Just home from his honeymoon, singing sensation Russell Watson is in great form as we talk on the phone just as rehearsals are getting under way for the next leg of his tour around the UK.
He feels this year marks his return to full health after an horrendous few years which almost cost him his life - and with a new wife by his side, he feels “on top of the world”.
Which, of course means that Derry audiences are in for a very special treat when he brings his tour to the city in November for a rare ‘up close and intimate’ performance.
For Russell, his life experiences - including fighting a brain tumour twice - have given this tour extra meaning.
“Coming through something like that gives you an extra appreciation for life,” he said. “And you certainly appreciate the good times more. When you walk onto a stage, or sing, it all means something more than it did before. You feel more connected with the music - with the songs you are singing.
“There is only so personal you can get in an arena with 10,000 people or more watching - when you are in a smaller venue, maybe 1000 people, you can connect more with your audience.
“I like to talk to people who have come to watch the show, and during the new tour there is a point where we will have a question and answer section.
“What I want to do is make everyone who comes along feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible - as if I’m singing just for them.”
Giving the show an extra local feel will mean Russell will be joined on stage by singers from the Londonderry Musical Society (LMS) who will back him through some of the show’s bigger numbers.
“Bringing local choirs on stage allows us to give the sound of a big performance to a smaller venue. On bigger tours we would travel with a full choir and orchestra - but that’s not possible in a more intimate venue - so bringing a local choir on stage is perfect.”
It also helps make every night on the tour a little bit different. Something Russell is keen to do. “I like to mix it up a bit,” he said.
Fans of the tenor will be delighted to see him back in full voice. In 2007 he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Following treatment for that, it returned later the same year and this time took no prisoners.
The tumour haemorrhaged leaving Russell fighting for his life in intensive care and then facing aggressive radiotherapy.
“If you were to ask me was I thinking too much about my career back then? I wasn’t. I was thinking about whether or not I would wake up the next morning.
“But then, when I was so poorly, I had to set myself targets.
“I tried to take recovery in stages. Focus on one thing at a time. It was very scary - a really difficult time.
“First of all, I had to work on getting my strength back, and my fitness. It was a long, slow process.
“Now, this year, is the year I feel I am finally back to where I wanted to be. I feel I’ve made a full recovery and I’m ready to get back in the saddle.”
Russell Watson will perform, for one night only, at the Millennium Forum on November 25. To book contact the Millennium Forum on 71264455 or visit www.millenniumforum.co.uk