Russell Watson - Biography

Russell Watson is often dubbed the Billy Elliot of opera. There is one crucial difference between the two, however. Screen ballet star Billy Elliot always wanted to be a dancer, whereas Russell became an opera singer by accident.

Birthplace: Salford, UK

Horoscope : Capricorn

Russell Watson’s Early Life

Born in Salford, Greater Manchester, on 24 November 1966, Russ was just a child when he first realised he could carry a tune. The talented youngster never intended to become a professional, though, until tough times forced him to seek a second job.

Russell Watson’s Early Career

With a wife and young family to support, his work as a bolt-cutter and a dream of being a Midfielder for Manchester United FC wasn't providing enough money to keep them afloat. So the struggling factory worker took to singing in nightclubs to earn some extra cash. With a couple of friends playing the organ and drums, he managed to secure regular gigs around northern England, playing a selection of Elvis and Neil Diamond numbers. 

Then came the night at Wigan Road working men's club when a casual remark changed his life forever. The secretary, much impressed with Russell's singing, suggested he include Nessun Dorma, the dramatic aria from Puccini's Turandot, in his set. 

It was without a doubt the best advice Russell ever received. The audience went crazy for his powerful rendition, culminating in a standing ovation for the tenor singer, which inspired him to include opera numbers in all his shows. Then the chairman of Manchester United football club invited him to sing at Old Trafford stadium.

His highly successful debut album, The Voice, won two BRIT awards and stayed at the top of the charts for a record 52 weeks. It debuted after Russ won his local radio station’s “Search for a Star” competition which kick-started a triumphant music career spanning over 25 years.

Russell Watson’s Private Life

The road to stardom hasn't been without its difficulties, however. Success and the pressures it brought eventually weighed heavy on his family life, and Russell split from his wife Helen Watson in 2002, soon after releasing his first album. 

The pair have two daughters, Rebecca - born in 1995 - and Hannah, who arrived in 2000, and Russell still views fatherhood as his most important career. "I see my children whenever I can. It is very important to me, it is more important than anything. Any spare time I have I am with them, and I am the first to admit that I spoil them silly," he says.

SEE: Meet Russell Watson's family including daughters Rebecca and Hannah

Russell went on to find love again with New York receptionist Roxanna Valerio, whom he met while on tour in the states in 2001. He proposed but it was not meant to be. The couple went their separate ways in 2005.

However, love was on the horizon. Russ soon found his new love who he is still currently married to - Louise Harris, who is only 6 years older than his daughter Rebecca. “I have never been more content. It really is a fairytale ending,” the singer says. The couple married in Spain in 2015 and they continue to raise Russell’s two children who he shares with former wife Helen.

SEE: Look back at Russell Watson's fairytale Spanish wedding

Russell Watson’s Criticism

While some purists bemoan his lack of training, Russell dismisses assertions he cannot sing. "My voice may not be mechanically correct, it might not be robotically correct, but that's what gives it a more popular touch," he insists. Given the fact that his first two albums Encore and The Voice sold over three million copies, "popular touch" would seem a fair evaluation. 

When it comes to his critics Russell seems to apply the same down-to-earth approach to them as he does to his career. "The music industry seems always obsessed with categorising a piece of music," he says. "My view? I just sing songs, luv." 

Despite endless invitations to glitzy showbiz parties, however, the tenor prefers to stay home. "Being surrounded by other celebrities telling me how wonderful I am is not my idea of fun," he says.

Russell Watson’s Health Difficulties

There was a blow in store in his professional life in 2007 - after having had a brain tumour removed the year before - he was diagnosed with a second growth. This was successfully removed in emergency surgery.

MORE: Why Russell Watson delayed life-saving brain tumour surgery

What is Russell Watson Doing Now?

Russ still lives on the outskirts of England, near Manchester. His long, lovely days are filled with boxing and riding horses and he takes great pleasure in tennis - one of his favourite sports. He has appeared in ad-hoc concerts like “A Voice For The Children” in aid of ChildLine and is an ambassador for The Duke Of Edinburgh’s International Award Fellowship and The Prince’s Trust. 

SEE: Inside Russell Watson's sprawling Cheshire home with wife Louise Harris