On Wednesday 22nd June, Kempton Park Racecourse will welcome Platinum-selling singer-songwriter Darius Campbell, who will be headlining the entertainment on British Big Band Night after racing.
Darius, who leapt to fame after winning ITV1’s Popstar to Operastar, has had five UK Top Ten singles and supported Shakira on her world tour.
The popular West End leading man has been performing in some of the biggest Operatic productions in the UK and made a guest appearance at the Beatles 50th Anniversary Concert at the Royal Albert Hall. He has also starred in several West End productions including ‘Gone with the Wind’, ‘Guys and Dolls’ and Chicago.
On the eve of his Kempton debut, Darius took time out to tell Eclipse Magazine readers about his passion for both music – and horseracing!
How did your Big Band come about?
"I was fortunate enough to meet one of my heroes Tony Bennett so I picked his brains and he kindly gave me a lot of wonderful advice for an idea that I had which was to do a tour in support of the charity Help for Heroes and to take some of Europe’s finest Big Band musicians and put on a show called the History of the Big Bands. And it turned into a great success, we managed to tour the whole country and had an amazing time interpreting the great Big Band standards through the eyes of the great Big Band leaders from Glen Miller to Duke Ellington and Count Basie. I had such a wonderful time doing it that it left a great imprint on me as a singer songwriter: it has really influenced a lof of the writing that I am doing for my new album.
"And so I’m looking forward to bringing my Big Band to Kempton and giving the audience a wonderful journey through the crooning standards and Big Band Swing hits from the very northern Big Band music all the way through to the era that we all know and love that Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole made famous."
Do you have a favourite song?
"I’m quite partial to Fly Me To The Moon. Recently I was lucky enough to perform a gig in Los Angeles at Herb Albert’s Vibratos which is the number one jazz joint on the West Coast and I met with Quincy Jones, the legendary composer, arranger and producer. He took a song like Fly Me To The Moon which was traditionally always performed in 3–4 time which is a waltz, and he turned it on its head and turned it into the upbeat 4–4 classic that Frank Sinatra sang which is the one that we all know and love.
"And so I’m certainly partial to that song as I was enlightened by the little music history lesson that I got from Quincy Jones."
Is the Kempton gig part of another tour this year?
"No, I’m looking forward to doing this as a one-off special fireworks extravaganza for Kempton and I’m really excited about performing at the racecourse. I’ve had a couple of gigs before that were racecourse-based and it’s always a good crowd – I played at the Grand National and also I performed a couple of private events."
On this special night Kempton Park will also welcome representatives from ABF The Soldiers’ Charity with a Value for Valour tent to learn more about the lives of service men and women. Your tour was in aid of Help for Heroes last year – are these soldiers' charities important to you?
"I just attended a charity night this week; Prince Harry supported a charity this year which is called Walking with the Wounded and they were doing a charity evening which I attended with some other musicians and things.
"It seems that right now there is an increased and more compassionate awareness of the plight that our soldiers go through whenever they go to war and then come back often without the necessary help for their emotional and physical rehabilitation, so it is certainly something close to my heart.
"I will be doing some more charity work for the charity in the future."
So how about the racing side of things, are you going to be watching the racing before you play at Kempton?
"Absolutely, I’m really keen to find and pick a hot favourite and hopefully look forward to what be fine weather as well, that will allow a fantastic day for the whole family."
How do you choose your ‘hot favourites’?
"I have no rhyme or reason other than gut instinct and something in the name and something that’s just in the whimsical placement of a bet – should it be fortuitous or sometimes not so much."
Do you go to the races regularly?
"I try and go every year. It’s really exciting. The Grand National is certainly a race that you often watch with bated breath because you know how dangerous it can be when the horses are making the jumps. I’ve seen a couple of really hard falls – unfortunate falls – and so it’s a very exciting sport just by definition. The race is legendary and the fact that everybody turns up dressed to the nines is also a lovely aspect of racing.
"So it’s going to be a really fun day and I look forward to being there supporting the event and picking my horses and then getting on to the stage and taking the evening to a highlight where eventually we will spark the skies with fireworks."
You mention the danger for the jockeys – you were injured quite badly yourself in a car crash and broke a vertebra last year – similar to Tony McCoy; do you relate to the jockeys when they are injured like that?
"It’s terrible any injury that takes place and the jockeys have all sorts of things to consider when they are riding, particularly with the jumps. And of course it’s not just the jumps but the possibility of collision if one of their competitors falls on the other side and they collide with the horse that’s gone down… so it’s a very precarious and dangerous – and admittedly exhilarating – sport.
"I am very much in admiration of the courage and the nerve and the focused determination that they have whenever they’re racing – and they’re racing at such high speeds as well."
Have you ever owned a racehorse yourself?
"No I haven’t but we recently went to polo match and just seeing them, they’re such graceful and beautiful animals.
"My affection for them extended into a music video I did called Live Twice: I got the chance to run with this beautiful white stallion in the back streets of Barcelona, and it was quite a surreal experience and just being with the horse – there was a scene in the music video with the horse when it dies at the very end of the video and this magnificent beast was trained by its trainer to lie down and play dead, it was extraordinary, and at one point I got really emotional, I was like 'oh don’t die!'. So that was a beautiful experience and as animals I think they’re wonderful."
Do you have any horse of your own?
"No, I wish I did."
So are you tempted to own a racehorse at some point in the future?
Who knows, the Kempton experience may twist my arm!
With your interest in horses do you actually ride as well?
"Yes, I have friends that are in the New Forest and they have stables nearby that we often frequent whenever we’re in London, and we ride them whenever we can; it’s a lovely experience."
But no aspirations to be a jockey?
"No, I think I’m too tall!"
Generally speaking do you think you would recommend racing as a day out for people?
"I couldn’t recommend it higher, in that for mums and dads and for kids, and for couples, it can be a fun day out for the family, it can be a romantic day out for a couple, it’s a lovely way of experiencing the outdoors in the UK, it’s a great social event, it’s a great way to have fun with friends but also to meet new people.
"And also to appreciate the beautiful animals that are so mysterious and graceful in the way that they move and so powerful; they really are inspiring to watch whether they are standing still or if they’re racing full out.
"It’s an exhilarating experience and I look forward to being at Kempton and performing and entertaining at the end of the night."
And finally, what other plans do you have for this year?
"I’m recording my third album which will be out next year. But you can catch me on Popstar to Operastar on Sunday 26th June, I’ll be performing and I’m looking forward to seeing my friends Rolando Villazon and Katherine [Jenkins] and performing with the wonderful orchestra that they have."
To be in with a chance to meet Darius in person at Kempton, enter the competition here.
Tickets for all Kempton Live events can be bought online at www.kemptonlive.co.uk or by calling the ticket hotline on 0844 579 3008.