Saturday, December 10, 2011

"We Are The Champions"



MONTREAL — A Quebecer whose voice is eerily similar to Freddie Mercury’s has been crowned the king of Queen.

Christian rocker Marc Martel says interpreting the flamboyant Mercury in The Queen Extravaganza Tour next year is an "unprecedented opportunity."

The news was announced to the public Thursday although Martel, 35, found out from his manager Wednesday night as the singer sat in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

"Relief," was how he described his reaction to being chosen to play Mercury, who died in 1991.

Martel is one of three Canadians who were picked by show producer Roger Taylor, the former drummer for the legendary band, and a panel of judges after finals in Los Angeles on Monday.

He will be joined in the six-member cover band by two other Canadians — Toronto guitarist Tristan Avakian and Quebec City bassist Francois-Olivier Doyon.

But Martel’s victory is bittersweet — his brother, singer David Martel, also tried out but didn’t make the cut.

Marc Martel said it was great fun competing with his brother, whom he described as a "talented artist."

"I had such high hopes for that and I know he did too," the Nashville-based Martel told a news conference in Montreal.

"I am so proud of him. He’s even more of a performer than I am. He’s performing whether he’s on or off the stage.

"I get a lot of my need for attention from him," he added with a laugh.

Asked if he expected any awkwardness around the Christmas dinner table, Martel smiled and said, "I think we’re going to be fine."

The Martels are bandmates in Downhere, a rock group that was born 10 years ago in Saskatchewan and has won three Juno Awards.

Martel said he isn’t bothered that one or two Christian churches in the United States have cancelled Downhere Christmas concerts because they were opposed to his involvement in the Queen tour.

"Other than that, the support that I’ve gotten from the Christian community has been completely overwhelming."

He and his brother grew up in a Montreal-area household that was filled with music from their mother, who doubled as the choir master.

Marc Martel says he would listen to all types of music but didn’t become a real Queen fan until 10 years ago.

"I just love the variety in their music," he said. "They’ve got epic rock ’n’ roll, they’ve got the little funny campy songs and everything in between."

The clean-shaven Martel, who doesn’t look like Mercury, was tipped to the competition in September.

"People have been telling me for years that I sound like Freddie Mercury," said Martel, whose audition video for the contest went viral and scored more than five million hits on YouTube.

He said he had never thought of being in a cover band but was intrigued when he saw Taylor was involved.

The timing also coincided with a break being planned anyway by Downhere.

Martel didn’t have much conversation with Taylor when he met him on Monday, describing the day as "a blur."

The next step will be intensive rehearsals in March, with the tour likely starting in June.

Martel said there is a possibility the first leg of the tour will pass through Canada.

Martel, who says he learned to sing by imitating other vocalists as a youth, noted the show pays tribute to Queen and isn’t about people doing impersonations.

"It’s not like I’m pretending to be Freddie Mercury. We’re singing Queen songs and celebrating 40 years of great music."

But will he grow a lush moustache like that worn by Mercury?

"I’m don’t know if my wife’s going to let me have that," he said.

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