Paul Potts was exactly what the producers of Britain's Got Talent were looking for when they finally launched the program in the U.K. after much delay: an ordinary bloke, working in an ordinary job, but with an extraordinary talent. Simon Cowell's latest project, after half a decade of involvement with TV talent shows primarily involving singers, was a national contest with a public vote for all types of talents -- singers, dancers, magicians, ventriloquists, and even more extreme novelty acts. After an aborted start when the show's chosen host, Paul O'Grady, defected to Channel Four television and refused to front the show for ITV, flagship presenters Ant & Dec were brought in and the program finally got underway in June 2007. Along with the multitude of singers at the audition stage, in walked acts such as Doctor Gore (a horror magician specializing in cutting people up), Kit Kat Dolls (a drag act), and several cute children of various ages, the youngest being Connie Talbot, a six-year-old singer. When Paul Potts arrived and said he was going to sing Nessun Dorma, all doubts were cast aside and he was immediately considered the joint favorite to win the contest, with prize money of £100,000 and a chance to perform at The Royal Variety Show.
Paul Potts was born in Bristol on the 13th of October 1970, one of four children to a bus-driver father and a mother who worked in a local supermarket. An ordinary schoolboy who later claimed he had been bullied as a child, his jobs on leaving school were also at a supermarket (stacking shelves), and at the time he entered Britain's Got Talent he was working for the Bridgend branch of the Carphone Warehouse, a mobile phone retailer. In 1999 he had his first taste of television when he appeared on the Michael Barrymore show My Kind of Music and won enough money to enable him to travel to Italy and take singing lessons at a summer school. He sang with the Bath Opera, a local amateur company, and performed the roles of Don Basilio in The Marriage of Figaro, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, and the Herald in Turandot. He also toured Italy and sang with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, all of which caused some controversy on the Britain's Got Talent show, which was supposed to be for undiscovered talent, but Potts' response to this was that he had never been paid for any of the performances -- he had personally paid for all his training and even the Italian tour was part of the course. He had very low self-esteem and had just about given up on a career in music, particularly after an accident in 2003 in which he broke his collarbone and almost abandoned singing altogether. Winning the TV talent show, however, gave him a new outlook on life, and less than a month after the show's finale, in which he again sang Nessun Dorma, his debut album, One Chance, was released, selling over 125,000 copies in its first week.
Potts returned in 2009 with his second album, Passione, which was recorded in Prague and Stockholm and took nearly a year to complete. The record included a mixture of songs from musicals, operas, and soundtracks, appealing to his wide range of fans. The following year Potts was dropped from Simon Cowell's label Syco and signed with Sony for his third album Cinema Paradiso, on which he performed famous movie themes. Although the record found success in Canada and Germany (and, strangely, in Taiwan), it did not see a U.K. release. In 2013, Potts published his autobiography, also titled One Chance. The following year, it was turned into a comedy-drama film in which he was played by James Corden. The film entered the U.K. box office charts at number six, and went on to gross almost $11 million worldwide. The singing voice in the film, to which Corden lip-synced, was Potts' own; the soundtrack included his actual audition for Britain's Got Talent. The year 2014 saw the release of Potts' Greatest Hits; that year he also self-released his fourth album, Home. On it, he branched out further into pop and rock, recording operatic renditions of songs by the likes of Sting, Foo Fighters, the Eagles, and even Guns N' Roses' "November Rain." ~ Sharon Mawer