Interview With…John Owen-Jones

We chatted to the actor about marking his 50th Birthday with a concert at the Cadogan Hall and his new podcast.

Hi John, first of all – I hope you had a wonderful birthday! How did you celebrate? Considering what’s going on in the world it ended up being a fairly quiet celebration at home with family on the day,  although I did manage to get a night away with my wife to the wonderful Pig Hotel in Kent a few days earlier. I had plans for a lovely holiday and a joint birthday party with my son (who has just turned 18) and but they’re on hold. I will be fifty all year though so there’ll be more opportunities to celebrate I should think  – starting with my Cadogan Hall concert!

It’s lovely that you want to celebrate with audiences through a concert – was it always the intention to mark the occasion with a concert? I always thought it would be a nice idea to do something like this after I sang with Bryn Terfel at the Albert Hall for his 50th birthday show. It wasn’t planned though – it happened this way due to the pandemic and the timing ended up being fortuitous. Originally I had plans for a solo concert at The Other Palace in early 2020, which was postponed and then moved to the Adelphi because it had sold so well. When Covid ended up cancelling that too we nearly put on a show at the Palladium at the end of 2020 but things were still just too vague regarding live performance – so we ended up waiting for a time we thought would be more feasible. I’m glad we did because now I get to celebrate my birthday with a show at one of my favourite London venues. This show has been over a year in the making!

What can people expect if they are coming along to the Cadogan Hall? It’s a kind of “best of” show featuring songs from all my albums – and one or two that aren’t – all performed live in-front of your very eyes by me and a fantastic seven piece band. If you’re a musical theatre fan I should think you’ll enjoy it. At least I hope so…I know I will! 

Do you ever find it difficult in coming up with a set list for concerts such as these? I like my concerts to have a structure and not just be a list of songs randomly chosen for no reason, so I have spent quite a long time working on each act having a beginning, middle and end. People are often surprised by how much care I put into a setlist. Even though there isn’t really any thematic link to the songs in this show the songs go together very well musically. I also don’t take things too seriously so the show wont be too po-faced and will have irreverent humour running throughout. Now I’m 50 I guess we’ll find out on the night if my Dad jokes have got even worse…

How are you feeling about being able to perform in front of a live audience again? I’m excited obviously – but I’m also a bit nervous as its been a while…

Lockdown has been so tough for so many people in the arts – how did you manage to cope? Financially it was kind of okay as my wife is a schoolteacher and continued to work but the living costs of a family with two teenagers meant we had to dip into the savings – and my savings are now very low! A lot of other things happened which made the last year very, very difficult too. Apart from losing all my work and income, I was nearly hospitalised with Covid (it took a few months to fully recover), suffered a herniated disc in my neck (which also took ages to recover from) and worst of all, both my parents died within six weeks of each other. I am looking forward to putting that time behind me of course and things are looking more positive now. All the live performance work I lost last year is slowly starting to be rescheduled and my health is much better – there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.

What have you missed about performing? The vibe of being in a room with a bunch of like minded people who appreciate what I do. I have especially missed the uniqueness of live performance – whatever happens on the night will never happen again in the same way. That’s what makes it magical to me – for one short period of time a bunch of strangers come together for a unique shared experience through music and storytelling. There’s nothing else like it.

I also hear that you have been developing a podcast – are you able to tell me a bit more about that? It’s an idea I’ve been developing for a while and is based on a theatrical “dinner party” question – the kind of universal question that everyone has a different answer for. Each episode will feature  a different guest from the world of entertainment chatting to myself and my co-host Alistair Brammer (a West End and Broadway star who has been a great pal for years). I think it will be funny, entertaining and informative and I really think people who love theatre will love it. We’ve recorded a few episodes remotely already and we have some very exciting guests lined up. I’ll reveal more details when we launch it in July –  suffice to say it won’t be a typical theatrical podcast where we talk about the “process” and be all serious about “the craft” – it’s going to be so much more entertaining than that I hope!

After your concert on the 19th June, what is next in store for you? More live concerts in the UK and hopefully some shows overseas if things open up fully. I start recording my next album in the summer too. So I’m looking forward to a much more productive and busy year than the last! Check out details on my website or Twitter/Facebook.  Lastly few more tickets still left for Cadogan Hall matinee…….see you there!

By Emma Clarendon

John Owen-Jones will be performing at Cadogan Hall on the 19th June.

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