Dapper, dashing and oh-so-charming, the handsome gents of the British vocal sensation Blake are poised for a full-fledged U.S. invasion. Already famous in their native land, Ollie Baines, Humphrey Berney, Stephen Bowman and Jules Knight won Album of the Year at the 2008 Classical BRIT Awards for their debut release and haven’t slowed down since, singing for, among others, the royal family! They visited the Paradise Coast to perform their booming chart-toppers at what Naples Illustrated dubbed “The Party of the Year”—and they couldn’t get enough of our city. The guys also have a new album out for 2013, Start Over, a March release in the U.K. Now a trio after Knight left earlier this year to star in the BBC show Holby City, they’re hoping to tour the U.S. soon, and we can’t wait for their return.
|The band Blake (from left): Jules Knight (playing pool), Stephen Bowman, Humphrey Berney (seated), and Ollie Baines.|
NI: This is your first time in Naples, right?
ALL: It is. It’s very exciting. Loving it, so relaxing. It’s beautiful here.
HUMPHREY BERNEY: We went to Sea Salt last night, which was an amazing culinary experience. Everyone has been very welcoming, and today we wandered up the beach to where the boats go out, and it’s an incredibly beautiful place. We are excited to be here.
Can you say how the band got started?
STEPHEN BOWMAN: We formed six years ago, and the reason was because Ollie and Jules knew each other since they were seven and eight years old as choir boys at one of the U.K.’s foremost choir schools. Fast-forward about 18 years, and they decided it would be a fun idea to get a group together to sing for wedding and bar mitzvahs. So they got in contact with myself—I was in the same music college as Ollie—and we got together and did some rehearsals, and very luckily a close friend was working at Universal Records, and he asked us to come in a do an audition. We did one song for them, and they immediately gave us a five-album record deal. That was the start six years ago, and since then we have been releasing records all over the world: the U.K., Australia, Japan, China, South Africa and more.
I read something about how Facebook also had a role in bringing you together?
SB: Facebook is what helped Ollie and Jules get in contact. Facebook reunited us and also found us our first manager as well.
OLLIE BAINES: We sent him a message asking if he wanted to come and listen to us, and he said, “Yeah why not.” And then he is the one who took us down to our record label.
HB: We use social media a lot. Facebook, Twitter—all those things are a big part of what we do.
SB: Our fans get to interact with us when it comes to making the albums. We were working on our current album, and they were listening to early demo tracks and telling us what they thought of them and which lyrics need to be replaced. They’ve been very involved.
What do you intend to perform tonight?
HB: We’ve got a lot of material to choose from, but it’s the first time we’ve performed in Naples—the first time a lot of these fine people will hear us sing. We wanted to sing something that suits the occasion. It’s a formal event raising money for a great charity. We want to have some pieces in there that are going to be classical, emotional and uplifting. But also something that shows the variety of the way we sing. We sing in harmony, and that allows a real range. We are going to have some pop as well, some Bob Dylan, some opera and then some stuff by Snow Patrol, a huge band from Ireland that’s big in the U.S. We’ll do a real mix of styles tonight.
Can you tell me about your travels and concerts around the world?
JULES KNIGHT: We just got back from China, where we were asked to open the Shanghai International Film Festival. That was cool because it was kind of our introduction to the Chinese market. We just released a record there, and we sang to a live TV audience of 500 million people, so that was pretty insane. Half a billion!
HB: Another big one that I always remember we were lucky enough to do was a live broadcast for the Today show. It was an hour before the royal wedding, and we were live in London. Today set up a massive studio basically in the center of London, and that was a huge thing for us. We’ve always wanted to come to the States, we’ve always wanted to launch here, so to do a live show on such an important day for the U.K. with Prince William getting married and the queen and whole royal family there was really exciting.
Have you toured the U.S. or do you intend to?
HB: We did a big show in New York at Cipriani—it was a dinner and show with 2,000 seats. It was done with Denise Rich for her Angel Foundation [Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research]. And we’ve come over here for holidays quiet often, but we’re only just now coming for private shows, and we have some public shows coming up in 2013 as well. We’d like to think 2013 is our American year.
How did you get involved tonight?
OB: Through Gillian Campbell, one of the co-hosts for the party. She saw us singing at a gig in a place in London called Tabernacle where she actually bid on a charity auction prize that night to attend a Blake concert. She won, and unlike most people who usually bid on a Blake concert at those types of fundraisers—who’ll want to see us perform in the United Kingdom—she said, “Oh I see you’re performing in Bermuda, can I come to that?” So I said, “Okay yeah that’s fine.” And it sort of went from there, and she has been a real advocate for us and really insisted that we were involved. She seems to love what we do, and we wouldn’t want to let her down. She’s great and the reason why we are here. We owe her a lot.
What do you think of this party?
SB: It’s up there with the best of them.
HB: To meet and sing on the same stage as LeAnn Rimes is pretty cool. She had that big song in Coyote Ugly [“Can’t Fight the Moonlight“], and we’ve heard her music before and ever since. She’s a pretty big star, so it’s great to meet her. We’ve performed at a lot of amazing private events around the world, and I can say this is amazing—definitely one of the most amazing we’ve been to. We’ve never sound checked with dolphins before. A whole school of them were in the waves just beyond the tent. We could easily get used to that.
JK: I have to say in the six years of being together, we’ve never sound checked while seeing dolphins jumping in the water. It was fantastic.
Photography by Vanessa Rogers