TOP tenor Alfie Boe might be playing to thousands at the SSE Hydro this Sunday night, but he’ll never forget a previous Scottish trip – when he performed before some cattle.

The experience came early in the singer’s career, as he toured the Highlands with Scottish Opera, performing Don Pasquale in 1999.

“When I left music college that was my first professional opera job,” he recalls.

“That was a great experience for any young singer. I was travelling around in the back of a van with the set and the costumes, and we’d pull up to a village, unpack and then perform the show. The wind would be howling and there were all these elements to contend with.

“There was a dog in the crowd once and at another point we were in a village and there were Highland cattle outside the theatre. We could hear them in the background as we were performing, that was interesting…”

Now the Les Miserables star is bringing his double act with Michael Ball to the Hydro, off the back of two successful albums. However he looks back on those formative experiences and small shows with fondness, and believes more young singers should test themselves like that.

“It’s important for communities to experience different culture like that, but it’s also important for young singers to experience it too,” he says.

“There’s programmes in these big opera houses where they shadow and keep young artists in one building, and don’t give them that much experience. They’re performing on one stage, to a specific public, and that’s it. To have the experience and travel around is great for you as a singer.”

Alfie is one of the UK’s favourite singers, going from working as a mechanic as a teenager to performing in huge shows, thanks a customer overhearing him sing and suggesting he audition for an opera company.

He did, and the rest is history, including several West End parts. However even he has been surprised by the success of his collaboration with Michael Ball. The pair’s good humour has helped, while their two albums, Together and this year’s Together Again, have been smash hits, with the debut effort having already gone platinum twice, and the sequel going gold.

This time around the pair have tackled a variety of tracks, from classic show tunes like Some Enchanted Evening to more surprising picks, such as Hero by the American indie band Family of the Year. The tenor believes that’s partly because he and Michael enjoy different types of music.

“Michael and I have very different interests in music,” says Alfie.

“Musical theatre is his world, that’s where he comes from and what he does now, and I’m a bit different because I’m not from that world and I have interests in lots of different music. I love rock and country and those influences can inspire me as well. It can be a little bit more left field.”

The singer chuckles as he admits that’s not the only difference between the pair.

“Michael is very showbiz, he’s full on sometimes and is a happy, fun loving guy,” he says.

“He’s Mr Showbiz in a way. I’m not like that, so he always calls me the miserable one. And I’m not that bad, I’m just a bit quieter than he is!”

There’s a serious side underneath the good natured ribbing, though. Both singers have spoken about struggling with depression, especially when they were performing on their own in the past. Alfie believes it’s crucial to encourage to speak out if they are having a difficult time.

“The best thing that people can do is talk, to someone that’s professional, to someone that’s family or a friend, and work it out by getting it out there in the open,” he says.

“That’s the way forward for anyone who’s suffering from it. There’s always a bravado with guys where they think they’ll get over it and will just grin and bear things, but I know it eats you away sometimes, so you have to try and talk about it.”

Being through those tough times has also given Alfie a clear appreciation for the state of his life now.

“It’s not often that people can say they’re doing what they love doing for a living, and this particular moment in my career has given it a big boost,” he concludes.

“I’m thrilled with how it has all gone.”

Michael Ball and Alfie Boe, SSE Hydro, Sunday, £45-£85, 6.30pm