Over 10 million people hear him sing every week, but you would be forgiven for not realising who Tommy Blaize is.
For the last 14 years, he’s been a fundamental part of the ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ team, providing vocal accompaniments on some of the show’s most famous moments.
But now he’s preparing to step into the limelight with the release of his own album, ‘Life & Soul’, and ahead of it’s release, he talks HuffPost UK through what life is really like being a singer on the nation’s biggest show...
We only find out our songs at the beginning of each week
“By Tuesday, we know what we’re all singing, then we’ve got three days to get them all in our heads. We’re sent an edit of the track that the dancers will dance to, and we learn our lead vocals on our own during the week.”
We all rehearse individually, before coming together on Friday
“The first time we get together is about 6pm on Friday evening for about an hour in a room at Elstree and check everything is alright. Then from 7pm until about 10pm, we go into practise with the rhythm section and vocals so that the sound department can get a grip of what’s going on.”
All the singers have different genres they specialise in
“Normally the songs pick the singers - like if there’s a jazz thing, Hayley will sing it. If it’s soul, Andrea will sing it, and Lance will do the show side. I like having a go at everything, but I’m more the R&B, soul side of things. I normally sing the ballads and soppy stuff.
“Then we have a different singers that come in if there’s a particular genre we don’t feel comfortable in, which is very rare. Between us, we can patch up most of the genres, but every now and again, there’s one that trips you up.”
The band don’t play the music until Saturday morning
“The band are not given any of the songs until the Friday, and most of the musicians play it for the first time on Saturday - they haven’t seen a note! They just sight-read it. They just come in and see it on the paper. You have all the best players around you and everyone knows what they are doing.”
We’re always on our toes for changes
“Sometimes around the Thursday you might get a little change. It’s very rare - either somebody has had an injury or whatever, but we’re just such a great band and bunch of singers we can pick things up quickly if they go wrong.”
We’re singing for over 12 hours on show day
“On a typical show day, at about 8.30am we’re on the stand making loads of noise. Then the dancers come in about an hour after we’ve been pottering around and run through their songs at least twice in the morning. Then we normally take a little lunch break, then we do a dress rehearsal, and then we go live around six-ish.
“Because we’ve gone through everything so many times, we’ve ironed out any problems we or the dancers may have. They’re used to hearing the edits they’ve had all week, so we fix all that because sometimes they can’t hear the adjustments like a string at the back, so we have that brought up in the mix. So everyone is happy.”
We always worry our voices will give up on us
“We’ve been hitting the songs all day since 8.30am. Normally, you’d say you’d hold a bit back, but once the band strike up and the lights are on, you can’t, because everyone else is doing it and you want to make sure you are hitting those notes.
“It gets even harder when the results show comes up because you’ve sung everything so many times and then you have two dancers that come back and you have to sing two songs when there’s nearly nothing left. We manage to scrape through it, though.”
We have no heads up on who will be leaving to prepare our songs
“We know at the same time as the contestants do. We’re watching as Tess announces who is eliminated then work out what songs we’re doing again. It’s all very last minute.
“Dave [Arch, the conductor of the orchestra] has a bit of a heads up and he teases us with his bit of paper and we’re always trying to get a hit. Between us four singers we try and work out who think will be going and write it on a piece of paper and hand it over to Dave, but he won’t give anything away.”
Everything is normally done by 10.30pm
“Sometimes it runs a little past 11, but me and Dave always pray it doesn’t as we sneak off to a pub around the corner and have a quick pint. It’s been such a long day and it’s the most delicious tasting pint you have. We look forward to that!”
We love doing the foreign language numbers
“The language ones are fantastic, they they take the most time to learn. Luckily, I speak a bit of Spanish as I used to live in Spain, so that’s a bit easier for me.
“I’m always hoping that you don’t offend anyone because you’re going through it so quickly and reading it off the page. The Korean stuff was quite hard last year, but we’ve also done French, Italian, German - German love songs were interesting!”
It’s a family atmosphere between us and all the other stars
“Over the years gone by, we’ve all really gotten to know each other and we’re like a little family. We all get on and it’s great.
“It’s great the interaction between Tess and Claudia. Claudia is really funny with the orchestra, as was Bruce. He was fantastic because he was a musician as well. He’d always say really funny things that would really light us up and keep us happy. It’s a really lovely atmosphere.
“The dancers get really involved with the musicians as well, because we all want to do really well for one another.”
Brucie is so missed on set
“I felt really honoured for all those years to sit behind Bruce Forsyth. I always used to get excited, even in the years before he left, I’d be tapping the person next to me going, ‘It’s Bruce Forsyth!’.
“It was fantastic watching this man rule the room. We miss him like mad.”
Shirley has slotted right in on the panel
“Shirley has come in and she is so fresh and alive, and I love what she has to say. She gives the contestants a lot of positivity, and what she brings to the show is fantastic. Plus she’s a fellow Scouser.
“I miss Len like we all do, but he’s moved on. I love him. He’s a big music fan, she we chatted a lot. But I get to see him on the tour because he is still doing that. So in January, we’ll all get together again and cause mayhem around the country for six weeks.”
We love to gossip about the contestants, but there’s no ‘Strictly’ curse
“I don’t think there’s a curse, but if two people get close together, something is going to happen or it’s not. Every now and again it does, and it makes for more interesting things to talk about when we’re sitting on the stand.
“We love the show as much as everyone else, so we like to gossip and predict and get it wrong. It’s fantastic.”
Tommy Blaize’s album, ‘Life & Soul’ is due for release on 1 December via Universal Music On Demand. You can pre-order the album now and check out his latest music video below...