JONATHAN Antoine sounds a little nervous. The day we speak is the eve of his performance at the iTunes Festival in London – where he’s due to be a guest of the world famous tenor Placido Domingo – and the 19-year-old singer from Essex understandably has a few butterflies.
“It very much feels the same as going on Britain’s Got Talent,” he says. “Abject terror. I’m scared of going up there and I can’t even be heard next to this massive sound.”
At the same time, Antoine, who with then partner Charlotte Jaconelli finished runner up in the 2012 series of the ITV primetime talent show, says he is “terrifically honoured” to be asked to perform at the festival’s closing night at The Roundhouse.
Domingo is an idol of his. “He sings in two different ranges. He’s an all-round genius. Wow!”
Antoine has just completed his first ‘balcony’ tour, giving free performances in Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff city centres. “I personally think it went fantastically,” he says. “I had a lot fun. It was something completely different from anything I’ve done before.”
All this activity is the prelude to the release of his first solo album, Tenore, which comes out on Monday October 13. It showcases the teenager’s love of Italian opera.
He credits his singing coach at West Hatch comprehensive school in Chigwell, for kickstarting his fondness for the classics. “Way back I did not know anything about opera or classical music. In Year 7 when I first went to high school I started singing lessons with Jenny Ewington. The first song I did was Where Is Love? from Oliver! then I slowly started to work my way into the more classical repertoire.”
Though he confesses he can speak “precisely zero” Italian, he’s able to find his way into the songs and arias by having them translated – literally at first then into a “more poetic rhyming version, so I can get exactly what it means and have more creative licence.”
He looks back on the Britain’s Got Talent experience as “terrifying mainly” but also he found “a strange sense of community” with fellow performers. “Everyone we were competing against we were all friends – it made it a lot easier.”
Despite the fact that judge Simon Cowell suggested he ditch his singing partner after their first televised audition, Antoine seems to bear no grudges. He says he and Jaconelli found him “really easy” to work with when he became their manager. “He does not go for the in-your-face approach in real life. He’s more of a backseat man. He likes to give people control and see where they go with it.”
After two hit albums Antoine and Jaconelli announced they were splitting up earlier this year. Antoine is fully appreciative of the support she gave him when he suffered depression after being bullied over his weight. He says he could not have done BGT “in the mental state that I was in at the time” without her. “To be able to perform with someone was great,” he says.
To now be confident enough to branch off – he into classical music, she into musicals – he says is “great for us as artists”.
Next Antoine hopes to tour. “I think this balcony roadshow has been a cool little precursor to something like that. I imagine there will be a full-scale attack on a tour. We will traverse the UK and hopefully Europe to promote the album big time.
“I want people to hear it,” he says, “and hopefully enjoy it. I’m really proud of it.”
Tenore is released on October 13. Visit http://www.jonathanantoineofficial.com/gb/home