Coming to Live At Zédel on 8 February actor, singer-songwriter, poet and former X Factor contestant ANTON STEPHANS will present Brave, his own one-man show, drawing on his experience in musical theatre and his working with some of the best musicians in the business. Here is his story so far…
You have been involved in musical theatre since you were eight and appeared in Bugsy Malone. How did you get started?
I got started like most people I guess. I went to a local youth club and the open auditions came up so I went along with my then music teacher. It was the most thrilling experience of my life back then. I’m still friends with many of the cast from way that time.
Did you take to the world of musical theatre straight away and was it everything you wanted it to be?
I love theatre, musical theatre particularly. Yes, I embraced it immediately. Acting through song is for me the only way I know how to connect musically. Telling the story honestly, passionately.
You have had wide experience in several different kinds of shows, such as Porgy and Bess, Starlight Express, Jesus Christ Superstar, Smokey Joe’s Café, Show Boat, Children of Eden. Do you enjoy doing classic shows rather than new work?
Truth is I love to work! Taking a classic piece and making it new is always wonderful. But equally new work is inspiring. I love to be the first to sing a new song and make it my own. I’m an actor first.
You have performed with some of the greatest popular artists ever, including Tina Turner, George Michael, Sting, Cliff Richard and Elton John, for example. Are you fazed by being in such close proximity to these enormous talents and disconcerted by actually working with them?
I’m of course overwhelmed at times by the incredible, awesome talents that I’ve had the pleasure to work with. But I quickly remember I’m there to do a job. It’s not my work, I’m there to help and assist them in bringing their vision to life. I guess that is what I’ve learnt, it’s okay to be a part of something. Each tiny part makes up a whole. You just want your part to be its best.
As you have had so much experience yourself, why did you apply to go on The X Factor? You could probably teach them a thing or two…couldn’t you?
Bless you for saying that, I certainly learnt an awful lot from them. I had been ill for a long time and in truth I had lost my way a little. I came back to the world and it had changed. I felt that I needed to put myself right out there. Stand up and take ownership of my life. Take a huge chance. So I did!
I loved my time on The X Factor. It was the best decision I’ve made in a long time. The response from my time on the show has been beyond what any of us would have thought. I get messages from all over the world, every single day, since my first appearance. I’ve been travelling the world because of it. I will forever be grateful to X Factor. Si [Simon Cowell] said: ‘The public will love you and will take you to their hearts.’ Oh my, they have certainly have done that.
So, was it an enjoyable and rewarding experience?
Yes in part is was enjoyable. Very stressful and intrusive, but ultimately extremely rewarding. Plus I love Simon very much. He is hilarious and a joy to be around.
Did you find it a strain being on The X Factor, as there is always a lot of pressure put on any of the artists in the show?
I found some of the inaccurate things said in the press very upsetting, but on the whole I truly loved every minute of my time.
What was it like when you left The X Factor, a feeling of disappointment, perhaps?
I was sooooo ready to go home when I left the show. I felt like I had achieved all that I needed to. Everything happens in its right time, I believe.
You are currently writing songs for your first album following the mentoring by Simon Cowell. How is the process going?
Yes, the process is going well. It takes so much longer than people might think. Telling my story is a complicated and emotional one. I want to get it right. The truth is both painful and joyful in equal measure. Love, loss, addiction, recovery, transformation, celebration, BRAVE. I’m honouring my truth.
Have you always written songs for yourself – or even other artists – and do you write both music and lyrics?
Yes, I’ve written with a number of artists, both music and lyrics. I prefer to have a writing partner, but some songs are meant to be written alone. Some songs demand that of you.
Where does the inspiration come from when you set out to write a song?
Everywhere, everything and everyone that touches your life.
Do you think it is difficult constructing a stand-alone number that doesn’t have the backing of a show or story behind it?
No, not at all! Its about connection: right song, right music, right moment.
Would you consider writing a musical show yourself – say, the book, the music and the lyrics?
Yes, in fact I’m in talks about doing just that at the moment.
Your show for Live At Zédel is called Brave. Is that because you will be telling it as it is, looking at your life from your point of view?
Totally that, yes. My truth from my lips. Whatever comes from the heart goes straight to the heart.
What will the songs be for Brave – all your own work or will it reflect the shows you have been in and the people you have worked with?
Yes, a combination of new songs and songs that you will know, love and maybe even singalong to.
* Anton Stephans presents Brave at Live At Zédel on Wednesday 8 February at 7pm
Compiled by Michael Darvell