The Overtones head back to Portsmouth Guildhall

The Overtones
The Overtones
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SHORT STORY FOR THE WEEKEND: Let’s Do It by David Dunford

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If the story of The Overtones was made into a film, the plot would be rejected by some for being too far-fetched.

After years of trudging around the pub and club circuit, the five-piece vocal and doo-wop group had formed a decorating business to give themselves the chance to practice their singing as they worked.

But debts were mounting for some of them and they were on the verge of calling it a day with the music.

In true Hollywood fashion, it was on the day of a crisis meeting that they got a call from an executive at Warner Brothers – who had heard them practising – inviting them to come and see the boss.

Since then, it has been a whirlwind of high-profile TV appearances, touring and selling hundreds of thousands of albums. Their debut album Good Ol’ Fashioned Love has so far sold more than 500,000 copies and third album Saturday Night At The Movies went into the top five on its release late last year.

Mike Crawshaw, who sings the middle harmonies in the group, recalls those difficult times: ‘We had decided to start the painting and decorating company where we could get jobs big enough to allow us to work together.

‘It had been getting to the point where we wouldn’t see each other for weeks otherwise, so we couldn’t practice.

‘It was an office block just off of Oxford Street where we were working at night. We would go in after the workers left and we were there early one evening waiting for everyone to go and we were on the street singing Billy Joel’s For The Longest Time.

‘This woman was standing around watching and she started talking to us, which was a fairly common sort of thing, and afterwards we kind of forgot about it.

‘It had just been some random who had given us a card while we were doing a job, but that kind of thing would often happen. We didn’t really expect more of it because we had had so many empty promises.’

‘But I was getting to the point where I was getting very poor. I was making a stew at the start of the week and I would make it last all week. It wasn’t pretty by the end of the week,’ he laughs at the memory.

‘I was in a position where I was building up a few debts. I can remember sitting in a cafe and saying to the lads ‘‘I don’t know if I can do this any more’’. At some point you have to be realistic and accept dreams don’t come true.

‘It was that afternoon Darren got the call from Warner Brothers saying come in and sing for us.’

That meeting turned out to be the break Mike, Timmy Matley, Lachie Chapman, Mark Franks and Darren Everest had been waiting for.

Mike recalls: ‘We were all friends who met on the open mic circuit. Before we got signed we had years of graft, there were a lot of doors slammed in our face and it just didn’t work out for one reason or another.

‘We did all the sticky-floored pubs and clubs and, looking back, that’s where we honed our craft.

‘There was always a strength that came from the five of us. If any of us had any kind of doubts, there was always the other four to pull us through.’

Since then though, life couldn’t have been better for the lads. And things took off to another level after they became the house band for ITV’s weekend ratings winner Dancing on Ice during its 2011 run.

‘That was a big turning point for us. We got on that and the week after we sold 48,000 albums and it was like: “This is the start of something.”’ says Mike.

‘When we got signed, the label said they didn’t expect us to sell more than 20,000, and we thought then we would get dropped on the kerb. But this just went crazy.’

And Mike has a theory why they’ve struck a chord: ‘You have got the Jessie Js and the Ed Sheerans who are very popular, but that’s only in that area of popular music. There are a lot of mums and dads and a lot of people who like that old-fashioned style of music.

‘There’s always been a vintage feel to what I like, things like The Drifters from when I was a kid on car journeys to Cornwall with my parents.

‘You look at someone like Adele or Amy Winehouse and they brought that vintage feel back, but a vocal group is a vocal group.’

They’re looking forward to returning to Portsmouth too: ‘We came to Portsmouth on the last tour in late 2012 and I still remember it blew me away – we still talk about it now, how amazing the crowd were. It was a great night, it took us by surprise how good it was.

‘Sometimes the southern end of the country gets a bad reputation and people say that you have to go up north where people know how to party.

‘But it was a no-brainer for us to come back to Portsmouth.’

While the group is well-known for its covers, they are all also songwriters and make sure to throw in a few original numbers on each album.

He says: ‘With the harmonies, we have worked so hard on the songs, and for so long you know immediately where you slot in. It’s a massive collaboration and it’s fun, it’s very creative.

‘The shows have been selling well around the country and so is the album. There’s a lot of stuff on the horizon, but lots can change in the music industry. We are already talking about album number four and spreading our wings to other places like America and Japan.

The Overtones are at Portsmouth Guildhall on March 12. Tickets cost £21.50 to £38.50 and are available from the venue box office, by calling 0844 847 2362 or by going to