Nadim Naaman is no stranger to the London theatre stage having appeared in huge shows such Phantom of the Opera. Nadim had recently released a solo album ‘We All Want The Same’ and he recently sat down for a cup of tea and a chat about it.
Can you tell me about yourself and your career highlights to date?
I get asked about my name all the time. It’s Arabic – my father is Lebanese. The other half of me is English. I love having dual-heritage; it is a great reason to travel, to catch up with family, and makes for quite interesting family gatherings. It’s really tough to pick a specific career highlight, but there are several moments that stick in the mind and will be hard to forget; getting my first West End role – Rolf in The Sound of Music, going on as Raoul for the first time in Phantom, Phantom at The Albert Hall, getting my first play in town – One Man Two Guvnors… I consider myself to be very lucky indeed, and am hugely grateful for the opportunities I have been given.
You have performed in some great theatre shows. Are there any roles left that you would love to have a go at playing?
So many! I’d absolutely love to play Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard. I think it’s a cracking part; there aren’t many male roles in musical theatre that are as layered as Joe. You normally have your juve leads, your comic parts, your heroic parts, your villains… Joe is a bit of all of those things. Plus, I love the score and the sharpness and wit of the lyrics. Other than that, Enjolras in Les Mis. I grew up wanting to play Marius, but these days they are casting that very young, so at twenty-eight I think I’ve missed the boat there. Enjolras is a superb role. Fiyero in Wicked would be a lot of fun. And of course, The Phantom, but I think that’s one to aim for in a decade or so! I would also absolutely love to do a Shakespeare at some stage. I studied it a lot at school and university, and would love to play at The Globe, for instance. It can be tough for musical performers to cross over into that side of the business, but you never know.
Your album We All Want The Same is made up of original songs you have written. Was it important to you to not make a musical theatre album like so many other people do?
I think Musical Theatre albums are great, but I think you really have to earn the right to make one. If you’re a Ramin Karimloo, a John Owen-Jones or a Rachel Tucker, and you have tens of thousands of fans after playing iconic roles, it’s safe to assume there is a demand for your ‘Bring Him Home’ or ‘Defying Gravity’. There are so many versions of certain musical songs out there, and at this stage of my career, that’s not for me. I’d rather sing them at cabarets, or in the shows themselves, but to each their own. I think you get to know much more about a new artist by hearing them sing new material, rather than a version of a song that thirty other people have recorded and put on iTunes. Also, for me, song-writing and musical theatre don’t necessarily go hand in hand. I enjoy writing songs for their own sake, and whilst many of them are of course influenced by my background in musical theatre, some of them are definitely not.
What was the creative process like for recording this album?
The process was lengthy but a joy from start to finish. Some songs were written six or seven years ago, and some six or seven months before I decided to go ahead with the album. The fun part was turning such a varied collection of material into what you eventually hear. My producer, Joe Davison at Auburn Jam Music, sat down with me and we listened to my old recordings of them all, most of which were either on a dictaphone or my phone itself, just me and a piano or guitar. We then decided which eleven we wanted for the album, in which order, what style and shape we wanted each song to take, and it just went from there. From our first meeting to the disc being mastered took about five months, but it helped that we got together once all the songs had already been written.
Do you have a favourite song on the album and what does it mean to you?
I have two favourites. ‘Do My Best’, which is the opening track, because it is the first complete song I ever wrote. It is ten years old, and has been on the biggest journey of all the songs, so to hear that is pretty special. I deliberately left the lyrics as they were back in 2003; I like that it sounds like a younger, more naïve voice behind the words. The other is ‘Amazed’. Those who know me, and those who supported me in my fundraising efforts last year for Breast Cancer Care, will know that someone very special to me was diagnosed with Breast Cancer last summer. I wrote the song when I got home after her second or third chemotherapy session, as I was completely in awe of how she was dealing with the whole situation. The song is for anybody who has watched someone they love fight something awful.
If you could be the opposite sex for the day, what musical theatre role would you like to have a go at playing?
Glinda in Wicked would be right up there – she’s funny, has great songs, and goes on a pretty big journey through the course of the show. Other ones popping into my head are Florence in Chess, Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd and Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. Love them all.
If you had to record a musical theatre song to appear as a bonus track on your CD, what do you think it would be?
There are two musical songs that have repeatedly helped me out in my career so far. ‘What Is It About Her?’ from Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party is the first. I was doing that show at uni the day I found out I got into the Royal Academy of Music to study Musical Theatre, and there it won me a prize, and after graduating, it’s a number that has got me a few recalls when auditioning, so I owe it a lot. The other is ‘Movin’ Too Fast’ from Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years. That was my first job after leaving RAM, the month before I joined The Sound of Music. Apart from anything else, it’s possibly the most fun to sing, and I’m always happy to dig it out when asked. So it would definitely be one of those two – I’d probably pick according to which one was most unlike anything else on the album.
Thank you for having Tea With Wilma