Justine Balmer Interview
Stunning contemporary crossover soprano, Justine Balmer, talks about the release of her debut Classical/Pop-Opera album, working with Classic Brit Award winners, Blake, and what it’s like to sing on the ocean waves
How did you nurture such an incredible soprano voice?
I guess like anything it’s a LOT of practise, and some fabulous teachers. But enjoying what you do is so important and I hope that joy comes through in my singing. I love it, it’s my happy place. Like all singers, I’m conscious of really having to look after it before any performances, so lots of water and early nights - chocolate and alcohol after the performance!
You’ve sung on some of the most famous cruise liners on the planet, what’s life like living on the ocean waves?
In a word .... incredible! Travelling all around the world while doing what you love makes me one of the luckiest people there is. Cruise ships themselves are all different and all stunning with their own identities. The food is my downfall - far too yummy and too much of it! Combine a gorgeous floating hotel with a different port / country nearly every day, and it makes for a really unique experience. I’ve seen so much of the world, fallen in love with so many cities, beaches and cultures, and there is still so much more to see.
You created a pop opera show for the cruise guests, explain more about that?
I wanted to create a show that was personal to me and my experiences, but also one I hoped people would really enjoy listening to. I like to think there’s something for everyone in my show. There aren’t many places you get to sing everything from Phantom .... to Gershwin .... to Puccini .... to the Rat Pack ..... to Aerosmith!!
Your new single is a Coldplay cover – why did you choose that?
When I chose songs, both to sing and record, lyrics have a lot to do with it. ‘Fix You’is iconic in my eyes - a gorgeous melody that isn’t overdone, and real heartfelt, meaningful lyrics that just resonated to my core. It’s hard to take on a song that is flawless in its first outing, but I really hope that Chris Martin and Coldplay will think my version has a heart and that I’ve done it justice!
You duet on your new single with Classic Brit award winners, Blake, how did that collaboration come about?
Through pure luck and mutual friends! I had always loved what BLAKE were doing in the classical crossover world - their voices and harmonies are awesome! So when my friend said she would put us in touch, and then they said yes to recording the duet with me, I couldn’t believe it! They are great guys and have been a lot of fun to work with - especially filming the music video for ‘Fix You’ in the rain - the great British weather didn’t let us down!!
Your new album is called ‘Simple Thing’, why that title?
Again, it goes back to lyrics and music - the simplicity of the lyric, the simplicity of the music, the simplicity of the voice. Plus it’s a line from one of my favourite songs on the album ‘Somewhere Only We Know’
‘Simple Thing’is a real pop opera mix, how did you choose which songs to include on the album?
My producer Tim and myself had so many ideas and had so many conversations about which songs to include! We wanted to really try and show my identity and take the listener on a journey through my influences, which are pretty wide ranging! There were some choices that were quite off the wall and we weren’t sure were going to work, but I think they really do! I hope people listening do to!!
Would you say that giving pop tracks an operatic twist will open up the classical sound to new audiences?
I really hope so. I’m not doing anything new, but I do think vocally I hopefully bring a new feel to the popera sound. I’m not an opera singer with a heavy voice, I’m a classical singer who also has a musical theatre background with a lighter voice. The best comments I get after my show are when people tell me they really don’t like opera but they loved what I sang. It’s so important to keep music fresh and keep introducing children and adults to new genres and experiences.
What’s your favourite song on the album?
Oh that’s such a tough one!! They’re all my favourites! Can I pick more than one?! ‘Ave Maria’ because I think it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written, and ‘I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing’ because it’s unique. I had it translated into Italian by an Italian magician I met on a cruise ship!
Any live dates this year?
Yes! I’ve got an album launch concert on 17th June at The Pheasantry in Chelsea (please come!) https://www.pizzaexpresslive.com/whats-on/justine-balmer-a-little-light-music , some cruises of course, and I’m in talks with an orchestra to guest at some concerts over this year and next year.
Any final messages?
Thank you so much for reading this far!!!! This album is a dream come true for me, I really hope you enjoy listening to it!
Justine’s debut album, ‘Simple Thing’is released on Right Track Records / Universal on 14 June