Lowestoft-bound Britain’s Got Talent runner-up Jonathan Antoine talks about his fight with depression
- Credit: Archant
Classical singer and Britain’s Got Talent runner-up Jonathan Antoine considers himself incredibly lucky, but he didn’t always feel that way. He talks to entertainment writer Wayne Savage.
Antoine doesn’t know where he’d be without Britain’s Got Talent or if he’d even be here at all.
“It’s a scary thought in many ways. I was in a really terrible place prior to it and even during the show, but obviously all the support of all the people helped me through it. It was a strange and whirlwind time that launched me out of my depression in many senses.”
He rose to fame on the 2012 series, performing alongside school friend Charlotte Jaconelli. They finished in second place - beaten by Ashleigh Butler and Pudsey the dog - but went on to release two albums together before heading their separate ways.
“I’d always struggled with my moods and depression years before the show. I’d transferred to a private school, which I’d got a scholarship to for music. It wasn’t for me and that wasn’t helping my depression. Prior to Britain’s Got Talent I’d actually just dropped out of the school. It was a stressful time.... (I was) just mooching from my parents and living in my bedroom.”
Applying to the ITV talent show seems a strange - brave even - choice for somebody struggling like he was.
“Charlotte applied. Before she was about to send it she sent me a message asking if I wanted to go on. It (singing) is my passion. There was no expectation that we would even get on the show it was just ‘hey, let’s do something; all caution to the wind’,” says Antoine, from Hainault, Essex.
“At that point I felt ‘what do I have to lose?’ I’d left school, had no prospect in way except for my music and singing. It was just a very fortunate circumstance. Looking back on it, I guess if I had thought about it that way (entering such a pressure cooker environment) I would never have done it.”
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The singer, the youngest tenor to ever have a classical number one, says one of his greatest coping mechanisms was distancing myself from the whole experience. He focused on going into the studio and doing what he enjoys most, singing for people.
“I just, with all of my might, attempted not to think about the stressful side. With Britain’s Got Talent, it’s a little more separated. With X Factor you get the whole judge, mentor thing; there’s a bit more of a community around it. With this there was a certain fractured nature in a way where, within the show, everyone made their own friends.
“It was a very interesting social structure,” he laughs. “Overall it was a great experience, honestly. They were possibly the most important and vital moments of my life so far, I just went out and did it just to have fun.”
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Things worked out alright for the singer, labelled as Britain’s teenage answer to Pavarotti, which he dismisses with a laugh as “flattering but untrue” - adding he’s got a good 20, maybe 15, years if he tries hard, before he even starts to touch that level of technique and power.
It must also help counter the negative feelings he’s battled in the past?
“Absolutely. People who would say that must see something that’s special and nice about what I do and that’s kind of the whole point of doing it in a way.”
Taking the stage and working in the studio allows Antoine to escape any issues he’s having, although he adds his darkest days are now behind him.
“I’d say it’s 99.99% over, I don’t think depression is something that can be entirely conquered. Yeah, my depressive episodes don’t happen anymore and that’s a blessing. My family, the wonderful team who worked on my albums, they all in their own way helped me to continue, to strive on.”
He’s enjoyed much success since appearing on the show, first with Jaconelli. Splitting wasn’t a particularly difficult decision. They’d done everything they wanted to do together and had always wanted to do stuff as solo artists so they decided to give it a go.
“Honestly I haven’t seen her in a very long time, it’s weird, very strange; I’ve been really wrapped up in making this new record,” he sighs.
His 2014 debut sole album Tenore entered the official classical album charts at number one, staying there for three weeks. The follow-up, aptly titled Believe, drops in August and contains much-loved favourites and new original arias.
“It’s genuinely incredible just to be able to go into the studio, give everyone a big hug and then go to do the thing I love and people want to see - it blows my mind. It’s been four years since I was on the show and relevant, I guess. People still care. It’s insane. We’ve this incredible hardcore fan base... I’m not like a ‘celebrity’ I’m just a guy who happens to like to sing so I love to talk to these people because we’re all just friends.”
Antoine, preparing for his July 15 appearance at Lowestoft’s Marina Theatre when I call, says the last few years have been an absolute whirlwind since Britain’s Got Talent. He’s continually grateful for all the fantastic support he’s had and continues to have from his “wonderful” fans.
“It’s very strange, in many ways it feels like it’s been a lifetime in between being on the show. It all happened so quick at the time, but it also feels like it was literally just yesterday and all of this might just be a dream. I pinch myself every day. I’m an incredibly lucky person, I’ve landed myself the best job in the world and I have the best people around me.
“I do think it’s very important as well, to be aware and talk about the negatives. I have a lot of people who apologise and say ‘I don’t want to dwell on this’, but I think it’s very important because, as someone who has gone through depression in a way, it’s good for people who are suffering to hear that viewpoint.”