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Paul Potts’ kiwi joy ‘Fate is bringing me back’

The celebrated tenor reckons New Zealand’s got talent!

The view over Swansea Bay is so breathtaking, it almost stops Paul Potts in his tracks.

The opera tenor, who found fame after winning the first-ever Britain’s Got Talent series, is captivated by stunning scenery, so much so he chose sunsets from his Welsh property as a backdrop to his daily online concerts during Covid lockdowns.

Paul’s stunning photos were a backdrop to his Covid concerts.

Finding beautiful scenery has always been a way for him to unwind, but it does have its drawbacks for the photography buff.

“I used to do a lot more walking, but now I stop too often, I don’t get as far,” the 52-year-old jokes. “I started taking photos as a way of documenting where I’ve been. And it’s grown from there. It’s something I do often to chill out a little bit.”

So, it’s no surprise that any time Paul comes to New Zealand, he heads for the South Island.

“I’ve spent a couple of trips driving around, but I’ve really only seen the South Island,” he tells. “I usually pick up a campervan from Christchurch Airport and then drive to Queenstown. I’ve spent a lot of time in Fiordland – it’s very difficult to leave, it’s so beautiful.

“And Te Anau and driving down to Milford Sound, there’s always something different you notice.”

Sharing his pictures with the Weekly, Paul reveals his excitement that he is coming back again in April and will be able to explore the North Island for the first time. He’ll be touring 10 cities – including Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier, Palmerston North and Wellington – as a guest star in 50 Golden Years of Musicals, celebrating New Zealand’s longest-serving producers, Stewart and Tricia Macpherson.

“I worked with Stewart and Tricia in 2014, and spent pretty much every day with them. So I sent them an email to wish them well for their 50 years and they asked if I’d like to join them on this tour.”

Tears after winning Britain’s Got Talent.

It was serendipitous as Paul was already going to be in Aotearoa for a private corporate event. “I was happy that it all kind of came together – almost like fate.”

The series encapsulates decades of well-known musicals and there are a few surprises, including Paul singing not only Nessun Dorma, that made him famous in 2007, but also other musical greats including Chicago’s Mister Cellophane.

In his suitcase will be a selection of cameras, so he can capture more memories of a country that reminds him of home.

“My wife says I’ve got too many cameras,” he shares. “I’ve got rid of a few, but I think I’ve still got 10 – I did have 16. Sometimes I go to countries where it’s not really safe to carry anything expensive, so I’ll have something that’s decent that can go into a large pocket.”

Paul will head straight home from the tour to celebrate his 20th wedding anniversary with wife Julie-Ann. With so many weeks spent away from home performing, she carefully selects which destinations she joins Paul on and he admits she is not a fan of flying.

“She finds New Zealand too far,” he tells. “She’s been a few times, but she hates taking off and landing, so she prefers to be at home, whereas I quite like travelling. We went to Fiji a few years back, just pure relaxation. But that’s an unusual kind of holiday for us. We’re not beach people.

“I got to the stage I was anxious whether to book a holiday because you might have to cancel it again. We’ve had more holidays this year than we’ve had in a long time, even though I’m now back to working all the time.”

Paul will be leaving wife Julie-Ann at home. “She finds New Zealand too far.”

He admits being home-bound for months during lockdowns was a learning curve for a couple who do not normally have so much time together. But the man who was a phone salesman when he was discovered by Simon Cowell’s juggernaut show now has a sprawling Port Talbot property, which meant long walks when isolating – and proved the perfect backdrop to his online concerts.

“Doing those performances in lockdown enabled me to continue doing what I love,” he says. “It’s like any other muscle – if you don’t keep it fit and you don’t use it, then it’s harder to get it going again.”

Even 15 years after being discovered, and 10 years after his movie biopic One Chance, where he was played by James Corden, Paul counts his blessings.

Paul’s rags-to-riches story was made into a film, starring James and Alexandra Roach.

“When I was working in shops, I’d look forward to time off, but I feel incredibly fortunate because now I am being me, this is who I am. If you’re doing something that fulfils you, you never really work a day in your life.

“To me, that’s the ultimate definition of success – being you, not somebody else. You can never be a success if you’re trying to be somebody that you’re not.”

50 Golden Years of Musicals travels throughout the country this April. Visit stetsongroup.com/50-golden-years for info.

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