She's got a fan in Russell Watson, some outstanding vocals and is preparing for some of the biggest dates in her career so far, but Rebecca Newman - 'The People's Soprano' - found time to chat to us about all that and more.
How was it that you got into classical singing?
Although my family was not a musical one, nor did we have classical music in the house to listen to, I always enjoyed singing and just assumed everyone could do it. I knew my voice didn't seem to suit the 80s pop songs I was growing up on but I was aware I could sing higher and stronger than my school friends when we were singing sea chanties and traditional folk songs at primary school. It wasn't until I discovered Sarah Brightman's recording as Christine in 'The Phantom of the Opera', when I was 12, that I understood there was this world on singing out there that wasn't 'high brow' opera or pop music, but something in between. Musicals, especially the classic shows by the likes of Rodgers and Hammerstein, then became my passion and I began having singing lessons at 14, paid for by washing dishes in a pub kitchen during the summer season. My singing teacher immediately recognised my natural classical ability and started introducing me to light operatic material like 'Ave Maria' and Handel's 'Lascia Ch'io Pianga', although we continued looking at a lot of the West End show songs I loved as well.
How does it feel to be known as 'The People's Soprano'?
It's wonderful. Although my fans and some of the media have referred to me with this nickname for some time now, it has only been recently that I've embraced it, mainly because I felt like it was a very big title to live up to. Now I understand why people call me it, and it's because I started out my singing career by busking outside York Minster, where I was at university, and continued taking music out to the town centres and shopping malls as an offocially organised event even when I no longer needed to because I was getting plenty of paid work. Nothing beats being up close and personal with your audience and it enabled me to reach people who wouldn't normally come and see an opera, a concert or a musical. Being called 'The People's Soprano' suits me because I've never tried to become famous, it's always been about the music and the people who enjoy it. Street performing also enabled me to raise thousands of pounds for my designated charities and, along the way, I seem to have collected a large and loyal fanbase from the hundreds of thousands of people who have seen me. I had some frustrating times on the streets - rain, equipment failure, roadworks, even snow - but I've also had some of the best experiences of my life. It also means I feel like my music and my success belongs to 'the people' who helped me, right from the lady who gave me £1 on my very first busking session in 2005 everyone who has donated or bought a CD over the years has helped me reinvest in my music and, ultimately, given me the self-belief that there are people out there who want to hear me sing and write new songs.
'Heroes to the World' is out now - what can you tell us about the song?
This is a brand new song of epic proportions. I've dubbed it the 'sporting anthem of the twenty-first century' because we haven't had a rousing, recognisable hit sporting songs for a long time. Not since 'Nessun Dorma' or 'World in Union', in the early nineties, have we had something people can really get behind, and I think this song might be it. It is recorded with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted and orchestrated by the incredible Paul Bateman - who was the arranger behind the global smash hit song 'Time to Say Goodbye' - and has been produced by Gareth Williams, who has worked with many of the big stars. The song is about pushing yourself to succeed, but also being aware that your passion and success is inspiring other people, a bit like the Olympics Legacy idea. It recognising success in teamwork and how sporting heritage is an integral part of a nation's identity. Although it's operatic in it's style, it is written with a pop song structure and is easy to pick up, making it a perfect sporting anthem. I'd love to hear it sung on the terraces one day!
You co-wrote 'Pass it On' which was used in a viral campaign - how did you find that experience?
It was such good fun. My producer was appraoched to write a pop song while I was in the studio working on my new album. We worked out some lyrics together and I sung the female vocal part. It's like nothing I am doing at the moment - although I was in a hip hop band at uni, but that's another story - so it will be interesting for my fans to hear me singing another style. There are all sorts of effects on my voice that people would never normally hear with the styles that I do. It's amazing to think how many people will hear my voice, across the world, during the World Cup live Tv broadcasts.