Paul Potts Wins Over YouTube

"I was actually expecting Simon Cowell to tell me it just wasn't good enough..."
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It's hard to believe that the unassuming, soft-spoken man on the phone is responsible for over 15 million hits on YouTube. Because it's just not true -- he's since crossed the 30 million mark.

The Bristol native is neither Chris Crocker, the Britney Spears fanatic who screamed his way on YouTube to a TV offer, nor Miss South Carolina who coined the term "U.S. Americans" in her nationally televised geographical fumbling a few months ago. Instead Potts brought tears to the audience of Britain's Got Talent for his rendition of "Nessun Dorma," which he'll also sing on Oprah's YouTube Special. Potts is now known as the former cell phone salesman that could -- and who had plenty to say about his debut album One Chance, opera, and meeting his hero Pavarotti. What's your opinion of YouTube?

Paul Potts: I'd certainly heard of it but not really used it. I don't believe that I would have gone so many places if it hadn't been for YouTube. The audience had a very strong reaction to your performance on Britain's Got Talent. Do people often burst into tears when you sing?

PP: I just find it very flattering when people describe their reaction to it. When I first walked out on stage I wondered what the hell I was doing there. I got to the end and was actually expecting Simon Cowell to tell me it just wasn't good enough. I didn't expect to go through so when I got the reaction I did I was quite startled. What do you feel when you sing?

PP: When I sing it's like I have a key to a door that takes me to somewhere I feel I belong and feel safe. It wasn't easy to find the door. It's all right having the key but if you can't find the door then what's the point? Why is opera such an emotional medium?

PP: I think it's the way some composers have written it. Puccini was an expert at writing things that made people think. My favorite opera is La Boheme and I can't watch or listen to it without blubbing like a baby. It's so emotional. It's just the way he wrote it. He was an expert at getting to the heart of people's emotions. How'd you select the songs on your album?

PP: I chose Cavatina for my wife Julie-Ann. It reminded me of the day we met. I remembered it because she had seen a picture of me but I never got a picture of her (Potts had been chatting with his wife online). I had this vision that she'd run away the moment I got off the train but she didn't actually. I knew it was her the moment I saw....

(Regarding his Italian rendition of REM's "Everybody Hurts") I was actually quite surprised to see it on the list. I thought, "Will that work? But I never say no to something until I've tried it. It's actually one of the favorites of the album. The song is symbolic of difficult periods and you need friends to get through them. Did you have the chance to meet your idol Pavarotti?

PP: I met him briefly at a master class six years ago where I sang two arias for him. I was a bit nervous and I had forgotten to take a breath (before a note) and only just made it to the end of the phrase. After that, he asked me to sing a song from Tosca and I was quite flattered because I was the only person he asked to sing twice. Do you have heroes outside the operatic realm?

PP: I came through a benign tumor in the last four years and one of the people that I truly admire, and she only died just before Pavarotti, was Jane Tomlinson. Initially, she was given six months to live but managed to beat cancer for seven years. She ran marathons, biked across America, completed an Iron Man while raising millions for charity. For someone in her position to do all that, was incredible. Where will we see you next?

PP: My main thing is just to continue singing and touring for as long as possible. I start touring in the UK in January then head to New Zealand and Australia. Hopefully I'll get to tour in North America. I just love singing and I hope to do it in as many places as possible. One day I'd love to do Carnegie Hall. Pavarotti's been there. Looking back now, what advice would you give your younger self?

PP: Don't give up and ultimately don't take anything for granted -- you never know what's around the corner.

Originally published on, November 2007.


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