We spoke to award-winning singer and Elvis impersonator Ben Portsmouth in an exclusive interview ahead of his appearance at Arena Birmingham in ‘The King is Back: Ben Portsmouth is Elvis’. 


Internationally renowned as one, if not The Best Elvis Tribute in the world today, Ben Portsmouth will bring his unique style, charisma and 10 piece band and will show audiences why he is regarded as the best in the business. He looks like Elvis, sings like Elvis and has an on stage charisma that has had audiences believing at times they are watching the King himself. 

Interview by Evie Kissack

How has your day been?

All good, I’m still alive. 


You’re currently on tour and coming to Birmingham 29 April, how are the gigs going so far?

I’m playing at Margate tomorrow night (all the glamorous locations). They’ve been going really well – great audiences and I’ve been getting away with it.


[Laughs] When did you first begin performing as Elvis? 

The real story is my dad was sitting in the car with me as a kid and would listen to Elvis, Buddy Holly and similar artists and that’s how I became aware of him. My dad had a tape in the house so I put that on and listened to Elvis, and he had a guitar so I picked that up and learnt the chords. I’ve always been a musician really, because that’s all I can do. [Laughs] I just picked it up as I went along. I just started imitating him and tried to sing like him, and I just really loved the music side of it all. I went out and began performing it, singing it, and before I knew it I got a band together and we started in the pubs and the clubs and it just escalated from there really. 


Your live performances are truly uncanny to the King himself. How did you perfect your impersonation and tribute act? Did you study his mannerisms and vocal inflections from videos?

I mean, nobody can truly look or sound exactly like Elvis because he’s quite unique…obviously looks-wise I try to create a mirage on stage and use make up, obviously I have watched all of the DVDs. But you can’t copy it too much, because then it begins to look staged and a bit awkward really. You have to feel it really and hopefully if you’re feeling it then the audience are feeling it. 


I have to congratulate you on winning the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest and the title of Worldwide Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist. You were the first artist to have ever won the award from outside of the U.S – how did it feel being recognised in this way?

I felt incredible, to go all the way over there and perform in Elvis’s home city of Memphis - it was great. I never thought I’d win because I never thought they’d never give it to a non-American. I got down to the last five, and we had to choose our last song, and I think I chose ‘If I Can Dream’ and then they called my name…and it was fantastic. 


Do you have a favourite Elvis song?

It’s difficult because it varies, but I like the later years. I like ‘American Trilogy’, that’s a good one. 


Is this your favourite song to perform?

I would say ‘American Trilogy’ is definitely one of my favourites to perform; it’s a very unique and powerful song with a great crescendo and climactic ending. 


Do you ever still get nervous before you go on stage?

Oh definitely. I am still nervous all the time. It’s just a natural thing. 


Do you have a pre-gig routine?

It all revolves around food. I try to have a nice meal, maybe a couple of vodkas to ease the nerves, something like that. Then the adrenaline kicks in, once you get the audience on your side it’s great and everyone has a good night generally.


Are there any songs you find challenging to perform?

For me personally it isn’t the vocal range that’s challenging but it’s actually trying to capture the emotion. Take the ‘Always On My Mind’ the way Elvis sang it was so emotional and it’s hard to try to emulate that. But you have to have feeling; you have to really be in the zone to give it justice. You can’t look like you’re putting it on. 


Do you have a career highlight?

I would say the David Letterman show in 2013 has to be right up there. I remember I was in bed, and it was about one o’clock in the morning and I got a call from the show’s researchers asking me to come on the show and do a performance. I thought, ‘This has got to be a wind up’. I didn’t sleep much that night. Last year I was in Glasgow at the concert hall, and it was an amazing night. 


Do you prefer performing to more intimate crowds or bigger concert halls? 

I would say once you get to 2, 000 people, anything over that isn’t quite the same because it goes into a big concert. You lost the intimacy almost. 


Do you know what the biggest crowd you’ve performed to would be?

I used to do a lot of shows for Harley Davidson, I performed at a huge one in Austria so could have been up to 10, 000. 


Do you find you reach a younger demographic?

I would say, the great thing about Elvis is that you get a huge age range in your crowds – you get the grandmas who were there originally, and then you get their daughters…so it’s a whole generational thing. Elvis appeals to everyone because he was so charismatic, sexy and safe…he had it all really. 


Do you think Elvis would have the same legendary status had he been alive today?

It’s a job to say really! I would say I’m sure he would be as big as Tom Jones, in fact probably bigger. Definitely still a huge star; before he died he was still selling out concert halls. 




Sunday 29 April 2018


For more information about the event and venue visit Arena Birmingham's website. To book tickets follow this link.


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