Soundtrack Of My Life: Russell Tovey

Acclaimed stage and telly actor, karaoke con artist

The first song I remember hearing

Madonna – ‘Dear Jessie’

“I was obsessed with animation and the ‘Dear Jessie’ music video is like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, with humans overlaid. My Madonna LP was smashed in half by a workman who came to change the light fittings in my room. He put his ladder on it and that was the end of that.”

The first song I fell in love with


Janet Jackson – ‘Again’

“I fell for the story about a woman who thought she was in love, fell out of love, and then fell in love again. It was incredible. I remember listening to that and being really dramatic and emo.”

The first album I ever bought

Crash Test Dummies – ‘Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm’

“I was 11, working on a TV show, and I had this cassette in my little Sony player. I would play it on a loop. When you needed to get new batteries for the Walkman, it was excruciating to listen to.”

The first gig I went to


Eternal at Wembley Arena, 1990s

“I went with a mate and his dad. I don’t think he knew he had a gay son (and his gay best friend) at that point, but he should have guessed – we chose to go and see Eternal. I loved it. I don’t think Louise Nurding was still in the band because I can just picture three of them onstage. The week before, we’d been to see The Legion of Doom at WWF Royal Rumble in the same venue. It was transformative for me – the week before I’d been watching the Bushwhackers and then I was watching Eternal. That’s the eclecticism of my youth right there.”

The album that reminds me of home

Steely Dan – ‘Can’t Buy a Thrill’

“When my mum and dad first started dating – they got married after four months – they would listen to ‘Can’t Buy a Thrill’ by Steely Dan and ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ by Stevie Wonder. Those albums were played to me, and gifted to me as a kid, from them. I listened to ‘Can’t Buy a Thrill’ two days ago on Spotify. My mum and dad have such a nostalgia for that album and I feel part of that nostalgia, because I’m obviously part of their journey and their love story.”

The song I wish I’d written

John Legend – ‘Ordinary People’

“An iconic song. I sing it so much that if it was actually my own song, people would appreciate me singing it more. As it is they get pissed off. They say: ‘What are you doing, ‘Ordinary People’? Have you put that on?’

The song I do at karaoke

Frank Sinatra – ‘My Way’

“I’ll always finish the night on ‘My Way’ if I get an opportunity to close the show at the local karaoke pub. I love karaoke. Once me and my friend checked into Lucky Voice [karaoke club] and for an hour we sung to each other and critiqued each other’s performances until we had a list in our phone of the songs that we could nail. When it came to the next karaoke night, we could pull these numbers out of the bag and people would be really impressed. I’d say, ‘Oh, I’ve just put it on. I didn’t know I could sing this’. Actually, we’d methodically done the research on our choices.”


The song I can no longer listen to

Anything by Darren Hayes

“For a while it was Darren Hayes from Savage Garden. One time I was in the car with a friend who used to wind me up and he had Darren Hayes on. I said, ‘If you leave this on, I’m gonna get out of the car.’ In traffic, I jumped out of the car, and then they drove off. I had to get a really expensive minicab home. We lived in Essex and I got out at Limehouse [in east London].”

The song I want played at my funeral

Diana Ross – ‘Remember Me’

“I heard that Alexander McQueen had this at his funeral, which is a really hopeful song. It’s not sadness, there’s hope – and it’s about remembering the life that I had was really fucking great. Don’t feel sad, feel positive that it happened. I want lots of people at my funeral and I want them to feel the tragedy of my death, but I don’t need them to be bawling. I’d like them to have a laugh.”

The song that makes me want to dance

Solomon Burke – ‘Cry to Me’

“It was used in Dirty Dancing – this is a sexy song. It gets into me, gets into my bowels. Sometimes you dance from your gut, from your diaphragm. That’s where it feels like I’m dancing from.”

Russell Tovey stars in ‘The Sister’, streaming now on ITV Hub