Counting his blessings
Aled Jones tells Tony Yorke why his latest album, book and tour are amongst his most important works.
Just like mince pies and Santa Claus, Aled Jones is the young Welsh chorister whose angelic voice will forever be synonymous with Christmas. Yet the boy from Bangor has come a long way since those halcyon days, when his hit single Walking in the Air reached number five in the charts. It is hard to believe, but that was some 35 years ago.
Since then, Jones’s career has gone from strength to strength. He has become a successful singer, even though his voice broke when he was 16. And when he is not touring and making records, the 49-year-old can be found gracing the nation’s TV screens, or hosting two popular radio shows.
Right now, he is busy promoting his fortieth album, entitled Blessings, which he hopes listeners will realise is all about ‘faith, and the difference Jesus Christ can make in our lives.’
The album, and a book called Everyday Blessings, are two more brave steps by the man who has never been shy in proclaiming his Christian beliefs. ‘It has been a real honour and privilege to record this album and publish the book,’ he told Sorted. ‘They mean a lot to me. I am very proud of them.’
Combined, they are as much a declaration of Jones’s evangelical intent as they are works of artistic merit. ‘I am proud of my faith’ he says. ‘I always have been. And, yes, they are my way of praising and proclaiming the God I serve.’
Lockdown has been a big influencer on the content of the album, with Jones admitting it has created logistical difficulties. ‘Once we put our minds to it,’ he says, ‘we found it a lot easier to do than we first thought it would be.’
There are a string of duets with people such as acclaimed Iranian singer, Sami Yusef, and household names in the UK, like Susan Boyle, the Priests, and ‘alternative boy band’, Libera. Interestingly, Dame Judi Dench is also a collaborator.
One name that really stands out is that of the actor, Brian Blessed.
‘Brian is the loudest man I know, and have ever known,’ admits Jones, stifling a chuckle. ‘And he is also a very prominent Christian. So when I asked him if he would be willing to join me, there was never any hesitation. He was all for it.’
Music aficionados will be delighted to learn that Blessed, who starred in the 1980s cult film Flash Gordon, doesn’t sing in the pair’s rendition of Silent Night. Instead, he adds the narrative around the song, which makes the end result really pleasant and a joy to listen to.
Another collaborator on the album is 94-year-old D-Day veteran, Harry Billinge.‘The moment I met Harry on Songs of Praise, I felt drawn to the man,” recalls Jones. Billinge is a former infantry man, who raised £25,000 towards the construction of a national memorial that recognises the sacrifice of his fallen comrades. ‘And his contribution brought tears to my eyes.’
The song – If I can Help Somebody/Let There be Peace on Earth – features Billinge, a Cornishman, remembering the terror and loss of June 1944 when he was one of the many men who landed on Gold Beach in Normandy, as part of the D-Day landings.
‘It sends a shiver down my spine just thinking about it,’ says Jones. ‘He is a gentleman, someone who has never forgotten about the hardships of those times. And he has done all he can in his lifetime to ensure the men who died are never forgotten. Harry is a man of great faith and we hit it off the moment we met. He wants people to remember those far-off days, and I hope the song goes some way to doing just that.’
Jones is rightly proud of Song of our Maker, the track that has been chosen to spearhead the album’s assault on the charts and broadcasters.
‘It is a duet with Sami Yusuf,’ he says, ‘and it is one of the first musical attempts at pulling together singers from Christian and Muslim backgrounds. Since we released the track at the end of September, I have had a lot of feedback on social media from the Muslim community, gaining thousands of new followers. It has really opened my eyes.’
Jones hopes the book – published by Hodder and Stoughton – will also play its part in opening the eyes of many people whose view of the world may have become blinkered due to recent events.
‘The world has changed so much due to the coronavirus pandemic, and everyone has suffered in some way,’ he says. ‘I hope the words of wisdom in this book transport readers to somewhere else and offer hope and comfort in equal measure.’
With the book and album out now, the star will soon be turning his attention to a 24-date UK tour that takes in some of the UK’s most iconic cathedrals and minsters (lockdowns permitting, of course).
‘It is going to be tiring,’ he adds. ‘But it will also be immensely rewarding.’