Eurovision 2018: Q&A with Liam Tamne
| By Harrison Fuller
(Updated on Nov 1, 2018)
Liam Tamne is known for his roles in iconic West End shows such as Les Miserables, Wicked, Hairspray and Phantom of the Opera. He came off the stage and into our living rooms as a contestant on The Voice Series 2, and now he is the latest West End performer to make the leap into the world of Eurovision with his song Astronaut. We had a quick chat with Liam about everything Eurovision and his hopes for the future.
So Liam, why Eurovision? Is it something you have always been a fan of?
I'm a huge fan of Eurovision. I've been a fan of Eurovision since way, way back. Like back in the early days when I was living with my parents back home. I just love the message it's something where, I think, it always brings people together. It unites us, it solidifies how powerful music is. And, for me, I'm openly honest about my sexuality and my heritage. I'm gay and I married my beautiful husband. My heritage is that I'm African Indian and my mom's from Belfast and I was raised in the United Kingdom.
I was fortunate to see so many different cultures from where I was brought up in Coventry City but Eurovision has always been that one place where I felt I could truly be myself and go out there and support things and just get involved in a community of people hence why I'm in the theatre community as well. Because you always have a personal message or connection to something.
I've always been a massive fan of the show and that's why when it came about, I was in Panto at Wimbledon with Al Murray and Clive Rowe at the time and playing Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk in December this Christmas just gone, they asked if I was interested in doing it and I said yes I am, I'm a Eurovision fan, but please let me hear the song first, so then I heard the song and I was like, I love singing in my falsetto and it's a perfect song choice for me.
Do you have any Eurovision family traditions?
I don't have family traditions, but I would say I have friend traditions. We tend to go to parties or gatherings and in the theatre industry, I mean I did West End Eurovision way back, um gosh, what was that? In 2008 or 9 I think it was, yeah I think it was 2009 West End Eurovision. So it's always been a part of the theatre community, as you know, and it's just an amazing thing. It's the second most watched show in the world with 250 million viewers so it's massive and it's incredible to actually be asked and it's an honour with the potential of me representing the United Kingdom and I feel like I'm that person because I feel like I am exactly what the United Kingdom is today, very diverse. We're very fortunate to live in a country where I'm able to marry the man that I love.
You will be performing the song Astronaut. What do you hope audiences take away from your performance?
What I'm hoping I think is more of the fact that no matter what your political views are or where you stand in society or whatever I'd like to be that beacon of light for someone that is probably going through similar scenarios that I went through. As a young child, I never had anyone to aspire to or look up to that I could see in the theatre industry, or even in mainstream music that was the colour of my skin other than Michael Jackson, oh and Prince. Peter Polycarpou was someone that I saw in the theatre industry and I said, oh hey, yeah, he looks like me, maybe I could do this. I'm hoping that I can be that person that people can see and can aspire to be and go, gosh musical theatre actors, are not what people portray them to be.
I've been very fortunate to be on The Voice Series 2 and have 4 massive music industry people turn around for me. I've represented the theatre community, the LGBT community and also the people of colour community in a positive light and that's my message and that's what I want to take away from it, I mean, The song Astronaut, I don't take it too literally, but it is about that rock, someone being there to pick you up when you're down.
Previously, you have said the song is about that one person who picks you up when you are down. Who is your ‘astronaut?’
Well, I would say I'm the astronaut and that’s how I relate to this song. There was a scenario that my husband went through where he lost, basically he lost his father, and it was a really tough time and it's about being that person to lift someone up, take them away and let them know that they've always got a shoulder to cry on and there's always an ear listening.
I think we've faced a lot of discrimination, me and my husband, at times we've been together and gone through difficult things in certain places where people don't find it [our relationship] acceptable. It can happen when you travel the world or to certain parts of Europe even, and that's the whole point: wanting to be accepted, equality, unit. But also always knowing that you have that support and the idea that I could be anybody's astronaut. I could be someone's astronaut in the way that maybe there is a young boy is watching me in the audience or a young woman or someone that is not sure about their gender or the colour of their skin, and they don't know how to handle these situations and I'm that beacon of light for them. I hope, in a positive way, that I can be that person to take them away and that's what's really beautiful about theatre but also what's amazing about Eurovision Song Contest and I think that's the message that the United Kingdom needs to be sent to the rest of Europe. We're very fortunate and I think other places need to follow suit because this is today's modern society, the 21st century, let's move with it.
You have appeared in some of the biggest West End shows including Les Miserables, Wicked, Hairspray and Phantom of the Opera. Will you be bringing some of that theatricality to Eurovision?
