Actor, singer and TV presenter Michael Ball is riding high in all aspects of his life at the moment. Following the release of his 18th album, the star sits down with HELLO! to tell us about dueting with Il Divo, going on tour, and how his girlfriend is his "sternest critic".
At 50, Michael Ball has every reason to be cheerful just now. His new album, his 18th, has just been released, featuring covers of pop star's including Adele and Leona Lewis, as well as the show tunes you'd expect from the Love Changes Everything star.
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There's also a duet with Il Divo – which came about when he shared the sofa with the classical group on The One Show. "I asked them there and then," he tells HELLO!.
"There was no business of having to approach them via management or agents. Their schedule before Christmas was absolutely lunatic, of course, but we found a hole in their timetable and the end-result is just lovely. The best way I can describe it is that, when I listened back to the recording, I realised I had a big smile on my face."
He's also at the helm of a new Radio 2 show each Sunday evening - so it seems almost superfluous to ask Michael Ball whether he's happy right now. "If I'd written it myself," he says, "I couldn't have come up with a better script. I'm happy at home, happy at work. And I'm confident enough now not only to stop and smell the roses but to really appreciate them."
Of course, none of this would see the light of day were it not for one person who must first give anything Michael does her blessing. He and former ready Steady Go! presenter Cathy McGowan have been together over two decades now and he doesn’t make a professional move without her. "She's my sternest critic," he says, "no question. Nothing gets past Cath."
They've never married and never will, he says. "Cath was married before [to actor Hywel Bennett by whom she has a grown-up daughter, Emma, and two grandchildren] and I don't think she feels it would be right to marry again. But that doesn't matter. We couldn't be more together. All I know is that we plan to grow older together although never, I hope, old. She's an absolutely crucial part of my life. I couldn't, I wouldn't, be doing what I do if it weren’t for Cath."
So what's next for the singer? A nationwide UK tour, starting mid-April. "It will effectively be two concerts in one evening," he says. "The first half will be adult contemporary material with a band backing me on stage. The second half will be songs from the shows against a backdrop of swagged curtains and chandeliers and me in a tuxedo."
Both Sides Now is available on Union Square Music. For details of his tour, please visit livenation.co.uk