Izambard left a successful solo career to join three other singers in Il Divo, a multinational operatic classical-crossover group put together by curmudgeonly American Idol/X Factor judge Simon Cowell. The gamble paid off: Il Divo quickly became a world-wide sensation after releasing their self-titled debut in 2004. The group is on tour again, this time supporting last year's Wicked Game. Izambard chats with us about Roy Orbison, groupies, and expensive shoes.
You grew up in a particularly poor family. How did that influenced you?
It's not so much being poor; it's more that music was a way to express myself, because I was very introverted. The fact that I didn't have much money helped me to be careful and enjoy my money when I had it. My kids have to make pocket money if they want to buy stuff. We want them to see that nothing is given in life and you have to work hard for it.
You were a successful singer even before joining the group. How did Simon Cowell convince you to leave behind your solo career?
Well, it was just the music. The songs really convinced me. I was an artist from France, and I wanted to sing in different languages. It was a challenge, and I thought if it didn't work, I could go back to what I was doing. It worked. We didn't even know who Simon was. That's not why we wanted to sign the deal.
Creative director Brian Burke, famous for the Cirque du Soleil-like Vegas show Le Rêve, designed your current tour. Will you be doing trapeze tricks and diving into pools of water?
Ha! We don't do that. He's amazing. We needed someone who could simplify our tour. We needed something Las Vegas-stylish. It was just the four of us and the orchestra. We didn't want anything to distract the audience. We have three screens and no special effects. We have a 40-piece orchestra. It's more relaxed. People get to know our personality more, and we joke around. That's the most important thing: to make sure people have a special time.
I like your version of the Roy Orbison track "Crying," but I had trouble understanding the words. Couldn't you just have sung it in English?
Um, yeah, I guess so. We tried it, and it sounded cheesy. It sounded a bit like Elvis Presley, but bad Elvis Presley.
I know you're married, but did you used to entertain any Il Divo groupies?
Yeah, I used to. They all left me now for the other guys. I find them respectful and very supportive of my family.
I read that someone once stole your shoe while you were performing. Is that true?
Damn right. We were in Switzerland and I was sitting on the edge of the stage. A fan grabbed my leg, and she left with my shoe. I was like, "Are you kidding?" I said, "You better bring that shoe back, because it's stinky." I ended up selling my one shoe for something like $10,000, and I gave the money to a charity that helps kids. So that experience helped others.
He seems like he could be rather nasty. Have you ever been on his shit list?
No, I've never experienced that, but we don't see him very often. He's very trustful. I feel lucky in that sense. The tour is the four of us, and he's not involved. He knows the power we have in our music.