They say there’s a bad apple in every bunch. So it is, thankfully, for the Ten Tenors: when the Star Observer last interviewed a couple of members of the Australian vocal group a couple of years back, we found the boys polite and friendly to a fault, but – how do we put this? – just a tad dull.
Not so with Keane Fletcher, one of the group’s newest members and a sharp-tongued 20-something gay man who’d rather gossip about geriatric stalkers and brushes with celebs than stay ‘on message’ about the Ten Tenors’ latest album and tour.
“I don’t want to speak for previous incarnations, but to me they’ve always seemed a bit conservative,” Fletcher acknowledged when we caught up over coffee in Sydney’s Walsh Bay.
“To be honest, I hadn’t listened to much of this sort of music before. Now with this new album (Double Platinum) we’ve got one disc packed with songs from Queen, Meatloaf and Sarah McLachlan – some really eccentric pieces you might not expect from a group like us.
“Then we’ve got another disc full of classical stuff, because we don’t want to alienate our diehard fans. We’re walking a bridge between contemporary and classical … just don’t ask me about any of the classical stuff!”
The Sydney native joined the group at the start of 2010, and described them as “like a footy team; the line-up changes all the time.
“Although we used to have alternates but we don’t any more, so if any of us get sick on this tour we’ll have to Ashlee Simpson it and mime on stage,” he deadpanned.
The Sugababes-esque line-up changes might have something to do with the group’s taxing tour schedule: They play an average of 250 shows a year, having sold more than 3.5 million concert tickets worldwide in the past decade.
“The travel’s hard – you can’t really have much of a life outside the group, because we’re on the road every day performing and travelling in new places.”
Yet Fletcher’s still managed to foster his relationship with his partner of more than three years. How does he juggle it all?
“I’m lucky, because he’s a performer as well and he tours a lot, so if I don’t get to speak to him for a day he doesn’t crack the shits, he understands. But I tell you, I’ve racked up so many Skype dollars.”
While the self-confessed musical nerd said meeting some of his stage heroes had been one of the highlights of his time in the group so far (“We met [musical theatre star] Gavin Creel at a gay bar in Toronto and I was giggling like a schoolgirl!” he enthused), the Ten Tenors’ starring role in Oprah’s Australian Adventure provided perhaps his most surreal moment yet.
“We flew in from Canada that day and went straight to the beach on Hamilton Island to perform for her. We had about 20 minutes to get our shit together before she flew in by helicopter.
“It was like there was this bubble around her, and if you entered it you started crying. She was really relaxed though; there weren’t even any security guards around. Well, that I could see anyway – I’m sure I would’ve been tazered if I got too close…”
Fletcher acknowledged that he wasn’t the only gay in the Ten Tenors village – “I don’t know who would want me saying they’re gay, but there’s a couple of us, put it that way,” – and said he hoped gay audiences would come on board now we’ve got a couple of our own ‘on the inside’.
“The group was very blokey when I joined, which is fine, but now they’ve got a couple of gays in the group and all of a sudden they’ve got Twitter and Facebook, they’re choosing contemporary songs, all the guys are getting skinnier … a few gays in the mix doesn’t do any harm.
“Watch out, we’ll be doing a surprise show at Nevermind next!
“The majority of people who come to the show are still baby boomers and old ladies, but I really hope we get embraced by people who might normally dismiss us. I don’t think gay guys normally say ‘let’s go see the Ten Tenors, wooo!’ I’m still trying to get a Gaga song in the set list. Last year we did a version of Alejandro for a radio show and it sounded sick.”
Those ‘baby boomers and old ladies’ might sound a sedate bunch, but Fletcher let us in on a few of the scarier fan encounters the group had experienced of late.
“One German fan tracked down a Tenor in Australia, phoned him up and asked him out to dinner. I think she got slapped with a restraining order. There was another fan in who stole a key from reception, got into one of our hotel rooms and started going through all of our stuff.
“Just because they’re old doesn’t mean they can’t still be freaky!”
INFO: Double Platinum is out now. Ten Tenors play Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre on August 5, Evan Theatre in Penrith on August 8 and Sydney Opera House on August 31. More at www.thetentenors.com