Ahead of his highly-anticipated tour Elio Pace Presents Elvis Presley, we sat down and talked to Elio about the tour, his lifelong love of Elvis and what Elvis’ fans can expect from the show.
1. Hi Elio, thanks for your time. How are preparations for the upcoming tour going?
“It’s going really well thank you. I’m really excited about this show. There is actually a CD and DVD of the show which we filmed at the world premiere of the show. That was so good! Sadly, it won’t be out in time for the tour, it’ll probably be done and ready for Christmas. We’ve already done two shows last year. One of which was on the anniversary of Elvis’ death on August 14th. What can I say about the show? It really is nothing like any of the Elvis shows out there – there are no big wigs, no jumpsuits, nothing like that. I think, because it’s nothing like the other shows, it makes it a bit more difficult to sell to people. Essentially, what people see when they see the poster is a bald guy sat at a piano so selling the concept of this Elvis show is more of a challenge. I’m very proud of this show.”
“This is very personal for me. I’m actually getting emotional talking to you about it. I’m not in it for the money, I’m doing this purely because I want to give something back. If I was doing it for the money it would be a very different show. This is a show written by two people who share a love of Elvis and his music.”
2. How do you go about putting a show like this together?
“I wrote the show with a good friend of mine, Matt Daniel-Baker. We’ve worked together on my own album, he co-wrote my Christmas songs. We both have a mutual love of Elvis and I think I approached him with the idea in last January or February as it was the 40th anniversary of Elvis’ death last August so thought we had to do something. I didn’t want to do another Elvis show as there are already so many of those, I wanted to do something unique with this show. I also wanted to strip it down so it was as honest as it could be. It’s just me playing the piano with a drummer behind me providing the rhythm. Essentially, what I want this show to feel like is that British tradition of standing around the piano in a pub and having a good singalong but, obviously, on a much bigger scale in a theatre. On this tour I’ll be working multi-talented drummer and percussionist Steve Rushton (Imelda May, Jeff Beck, Phil Spector, Hot Chocolate). We did the one-off show at the Capitol Theatre in Horesham for the anniversary and a second show at the Brewhouse Theatre in Taunton then had 12-13 theatres chasing us to see if we would do other shows. ”
3. You’ve chosen another of your musical heroes, why Elvis?
“Why Elvis? I first heard Elvis when I was nine years old and he had a massive impact on my life. Listening to Elvis was like a masterclass in rock n’ roll. I remember the day he died on August 16th. I can see the headline at the top of the newspaper. That was the reason I did that show on the anniversary, it was the 40th anniversary and I had to give something back. The other show I did was the Billy Joel Songbook and I have no qualms in saying that Billy Joel is the greatest singer/songwriter around. I’d say he was better than McCartney, Lennon.”
4. What was it about Elvis that won your heart as a child?
“It’s like falling in love isn’t it? You meet that certain person and you just click, you can’t explain why, it just happens. I remember hearing his music and that was it. Using that analogy again, it was just like that moment when you meet that person and you just fall in love.”
5. With someone as iconic as Elvis, how do you go about picking songs to play?
“Ha, yes, you’re right. Did you know Elvis had something like 483 songs for us to pick from. For the Billy Joel Songbook show we did something like 30 songs and for this one, we’ve got about 40 songs. Obviously we don’t do every song in full as we’d be there for a week but there are things like medley’s of songs. When we sat and chose the songs we had one criteria and that was each song meant something. Going back to what you said about why Elvis? I actually became aware of Elvis before I knew about Elvis. My parents are Italian and wouud sing a lot of songs in the kitchen and around the house that were actually songs that inspired Elvis songs.”
“For example, did you know the song Now Or Never is also the Italian song O Sole Mio which people will probably know better as the Cornetto song. Another of Elvis’ songs Surrender is also an Italian song called Torna a Surriento or, in English, Return to Sorrento. So, as I was growing up I was hearing my parents singing these songs in Italian not knowing they were also Elvis songs.”
