James, what’s your role at DWF?
I am a senior solicitor in DWF’s insurance litigation team. I specialise in occupational health and casualty work defending personal injury claims. My main practice areas are employers’ liability, public liability and public sector work sprinkled with a few disease claims. In addition, I support more senior fee earners in large loss claims such as those caused by fires, floods and other disasters. The work is really interesting and varied, plus I like a good healthy debate, so it suits me well!
You’ve also found fame this year as a runner up on Britain’s Got Talent. What was your act?
I recently performed on Britain’s Got Talent 2015 where we made the BGT Live Finals as singing group “The Neales”. The unique aspect of our act was that we were a four-piece singing group made up of my dad (Laurie) and three brothers (me, Dan and Phil). However, prior to the show we had never even sung in public before!
What made you audition?
Our dad has always loved singing, but he first found the bug for performing about 10 years ago after he suffered a major health scare at the age of 50. It taught him a lesson that he needed to learn and made him realise he needed to change the way he lived his life. He was working too hard and realised that life was too short – so he decided he would work a little less and concentrate on his passion for singing.
The three of us never considered ourselves singers and Dan and Phil had never even done a turn on the karaoke before! However, this didn’t stop our dad who pestered us all for three to four years to audition for BGT with him. He’s very persistent and eventually we all realised how much auditioning together meant to him, so we decided to give it a go – it quickly turned from our dad’s dream into a dream we all shared!
What was the experience like?
It was absolutely incredible. At our first audition we waited around for 12 to 13 hours before we actually got on stage to perform in front of Simon Cowell, David Walliams, Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden; we felt pretty shattered by the time we got on stage! But at the end of our first ever public performance we got a standing ovation from the 2,000 strong crowd at the Birmingham Hippodrome! I will always remember that moment and it was so special to share it with my family. Then we got to perform twice more in front of a live audience of around 13 to 14 million people – first, in the live semi finals where we made Simon Cowell cry (and he is renowned for never getting emotional!), then secondly in the live final.
How did it change things for you?
Being recognised in public is definitely something that I have enjoyed and quickly got used to. The support from the public has been completely overwhelming; we have had some really heartfelt messages about how emotional people have got seeing our performances as well as a lot of marriage proposals! The experience has definitely brought us closer together as a family, but also made us realise a talent that at least three of us didn’t realise we had!
What’s next for the act?
Shortly after the BGT Live Final, we appeared on The One Show on BBC1 and sang the show out with our rendition of The Everly Brothers’ When Will I Be Loved – we really enjoyed that! Since then, we have done some public appearances and have been working hard at making The Neales the best act it can be – expanding our repertoire of songs and honing our skills!
We had our first gig on Saturday 25th July 2015 and many more in the pipeline for the rest of 2015/16! The dream is to make an album and go on tour … UK and USA of course … That’s not asking too much is it?
How did your clients, colleagues and the wider legal community react to your BGT journey?
My clients, colleagues and the wider legal community have reacted really well to my BGT journey and provided a lot of moral support – my social media accounts have been inundated with lovely messages! However, I have had to make sure I keep up my chargeable hours at work to keep the boss happy!
Is Simon Cowell as fearful in real life?
Simon Cowell is probably the most powerful and influential man in the music industry over the past 10 years, so has this persona of being unemotional and a tough judge to please! However, he was great to us throughout the BGT process, always gave us great comments and said how much he loved us as an act.
He is someone whose opinion I have always had a lot of respect for, particularly when watching him as a judge on The X-Factor and BGT … So, for The Neales to receive such positive comments from him was incredible and made us all very proud. Personally, I am a big Simon fan!
Finally, law or singing?
As long as my employers don’t see this… Singing!
Facebook – The Neales
Twitter – @TheNeales
Instagram – @thenealesuk