14/03/2012 14:06 GMT

The Voice Coach Tom Jones: 'I Thought I Better Put My Money Where My Mouth Is'

"When I first came to London in 1963 and tried to get a record contract they said 'you look too macho'," reveals Tom Jones.

Observers have questioned why Jones, with his five decades of success on both sides of the Atlantic, with no reliance on dodgy reality TV stints, has decided to sign up as a coach on the BBC's new singing contest, The Voice.

As we speak to him at the launch of the show in London, it soon becomes clear it has a lot to do with his own experiences in the music industry…

"The Beatles had just come out and the record companies said to me 'you don't look young enough'… they were looking at me before they were listening to me. So that hasn't really changed, but then when I opened my mouth they said 'you sound too macho' - they said I needed to sound more boyish."

Since then, the legendary Welsh crooner has sold over 100m records, proving all those original naysayers wrong, but he is still only too aware of how much image affects the music industry…

"You've got to put it out to the public but you need to be able to get it to the public. So then, when they finally played me on the radio, all of a sudden there it was. That's why I think The Voice is very important because you're not restricted by a preconceived image, there's room for all kinds of people."

Now he's held in such high esteem, Jones confesses: "I thought I better put my money where my mouth is," which has seen him wind up next to Black Eyed Peas star Will.i.am, Price Tag singer Jessie J and The Script's frontman Danny O'Donoghue on a search for the next big 'voice'.

"When I was asked to do this show, the first thing I wanted to know was - who are the other three coaches going to be? Where are you going to get these people from? And will they be qualified?"

Jones makes it clear he wouldn't join just any singing contest - X Factor and American Idol can forget it. He explains why it's only The Voice he's interested in: "I saw the American version and I thought 'thank God! This is the first time you've had four singers on the panel.' "

"We’ve been through it, we know what it's like to get up and perform - to put yourself in a song and what emotions to put forward.

"Some judges on some talent shows don't know because they've never done it (no names named, note) and some that have are not very good anyway."

However, Jones confesses that his singing experience hasn't made the task of making or breaking people's dreams any easier: "Decisions have to be made, even though you pick ten, you then have to put two people head-to-head and some of those are very close.

"I've seen people get emotional and when you get to know these people you think 'Jesus Christ, how am I going to decide who's going to stay and who's going to go?'… I was starting to choke up."

For Jones "the exciting thing is that you don't know who's going to step forward" and he reveals he may have already found someone with that special something…

"I've been looking for something I can feel and listen to. I think I've found one person who has something different."

Possibly referring to The X Factor and its obsession with 'transformations', 'make-overs' and comedy contestants, Jones adds: "We have people who have come on this show who would not go on another show because they might be feeling a little intimidated about the way they look, but that is something that we can help them with. The basic thing is the voice, that's where it all starts.

"The blind auditions are a great idea and that's what attracted me to the show, to hear people sing first and then see what they look like."

Jones might think he's already found a winner but the decision of who takes home a recording contract with Universal Music will ultimately lie with the public once the show reaches its live final stage and the coaches' final artists compete against each other.

Let us know what type of singer you would like to see win The Voice below and read our interview with Jones' fellow The Voice coach Will.i.am here.

The Voice begins on BBC One on 24 March.

PHOTOS: The Voice's coaches...