As we all know, there is only one Robbie Williams. There is only one man who has the looks, the charm, the wit and the ability to entertain millions of his fans in such a way that it leaves us hungry for more. There will only ever be one Robbie Williams…….but have you heard about ‘The One and Only’ Tony Lewis?
In the UK, we are now halfway through the latest primetime BBC One Saturday night TV show, ‘The One and Only’. It is searching for the best tribute act in the UK to win the amazing prize of a 3 month contract performing in Las Vegas in the ‘Legends in Concert’ show. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the tribute acts, and one of the hot favourites in the competition is our very own Pure Robbie member ‘tonyasrobbie’ who is competing as a fantastic Robbie Williams tribute act.
In the middle of his hectic schedule rehearsing for the live shows, Tony has found the time to chat to Pure Robbie staff about the show, his tribute act, life as a Robbie fan and more…Enjoy!
Vicky: Hi Tony…. Life must be a little hectic! Do you wake up in the morning at the moment and pinch yourself wondering if all this is really happening?
Tony: Hi Vicky, thanks for having me! It's all a little crazy at the moment! I've found television a bizarre yet wonderful world! It is all like a bit of a dream, I remember the morning after I'd won the final audition and knew I was going to be on the show, I was like, "Did that really happen yesterday? Am I actually gonna be on Saturday night primetime television?" Lots of questions kept going on in my mind but I've been given an unbelievable opportunity that I'm extremely grateful for!
Vicky: The show is live TV to millions of viewers which must be your biggest audience to date?!
Tony: It's very strange performing in the studio! You've got to perform infront of a physical audience of about 350 people but the greater medium and the people who matter, as they're the ones voting, are the millions of people on the other side of the camera! It's finding that balance between making it a mix of a music video, live performance and interaction all at the same time! Robbie's extremely good at this, if you notice that he plays up to the camera at gigs very naturally, but brings the live crowd into that shot! The man's a natural entertainer and it shows! I've done lots of pretty big gigs for thousands of people but knowing you've got 7 million people watching you is pretty awesome!
Vicky: When you put it like that, it all sounds a bit scary! Being a professional tribute act you must be use to singing to an audience, but how is this different, other than the fact there is a fabulous prize at stake?
Tony: The prize is still a million miles away, I do literally take it a week at a time! Ultimately though it would be an amazing experience to go and work in Vegas! The big misconception that no one knows Robbie over in the US is bollocks! People do know who he is, they just don't go as crazy as we do over here for him! Robbie's very British, he's very tongue in cheek, which most Americans don't get! For fuck's sake, they went mad for Dido! Her music was ok but her personality is nothing compared to Robbie's but they prefer her! It's insane! I keep saying, 'Let's get me to Las Vegas and show Uncle Sam what they've been missing out on!' Anyway, who says that Las Vegas is full of Americans, is London full of English? I think not!
Tony in action in 'The One and Only'
Vicky: What does it feel like just before you walk onto the stage for a live TV show?
Tony: It's a very strange feeling before going onstage for the programme! You've got to make sure you take everything you've learnt and practiced over the week with you and everything gels! I got a bit choked when I walked out onstage for the first show and I could see and hear all my family and friends in the studio audience! Very emotional but an amazing rush of adrenalin!
Vicky: I can understand that, you were singing ’Feel’ and that is an emotional song anyway. Robbie Williams has made it very well known that there are nights when he gets up on stage and doesn’t enjoy performing, yet there are other times that he has the most amazing time and his performances are just unforgettable. Can you relate to this?
Tony: I've been very lucky that I've done some amazing gigs! Sometimes it's surprising that you might do a private party for 50 people and they're having the time of their lives! The intimate venues are often fantastic experiences! I have to say though that 15000 Dutch people bouncing up and down in a tent is an overwhelming buzz! Sometimes you know you've got a gig that you've done before and it's gonna be huge! You over analyse and the show ends up being a little flat! In general though I love going onstage and 99 percent of the shows tick all the boxes! I always want to improve though so you've gotta build for your next show which might be only a few hours away!
Vicky: There are a number of occasions where we see an emotional Robbie telling his audience that they have been the best ever and how much he has enjoyed the concert. What was your most memorable performance prior to the competition?
Tony: Everyone I know in my home town of Leigh was asking when I was playing local and I wasn't so I put on my own show with my band! Tickets sold old straight away so I had to add a date! Performing for all the people I knew gave me that extra energy onstage! I knew it was tough because these people have the ability to be my toughest critics! It was great though, at one point I was onstage singing with my two brothers which was an extremely proud moment! They could experience what I was and it was fulfilling! When Robbie brings his mum onstage it's so he can thank her for her unconditional love and support! It was no different just because I'm on a much smaller stage! We've had girls flashing their tits and knickers thrown onstage, (not always clean by the way!) I've been asked for a couple of kisses whilst performing and was only too happy to oblige! However when I go in for a peck on the cheek they want to go tongues and all! It can be very scary! I love my job!
