Friday, 26th March, 2004

News Menu Button Westernra opens her heart on email

Hannah Jones, The Western Mail

She has a £3m record deal and the fastest selling album of all time. The only problem for Hayley Westenra is finding time to do her homework and write to her new e-mail friend singing, clothes shopping and the trials of being famous and sweet 16.

>How does it feel growing up in the public spotlight?
"Good. I actually don't really take much notice of the fact that I am growing up in the public eye. I've been lucky in that I started out in New Zealand, where everyone just leaves you to lead your own life."

>Did you ever think you would be famous?
"I definitely dreamt about it, like every little girl."

>Do you get fed up being called "the new Charlotte Church"?
"I've kind of got used to it now! I think initially people just try and pigeon-hole you and it was an obvious comparison because of our age and the fact that we both sung classical music. But really, we both have quite different voices and styles."

>What was it like singing with Bryn Terfel and José Carreras at the Faenol Festival in North Wales last year? Were you over-awed?
"Completely, it was incredible! I just couldn't believe that I was actually up on stage, singing alongside two legendary singers; it was a very surreal experience!"

>You paid for your first recording yourself, didn't you? How did that all come about?
"When I was about 11-years-old I would go out busking with my younger sister, Sophie, at the weekends. I then saved up the money that I'd earned and put it towards making a recording of my voice."

>How did you feel when Pure went double platinum in the UK?
"It was so exciting, but very humbling at the same time."

>When did you first know that you had a talent for singing?
"I don't know. I just enjoyed singing and kept at it."

>Who discovered you, Hayley?
"I sent a copy of the album my family had helped me make to some record companies, including Universal Music. They listened to it and signed me up!"

>You're only 16 but have sold more records than Pavarotti. How does that make you feel?
"I have a long, long way to go before I feel comfortable being mentioned in the same breath as Pavarotti! I'm happy Pure has sold so well, but I'm sure if you included all Pavarotti's record sales together I would still have a few million to sell to match him."

>Who and what is your inspiration?
"I love music, love singing, love doing quality songs. That's it."

>How do you feel when you sing?
"I always dreamed about being a singer but I was quite realistic about what I hoped for. I thought, well, maybe when I'm older I could do part-time professional singing and have a job too. Once I got to the stage of getting a record contract with Universal, that's when things started to get exciting. Now I've got an international contract with the Decca Music Group and I'm doing things like singing with José Carreras and Bryn Terfel - it's really exciting."

>Didn't you do a tour with Aled Jones?
"Yes I did, at the end of last year. Aled is so lovely; I had such a great time with him."

>Do you see yourself solely as a classical performer?
"I like to perform different styles of music but overall I am more classically based than any other style."

>Would you like to do other styles of music in the future though? If so, what?
"I really like Celtic music and recently covered a Loreena McKennit (not sure if I spelt that right?) track."

>No you didn't! It's with two t's!

>You come from a musical family, don't you? Tell me about them if you can.
"All of my family are on tour with me at the moment. My brother Isaac sings, plays flute and the piano. Sophie is making a demo album at the moment; she plays violin, piano and sings. My grandmother and grandfather used to tour clubs and bars in NZ every weekend singing and playing. He could play any instrument by ear."

>So what about you - did you always want to be a singer?

>Is that it?

>OK. So what do you like to do off stage?
"I would say travel but I'm doing so much of that anyway, although not seeing much aside from studios, hotels and concert halls. I like climbing, shopping, seeing a good film."

>Is it hard to be a typical teenager when you've got your level of success?
"I just enjoy what I do, so I don't feel I've missed out on anything."

>Can you remember when you first heard a song of yours on the radio or how you felt when you were recognised for the first time?
"It felt like a different person was singing."

>What's the best thing about being famous? And the worst!
"Getting to do something that I enjoy so much, but not having much time for anything else."

>Would you like to write your own songs in the future?
"I do write songs and will record them at the right time. I just want to record the best songs I can and at the moment the best songs are coming from other songwriters."

>Do you have much input into your image or the songs you sing/record?
"I buy/borrow all my clothes. I wouldn't wear anything I'm not comfortable with. I also choose which songs I record."

>I bet your strong Celtic roots have also influenced you, what with your grandparents emigrating from Wales and Scotland.
"It's important for a vocalist to be able to sing in any language. To portray the emotion in a song you need to have an understanding of what the song is about. And if the song is in another language, then I try to find a translation."

>If you could pick five people to duet with, who would they be and why
"Andrea Bocelli is my favourite. Dame Kiri would be cool too and I would love to do something with Dame Malvina Major, who was really helpful in developing my voice."

>When do you find the time to do your homework?
"It's tough, especially on the road. But I manage."

>You're an ambassador for Unicef. What does that involve?
"I try and use the platform I'm given through the music to help and highlight issues that Unicef is trying to bring to wider public attention. Check out their website if you can, it's"

>Who do you like to listen to?
"At the moment it's Joni Mitchell. I also like Vanessa Carlton, Heather Nova and of course Bocelli."

>Victoria Beckham invited you to sing at her World Cup party? Did you do it?
"It clashed with a date I already had. It was such a shame that I didn't get to do it."

>You have access to your fortune now, don't you? Are you an extravagant spender?
"I certainly don't have a fortune! I still have to watch the pennies, so I shop very carefully, only buying something if I really need it. Unfortunately, the million dollar record deal was just a story made up by the publicity person to try and get a bit of press!"

>How do you think you'll handle fame when you're older and start having boyfriends etc. Will you mind if the paparazzi start following you about?
"When it happens I'll have to deal with it. I'm too busy to even think about it at the moment."

>Do you have any ambitions to perform in professional opera? If so, what would be your dream role
"Perhaps one day, yes. I don't have my eye on any roles though. My voice is still developing, so it's a good while off."

>Do you get nervous?
"A little! It adds to the excitement before a concert, gives it an edge which makes it even more enjoyable once I am actually performing."

>And what it's like, being up there with all the lights on you?
"It's a really great feeling when you're on stage; you are in darkness and then you step out into the lights and it is like you've moved into a different world."

>What kind of songs can the audience in Wales expect from your concert?
"They'll hear stuff mostly from my album Pure along with some classics."

>Who would you prefer to duet with - Daniel Beddingfield or Dame Kiri?
"No contest - Kiri is more in my style!"

>What does the future hold?
"I am going to be based in New York from April until the end of the year as Pure is released there on April 6. I will be in the UK again in May/June to do my GCSEs. I also hope to make another album this year."

>Finally, are you happy?
"If I could be anyone in the world, I'd actually choose to be me, where I am right now, because I'm so excited about what I'm doing. I really didn't expect this to happen. It is amazing how one thing leads to another."

Hayley Westenra is in concert at St David's Hall in Cardiff on Sunday

The making of a superstar

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Article located by the Roger Mansbridge


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