With newfound confidence and a soon-to-be-released new album, Susan Boyle continues her real-life Cinderella story with her first American tour.
While hopscotching through six California cities, the Scottish singer comes to Sacramento on Sunday for one night at the Community Center Theater.
“It will be a mixture of songs; some you know, some you may not know,” Boyle said in a phone interview. “I don’t want to give too much away now, do I?”
With a charming laugh, Boyle adds a little wink to her lilting brogue, promising “a few surprises” along with the show-stopping tunes that made her an overnight sensation in the United Kingdom.
Her story already is pop-culture legend. A complete unknown whose singing career was limited to a church choir, Boyle became a household name in her native Scotland with one stunning 2009 performance. On the reality show “Britain’s Got Talent,” she captivated judges and viewers with her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical “Les Misérables.”
Boyle has been living the dream ever since. Formerly frumpy by entertainer standards, she’s been molded into a seasoned and manicured performer in a “My Fair Lady”-worthy makeover. In fact, Britain’s royal photographer took her portrait for her new album, “Hope,” set for November release.
“The album’s theme is inspiration,” she said. “These are all songs filled with hope.”
As with her prior albums, she mixes covers of rock anthems with show tunes and popular standards, all delivered with her operatic tone. With some crossover expected for her concert, the “Hope” song list ranges from John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” to Broadway’s “The Impossible Dream” (from “Man of La Mancha”) and the gospel “Oh Happy Day.”
“Hope” is Boyle’s sixth album since her incredible breakthrough. Her initial release – “I Dreamed a Dream” – became the United Kingdom’s biggest-selling debut album of all time. In total, she’s sold more than 19 million records worldwide. She’s also a social-media sensation. Her YouTube concert clips have been watched more than 300 million times.
She didn’t realize the scope of her fame, or how much her life was changing, until she visited New York City in 2009, she said.
“My pinch-me moment hit me the first time I came to America,” she said. “We left the airport, and there were so many cars! I’d never seen so many. I thought this can’t be happening. I’m just a singer from Scotland. Who’s going to come hear me?”
Now in airports worldwide, she’s mobbed by fans.
“I can’t go anywhere without people recognizing me,” Boyle said. “Children, families, everybody; they want to pose for photos, say hello. They’re just so nice.”
Although her mezzo-soprano voice spans the globe, this American adventure is Boyle’s first real opportunity to connect with her U.S. fans. She launched her tour Wednesday in San Diego. “America is great,” she said. “The people are so friendly.”
Boyle, 53, expects to meet quite a few during her fall tour. Her entourage is traveling by bus to its West Coast stops.
“This is my first real world tour, and it feels very exciting,” Boyle said. “I’ve really only been to New York, Las Vegas and Texas (in the U.S.); that’s nowhere near (Northern California). So, it’s an all-new environment, going to new places and meeting new people. I hope I have a little time (to sight-see).”
Although she’s performed before thousands in live concerts, she waited to tour the U.S. until she felt she was really ready.
“I didn’t have the confidence (before),” she said. “I didn’t have the right experience, but I feel more ready now.
“But I’m not afraid of hard work,” she added. “Bring it on!”
Since her debut, she’s recorded an album a year, earning two Grammy nominations. In addition to live performances, she made TV concert specials and a documentary. Her life story gave birth to a London stage musical that toured Great Britain. She sang for Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle during the royal Diamond Jubilee. She charmed Pope Benedict XVI during his papal visit to Glasgow. She made guest appearances on television in China and Japan.
“(Performing) is a bit like a drug,” Boyle said. “It’s very addictive and hard to quit.”
And yet, she remains a down-to-earth, church-going, small-town single woman who still lives in her family’s longtime home in Blackburn, Scotland.
“There’s not much spare time these days, but when I’m home, I don’t do that much,” she said with a laugh. “I watch a little television, see my friends.”
Her taste runs more to comedy than “Downton Abbey.” Her favorite show is the classic British sitcom “Only Fools and Horses.”
“Blackburn will always be home. They’re very supportive,” Boyle added. “They’re very excited for me. They have very big hearts, and they’re very friendly, too.”
Right now, she’s too busy enjoying herself to slow down while seeing and entertaining the world.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” she said. “I just want to keep like I’ve been going. I want to see more countries, entertain more people and keep singing.”