In 2012, Ben Portsmouth won the Elvis Presley Enterprises ‘Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest’, the only artist from outside the USA to ever win this prestigious title since its inception in 2007. The English multi-talented musician, singer and songwriter will bring his World Tour to Australia in January next year.
You’re bringing your show to Australia in January. What can audiences expect from your upcoming tour?
I’m going to do everything Elvis over his career. I start off doing the Sun Studios [his recordings from between 1953 and 1955] where he started out, the movies, the 68’ Comeback [a television special]. That’s the first half of the show and I’ll change outfits accordingly [four or five]. Also I’m trying to tell a bit more of a story at the start, so I’ll be using audio snippets and visuals on the projector. The second half of the show will be Elvis like in concert in the 1970s and all the hits.
I can definitely see why Elvis carried on doing it. You do get a real big kick out of going up there and entertaining people. And hopefully you make them happy, which is an amazing feeling in itself. I feed off the audience. I know it’s going to be a great night if the audience is amazing. I’m hoping everyone doesn’t “lose their heads” and we all have a good time.
Is this your first time to Australia?
It’s not. I’ve been about two years ago now, generally in the Sydney area. It was lovely; nice people and great audiences. But this time will be even better because I’ll be seeing more of the country. We’re going to Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, all over so I’m looking forward to it. I hope I can see a bit more of the country. It looks like I [will] have [time to] looking at the schedule. You’re lucky you’ve got sunshine. It’s great.
Elvis had many iconic outfits, including perhaps his most famous – the iconic white jumpsuit. Do costumes play a huge part in getting into character?
Totally! Earlier this year someone asked me to do a show in a suit, like a sports jacket, and I said, “No. I can’t do it. If you want me to be Elvis, I’ve got to be in my jumpsuit”. I need to be in a jumpsuit and to become that person to a degree.
At first obviously, when I started out in pubs and clubs, I had a jumpsuit that cost me 250 pounds and it looked like a jumpsuit that cost me 250 pounds. (Laughs) So you develop things, and then hopefully have more money to invest in. It is a never ending thing.
Elvis had quite a unique style in the way he moves and dances. Was it difficult to learn Elvis’s mannerisms?
I watched the DVD but I think you’ve got to feel the music and get into the character as it were. I think if you rehearsing exactly what he did, it starts to look mechanical. If you’re feeling it, the people feel it.
How did you get started playing Elvis?
My dad would listen to Elvis in the car when I was a kid, so that’s how I became aware of him. My Dad had a guitar in the house; I’d pick the guitar up, put the Elvis tape on, learn the songs and try to sing along. That’s how it all started at the very beginning. I’ve always been a musician, that’s all I can do.
A lot of people are fans of somebody and may even sing their songs, but it’s quite a different thing to actually sing and perform as someone else though?
I know what you mean. It’s a bizarre thing. Once you go up onstage, something happens. I’m not sure quite what, but yes, I suppose you become that person to a certain degree. It’s like some form of acting. But I think you’ve really got to feel the music, feel how Elvis was feeling at the time. Although I do put my own humour into it and stuff like that or I still have my personality too.
You mentioned your Dad was a big part of how you first came to know Elvis. How does he feel about you now performing as one of his favourite performers?
He comes out to some of the shows and he’ll watch, obviously himself being a fan, he enjoys it. He looks a bit like Elvis’s Dad, Vernon Presley, as well. (Laughs) It is weird.
Why do you think Elvis is just as loved today as he was when he was still alive?
I don’t want to slag people off, but like Justin Bieber, to be fair, he seems like a little shit, doesn’t he? (laughs) I think with someone like Elvis; he captured a generation. He’s a legend. He has an amazing voice, although he didn’t write any his own songs, he made those songs his own. He was a down to Earth, country boy – he liked cars, women and food. Who doesn’t?
What is your favourite Elvis song?
That’s a killer question, sport! I like the ‘American Trilogy’. That’s a great, powerful song. I’d definitely say one of the best!
January 11th | Empire Theatre, TOOWOOMBA
January 12th | The Tivoli, BRISBANE
January 13th | Regal Theatre, PERTH
January 18th | The Juniors, KINGSFORD
January 19th | The Concourse, CHATSWOOD
January 20th | Wests, NEW LAMBTON
January 24th | Athenaeum Theatre, MELBOURNE
January 25th | Frankston Arts Centre, FRANKSTON
January 27th | Revesby Workers Club, REVESBY
January 28th | Penrith Panthers, PENRITH