The Overtones Mark Franks - From Sale to Buckingham Palace
- Credit: not Archant
Vocal harmony group The Overtones doo-wopped their way to Buckingham Palace. But for one member, the path to performing glory began in a church hall in Sale
It was, says Mark Franks, a ‘pinch-yourself moment’. The Overtones had performed before 250,000 people outside Buckingham Palace as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert in 2012, and they were then rewarded with a bit of royal hospitality.
‘We got invited to the after-show party at the Queen’s “gaff” and having a few drinks in the palace there were Paul McCartney, Tom Jones, Elton John and Tom Hanks - all these people I’d grown up admiring,’ says Mark.
This was just one of many highlights of the past four years of success for The Overtones - five men who have given a new lease of life to vocal harmony reminiscent of the doo-wop era. Another UK and Ireland tour beckons, including a date at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, the venue Mark recalls passing on his way to work as a teenage shop assistant in the city’s Market Street branch of Next.
But Mark had always seemed fated for a life on stage. The son of teachers Janet and Brian, from Sale, he was only three when he decided he wanted to dance.
‘One of my little friends started ballet, and me and her were joined at the hip - whatever she did, I had to do. So that’s how I started,’ says Mark, now 36. ‘I had a ballet teacher called Mrs Jones. It was similar to Billy Elliott - me and a load of girls in this ballet class in Sale in a church hall ...except my dad’s not a miner! And Mrs Jones suggested I audition for the Royal Ballet School.’
And so from the age of 11 to 16, Mark was a pupil at the Royal Ballet School.
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‘Looking back, it was a privileged position to be in,’ says Mark. ‘But I was a bit of a mummy’s boy and I got quite homesick.’
Instead of launching himself into a ballet career, he returned home to do A levels at Knutsford High School, took a summer job at Next and then headed off to Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts - where he discovered he could sing as well as dance. He then spent over ten years as a professional dancer, doing everything from touring with the Pet Shop Boys to appearing in operas at Glyndebourne and a dancing role in a Harry Potter movie.
Eight years ago, Mark started singing around London with Timmy Matley, Mike Crawshaw and Darren Everest, and they entered X Factor in 2009, being rejected at the end of the boot camp phase.
‘It was quite stressful and challenging,’ says Mark. ‘It made us stronger, having got so far and not quite made it. It made us more determined and we improved our craft.’
Australian Lachie Chapman’s bass voice was added to the band and The Overtones were then discovered - in a twist worthy of a Hollywood script - by a record company talent scout who overheard the fivesome singing while working together as painters and decorators in London.
‘I was still dancing, Mike was doing a bit of modelling, we were all doing our thing and it was difficult to get together to rehearse,’ says Mark. ‘Darren and Mike talked about setting up a painting and decorating company and they got a few jobs, so we all started pitching in when we had some free time. We used to sing anywhere and everywhere - on the Tube, walking down the street. It wasn’t so far-fetched that somebody would hear us singing.’
Four years and three successful albums later, The Overtones have a loyal fanbase which is chiefly female, though, says Mark ‘the wives drag the husbands along and by the end everyone’s up dancing and having fun’.
The fivesome seem like best of friends, but are there fall-outs and punch-ups behind the scenes? Apparently not. The Overtones are as harmonious off stage as on.
‘We’ve been together for eight years, though obviously Lachie joined us a bit later,’ says Mark, who now has a house in London. ‘We wouldn’t have lasted that long if we didn’t respect each other and get on.’