July 2016 | by Carl Marsh
Anton Stephans, would you say that patience is a virtue in the music industry, and with it being especially true for you?
“I don't know whether patience is a virtue, I think that timing is essential and actually that you do things in your own time. For me and for a while, lots of people didn’t know this about me but I've been a West End and Broadway star for some time but I wanted to branch out beyond my backing vocals. I wanted to branch out beyond that, and that takes courage you've got to understand that before you stand on that stage, these four people (The X-Factor audition) have got a lot of information about you, they already know a few things about you and so when you are standing in front of them and you see her (Cheryl Fernandez-Versini) reach out to me when I sing the lyrics ‘I need a hand’ in the song ‘I Am Changing’, for me this is the reason why, because people identify with the fact that you can go through something and then suddenly make a decision that you want to be more than you even think you can be because somewhere, somehow you know it but you need to be brave enough to do it, and she got it (Cheryl). And so did Simon (Cowell) of course, he really did get it. And so did Rita (Ora). Rita got it incredibly because they understood because those three people, probably more than the other understood what it is like to be an artist. Simon has created artists, and megastars around the world. The other two (Cheryl & Rita) have been and still are megastars around the world, and the other person has just got very famous friends!
I say to Anton that we don't have to talk about Nick (Grimshaw) but Anton interjects:
“We can talk about Nick, I mean Nick and I have had this conversation, I’ve never said anything about Nick that I haven't said to his face because that would be wrong. I like Nick a great deal, I just think that he was wrong in making that assumption, I think he was misinformed and that he said the wrong thing, and those things are damaging because later, as I am doing a TV show in a few months, and later, the things that he said are going to be exposed and that’s uncomfortable for someone, and of course I’ve spoken to him about it. Calling someone fake is really, really, really not right, and especially when you are playing other peoples music, and you are reading other peoples scripts.”
We talk music and I say to Anton that it seems that age suits his singing style very well, it adds another layer. Anton replies:
“I think music is ageless. Even if you listen to The Moonlight Sonata, do you think ‘Oh my God, it’s over two hundred years old’, or do you think ‘Oh my God that still moves me’. I think what is true is connection and music connects you and it’s one of the things that I try and do mostly in all my music, and certainly in the album that is to come. I’m really pleased that Simon has trusted me to make an album that I want to. When we recorded tracks and I didn't like them, and Simon was just telling me to get rid of it, and do what you want. So I did. I think when you have someone like that on your side, it’s great and at the same time, music is ageless, what you want is to be connected to people and to move people. Think about the music that you play again, and again, and again, when you are alone or when you are with someone who you love. It’s the music that you are connected to emotionally and that’s what I want to do. I want to be able to connect people, that’s the reason why I am an artist. It’s the reason I do what I do because I want to be closer to people."
I tell Anton that someone who is educated and very articulate as he is, he must escape in a good book every now and again to be surprised to hear that:
"My favourite book is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
I actually always carry a copy of it with me when travelling. Even on short journeys.
'It's only with the heart that one can see rightly what is essential is invisible to the eye'
It sums up how I try and live my life everyday."