6. What do you hope Elvis fans will get from the show?
“I am under no illusion that I am a big name but I hope my reputation preceeds me. I’m not Robbie Williams, I can’t do the World Cup opening song but I have my integrity and I’m very proud that I will leave something like this behind me. I think my shows attract a certain type of person who will be spoken to through the music. I’ll be honest though, if they’re coming expecting a straight-up Elvis tribute then they’re going to struggle (laughs). I haven’t got big money to promote this tour so I can’t go on This Morning or Loose Women or Graham Norton, it will be done purely on my reputation. What I will say is that when people come to see the show then I will give them something with heart, soul and integrity.”
“What I learned from the Billy Joel Songbook show is to let things grow. The first year of that tour I was playing to like 40 or 50 people, then the second year it was busier then third year it was selling out shows then in the fourth year more sold out. It’s the same with the Elvis show and I’m happy to nurture this one in the same way. What I remember about writing this show was how it brought back memories as we were bouncing ideas back by email and Whatsapp and text messages. I want that to be the same for people who come to the show. I will be throwing in songs that people won’t have ever heard or not heard in a long time. There will be songs played on an accordian, songs played on a glockenspiel. What I hope is that people who see the show come away and tell their friends and it grows from there.”
7. It’s going to be a busy year ahead with more Billy Joel Songbook’s tour after this I believe?
“I’ve already just finished a tour in May with Billy Joel’s former guitarist David Brown as my guest. He played on all of Billy Joel’s albums from 1978-1991. We did two Billy Joel albums Glasshouse and An Innocent Man. We’ve got the Elvis tour then more Billy Joel Songbook shows and I also have my own album coming out. Then there is the CD/DVD at the end of the year. It’s turning out to be my busiest year yet.”
8. Well, good luck with the rest of 2018 and beyond…
“Thank you for talking to me about the show. One thing I would like to say is I feel extremely lucky to do what I do as a job. I’ve not got massive amounts of money but, you know, I’m so utterly grateful to be able to wake up and be able to spend my day doing the things I really love and want to do. As long as I can keep fit and happy then I will just keep going. I am lucky to say that, in my adult life, I’ve never had a normal job. Actually I have, I worked in Safeway’s pushing trollies when I was a teenager but they let me go shortly after I started because my manager could see that my heart wasn’t in it. Ever since then I’ve been able to do what I’ve always wanted to do and, like I said, I’m forever grateful for that.”
Mon 2 July – New Theatre Royal, Lincoln
www.newtheatreroyallincoln.co.uk / 01522 519 999
Tue 3 July – The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
www.breweryarts.co.uk / 01539 725 133
Wed 4 July – St Georges Hall, Liverpool
www.ticketquarter.co.uk / 0344 800 0410
Fri 6 July – Theatre Royal, Dumfries
www.theatreroyaldumfries.co.uk / 01387 254 209
Sat 7 July – Gardyne Theatre, Dundee
www.gardynetheatre.org.uk / 01382 434 940
Sun 8 July – Eastwood Park Theatre, Glasgow
www.eastwoodparktheatre.co.uk / 0141 577 4956
Tue 10 July – The Capitol, Horsham
www.thecapitolhorsham.com / 01403 750 220
Fri 13 July – The Brewhouse Theatre, Taunton
www.thebrewhouse.net / 01823 283 244
Sat 14 July – Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne Minster
www.tivoliwimborne.co.uk / 01202 885 566
Mon 16 July – The Sage, Gateshead
www.sagegateshead.com / 0191 443 4661
Tue 17 July – Malvern Theatres, Malvern
www.malvern-theatres.co.uk / 01684 892 277
Wed 18 July – Waterside Arts, Sale
www.watersidearts.org / 0161 912 5616
Fri 20 July – The Lights, Andover
www.thelights.org.uk / 01264 368 368
Sat 21 July – Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells
www.trinitytheatre.net / 01892 678 678
Sun 22 July – Leicester Square Theatre, London
www.leicestersquaretheatre.com / 020 7734 2222