A regular face on British stage and television, performer Michael Ball was born in 1962 in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, U.K. Moving to South West England when he was three years old, Ball grew up learning to sing along to records by Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra, and after an unhappy stint at boarding school in his teens -- and discovering a love of Shakespeare during school holidays -- Ball went on to study at the Guilford School of Acting. Graduating in 1984, his first role was in the Aberystwyth Arts Centres production of Godspell, but his major break came a year later when he took on the role of Frederick in the Manchester Opera Houses production of The Pirates of Penzance. Ball secured his first West End role playing Marius in Les Miserables and two years later, in 1987, he took over the role of Raoul in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera at the request of Cameron Mackintosh. A performance in Aspects of Love in 1989 -- on both sides of the Atlantic -- saw Balls popularity grow, and with the release of the single "Love Changes Everything" from the show -- which went on to reach number two in the U.K. singles chart -- he became a household name.
After a few not so successful follow-up singles, Ball was chosen to represent the U.K. in the 1992 Eurovision Song Contest in Malmo, Sweden. Coming in at a respectable second place, the track "One Step Out of Time" would pave the way for his debut album. The self-titled release reached the top of the U.K. album chart, and the following releases Always (1993), One Careful Owner (1994), and First Love (1996) all reached the U.K. Top Ten. Returning to the stage in 2002 as Caractacus Potts in the West End production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Ball would continue to wow audiences with his performances and went on to take the lead role in the 2007 production of Hairspray, earning himself the 2008 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Edna Turnblad. Splitting his time between stage, radio, and a recording career, Ball continued to release albums throughout the noughties, most notably 2005s Music and 2007s Back to Bacharach. In 2011, he released Heroes, a collection of covers featuring songs that had inspired Ball to become a performer. Both Sides Now followed in 2013, and featured a reworked version -- performed with Il Divo -- of his original breakthrough hit "Love Changes Everything." Ball returned at the end of 2014 with the album If Everyone Was Listening , which brought together 15 of his favorite songs. The release saw him joined by vocal harmony group the Overtones on the track "Let It Be Me," originally recorded by the Everly Brothers. ~ Rich Wilson, Rovi