Vicky: LOL…no immediate plans for a career change then! I understand that you have been a Robbie Williams for years, as long as many of our members here at Pure Robbie. What have been your memorable moments in his career to date?
Tony: It all started when my mate had put Life Thru A Lens on to a tape for me! I remember listening to ‘Angels’ for the first time walking down the street thinking, “This is an amazing album!” Very raw and honest which I admired! I've been lucky enough to watch everyone of his tours! In order, Royal Court, Liverpool, Apollo, Manchester, Wembley, London, Old Trafford Cricket Ground, Manchester, Knebworth, Amsterdam Arena! The best live performance was at Old Trafford but every gig has it's positives! Knebworth was a totally different level! Ultimately I'm a Robbie fan first and a Robbie Tribute second! That's why I want to do him justice so much!
Vicky: Blimey! So really you are the tribute act AND Superfan rolled into one for the purposes of the show! I guess all that time ago you didn’t see yourself as becoming one of the most successful Robbie Williams tribute acts in the UK, or did you? Was it something you always fancied doing or did it really just happen by chance?
Tony: I really did just fall in to it! I never dreamt you could do something you love and get paid for it! I was on a football trip to Blackpool in a bar and drunkenly got up and performed Let Me Entertain You! Unbeknown to me I won an ongoing competition at The Merry England with Joey Blower! An agent spotted me and offered me a gig and it's all snowballed from there! It's taken a lot of hard work but it's all been worth it! Joey was the first person I rang when I knew I was on the show! He was so proud and one of those moments I'll never forget! He's been a great friend and support over the last 6 years!
Vicky: In doing ‘The One and Only’ show you are spending a lot of time with vocal coach Carrie Grant. Prior to the show had you ever had any professional vocal training?
Tony: Before my first gig I went to a vocal coach for an hour but that was it! I saw myself as a performer who could belt out a tune but now it needs to be a whole lot more! Carrie and David are fantastic people and great vocal coaches! They really have made me a better singer! Whatever happens from this, I'll always have their advice which can only make me stronger! Carrie's an unbelievably sexy lady which always helps! Sorry David!
Vocal coaching with Carrie Grant.....and a bottle of water!
Vicky: LOL….You really are showing that you have the charm of the real Robbie now! As far as Robbie’s mannerisms and moves go, you seem to effortlessly drop these into your performance. How have you gone about perfecting these and do they now come naturally when you are on stage?
Tony: That side has always come naturally to me! Robbie goes onstage and shows off and I do exactly the same! I'm not a big head, I'm a show off, there IS a difference! I suppose it's because I was such a big fan, I just copied what he'd done but I believe I take a bit of Tony out there as well!
Vicky: Now I have to ask you about the look. With very little effort you do seem to be able to pull off a canny resemblance to the worlds most handsome man! It must make the job of being a Robbie Williams tribute act a whole lot easier. Do you have girls running down the street after you…LOL!
Tony:Screaming girls? This job is so tough and shit! Ha, *very big laugh!* The job has it's highs and they totally outweigh any lows! I find it crazy when people say I look like Robbie! Don't get me wrong, I'm flattered, the women out there seem to love him! When I look in the mirror though I still see Tony Lewis!
Vicky: Any real tattoos or plans for any? A set of birdies maybe?
Tony: You Pure Robbie fans seem to love the birdies! IF I win I'll have the mouri left arm done but in my own way as Robbie’s is personal to him so I need to respect that! In fact most of his tats are personal to him, I think a lot of peoples are! I've got the 'All you need is love' on my lower back! I have a Japanese symbol on my left thigh, that was my first and my least favourite! Then there's a cross in the middle of my back which is bridged on my shoulders by 'Theatrum Mundi' which is Latin for theatre of the world! On my right ribs I have an ambigram of LIVE and LIFE! Below that is a family tree kind of thing that I designed myself! Enough for now but they are extremely addictive!
Vicky: I guess because you are a tribute act and not just an impersonator you don’t have to change your look as and when Robbie does, so you haven’t had to grow a beard! What is your favourite Robbie look?
Tony: As I lie here on my bed doing this interview I've got black Calvin Klein’s on! That is all I'm wearing though! I'm a big adidas freak! Always have been! I was over the moon when Robbie started his own Robbie adidas '74 jackets! Jeans, trainers and tracksuit tops all day every day for me! I'm a vest fan for my shows, think it's so casual and the ladies at PR seem to like it! Yet again, it's a luxury doing Robbie because he's one of us and wears the clothes he wants rather than costumes!