The answer is yes, of course I will! It is absolutely part of me, it's my genes, it's my DNA and I think it's also what Eurovision is about. It's about theatre, drama, it's about relevant pop music with a message. That's the thing with my song I think it's ageless, it's timeless and everyone can relate to it. It's British singer and songwriter, where people can hear it and go that's from the UK.
I think my theatre training has been a real positive in the sense of why they came to me. They said you've done such a diverse amount of work and you've appeared on The Voice and you really represent the musical theatre industry in a really positive light and that’s why we want you to be a part of it. I think one of the benefits I have is I perform 8 shows a week. Granted, I only get one shot and I have to go out there and perform for 3 minutes but it's something that we thrive on, that pressure. It's like when the curtain goes up, it's gonna be the exact same feeling when I see the red light go on the camera it's like the curtains gone up and I'm ready to go!
As well as the West End you appeared on The Voice and were part of will.i.am’s team. How do you find performing as yourself rather than as a character?
Performing as myself was something that was a challenge for me at the time. I struggled with leaving the show because I had never really gone out there as Liam Tamne. I'd always gone out there as Liam Tamne playing Enjolras, Link Larkin, Fieryo. I never really put myself forward and that was really difficult, but going through the process The Voice I feel that I've actually learned so much. I feel like I'm actually in a stronger position and I've benefited from going through such an amazing life experience and I feel more prepared.
Of course, I want to win Eurovision: You Decide and go on to represent the United Kingdom, but I also want to know that I'm sending a message to people loud and clear: we are not what people think we are as musical theatre actors, that we are actually more than that. I feel like it's a positive thing in a way that I'm going out there for Eurovision as myself because I'm different to when I was on it before on The Voice. Now I’m happily married to my husband and we have a dog, our own place, our own property and we have a great life. I always fight for is fairness and equality, that's the forefront of everything that I chose to do. Those are my values and my principles so I'm very positive about going out there and being myself.
Often on singing shows, such as The Voice, contestants are criticised for sounding ‘too musical theatre.’ How do you find that balance? Does it matter?
I feel that sounding however you sound is your sound. No matter what your sound is there is always a market for it so it's irrelevant. I don't think musical theatre actors should be criticized for something when there is still a demand for that, for exactly that. I think if that's how someone sings, and they are incredible, we have to appreciate the voice and not criticize the fact that they don't sound the way these shows think people want them to sound.
You only have to look at someone like Lady Gaga who's so theatrical in her performances and at times sounds musical theatre, the same with Celine Dion. There are many greats who have that sound. You hear some of Whitney Houston's early stuff and it's very musical theatre-esque, that sort of big power, belt voice.
Having played iconic characters, such as Fiyero, Raoul and Frank N Furter, if you could appear at Eurovision as one of them, who would you choose and why?
This was my favourite question! Without a doubt, it would have to be Frank N Furter. I think Frank N Furter is a message of equality, of the fact that we shouldn’t judge anybody. I mean some of the lines in that show like 'don't dream it, be it' is exactly how I am now. That show changed my life. It's incredible to think of some the stories I have of meeting people who’ve come to stage door and speak to me and they're going through the transition or they've just come out or they're not sure and they ask that sort of advice.
I feel like Eurovision is basically like The Rocky Horror Show like where people come together and celebrate music and we celebrate the fact that there's a message and that these people can come together and have a voice. And how amazing that no matter what, people from all different walks of life or politics, or anything that's going on in the world, that these people all come together and celebrate music. Different types of music that provoke an emotion, that provoke a feeling and that have messages. That's the thing that's so beautiful about it. So if I were going up there as someone else, I'd actually love to go up there as Frank N Furter.
Eurovision brings together people of multiple nationalities through music. If you could use music to change or influence one thing, what would it be?
I would like music to change people's perceptions of how they perceive gay men, women, transgender people, people of colour, how they perceive the United Kingdom. I think it has never been more important for us to send a message of unity, of hope, no matter what anyone's views are. This is modern day Britain. We are a diverse, multicultural country and we are happy with the fact that we are a diverse multicultural country and we have people that are of different walks of life, who have differences of opinion and political views, but we stand united and we're together and we support the rest of Europe and we are people that are proud of who we are.
I'm so proud of being an openly gay actor who talks about my relationship with my husband, about my heritage, where I'm from. I think, currently in the world people of colour and the LGBT community aren't always represented in a positive light. I think that the more that we talk about it is great. I'd like to think that I'm going out there as someone that's openly gay and proud of his heritage and the message that goes out there is the fact that we're not just a one trick pony, that we can do a lot of things. I'm hoping that I can be that positive light.
You can see Liam Tamne singing Astronaut on Eurovision: You Decide on the 7th of February. Tune into BBC 2 at 7.30pm and make sure you vote for him to represent the United Kingdom at Eurovision 2018!