It’s a Saturday afternoon and Welsh acting superstar Luke Evans has a day’s break from filming upcoming thriller 5lbs of Pressure alongside Rory Culkin and Alex Pettyfer. But he’s definitely not off. For the star of The Hobbit, The Alienist, Fast & Furious 6, Dracula Untold and Beauty and the Beast, weekends are dedicated to his other, burgeoning career as a singer and songwriter.
And so, he’s joined The Big Issue to talk about his new album, A Song for You. The record sees Evans take on classic songs from My Way to REM’s Everybody Hurts, Wham’s Last Christmas to Silent Night. He’s also released his first self-penned song, Horizons Blue, co-written with Grammy-winner Amy Wadge. Having wowed Strictly audiences with his rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Water, Evans will surely be found in stockings across the land come December 25.
Singing was Luke Evans’s first passion and he’s grateful to live that dream, even if it currently means working seven days a week. That said, he admits he’s looking forward to putting his feet up this holiday season.
The Big Issue: How did you pick what to sing on for A Song for You?
Luke Evans: When everybody’s had the last glass of wine at home, you’re all sitting there feeling very happy and contented at the end of the night… somebody goes: ‘Sing us a song’. It’d be one of these tracks. These are the songs I’ve been singing my whole adult life. I know where my voice sits most naturally and it’s singing these kinds of songs.
Not many people have a duet with Nicole Kidman at the end of the night… but you’ve sung Say Something with her. How did that come about?
I met her doing [TV miniseries] Nine Perfect Strangers, which we shot in Australia for five months and we got to spend a lot of time together. She’s just a very kind person. She’s very generous.
I was expecting her to say no [to the duet], and I would have been fine with that. She’s someone who doesn’t sing every day, probably doesn’t sing every month. But she loves to sing. I’ve been in her house when Keith’s [Kidman’s husband, Grammy Award-winner Keith Urban] been on the piano and I’ve been singing an Adele track and Nicole is joining in. So it was like, I’m gonna ask her if she wants to do this. What she came back with was so different than what I expected and just so pure. I think that’s what I love about Nicole: because she’s such a brilliant actress, she interpreted her part of the song as an actress who’s singing. And she’s a superstar. What can I say? I’m just glad she said yes.
Charlotte Church is on the record too. Do you feel like you have to up your game to duke it out with her incredible voice?
I’ve known Charlotte for well over 20 years. I was 16 and she was like 10 or 11 when I first met her. We had the same singing teacher. I’ve seen all the wonderful moments of her life journey so far, as she’s seen of mine. There’s a connection in many, many ways.
I didn’t just want to ask just anybody [to be on the record], I want to ask people I love and I respect and I admire. I want to share this moment with them. Charlotte was one of those people.
Come What May is a beautiful number. I told her we were going to have the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and I was inviting the Treorchy Male Voice Choir to join the song. It is this heavenly, gigantic and dramatic version of a song that we know so well. We had the best time. It was really special.
Do you think all Welsh people have a song in their hearts?
Yeah. I don’t know why. It may be to do with the lilt of the Welsh accent. Whether it’s an untrained voice or Brynn Terfel, people love to sing. It’s very rare that you’ll see a Welsh person at a rugby match NOT belting out Calon Lân. Let me tell you, you cannot not be affected by it.
What do you think makes a perfect festive record?
The best kind of song for me is one that takes you on a journey. That melody just catches you and hugs you. A perfect festive song is one that just takes you to the moments of Christmas when you’re with your family, or you’re walking down the street on Christmas Eve and it’s snowing.
I mean, I’m being very romantic and idealistic. But let’s just go with it for a minute. There’s a Christmas choir, a village square and there’s a big Christmas tree. People are being nice and drinking a bit of mulled wine, wrapped up with their scarves that their grandmothers made them. There’s a nice, good, pure energy of Christmas.
You grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness. Did you have Christmas when you were young?
No. We didn’t celebrate it. I mean, I was very aware of everybody else celebrating it. You can’t really get away from it. Especially as a kid in school when everybody’s making Christmas cards and putting glitter on their holly berries and stuff. We wouldn’t ever do any of that stuff. So you can feel a little different.
I’m sure. Have you adopted Christmas in your adult life?
Oh, absolutely. Oh my god, I love it. Christmas is a time when movies stop. Everybody stops at Christmas. It’s just the way it is. I’m thankful for that because it’s the only time of the year I can guarantee I won’t be working, so I can make a plan, and I know I’m not going to have to cancel it.
We’ve been to Mexico for Christmas, Miami for Christmas. We’ve had big celebrations in Cartagena in Colombia. We have a lot of beach Christmases, which have been absolutely brilliant. Very different to the kind of Christmases that most people in the UK would experience and that’s been really fun. But I think this year will be around friends and family closer to home because I’ve been away an awful lot this year.
I think after the album, I’ll just need someone just to feed me and sit me in the rocking chair next to the fire!
You mentioned feeling a bit different when you were young, and I know you’ve talked before about having been bullied. Do you think that shapes you?
Yes. I would never want anyone, any kid to go through what I went through. I remember being a kid, starting to think like the bullies, thinking: ‘You are useless, why would anybody want to be your friend?’ That’s a horrible thing for a child to feel.
I have no qualms talking about the fact that I was bullied because I’m sending a message that you can get through it. You have to know that it’s a temporary thing. If you believe it will stop, you will be able to move through it. And you can go on to wonderful things and use your experiences for good. That is what I’ve tried to do on a daily basis.
Do you think things are a little bit better now for young gay men? Have we made some progress?
I think we’ve made a lot of progress. I’ve got friends who have kids and they are just like: ‘Oh yeah, two of the kids in our in our class have dads, two of them have mums.’ And they don’t even bat an eyelid about it. That’s wonderful.
We still have a long way to go, it’s not completely perfect, but we’ve come a long way. I think schools have adapted extremely well to this, putting things in place which allow kids to feel that they can be themselves. They’re there to learn, not to be beaten up or treated badly because they’re a little different to everybody else.
Your local vendor is at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis this Winter. Prices of energy and food are rising rapidly. As is the cost of rent. All at their highest rate in 40 years. Vendors are amongst the most vulnerable people affected. Support our vendors to earn as much as they can and give them a fighting chance this Winter.