Recently returned from Cape Town where he created the role of John Crichton-Stuart in the new musical Tiger Bay, a role written especially for him no less, John Owen-Jones tomorrow releases a compilation album, Bring Him Home. A mix of musical theatre songs taken from three previous albums, John Owen-Jones (2009, Unmasked (2012) and Rise (2015), there are also three new tracks to delight fans: Maria, Why God Why and Suddenly. In addition to this, John is soon to embark on a short solo tour of Wales – click here for dates and venues. All in all, with Tiger Bay moving to Cardiff in November and a trip stateside in September, 2017 is shaping up to be a busy year for John.
Given his super busy schedule, it was a delight to catch up with John over coffee this week to talk about the new album although of course, you’ll forgive us if we strayed onto all things Les Mis. Like Alfie, it was through Les Mis that I first became aware of John – the Valjean Quartet at the 25th concert to be precise. Talking about that incredible moment where Alfie first starts singing, John says that “being in the room when we first rehearsed that and everyone’s hair was blow off when Alfie hit that top note”. Lovely to hear that the other Valjean’s thought that as it’s the same for most of us too. As for Alfie, Les Mis is the show in which John first rose to prominence; at 26 he was the youngest actor to play Valjean. He says of this time on Broadway that “I was very lucky at 26 that I had the chance to play Jean Valjean and I grabbed it with both hands”. Since then he has returned to the role several times, most recently on Broadway again and for a short run in Dubai and doesn’t rule out another stint in the future “if the opportunity is there again, why not?”
Of the three new tracks on Bring Him Home, one is related to Les Mis and that is Suddenly, the song that was added to the movie version and as yet, has not been recorded by many people. As such, it sounds fresh and exciting which is no mean feat for a song from a thirty year old musical that everyone is familiar with. In understated style, John calls the song ” a nice little tune” and it fits in perfectly with the theme of this album which draws heavily on John’s roles with both Les Mis and Phantom, both of which are huge in Japan. John has played several sell out shows there and in once concert last year, John says that the audience refused to leave the auditorium until he came back for a further encore – the musical director came back on stage without shoes and socks!
As for the other new tracks, Maria was chosen as West Side Story was the first show in which John was ever on stage and is a song he’s always wanted to record as a result. Apparently it took him this long to actually do it because his mum’s not keen on the song but “she can skip that one”. Great choice of song – despite there being many versions of this song out there, John’s acting ability enables him to bring an emotional depth that is not always heard. Similarly personal, Why God Why from Miss Saigon was the song John performed at his audition for drama school and is a song that he has performed live for a long time.
As mentioned earlier, next week sees John embark on a short solo tour of Wales and he says that the set list will consist of mainly musical theatre songs with one or two others in the mix as well. A number of local choirs will be joining John, not to mention Rhys Meirion in Rhyl and other guest artists. Sounds fantastic!
Bring Him Home is released on Sain Records on 9 June and is available here:
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