A BACKING singer for artists from Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross through to the Beach Boys and Joe Cocker, Tommy Blaize sang at Rod Stewart’s wedding.
As lead singer on Strictly Come Dancing he has been heard in millions of homes for the past 14 years, and his new album, Life And Soul, featuring covers of his favourite soul songs, is out this week.
Who introduced you to soul music?
Mum played Sam Cooke and Nat King Cole at home and said: “Listen, you can hear every word.” That stuck with me. I’m not a fan of frills or trills in the TV talent shows. Just sing me a good song without showing off.
Where did you serve your apprenticeship?
In Liverpool clubs. That could be tough, and I regularly saw acts leave the stage in tears because they couldn’t handle the heckling. I just kept on singing.
And from Liverpool to Stevie Wonder?
Yep. I stood in awe on stage with Stevie and couldn’t believe that I was working with him. Mind you I was also starstruck standing behind Brucie on Strictly for all those years.
Do you watch the dancers on Strictly?
Rarely, just if there’s an instrumental break or something. We’re too busy reading our lyrics and musical notes. I record it and watch the next day.
Ever been put off by what’s happening on the floor?
There’s a great photo of Kristina Rihanoff being dragged across the floor by John Sergeant, and in the background I’m standing with my mouth wide open. That was difficult (laughs).
How many songs did you have for the album?
I had around 50 songs to get down to just 12. I wanted old-style soul, the Marvin Gayes and Al Greens of music, really special songs.
Couldn’t it all just sound like karaoke?
Yes, and that’s why I had to make these songs my own, to add something new. I constantly asked myself what the artist would think of my version if they were still around.
Prefer being the front man or a backing singer?
I love both. I guess you don’t believe me but I do. I know many really famous lead singers who couldn’t possibly do harmonies or backing vocals. It’s intricate and difficult, which is why I love it.
So you don’t strive for the limelight?
No, I’m not one of those singers who need to be at the front and told how great they are. I’m proud of the album, but I don’t need praise for it. It’s enough for people to enjoy it.
You have 24 hours left to live. How do you spend it?
I’d sit with the family listening to Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, then a bit of Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson. I would already be in Heaven after that lot.