Vangelis Polydorou first came to our attention in early 2016 when he appeared on The Voice UK.
The singer initially wowed the audience and coaches alike with his rendition of Culture Club’s ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me’. With three out of four of the coaches turning their chairs for Vangelis, including Culture Club frontman Boy George, he sailed through to the next round, choosing George as his mentor. Vangelis continued to shine during the next stages, eventually making it all the way to the live semi final.
Unlike most contestants from The Voice, Vangelis has a different story to tell. Following his time on the show, not only has he remained in contact with his coach, but Boy George has also taken him under his wing as a manager and mentor.
Vangelis has since released a version of Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’ with Retrophobia (a duo formed of Boy George and Roland Faber), which showcases his ability to be a diverse artist. We will soon be able to hear more of his distinctive vocals as he is also currently working towards the release of his debut album.
We recently had the opportunity to meet Vangelis in Central London and quiz him about The Voice and life after the show, working with Boy George, what we can expect from his album and more.
How has life been since coming off The Voice?
It’s been really surreal. Quite weird, as I’ve been going through different stages. When I first came off the show, I was a bit like “right, I need to email people, I need to really go for it and use the platform”. I did loads of gigs, then you go through a period of “oh, what do I do now?” Then George [Boy George] got in contact with me! It’s kind of been a progression thing, which is really good. For me it’s been so good, a really great platform.
You’re now managed by Boy George [his mentor on The Voice], which is unusual for a lot of the contestants as normally after the show, they lose contact. What’s he like to work with?
He’s great to work with! He’s bossy…makes a good cup of green tea haha. I think initially, I was quite intimidated by him, so even though I really wanted to work with him and wanted to impress him all the time, I’m good at not showing that so I kept my cool. I did some recordings at his house in September as he was away on tour for six months and we were just messaging back and forth. He’s so creative, he’s always thinking about the next idea. I might be stuck on one thing but he’s already thinking about the next thing. He’s always a step ahead which is cool. It’s great to work with someone like that, especially in a recording environment. We’re both Geminis as well, so we don’t always agree…two Geminis in a room together, you never know what’s going to happen!
You’ve just released your version of Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’ which is a collaboration with Boy George’s new project Retrophobia. How did reworking that song come about?
I was just recording another song at his house, an original song, and we had this producer there called Roland Faber who is part of Retrophobia with Boy George. He had this old ‘Sweet Dreams’ track, which is not what you hear on the song, but he just asked me if I wanted to try it. I recorded it in around 15 minutes. It was so quick and I didn’t really think anything of it. I just did it as I knew the song and I just sang it. He got it reproduced and it turned into this whole thing. At first, I wanted to re-do it as I always want to re-do things but George was like “no we’re not re-doing it, it’s great, we’re not touching it.” He has to reel me in a little as it takes me a while to appreciate something I’ve done personally. I always critique things all the time which is really annoying. But yeah, the song was a casual thing which was just captured quickly. Sometimes those are the best things, where it’s organic and you’re not really thinking about it.
As you mentioned, you’ve also been working on your original material and aiming for the release of your debut album. What can you tell us about it?
Originally it was just a dance track Boy George and I were supposed to be doing together, but over time he was like “I’d love to help you”. There’s no rules with George, which is great. Because we’re doing it together and I’m with him, there’s no record label breathing down my neck to say that it needs to be a certain style. At the moment, we’re literally doing whatever we want to on the tracks and seeing what works, what doesn’t work, what suits me. There’s not really a lot of ballads – obviously I love doing those but I think he wanted me to kind of step away from what people would normally expect from me. Like with ‘Sweet Dreams’, I never would have thought that it would have sounded good with me singing on it because I didn’t expect myself to be on the dance charts. I’m hoping to do some more electronic stuff. I really like people like Hurts, Marina and the Diamonds, Lana Del Ray, Florence and the Machine…those quirky, left-field pop people rather than the mainstream pop that’s out there.
It must be nice to be able to have the freedom to experiment with different styles…
Yeah, that’s the beauty of it, especially working with George. He always wants stuff that’s new. Because he’s been around the block, if I think that something’s different he’ll be like “ugh, already seen it. Been there, done it.” [laughs] It’s always interesting working with someone like him.
Have you been working with other people or is there anyone you’d like to work with in the future?
I’ve started working with one of George’s friends called John Themis. He’s done a lot of stuff from Dido to Eternal, lots of 90s people that we would probably both know. His friend Kevin Frost, and Roland [Faber]. I’m actually working with some of my own people that I know as well. We’ll just pick the best songs. Hopefully me and George will do a collaboration as a lot of fans have expressed that they would enjoy that and have said that it would be cool if we did a song together. I think it would be a shame if we didn’t. There’ll definitely be some sort of track that we do but I just don’t know what style it will be yet.
Apart from Boy George, who are your musical influences?
I just love Celine Dion! I love real singers, beautiful old school voices like Elvis. I feel like with a lot of people today, they do sing but it’s all about production but I’d rather do both. There’s so many people I like…Joni Mitchell, Adele, I liked Amy (Winehouse) I still do. There’s too many to name really!
You first came to our attention after appearing on The Voice. The talent show process can be challenging, so how was the experience for you?
It was weird – I did think to myself that they must be interested in me in some way when they let me do the Boy George song. We put a lot of time into it and created the arrangement together. It wasn’t a standard process like the other songs. A part of me thought that this could be really great for me and I loved being creative with the live band. That’s what I think you don’t get with other shows like the X Factor. I know it’s very much about social media and it is a bigger show, but I love being creative so having the live band there…it was really great to work with them as they’ve played with some amazing people. The drummer was on Adele’s 21 album. They’ve just done everything!
