The last several years have been a whirlwind for David Miller, the American tenor for the operatic pop quartet and international sensation Il Divo.
Ever since he was invited to join the chart-topping group created by American Idol judge Simon Cowell, it has been a wild ride Miller never expected.
Il Divo means 'divine male performer' in Italian, and the group is known for its beautiful ballads, fashion and good looks. Their albums have gone multi-platinum all over the world since their 2004 debut.
Before Il Divo, Miller worked with some of the top opera companies around the globe, performing in lead tenor roles.
Miller will come to Chicago Dec. 21 for a solo concert backed by the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra at Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River. Tickets are $40 and $55, and can be purchased at www.chicagolandpops.com or 847-671-5100.
Windy City Times talked to Miller about transitions, touring the world and stereotypes.
Windy City Times: Were you always into singing?
David Miller: Actually, no. I didn't started signing until my second year of high school. Before that, I was really interested in science, oddly enough. Math and sciences, and I wanted to go into the Air Force Academy and I wanted to be an astronaut. Around my freshman and sophomore years, my height grew to be about 6' 2', and the cutoff for a person is 5' 11', I believe, for a person to be an astronaut because they live in such confined spaces. So, that whole dream kind of went out the window, so I started searching for other things, and I found music.
WCT: At first, did you know Il Divo was a Simon Cowell project?
DM: Actually, I didn't. The other guys had been told who was in charge of it, but they had never heard of him. He's not that big in Spain, and he's definitely unknown in France and Switzerland. In a way, that was a really balanced thing. We all came together because we all wanted to do something we believed in, and not because we thought who was behind it.
WCT: Was it weird to transition from doing solo work in lead tenor roles to being a part of a pop group?
DM: Definitely, there was a transition period. You know, the four of us are soloists. Let me tell you, that first year and a half was a lot of learning to, let's just say, define boundaries. [ Laughs ]
WCT: A lot of egos in the room?
DM: A lot of healthy self-esteem, for sure. There was some ego-clashing. There was actually a lot of language and culture barriers. I actually thought that was pretty funny. You know, France and Spain are right next door to each other. You'd think they would be able to understand the cultures, but apparently not.
WCT: I bet you've learned so much, so far.
DM: When we look back at the end of that year and a half together, we had done a lot of things. But every even kept coming one right after the next, so there was no time to slow down and think, 'Oh, wow. We've done a lot.' It was all, 'What's next? What's next?' We went to Japan for the first time and we made our kind of showcase debut over there in the same performance space that The Beatles did when they first performed in Japan. That was really cool. They had this video screen that was up while they were presenting us before we went on stage. It was showing all the things we had done. A part of our video was up there, all the TV shows we were on…and they just kept putting up one country after the next of all these major TV shows we had been on. We just stood there, saying, 'Oh my God!'
WCT: Is that when it hit you that this had definitely exceeded your expectations and this is, indeed, huge?
DM: For me, that was definitely the moment.
WCT: Do you ever miss opera and Broadway?
DM: Oh yes, absolutely. I connect very strongly to musical situations, where you're a character, you're in a costume, you're on set, you're going to lose yourself acting-wise and put up a fourth wall. For me, that's so much easier singing-wise to let go of all of my preconceptions of who I am personally, and drop into a role and drop into the music. When it's me on stage, just me, that's a lot harder. Like what's coming up [ his solo show ] , it is all opera tunes, but people are coming to see just me? That just feels so different. I haven't done a lot of concert repertoire over the years. It's been mainly shows on stage. But I definitely miss it, and I'm so looking forward to it, you have no idea.
WCT: Let's talk about your fan base a little bit. You have such a huge following, not only all over the world among women of all ages, but interestingly enough, you have a huge gay following, too.
DM: I'm not entirely sure what makes Il Divo tick, in the first place, among women. Obviously, there's a kind of romantic fantasy that goes along with it, sure. I suppose that that translates to all people who are interested in that type of music. It has to do with the exoticness of all four being from different countries. We dress up nice, we sing nice music and we use our voices in the most beautiful ways that we can. I think there's something in there for everyone that connects to something of quality, something of luxury. It's really great for us to know that, especially in this MTV culture, where the memory span is about 2.3 seconds, people can stop and unplug for a little while to use our music to connect to a really emotional place.
WCT: There have been many interviews where people have asked if you guys are straight or gay, and I'm not going to ask you that because you guys have said you are straight enough times. What I want to know is what do you think that says about our culture still, where if a guy dresses nice and sings beautiful music, we automatically assume?
DM: I think there's an aspect in Western society that really tries to very clearly delineate between the sexes and in terms of sexuality. I think when people see us, we spend a lot of time creating the look, focusing on details and making sure its very high quality. I think that's naturally perceived as a feminine aspect. And then there's this stereotype that gay men are feminine men, which plays into that. So, when men are displaying creativity by taking care of their appearance and being sensitive to emotional music, they just automatically put those two categories together. But that's just my theory.
WCT: Let's talk about your show with Chicagoland Pops Orchestra. Tell me a little bit about what we should expect.
DM: It's going to be a lot of my favorite things, in a way. I'm singing the operatic repertoire that kind of got me to the point before Il Divo, like Romeo … and La Boheme, which I did on Broadway and was the only production of it I've done, which was just prior to Il Divo, … and also where I met my current girlfriend, who will be singing with me in the concert. We're very excited about that. We'll also be doing something from La Boheme and West Side Story. There're a couple other musical theater numbers in there that are just some of my favorite pieces. There's also going to be some holiday music in there. Then, I'll also be going back to opera, pieces where I've just previously been too young to handle in the voice. Opera has an age hierarchy. Some roles are appropriate earlier in the career, and some are for later. These roles you just don't touch until your mid-30s. Well, now I've been in Il Divo for four years, and it's kind of transitioned a maturation period in my voice. It's very exciting for me. I'm looking forward to coming back to Chicago. It is one of my favorite cities.