The Overtones singer Darren Everest is embracing change. He chats to Natalie Li about becoming a dad, moving to Leeds, and learning to be present
It’s been a hectic year for The Overtones. The four-piece soul vocal harmony group made up of Mike Crawshaw, Mark Franks, Jay James, and Darren Everest have been touring non-stop, so it’s by some miracle that we have managed to find some time to talk to the latter.
Despite his love of being on the road and soaking up the audience’s energy, Darren always looks forward to returning home to his fiancée and former Coronation Street actress Rhea Bailey, and their one-year-old daughter Ilaria. “It was hard being away in Mexico for ten days. I don’t want to miss anything!” he exclaims with a big grin. “Rhea is the most amazing mum and it’s great to come back home to them. Ilaria is amazing and such a character. We laugh every day; she loves her food and is always giggling and laughing. She loves Stevie Wonder! I look forward to making breakfast for her, playing, and having that special time in the morning. I am besotted with her,” he gushes.
It’s evident that becoming a dad has made a huge impact on 41-year-old Darren as he proudly shares his journey over the last year. “Ilaria fits into our lifestyle in the most amazing way,” he continues. “She came on tour with The Overtones for a few dates and we’ve travelled to LA, Spain, and Italy with her. It’s a dream to see her from the stage as I perform. We don’t have a strict routine because of our lifestyle, we like going out for a drink and seeing friends. When she starts school there will be a routine, but for now we’re enjoying this time.”
Darren and Rhea, younger sister of Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae, moved to Roundhay in Leeds a few years ago with their rescue dog Binkie after meeting five years ago at a party. “Rhea was born and bred in Leeds so it made sense to move up north,” explains Darren, “I am always up for different experiences and so is Rhea. She lived in LA for six years and I’ve moved around a bit. I love Yorkshire, everyone is so friendly, and people really do have time for you up here.”
With family still living in Essex where Darren grew up, he speaks fondly of his life there. “I still have a lot of friends in Essex, and I always love visiting my nan, who lives in Barkingside and my family in Chigwell. We usually go for a lovely meal at The Bell Sit, an Italian restaurant in Woodford.”
Recalling his early years, football was the ultimate dream. “Every day I would go from school to the park and play football. I was completely obsessed and loved watching my team West Ham.”
His football career ambitions dissipated after Darren caught glandular fever which “wiped him out” for a year, forcing him to change direction. Some might call it serendipity, but this led him to music. “I was at a point where I had the potential to get signed to a club, but after glandular fever I fell into music and at that time I never thought of it as a career. I started going to auditions and open mic nights, but I never knew it would take so long. I am happy it all happened for me later in life. I have seen people get jaded when they get into this business so early on.”
At the age of 28, like a scene out of a film, Darren and his bandmates were working as painters and decorators on Oxford Street and were discovered by Warner Bros while singing on a tea break. It’s the stuff of dreams. Ditching paintbrushes for perfect harmonies, The Overtones have since racked up multi-platinum record sales, released six studio albums, toured with Cliff Richard – and even performed at The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee at Buckingham Palace.
But after the tragic death of their bandmate Timmy Matley in 2018 (later replaced by Jay James), it forced the band to re-evaluate their future. “After Timmy passed away, we hid under a rock,” recalls Darren, “we didn’t know whether we’d continue, but ultimately we wanted to carry on his legacy. Our job is to make people smile.
“In the last four years I’ve realised how important our music is for people,” he continues. “We get so many messages and emails thanking us for helping people in their lives. I feel blessed to be in a band that makes people feel good and smile.
“I love vocal harmony, soul and appreciate it even more. We now have our own label; it eases the pressure, and you can enjoy the moment a bit more. I remember not enjoying special moments along the way because you get so nervous and worked up, especially being on a major label. It’s easy to become obsessed with getting a number one album and charting high, dreaming of making it in America, and packing out arenas. I’m learning to be more present – it’s easy to be obsessed with what is next. I always say ‘let’s just be present on stage and soak up the audience’.”
When he’s not touring or with family, Darren also manages two acts: Ramzi and Princes to Kings. “I’ve always wanted to manage talent and develop them,” he says. “Ramzi is a multi-instrumentalist and Princes to Kings are two brothers from Hertfordshire and they are developing into a serious pop group, they write and produce their own music. They are getting better and better. I always say it will happen when it happens. I want the music to be organic – it’s important that they’re at peace and happy with their work.”
As if life couldn’t get any busier, there’s plenty more in the pipeline – a wedding to plan, and potentially more kids to add to the fold. “I am a workaholic and a dreamer, but having Ilaria has chilled me out a bit,” Darren reflects.
“We do want more kids, but now we have one we realise how tiring it is! Let’s see what happens. We do want a little sibling for her to play with and we have a boy’s name ready.
Rhea and I would love to get married in Italy or Yorkshire next year or in 2024.”
Ahead of that, Indonesia beckons in December as The Overtones head on tour once again. “There’s also been talk of returning to Mexico and having a crack at South America, and we’d love to return to Germany as we have a great fan base,” Darren says. “We’re in a great place and having the best time on stage together. We just want to keep making music that makes people smile and not take it too seriously. We are four lads having a great time.”
The singer picks out his favourite Yorkshire spots
Roundhay Park (above)
We love it here, it’s the biggest park in Europe.
Tappino’s, Cleckheaton We stumbled across this place and it’s one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to, one of our favourite Yorkshire haunts. They make an amazing Aperol spritz.
House Of Koko, OakwoodI am a coffee snob and lucky to have so many great coffee shops nearby, but this is my favourite.
Mustard Pot, Chapel Allerton
We held Ilaria’s first birthday party here – a chance to celebrate making it through her first year with our friends and family to the soundtrack of Encanto, Moana and, of course, Stevie Wonder!