Clayton born singer/performer Shayne Ward is currently appearing as Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages, which is playing at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London's West End. He is best known for winning the UK X Factor in 2005, and has released
three albums, played London's O2 Arena, sold over 3 million albums, and
had number one albums in 9 countries.
He will soon celebrate one year on the West End stage in the five-time Tony Award nominated musical, which is directed by Kristin Hanggi. The show follows Drew, a boy from South Detroit, and Sherrie, a small-town girl, chasing their dreams in Los Angeles. Rock of Ages brings crowd-pleasing 80s rock classics such as "Don't Stop Believin'", "We Built This City", and "The Final Countdown" to the musical genre. A movie version of Rock of Ages - starring Tom Cruise (as Jaxx), Catherine Zeta Jones, and Russell Brand – opened in cinemas this week. So we thought this would be a great opportunity to speak to a North West performer about life in a rock musical and beyond.
Date & place of birth?
16 October 1984, Manchester.
Lives now in?
What made you want to be a performer?
I've just always been around music. I remember growing up, me and my sisters would record ourselves and play it back, and we always loved to role play. I don't remember consciously making it a career choice back then though, it was just always there.
If you hadn't become a singer/actor, what might you have done professionally?
God knows! I really don't know. There's no way I wouldn't be doing some singing; I was in a band for four and a half years, doing working men's' clubs. The singing still would have been there. I guess I could have ended up working in any store in Manchester, maybe a clothes shop.
First big break?
X Factor, that literally was it. My friends and my missus were saying go for it. The first time round I didn't actually go for it, that was the first year of X Factor, but the next year my sisters went for it and I went along too. Before I knew it they enjoyed my voice and I was getting through the stages! So that to me was definitely the biggest break.
Career highlights to date?
I'd say getting my own Madame Tussauds waxwork would be the biggest one. It was weird coming face to face, really weird; but fine, it was just a slightly bigger version of me.
Favourite co-stars/people in the industry you have worked with?
Justin Lee Collins is brilliant; working with him is just incredible, and the same for the whole team on Rock of Ages - they've part of the West End for so many years, and I'm just a newbie. It's a nice difference to the pop world, it's more family orientated, the West End stage, and that's what I like about it – you're with these people almost 24/7, doing eight shows over six days, they become friends. Everyone involved, management, cast and crew has just been fantastic.
Collaboration is something I'm really excited about, when I get back in the studio; there are artists making great music now like Ed Sheeran, Tinie Tempah and Wretch 32 those types of people with amazing material are the kind of people I'd like to work with.
What was the first thing you saw on stage (music based) that had a big impact on you?
Years ago, at Manchester Velodrome, there was a massive open air festival with acts like 911, Kavana and Eternal. There were so many people standing watching them on stage, I just thought, "Wow, this is incredible" - I loved that.
Have you seen anything recently that has blown you away?
I haven't, unfortunately. Since doing Rock of Ages my nighttimes are taken up. So I haven't been able to get to some of the gigs I'd have loved to see, like Coldplay. I really want to see Ghost before it finishes though, that and Matilda.
What's the best advice you have ever received?
It's just common sense really, that I've always stuck to and it's to always listen; to listen, learn and work hard to progress. Never believe the hype and remember where you've come from; that's really helped make me stronger. It's a really tough industry to be in and it's not just getting up singing, there's a lot of other stuff to deal with.
Do fans of your music come to the show and do you think you've surprised other people and yourself now you have been in the role for a while?
Of course. I was always going to be typecast as ‘another singer' going into the West End. I was ready for it, to be honest, and wasn't nervous at all about the singing, it was the acting and the American accent that worried me! To go on stage and get amazing reviews, I'm really happy about it. I think it's shocked people.
Are there any other parts you would like to play and has Rock of Ages given you the acting bug?
I think I'll leave the musical side for a bit, though I would never shut the door on it – it was new and fresh and I was really up for doing it. I'm going back into the studio to record music but I also want to get into TV stuff, gritty hard roles – that's definitely the direction I'd want to go in with acting.
I love the Fun track, "We Are Young" and listen to Ed Sheeran a lot. But I always keep going back to the 90s stuff, and just downloaded a load of dance and garage music recently from then.
Favourite holiday destination?
I don't really have one. I've never really been able to experience Ibiza; I should have done it back in the day when I wouldn't have been recognised. I'd love to go somewhere like that with nightlife, go out with friends and family and have an amazing time. I'm looking forward to a solid two weeks' holiday when I finish Rock of Ages – think I'll either be asleep or drunk every day, I've kept off alcohol during the show.
Why did you want to get involved with Rock of Ages?
It was my agents and management really. I love the West End but I wasn't looking to get into West End straight away. They suggested this, I listened to a couple of the great 80s songs, and realised it's really funny too. I didn't want to say no and walk away from a great opportunity so l turned up to the audition, sang a couple of songs, went through the script and only then realised it was meant to be in an American accent! I did it in my own accent and they liked me from that.
What's the show about?
Well the film's out now, so you can get the gist from that! It's really tongue in cheek, set in late 80s, you follow a relationship with Drew and Sherrie; the Sunset Boulevard about to be knocked down and people protesting about that. Then there's my character, the biggest global rockstar, Stacee Jaxx. Tom Cruise plays him in the film - I think that might be the only association with me and Tom, but I'm looking forward to seeing his take on it.
How does performing in a show like this differ from what you have done before?
It's nice because I'm getting to show people my personality. You won't see me being me on stage, I'm playing Stacee Jaxx, but the only person I've based him on is me, so it's nice to let myself go.
What's your favourite part of the show?
I love my intro song "Dead or Alive", by Bon Jovi. One of my favourite lines would have to be when I'm singing "I Wanna Know What Love Is" with Sherrie. She asks if I'm ok and I say, "Yes - I'm singing." It sounds a bit lame on its own but when you see the show you'll understand it!
You have a really faithful following in the North West but why should people come and see Rock of Ages aside from the fact you're in it?
Because people want to go out and know they're going to have a great time. It's an amazing night. Come along, let yourself go; wear leather and get some guyliner on!
What have you got lined up next?
I finish on 23 September. After a holiday I'll be back in the studio. I know the fans are waiting, and I'm eager to get something out too but I'm not going to rush it, I'll make sure it's right and start enjoying the music side again. I'll still carry on with the acting side and have time to start auditioning! I'm sure Rock of Ages will go on tour at some point. I won't do the tour but maybe if people wanted to see me back in my hometown, we could talk to management about one night in Manchester.
Shayne Ward was speaking to Laura Maley.
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