Vicky: LOL ….. At this point I would like to point out that I am not in the room with Tony doing this interview! Moving on ….Robbie Williams has been quoted as saying about you "It's great, I'm very flattered. It's bloody hard work being me!". When did you have the opportunity to meet Robbie and what do you think he will make of the show?
Tony: Vernon Kay is a mate of mine and rang me 3 years ago saying that he was interviewing Robbie for his promotion of Radio for T4! I was pretty nervous but what an absolutely fantastic guy! He just wanted to talk about women and football! A normal bloke in an abnormal world! The fact that I got his blessing really justified my occupation! I didn't have to ask for a photo he just offered! I really can't praise him enough, he didn't have to chat to me but he did and gave me the experience of a lifetime! I hope he sees the show for what it is! A bit of fun, but ultimately I'm representing him and even though he doesn't need me to promote Robbie Williams, doing a good job is a must! I'd like to think he gives me the thumbs up! I'm sure he can appreciate singing live in front of millions of people because he does this often! He very rarely mimes unlike other so called 'big' stars!
"It's great, I'm very flattered.
It's bloody hard work being me!"- Robbie Williams
Vicky: So to the future! The next 3 weeks are going to be massive for you. Are you all fired up and ready for battle?
Tony: I'm a lot more fired up now because I realise that I've not been at the top of my game! There can be no more excuses, I have to sing any song they give me! All Robbie’s songs are great so it's an honour for me to sing them! A lot of people are at the top of their game but with me the best is yet to come!
Vicky: Do you realise now how many people you have got supporting you?
Tony: I was lucky enough to go home on Sunday so I met up with all the people who mean a lot to me! It totally recharged my batteries! It overwhelming to know I've got the support of those people and very humbling! As long as I've got their support then I've nothing to worry about! You guys at PR offering support are also great because you're Robbie fans! You don't necessarily have to but you do which is lovely! Supports been rallied from all over the place! From people who've seen me on the Ocean Village to people from gigs I've done all over! Friends from the past to people on the street! All the support means the world to me, it's like we're all in this together, I'm just lucky enough to be at the forefront of it!
Vicky: Have you ever been to Las Vegas?
Tony: I went to Las Vegas with 10 of my mates in November '05! It was cool because when you're there, ‘Me and my Monkey’ makes a lot more sense! It's an amazing place, so amazing it took 2 weeks to recover when I got home!
Vicky: It sounds like a return visit would not be too much of a struggle for you then! So what next for ‘Tony as Robbie‘?
Tony: Who knows? It totally depends on what happens with the show! I'm definitely going on a holiday as I had the busiest year of my life in 2007 and prior to the show was the Christmas party season! I did 30 gigs in December alone! I'm just hoping that I'm able to keep on going as A Robbie Williams Tribute! Robbie's so big that there'll always be work out there! Out of everybody who auditioned, and there were over 50 Robbie’s, they thought I was the best! Read what you will at that, but for me that's a massive achievement! If I spend the rest of my life 'being' Robbie then that will ding dang do for me!
Vicky: OK…..Just to finish then some quick fire questions…..
Vicky: Favourite Robbie song?
Tony: Come Undone or Let Me Entertain You
Vicky: Favourite Robbie Album?
Vicky: Favourite B Side?
Tony: Teenage Millionaire
Vicky: Which video you would most like to be Robbie in?
Tony: So many, Feel because of Darryl Hannah, Come Undone because of the party, Road To Mandalay because it's a great story, and Rock DJ because who wouldn't want to rip their flesh off!
Vicky: Are you a member of the Inner Sanctum?
Tony: Certainly am!
Vicky: Do you like Football?
Tony: Love it! Both supporting and playing!
Vicky: Kylie or Nicole Kidman?
Tony: Could we not have a threesome? If not, Nicole!
Vicky: And Finally…Have you ever flashed your bum on stage in true Robbie style?
Tony: Lots and I'm sure there's pictures out there to prove it!
Vicky: Well, on that note it just leaves me to say a big thank you for taking the time to chat to me. On behalf of everyone at Pure Robbie we want to wish you all the luck in the world for the next few weeks in the ‘One and Only’ competition and as ‘The One and Only Robbie Williams Tribute Act‘ in the future.
One and Only’ show continues in the UK for the next 3 weeks on Saturday evenings on BBC1. The final where the winner will be crowned is on 16th February.You can find out lots of info about the show on the BBC website HERE. If you are in the UK and would like to vote for Tony and get him to Vegas, voting opens at the end of the main show and then you can vote for Tony on the number provided in the show. Tony has his own website, packed full of info, demos and photos of him in action. Take a look at http://www.tonyasrobbie.co.uk/ or HERE If you are a member of Facebook, you can join the group ‘Get Tony to Vegas’ to show your support, spread the word, and receive updates on how its all going from Tony himself.Tony also pops into Pure Robbie to keep us all updated and chats in the thread on the forum HERE