I ask Anton about his experience in The X-Factor (2015) and what he took from that:
“What I took from it was that friendship and love are the most important things of all, and I’m very very pleased with those people that have supported me in my X-Factor journey. It’s been extraordinary, I’ve been out with, actually, do you want to hear a very funny story, and no-one knows it, and because I have had a glass of wine, I will tell you? (I say yes, obviously!) “I was out with a fellow contestant on The X-Factor tour recently who turned to me and said ‘Anton, could you film me arriving at the arena as people tend to scream for me and I need to put it on my Youtube channel, and I said ‘Of course’ but added to that they said ‘People don't really scream for you do they!’ Well….., what was very interesting is that the first scream I heard, and I thought it was someone shouting my name, as I know my name, and it was! Even when we took a poll, you know one of those polls to find out who your music appeals to, and what was extraordinary is that I thought my audience would be an older, more mature group of people, but NO! We are wrong (we both laugh), it showed that my music appealed from children right through to the older generation because it connected emotionally with them and I think that what I do is connect emotionally with people and maybe with teenagers who are at that point in puberty and they are making choices, and we fix it (he laughs), but also with adults too who may feel as if when you get to a certain point in your life that life is supposed to be over, it isn’t. Recently I lost a friend and it’s a great pity to me as they felt that life had not been quite right for them, and took their own life, and it makes me angry, I’m angry, and I don't give too many interviews when I am angry, I don’t want to give an interview about that but I’m angry about that. The truth is that life is wonderful and exciting, and fun and it is about connection and love and I think that is one of the main reasons that I do what I do. I am glad that I appeal across the board rather than just to a certain amount of people, and that I am versatile in all sorts of ways!"
I lighten, well, if asking Anton when was the last time he got into trouble could lighten the mood to which I hear:
“Oh my God! It was earlier today when, probably no longer than 25 minutes before our interview when someone had gotten onto the Tube and had clearly being drinking, or doing whatever else, as it was very clear that I was not making a judgement but you could just tell by the fumes that were coming from them (he laughs). And this person had passed out on the Tube, and the Tube had to stop and we were all inconvenienced because of their issue. Well, I made myself very clear to this individual when they were coming to that ‘We are stopping this train because you have had too much meth or whatever and you have made us all late!’. So I guess that is the last time I got into trouble because I could see that there were other people being all caring and what-not but I kind of think that we are all responsible for our own actions. Especially so if you inconvenience other people, it’s like people that jump in front of a train, do you think that is rude as I think that is the most selfish of things to do because I’ve still got to get down to Sussex sometimes and it’s usually on that train that they seem to throw themselves in front of. I think do it quietly in the garage at home or in the comfort of your own home because that’s like 3 hours, and we all have to get home, I know it may sound mean but we all think it don’t we. One other thing is that I have always loved pick ’n’ mix, and recently whenever I have been in Tesco’s, I always steal a sweet from the pick ’n’ mix every time I go past! (he laughs), but I have not got into trouble for it, I think they throw a blind eye (he laughs even more). There is also that other side to me that people think that I am really really nice but I think nice is for old ladies and children. I’m a human being, I am man and I am nice in all sorts of ways and horrible in others. We all are a bit nice and horrible aren’t we?” (I agree by saying that we all have our moments, no matter who we are.)
At this point I thought I would ask Anton that 'ever-so' testing question about the entertainment industry being quite judgmental, and proceeded to asked what coping mechanisms he adopted to deal with any:
“Well sometimes I realise that music is ageless, that what I do is ageless, I’m very very lucky as I think I look after myself and I look really well but I think the most important thing is I look after my heart. Anyone who judges me on that, then they have got it wrong. They have got it wrong in all sorts of ways. Most people who judge on age, I have found in my opinion, are more exploitive than inclusive. They are looking for someone that they can exploit, the younger you are, the less you know, the older you are, the more you know and the better you are. I think we are getting to that point because remember, we don't ever use a real baby Jesus!"
My last question I knew would no doubt receive such an interesting and honest and creative response, I ask Anton if he was an animal, what would it be, and why:
“(Anton laughs) What would I be and why, well..., I would be a polar bear. The reason…, because they are a marvellous and fantastic animal, you rarely get to see them, yet when you do you are pretty much impressed by them, they are full of strength, they are also warm and you have to get to know them, so the more you get to know them the more you get to understand how to communicate and work with them. So maybe that’s why I would be a polar bear. We also need to look after our polar bears, so there, I’m a polar bear and please look after me! I am going to text that as I have stolen that from Tina Turner, so I am going to text her in a minute saying that but I think it applies to anyone who is a true artist that we are like polar bears, and that at the moment in a world where everything can appear to be manufactured and made-up, where lots of things are unreal, it’s great to be real."