It’s CHRIStmas: Kammy on his festive new album

Shift over, Bublé – the true voice of modern day festive celebration has arrived with the Christmas album you never knew you needed, until now. This year, settle down with your loved ones, crack open a bottle of something fizzy, and let Kammy do the rest…

A Chris Kamara Christmas swing album – unbelievable! What’s all this about?
I know! It’s a bit of a strange one how it all came about. I was on the All Together Now singing contest last Christmas and sang ‘Your Song’ by Elton John. I originally wanted to sing ‘Brown Eyed Girl’, you know, as a bit of a fun singalong song. However, apparently there were too many people doing singalongs, so my agent came back and asked if I’d sing a ballad, which I wasn’t really too keen on doing, but he managed to talk me into it eventually. Elton John is a hero of mine, so I got up and gave it a go and ended up getting knocked out but enjoyed it and no harm done. Then a few months later I get a phonecall saying Adam Greenup from Silva Studios had seen the show and wanted me to do a Christmas swing album!

Nice! All a bit out of the blue then?
I thought it was Ant and Dec doing a windup at first! I know how the Saturday Night Takeaway things work: I’d go into the studio and they’d be hiding there somewhere, laughing in another room. I was still a bit apprehensive even after doing some research, but I went in and they played a song and asked me to sing along to it. I sang away and Adam turned around and said: “You’ve got a better voice than I thought you had, so I’m gonna get you to sing with a 20-piece big band and get someone to write a Christmas song for you to go along with the covers.” That’s how it came around really. We’ve been recording since April, in Angel Studios, with this magnificent big band… and you’ve obviously been listening to the results, right?

And it’s sounding bloody brilliant I must say, Kammy.
*Laughs* Thank you! Glad you’ve enjoyed listening!

I’ve read that you were known in the changing rooms at some of your former clubs for having a good voice. Were there any other footballers who were decent singers?
No, not really! I don’t know where that press release came from to be honest with you. The only time I can remember singing in front of the lads was when I signed for Leeds on a Monday, and on the Tuesday they were flying out to Dublin for a friendly. I’d trained with the players for the first time that morning, got on the plane to Ireland with them, and Howard Wilkinson took us to a Dublin restaurant where there was a pianist playing. I asked if he could play ‘Your Song’ by Elton John, and he said, “Yeah, can you sing it?” And I knew all of the words so I agreed to give it a go. Anyway, I got up and belted it out, got a round of applause from the Leeds players, and Gordan Strachan shouts out, “This is our shy new signing, is it?”

So no ex or current players who you’d want to do a duet with?
Erm. Not any that I can think of from the top of my head, but if this does well we’ll go for it again in 2020 so we might get one or two involved. Obviously Vinnie Jones could work!

Oh yeah. He was on Top of the Pops once, wasn’t he?
Yeah, and the Celebrity X Factor! He could be an option.

“I thought it was Ant and Dec doing a windup at first! I know how the Saturday Night Takeaway things work: I’d go into the studio and they’d be hiding there somewhere, laughing in another room.”

I was hoping for a Gillette Soccer Saturday collaboration album.
*Laughs* Eh, who knows! Maybe one day…

You’ve mentioned your love for Elton John, but what music did you grow up listening to?
My family would play Motown around the house and I would listen to all of that, but I was always into piano and Gilbert O’Sullivan was a big one for me. Any piano players for me – Elton John, Billy Joel, Barry Manilow – all those fellas.

If you could share a stage with any of those musicians, who would you choose?
The bucket list is still on! I’m not giving up hope. It’s got to be Elton. I actually had the good fortune of meeting him in the director’s box at Watford, where he was with his boys and his husband. He was showing his little’uns where he used to stand at Vicarage Road when he was a kid, but then he turned around and saw me and started to walk towards me. I thought to myself, “God, this is unreal.” He held his hand out and said: “Kammy, it’s nice to meet you. Whenever I can’t stream the Watford games, I’ll watch Soccer Saturday and I love watching you.” Obviously at this point I can’t tell him he’s my all-time hero, can I? So I settle with asking him for a selfie, but instead he asked David Furnish to take one of us. It was an incredible moment.

What does the average Christmas look like in the Kamara household?
Well, we’ve got grandkids now. So the average day will be us getting up, opening a few prezzies with the kids, I’ll nip across to the pub and people will come over to celebrate my birthday – which is also on Christmas Day – over a few pints, then later we’ll have family around for Christmas dinner. Then in the evening we have an open house where people can pop around…

… and listen to your album?
Ha! Well, I will be driving them mad with that this year. It’s gotta be done.

Finally, Kammy, with Exposed being a Sheffield magazine there’s a nice local link between you and your time with The Blades. How do you think they’ll do in the Premier League this season?
Oh, what an achievement for Chris Wilder! I was fortunate enough to sign Chris from Notts County when I was Bradford manager, so I know the bloke inside out and know what he’s about. He’s gone into management in no-nonsense mode, which is unusual in this day and age, because we’ve seen how honest, down-the-line managers such as Mourinho and Pulis can have players rebel against them. But with Chris they all respect him and that’s been a refreshing change. And not only that, but his teams play good football, show desire, spirit and togetherness and he’s done a wonderful job.

Staying up?
It’s a long season and it’s gonna be tough. The away results were brilliant and the home results are coming in now, and they’ve certainly not looked out of place against any of the big teams. Having played for the Blades, I know what it’s all about, and we defied the odds with Harry Bassett time after time after time. So to galvanise one half of the city in the way that Chris has is fantastic and I think a lot of teams will now have to respect Sheffield United.

And in interest of fairness, what do you make to Sheffield Wednesday’s chances this season?
I feel sorry for Wednesday in a way. They gave Steve Bruce an opportunity to get back into football, waited for him while he went on his holidays, and then Newcastle came along. Of course, I understand that it’s Steve’s childhood team, much in the same way Chris’ is Sheffield United, but the trauma of constantly changing managers is a difficult one. The Championship is the hardest league in the world, and when you look at all the big clubs who get stuck down there you can see how competitive it is. I like watching them, I think they’ll play good football, but you’ve just got to hope they can get on a run and pick up the points to be up there.

Ideally we’ll have both Sheffield clubs back in the Premier League one day, eh?
Absolutely! Playing in a Sheffield derby is just something else, something that will never leave me; I’ll always remember Sean Bean getting on the Sheffield United coach with us as we went to play at Hillsborough. That was a strange experience. However, that said, he was nowhere to be seen on the way back after we got beat! I don’t think he wanted to see us anymore!

Here’s to Christmas is out now

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