Publication and interviewer unknown
‘We Will Rock You parallels who Tony Vincent is in a lot of ways because I grew up in a small town in the States and was an awkward kid,’ he says as we drink Diet Coke with lemon in his dressing room at the Dominion Theatre. ‘Over the years of learning to be a songwriter and acting I became what I believe this character should become by the end of the story. There is a little bit of rebel in me but it comes from a place of "let’s do something new and different", not to make people angry.’
It was while writing songs in London for his forthcoming album that Tony had the opportunity to audition for the producers of a new show. ‘I had heard about this show a couple of years ago but because it was over here it was strictly a UK production. The directors had been looking for this Galileo Figaro character for more than eight months and couldn’t find anybody they believed could do the songs justice or who was a believable transformation from this quirky character to a rock star. So they held auditions in New York. While they were auditioning people there I was here and had a chance to audition for the producers. I went back home to New York and, surprisingly, got an offer and had about three-and-a-half weeks to decide whether I was doing this role. Within that time my life was uprooted.’
A big step for anyone to take. One that certainly paid off. Tony grew up in New Mexico. He went to church, but it wasn’t until later in life he realised the real meaning of God and his salvation.
‘I thought Christianity was basically eternal damnation or you find Christ, but you only find Christ if you are good enough. It was always a rules and regulations thing. It wasn’t until I was 15 that I heard about grace and God’s love and of Jesus paying the price. I realised that I didn’t have to earn anything but embrace what he did and follow him,’ he says.
When Tony finished high school, he moved to Nashville to attend a Christian university. It was there he first encountered Christian music. He didn’t like what he found.
‘When I went to Nashville I had never heard of Christian music. I was a Depeche Mode and Cure fan. When I got to college I heard this music and thought: What is this? I didn’t like it. So I thought: something has to be done because I am a believer and I cannot stand what is going on in Christian music today.
‘This was at the early stage when Christian music was just starting to be looked at by the mainstream music companies because it was moving records. I made it my goal to try to change things. I wanted music that was dark and passionate, not happy-clappy. I needed something that dealt with real issues and expressed my faith.’
Tony did do something about it, and recorded two successful albums. But then found he couldn’t expand his musical career any more.
‘My kind of music didn’t fit into what the Christian music business was looking for,’ he says. ‘My songs are not just about me and my relationship with God. There are so many things that happen in life that some artists don’t explore. Some artists like safety – the comfort zone. I’m not like that. I have to be challenged at an emotional and intellectual level. I left Nashville and moved to New York.’
The Big Apple, huh? The life of an actor seems a cool one. From an audience perspective, we see only the fruits of all the hard work put into each performance. But it’s not just the great time the actors have on stage. There’s the fame, the fortune, the parties, the… Hang on, is this is the right kind of environment for a Christian?
‘A lifestyle of drugs and partying has never appealed to me. It has never been a struggle. It just doesn’t impress me. For me to say "no" to going out to a party is not a big deal. If I wasn’t a believer I still wouldn’t be into parties. There are a lot of other faiths that are much more populated in entertainment. Christianity is a minority. You have to surround yourself with a team of people who are praying for you and you have to question why you want to do this. I would never advise anyone to be an actor. It is a really hard road. It can be a struggle not just because you might be the only Christian, but also because there is only so much work out there and a lot of really, really strong talent.’
I still think it must be fantastic to be an actor. ‘That’s the myth!’ he protests. ‘Now I am not saying it is not fantastic to be an actor but it is not all glitz and glamour that you see up there on the stage. You have to live, breathe and eat acting or live, breathe and eat singing or being a songwriter or being the best at anything. It has to be a passion.’ The serious look on his face says he means it.
Tony has had many experiences. What strikes me is his enthusiasm to tell people about how much Jesus means to him. Such dedication does not come lightly. Does he believe that all of it has been divinely planned?
‘The stage gives me a platform to deliver something that is cool and hip with some rock’n’roll every night. I believe that when God becomes part of someone’s life, he gives them a reason to question why they are different, because as Christians we are different people. But the stage is just one way for me to present my faith. There are office blocks full of Christians and they shine God’s light there. It is just a different career. But being in show business does give me the chance to share with a lot of people.’
In June Tony played the biggest gig of his life. Not just Queen but the Queen. Tony performed live before the Sovereign and a TV audience of millions when he sang ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Celebrations at Buckingham Palace. ‘I don’t normally get stage fright,’ he says. ‘but I did that night. I had to be very quiet before the show. I would be singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in its entirety. Not even Queen had sung it live in full. There was a lot of pressure.’
So here we have a man who has made his West End debut in a hit rock musical, fronted the remaining members of Queen, sung for the Queen and joined in ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ with music heroes Sir George Martin and Sir Paul McCartney. Is there anything left for Tony Vincent to do?
‘I’ve restarted on my new album,’ he says. ‘And I am staying in We Will Rock You until October at least. Hopefully I’ll stay longer, but it’s just finding out where I need to be, and where God needs me.’