As star of Phantom of the Opera, Love Never Dies and Les Miserables, Ramin Karimloo has proven to possess one of the most powerfully expressive voices in musical theater. On his newly released album Human Heart, however, the Iranian-born Canadian actor is moving away from his famous roles to write his own songs and create a record he calls“a diary entry.” Broadway.com recently chatted with the singer about his musical inspirations, choosing not to do a musical theater album and finding his own voice.
“It’s gotta be personal,” Karimloo said. “And a theater album is not going to be personal. I’ve been part of some great things in my career, but I could probably do five or six songs that I’ve really lived. This is the first time I’m being Ramin, and this voice that I’m finding, that’s my voice.”
Though Human Heart isn’t a musical theater album, Karimloo has included "Music of the Night" from Phantom and "'Til I Hear You Sing" from Love Never Dies. “I want to celebrate what I’ve done,” he said of the covers. “That’s important to me.” In that case, fans might ask, why no Les Miserables? “The funny thing is, my connection with Les Miz happened after the album was done,” he explained. “I mean, I’d done Enjolras, but what am I going to put on an album from that character?” That’s not to say he’ll never record a number from the epic musical, especially now that he's played Jean Valjean on the West End. “'Bring Him Home’? Oh my God, there’s an idea I have of how I’d like to record it. Maybe that’s the last theater song I’ll record if I do a second album.”
Karimloo, who grew up listening to the likes of Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogers and counts Mumford & Sons and The Civil Wars among his current musical obsessions, is also honing his craft as a songwriter. He got some help from two very different places: Love Never Dies co-star Sierra Boggess and a Coen Brothers movie. “Sierra’s dad, who is a guitar maker in Denver, made me a guitar for my opening night gift,” he said. “So at this point I’m really into folk and bluegrass, because of that and the film O Brother Where Art Thou." The 2000 Coen brothers film's bluegrass-heavy score was Karimloo's first exposure to the style. "I was like, ‘This is it!’ he exclaimed. "That honesty, that straight singing, that storytelling.”
With that storytelling in mind, Karimloo is ready to start stripping himself bare on stage, metaphorically speaking. He launches his U.S. tour in September, but he's already toured with the album in the U.K., an experience he described as both terrifying and edifying. “I learned how much I enjoyed it the more vulnerable I got,” he said. “When I sit at the piano by myself that makes me even more naked and vulnerable, and that’s the kind of live show I want to see. You want to see inside people’s souls. That’s the music that lasts."