Hooray for Henry, he's the rising star of Kerrang!

Henry Evans started singing the radio travel report and ended up with a primetime show. He talks to Ian Burrell
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The Independent Online

Talk about making the most of your material. When ex-demolition worker Henry Evans fulfilled an ambition and landed a job on Kerrang! he was determined to entertain his listeners – but that's not so easy when your script is the morning traffic report for the major Midlands conurbations.

Undaunted, he decided to set his words to music. And so the Kerrang! audience found itself listening to the familiar jangle of Blur's guitars and a less familiar chorus that ran "The Suffolk Street Queensway/in Birmingham, the tunnel has been closed today/traffic has been di-ver-ted/around the Smallbrook Queensway... Parklife!"

Or he would be rapping to the beats of House of Pain's "Jump Around", to the enthusiastic whooping of Kerrang! presenters Kate Lawler and OJ Borg. "The A451 Stourbridge Road, fallen power cables, therefore it's closed... what a freakin' pain." The joke might not work quite as well in print but the audience loved Evans's style, texting their appreciation to the studio. The traffic presenter, with his mundane tales of slow-moving traffic on the M6, found himself rebranded as Singing Henry, with the second name being given the French pronunciation of the former Arsenal striker.

The audio sufficiently impressed the judges of the Sony Radio Academy Awards, the industry Oscars, that he won the Sony DAB Rising Star award. Last week his bosses at Kerrang! recognised his presenting talents by handing him the key 7pm-10pm weekday slot on the network, which is broadcast on FM in the Midlands and nationally on DAB, Freeview and online.

It's only a short while ago that he was a Kerrang! listener himself, while labouring on demolition sites from Coventry to Wolverhampton. "I worked on the building sites for a couple of years, sweeping up. That was where I found out about Kerrang! – it was the favourite radio station of the lads that I worked with," he says from the station's studios in Birmingham.

"I always said to them that I would work on Kerrang! It's such an irreverent station, so creative and their jingles and links are always so off the cuff. I just wanted to work there, and not necessarily as a broadcaster, but I didn't think it would all happen so quickly."

He says his building site mates were tuned in as he last week began his new show, You Own Singing Henry, three hours of interactivity with listeners, interspersed with music from the likes of Papa Roach and Kings of Leon. "They love it, they email me or hit me up on Facebook. I still see them."

Evans, 27, portrays himself as a restless character, who doesn't like to stay in the same role for too long. He worked for HM Customs at Birmingham airport, before giving that up to set up a business teaching music-related skills in youth centres and schools. Though that plan did not make enough money to keep him from the building sites ("I needed to pay the bills"), Evans has kept the youth training project alive as a not-for-profit side venture.

He joined Kerrang! less than two years ago after applying for work as a roadie. When he was turned down he sent back an indignant email, which led to him being offered part-time work as weekend cover in the radio station itself.

The humble role of travel reporter for the breakfast show gave him the platform he needed. His first toe in the water was to rhyme his outro, then he turned the whole report into poetry, adding the back beat of familiar music or theme tunes from television programmes such as Bullseye and The Benny Hill Show.

"Because it's all about the travel I still had to get that information across to the listeners," he points out. "The bosses liked Singing Henry so I carried on and I became a character on the station. Then from having that profile I've had more opportunity to develop as a broadcaster – if I had just been reading the travel reports it wouldn't have been so easy to push on."

He is still fiercely ambitious. "I know I can do this," he says. "I take things in my stride and although I'm not arrogant, I'm a confident chap and the Sony award has added to that."

But Evans's big plans might mean that his current reputation for warbling on air may soon have to go. "I will keep the name for the moment," he says. "But I don't want to be known as Singing Henry forever."

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