The Neales took Britain’s Got Talent by storm in 2015. Eighteen months on, David Johns finds out how Brum’s father and son foursome have been coping with the fame
Famously, they reduced Simon Cowell to tears. It’s safe to say that The Neales took Britain’s Got Talent by storm in a way previously unseen since singer Susan Boyle. Like Boyle six years earlier, the four-part family harmony group from Birmingham made the show’s final in 2015 and didn’t win. But they became overnight stars with millions of viewers and millions more worldwide on YouTube and social media.
“Britain’s Got Talent is one of the biggest TV shows in the world, so reaching the live final was pretty incredible to say the least,” said James. “You’re in a bit of a bubble during the show because it really is one of those special shows that the whole nation is talking about whilst it’s on.”
The foursome – dad Laurie and sons James, Dan and Phil – went into the show as amateurs with no experience and with no expectations but after reaching the final they knew that the real test was going to be how they progressed once the show had finished. They have been careful to balance their fame with their day jobs – Laurie and James are both lawyers, while Dan works for Deutsche Bank in Birmingham and Phil for a major supermarket chain.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, but thankfully there’s four of us to share the workload,” said James. “We make sure we all have fun together, whether it is on stage, on the road, in the studio or just when we’re at home. We’re delighted that over the past year since the show, we’ve sold out some great venues across the country, raised tens of thousands of pounds for charity, met loads of inspirational people and made some unforgettable memories. Topping it off, in June our debut single I’ll Be There which went straight into the Official UK Charts at number 22, peaking at number six. We continue to take things one step at a time though.”
The Neales auditioned for BGT after years of Laurie, now 60, nagging his sons. Laurie had always been passionate about singing but a heart attack 10 years ago which brought him close to death convinced him to make up for lost time. “ Music is my therapy to de-stress after I almost worked my way into the grave,” said Laurie. “Enjoying music with my sons is all I ever wanted to do.”
James and his brothers are convinced that their BGT fame has drawn the family even closer together. “We’ve learned a lot more about each other and probably seen sides we wouldn’t have seen otherwise,” he said. “I’ve learned that Dan isn’t always as quiet as he sometimes seems, that Phil has an answer for everything and that my dad, at the age of 60, is more of a heart-throb than all three of us!
“And mum has loved it too – it’s meant that she’s seen a lot more of us when we were back rehearsing for gigs every weekend. She’s been interviewed for various lifestyle magazines keen to hear her story, and it’s shown her that if she does want to get back into modeling then the door is definitely still open.” Mother Joanne first met Laurie when they shared student digs in London – he was studying law while she was training at Rambert School of Ballet. Joanne went on to become a dancer and model and the two have been married for nearly 35 years.
Of the future, James revealed that The Neales are writing their own songs with the help of a top team of writers and producers. “From a recording perspective, we’re hoping to do some collaborations with cool artists,” he added. “We’d love to hear our songs feature on TV or in films.
“When it comes to gigs, we have to be realistic as to what we can sustain alongside our day jobs. We certainly hope to continue to share a stage together for years to come as we absolutely love putting on a great show.”
Among the foursome’s highlights is their annual sell-out Christmas show. Last year it was at Town Hall and just last month they brought their Countdown to Christmas – The Neales show to the Core Theatre, Solihull. “We had a great time in Solihull,” said James. “At some point we’d love to appear back again at Birmingham Hippodrome as that’s where it all started with our first audition for BGT.”
So, what about a dream gig? “That would be to appear on the Late Late Show with James Corden because like the rest of the world – we all love him!”