Glandular fever changed my life says Darren Everest of The Overtones
- Credit: Archant
The Overtones’ Darren Everest talks football, ties, Essex and more with entertainment writer Wayne Savage
Had it not been for a bout of glandular fever when he was younger, it may’ve been football fans rather than Overtones fans chanting Everest on.
“I was obsessed with football, that’s all I wanted to do. Every day I’d come back from school and literally run to the park and be there until the park keeper throws you out. I’d play at the weekend for as many teams as I could and was a mad West Ham supporter - that was my dream.”
Playing for Orient and Southend for a bit, a few different clubs had their eye him until he was struck down by the viral infection; symptoms of which include extreme tiredness.
“Unfortunately I had to stop playing for a year. I say unfortunately, I guess fortunately in some ways because that’s how I fell into music... I didn’t really believe in fate, then something happens like that and you think actually it does (exist). I believe we all met for a reason.”
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It’s far cry from his former life as a painter, decorator and builder.
“You can say that,” laughs Everest, who worked for his dad after leaving school before launching a painting and decorating business with the rest of The Overtones to maximise their rehearsal time.
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“That’s real work, you’re getting up early in the morning, getting in late at night. You’ve got sore hands where you’ve been rubbing down all day, paint and dust everywhere. Now we get to sing and dance and it puts things in perspective - I’m pleased I’ve had that experience, it makes me appreciate my job now a lot more.”
Everybody knows the story of how he, Timmy Matley, Lachie Chapman, Mike Crawshaw and Mark Franks were discovered by a Warner Brothers talent scout while working as decorators in a shop near Oxford Street, singing during their tea break.
Everest stresses they didn’t become stars overnight. They were together years before getting that break, sending out lots of demos, knocking down people’s doors to listen to us, performing at every pub and bar that had a spare mic.
“We were working very hard and were at a level where we thought we were ready; that’s obviously when Lady Luck decided to come and tap us on our shoulder. There were hard times, we talked about could it be near the end, should we call it a day soon. We always believed in ourselves, believed if we could get on TV, in front of the public that people would like us and want to buy our albums. We’re lucky we had a label in Warner Bros who saw the same vision as us.”
With three consecutive top five albums, 850,000 record sales and four sold-out headline tours under their belt already, they’re quite happy he laughs.
They’ve just released fourth album Sweet Soul Music, a tribute to doo-wop and soul pioneers like The Drifters, Al Green, Marvin Gaye and The Temptations who inspired them group growing up. It also features three new songs which capture the spirit of the classics they sit alongside.
Everest confesses there was the worry their style of rebooting classic sounds for contemporary audiences was a bit niche and could be a short-lived trend.
“For whatever reason, we were lucky. When we came out there was a real infusion of music from that era in the charts with Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson… now with Meghan Trainor, Bruno Mars, it was such a cool era. Also, we’re singing songs my parents, my grandparents, love. We’re also getting to introduce these classics to youngsters.
“We were talking yesterday in an interview... Songs like I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Let’s Stay Together; you don’t know why you know them you just know them. It’s lovely, kids come to the shows with their mums and dads and their mums and dads; they’re all singing along,” he says, as we reminisce about the days before digital downloads and discuss teaming up to launch a save the CD campaign.
Although I think the latter is an attempt to steer the conversation away from just how many ties and hats he owns.
“Don’t look in my wardrobe,” he laughs. “It helps I can wear the clothes I love wearing in my day job... Our shows have the elegance of the 1950s and 1660s, we’re trying to bring that back a bit.”
Whatever you need to tell yourself.
Putting smiles on audiences’ faces is what matters and it’s always nice to play a gig back home in Essex, says Everest.
“You look out into the audience, you can spot your friends and family; you’ve got everyone you know coming to the gig so it’s a really cool place to perform. Essex is really supportive of me generally, thankfully. It’s always the first date to sell and it’s great we’re starting the tour there this year - it’s going to be a good party.”
It’s more nerve-wracking when he sees familar faces in the crowd.
“It’s a weird one because obviously they’re there to support you, but for some reason it just adds that little bit of extra nerves,” he laughs.
“Sometimes I even get emotional when I spot them and I want thank them for all their support and in my head I’m saying ‘you’re alright, don’t choke up’ and I can hear my voice starting to wobble... You want to make them proud and you’re so thankful for their support. We’re up on stage living our dream and it’s just lovely for them to be there, to see it and be a part of it.”
The Overtones play Cliffs Pavilion, Southend, June 5-6; Ipswich Regent, June 25 and Cambridge Corn Exchange, July 4.