It’s breakfast-time and Aled Jones is irritatingly wide awake.
The perma-smile is at full lustre and the mellow Welsh voice is causing housewives across the land to burn the toast.
He couldn’t, he assures me, be any happier in his job.
For five mornings every week Aled is the nation’s alarm clock, sharing the red Daybreak sofa with the equally pearlescent Lorraine Kelly.
As an early morning double act they certainly boast more snap, crackle and pop than the pair they replaced last September. Whether that will be enough to save the ITV show from its seemingly terminal ratings collapse is another matter altogether.
But right now, having just come off air, the world’s most famous choirboy couldn’t be more delighted to switch roles from interviewer to interviewee. After all it’s a chance to talk about his real passion, singing. And it’s also a rare opportunity to discuss his “second home,” Lancashire, where he will be performing on July 6.
“I know the county well,” he says. And pre-empting my follow-up question of ‘How?’ he adds: “My mother-in-law lives there, in Poulton-le-Fylde. We go there quite a bit. I suppose I’ve got an affinity with Lancashire. I met my wife while I was doing Joseph in Blackpool. I had a great time at the Winter Gardens. Twenty weeks completely sold out. It was phenomenal.”
Only minutes before we talk Aled had been chatting on screen with New Zealand songbird Hayley Westenra about her new album Hushabye and the special song for the Royal baby, “Sleep On.”
It wasn’t the first time they had met. And the warm welcome he gave his guest suggested as much. Hayley had performed with Aled in concert, been a guest on his TV Christmas show and released a single with him. The pair had even shared the separate distinction of being catapulted to fame by recording Walking in the Air.
For Hayley the ‘Snowman song’ was the demo disc which launched her career in 2000. For Aled, 15 years earlier, it was the piece of work which you suspect, no matter what he goes on to achieve in his life, will always be his biggest claim to fame.
“It came from a TV advert,” he explains without even the slightest note of impatience at being asked the same question thousands had asked before. “And, no, it wasn’t me singing on the film.
“They were doing this ad for Toys R Us and they asked if they could use me as the singer. I was 14 at the time and they released it as a single.”
Aled’s version of Walking in the Air reached number five in the British pop charts in November 1985. The original, sung on the soundtrack of the animated film The Snowman by St Paul’s Cathedral chorister Peter Auty in 1982, was also released as a single, but managed only 42nd spot in the same ’85 chart. Does Aled still include it in his concert repertoire these days? “No, not unless it’s Christmas,” he laughs.
So what can his legion of fans expect from him when he hosts the Symphony at the Tower next Saturday (July 6) at Hoghton Tower in aid of St Catherine’s Hospice?
“I don’t know what I’ll be singing yet,” he confesses. “I suppose ‘You Raise Me Up’ will have to be in there, otherwise I’d get lynched. But apart from that I haven’t finalised it.
“I’m looking forward to the concert. I haven’t been to Hoghton Tower before, but I’m told it is terrific place. I’ve heard the story about the King knighting the joint of beef ‘Sir Loin,’ so we’d better have some roast beef while we’re there.
“St Catherine’s is a great cause. I’m patron of another hospice in Wales and anything I can do to help raise money for them I’m more than happy to get involved.”
As we chat Aled admits he is still coming to terms with the award, four days earlier, of the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to music, broadcasting and charity. “It was a huge surprise,” he says. “I never ever thought I would get anything like this. It’s fantastic.
“All I can say is I’m incredibly lucky to have had such a long career in music and broadcasting. I couldn’t imagine back in the eighties that it would still be going on.
“It’s all a bit surreal really. I’m loving my work. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed work so much. OK I get up at four in the morning to be on air for seven. But I always come in with a smile on my face. It’s fabulous.
“I love the singing and the other stuff I do. But Daybreak is the day job. No ifs or buts about that. It comes first.”
Aled’s work schedule would flatten even the most energetic in the business. On top of Daybreak he has regular shows on radio. He hosts a Sunday morning music programme on Classic FM - so another early get-up – he is in his ninth year of Songs of Praise and there are “a few more” TV projects in the pipeline.
When I ask him how he finds the time to do all that, on top of concert tours and the duties of husband and dad, he quickly puts me straight. “Actually my workload has probably gone down a bit,” he says.
“Having to get up at four o’clock for Daybreak means my lifestyle has changed. I’ve got to be fresh and alert, so there’s no more going out to the pub in an evening. I’m at home every day and I’m much more hands-on with the kids. So that has given me a big lift. I thoroughly enjoy sitting on that couch with the lovely Lorraine. It’s always exciting and every day is different. It’s the happiest I have been career-wise.
“Doing the Sunday morning show on Classic FM means I get to keep my finger on the pulse with the music. I’m still doing 12 or 13 Songs of Praise a year – I care about that very much. So it’s a nice mix. I’m loving it.”
But despite his success on the box with programmes like The One Show, Cash in the Attic, Escape to the Country and Play It Again – he even cut a dash on the dance floor, reaching week seven of Strictly in 2004 - Aled is a singer right through to his bones.
Since Walking in the Air he has recorded 29 albums, 13 of them after his voice broke at 16, and 11 singles. His Little Drummer Boy duet with Terry Wogan in aid of the 2008 Children In Need Appeal reached number 3 in the UK singles charts.
“I have always been known as a singer,” he says. “It was the first thing I did. It’s as natural as breathing for me.”
But breathing became something of a problem for him during a cathedral tour of Britain earlier this year and Aled was forced to pull out of several shows on medical advice.
“Sadly I didn’t get to do all the dates because of big problems with a chest infection,” he explains. “I had quite a few tests and, in the end, all I needed was rest.
“But, as with a lot of performers, I felt the show had to go on and I came back far too early. The doctors had warned me it would happen, but I didn’t listen. I told them I would be all right and, in the end, I wasn’t. Of course the doctors were proved right.
“But I am completely over that now. It’s all behind me and I’m feeling great. I did a concert last weekend and it went really well. So now I’m looking forward to coming to Hoghton Tower.
“Maybe next year I can return to the cathedral tour and complete it. It’s great to perform music that was written for cathedrals in the setting it was intended for.”
Symphony at the Tower is part of a two-day event to raise money for St Catherine’s. Eighties chart-toppers The Human League and guests will perform on the Friday night.
The mood changes on Saturday when Aled presents the Symphony show featuring Sophie Evans of the BBC’s ‘Over The Rainbow,’ accompanied by the Heart of England Philharmonic Orchestra.