The negatives is that people are watching you all the time. Whatever you sing on that stage is going to go out – it’s like you’re doing it live all the time anyway. When people ask if you’re nervous for live shows, well it’s [the other rounds] exactly the same, you’re just putting it out once it’s been recorded. I think it’s stressful especially with me as I would take everything too seriously. I was very focused on getting into the final 12 and I think it does get stressful especially in the live shows. It becomes more real, like it’s a show for everyone working on it.
It’s important to say that when they show ends, that’s it. There isn’t a show after that. Everyone’s a freelance worker and they go off. Everyone thinks you get support at the end of the show, but no, you don’t get anything like that. I think something should be in place, considering the number of talent shows now, as psychologically for some people it’s really depressing. You’re on a real high then you come straight back down. I’ve been lucky to still be doing all this and working with George, but I’m one person. What about all the other people? It’s really tough. It’s great exposure and experience but it’s also what you do with it – don’t expect people to come to you.
Would you recommend the process to others?
I would! Again, I always think of it as what my experience was like. I was lucky to get something out of it which is great. However, there are people that I think wouldn’t recommend it. I didn’t go into it thinking “I’m going to be an international star”. I was quite level headed with a ‘see what happens’ attitude. Even now I’m not putting too much pressure on myself. It’s definitely stressful though. I wasn’t really bothered about any hate I got…sometimes I respond and I think, “don’t respond with something sassy” but it’s different when you’re on the show to when you’ve been watching it for years. People think you’ve got it all made once you’re on there and that couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re all normal people going through the same insecurities as everyone else. It’s important to just try and get your voice and music heard.
Throughout the process, you got close to people on your team and some of the other contestants. Do you still keep in touch now?
I still see quite a lot of them actually. I still see Heather who was on Team Boy George. Cody came down the other day, she was staying with me. I still see Jolan, Mia, Melissa my battle partner…I was singing at her show the other day actually as she asked me to come and sing with her as a guest. I’m definitely going to forget someone haha…but I do like to keep in contact with a lot of them, I’m that kind of person. I like to text and be like, “hey you alright?”. It’s nice to hear what everyone’s doing as well. It’s a unique experience – 50,000 singers auditioned but there’s only 48 of us which get on the show. The odds of getting on the show are so low, when I was auditioning I didn’t think I’d get on it. I just did it and kept getting through. It’s unique for us that we’ve managed to stay in contact with each other and we can still talk about the show when other people might tell you to shut up about it haha. It does take over your life a little bit. When I auditioned for the producers, it was in 2015, in June. When we started filming, it’s September for the blinds, November battles and knockouts in December. You guys are catching up in January 2016 til March, then we’re in the live shows. It is like a whole year of your life but it was fun and I wouldn’t have changed it.
You mentioned there that you’ve been performing some gigs. You’ve done your own headline shows and performed at some incredible events – what’s been your performing highlight so far?
I’d probably say The LGBT Awards. It was so last minute it was actually a joke, to the day I was like, “am I singing tonight?”, it was just one of those things. I remember walking into the rehearsal room and Duncan James from Blue and Mel B from the Spice Girls were there. Part of me was like, “Duncan James is really fit”, and with Mel B, “oh my god she’s a Spice Girl” [laughs]. I was singing and it was just us three when they were setting up tables, it was weird. Just seeing that Sir Ian McKellan was there and Adam Lambert was incredible. I was the only one who sang that night so that was really stand-outish for me. I thought, “oh, maybe I am doing well”. Again, I was trying to not get too excited about things but that was a real highlight for me. To be honest, nobody probably knew who I was, not everyone watches the show, but it was just great to be asked if I wanted to sing there.
Do you have any live shows planned?
No, not at the moment, only because the next time I sing I’ll have the originals. I think George wants to keep that until the album is out. We have said no to some stuff, some of them that I really wanted to do but he says no [laughs].
Is there a release date for the album in mind?
I haven’t actually asked him this. Like I was saying before, I don’t feel a rush. Some people think that after doing The Voice you’ve got to hurry up but I don’t feel like that. I think I would if I wasn’t working with George now, I’d feel pressured. It’s one of those things where people come on the show to get to the next level and I think it’s hard for artists if they have a great album but can’t promote it and get on TV or do things which will help them sell it. I’m really lucky to be doing this with George, doing press days etc. In terms of the album being released, I would probably say next year. I don’t think this year as it’s already gone so quick. I can’t believe we’re in June already, like what happened to my summer body? It just went out the window, it did not happen. [laughs]. It’s just gone so quickly, but the great thing is, George is doing The Voice Australia at the moment but when he’s back in four weeks, we’ll get lots of stuff done. Whenever he’s back, I’m always around and we’re always doing something or going out somewhere.
Do you have anything lined up for the rest of the year which you can tell us about?
Just writing mainly, but you never know with George. That’s what’s exciting about working with him. He could literally call me tomorrow and ask “would you like to come to Australia?”. The other day he asked if I wanted to go and see Blondie, I was like “yeah of course!!”. It’s always so random and anything’s possible with him. Whenever someone asks if I’m going away this year I’m like, “maybe, I don’t know, possibly!”
Finally, do you have a message for your supporters?
I just want to say thank you for supporting me and stay tuned!
Thank you so much to Vangelis for his time. We wish him the best with his debut album and look forward to hearing more from him through the coming months.