Il Divo may have won the Artist of the Decade award at the Classical Brit Awards at the Royal Albert Hall the evening before we meet, but Sebastien Izambard isn¹t the sort of person who lets such things go to his head. The French singer, already a highly successful pop artist in his native country before Il Divo¹s formation in 2003, is absolutely clear about why the quartet are still able to top the charts worldwide, after seven years. “You can receive all the prizes in the world,” he says, “but if you don¹t have an audience to perform to, well, you can keep your award on the mantelpiece, but what does it give you?” All four of them, Sebastien continues, keep their eye on the ball. “Nothing is ever taken for granted. We¹re very lucky with our record label and management. It¹s all about teamwork. We¹ve had our fair share of criticism over the years, so it felt amazing to have that experience last night, to be reminded of what we have achieved. But the biggest achievement is seeing all the fans out there. And they are still there, seven years on.”
In common with Urs, David and Carlos, Sebastien¹s creative life before Il Divo was one of extraordinary diversity ¬ and so it remains. He couldn¹t conceive, he says, of resting on his laurels or limiting his horizons. “As an artist, you should never think, ŒI know how to do this, I¹m fine¹. You need to always question yourself. I don¹t mean dwelling on things in a masochistic way. But you have to evolve, and recognise your weaknesses.”
In the past 18 months, Sebastien¹s life has been a hive of activity ¬ but then, it always has been. A tough childhood in Paris taught him to value the important things in life ¬ family, friendship, fulfilment. That attitude is reflected in his long-term involvement raising funds for Assistance Medicale Toit de Monde, a charity that gives support to poor children in India and Nepal. Untrained as a musician, Sebastien learnt to play by ear, and is now a talented and respected songwriter, guitarist and pianist. Prior to Il Divo, he released an acclaimed pop album, Libre, and his single Si Tu Savais topped the French charts. Last year, he even had lessons in both singing - you see what he means about not resting on his laurels - ¬and acting.
“You go to the Royal Albert Hal,” he says, “and see all these paintings and photographs, spanning the 18th century to singers such as Rihanna today, and you realise that music has evolved so much. And if you don¹t remember the traditions, the roots of music, you lose the richness. And that¹s what we¹re trying to do in Il Divo, to honour that tradition.¹m from the pop side, so I went backwards. The others are classically trained, and I¹m self-taught; I work with my instincts. But you need both, so I had to gather that knowledge. Without knowledge, you can¹t evolve.”
Something slightly more dramatic than singing and acting lessons has turned Sebastien¹s world upside down, however: fatherhood. Already the proud father of twins, he now has a new baby boy, too. “Life has changed for me completely,” he laughs, “and it feels amazing. I¹ve always wanted a family, and I¹ve blossomed, I¹ve found the person I want to be with, I have these beautiful children. I have my family, I travel the world, I¹ve been making music, collaborating with Darren Hayes from Savage Garden, and with the lyricist Don Black ¬ and Il Divo have made an amazing new album. So how can I not feel fortunate? I couldn¹t ask for more.”
When it came to making the new record, Sebastien says, all four members of Il Divo “asked ourselves, ŒHow can we improve this?¹. It was a case of trying to think of Il Divo as a new project. It¹s been a big investment for all of us, in terms of time, and passion, and creativity. We¹re the captains of the ship, and it¹s our responsibility to sail it.” The most crucial thing, he continues, has been the time they¹ve allowed themselves to make the album. “It¹s very ease to burn out; the way the industry works, you can spend your whole life either touring or making the next record. We¹re very lucky in that respect with the label; they know that it also has to be about taking time over things, and recharging our batteries.”
Recharged, Sebastien is raring to go. “We are passionate artists, and we try to make great music, because that is what we love.”