Many of us may at some point have entertained the idea of releasing our own single. We hear a song on the radio and think ‘how hard can it be?’ before instantly getting distracted and carrying on with life as usual. But one Welshpool firefighter had that thought and made it happen. Not only that, he managed to include 42 other firefighters from across the country in his vision, did it all without spending a penny and now finds himself as a contender for the Christmas number one spot. Oh, and he’s done it all to raise money for The Fire Fighters Charity and The Band Aid Charity Trust.
From public appearances and single promotion to radio interviews and television appearances, Chris Birdsell-Jones has been the driving force behind The Fire Tones’ campaign to take their cover of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ to the elusive Christmas top spot.
While most of us have spent the last few weeks busy preparing for Christmas and all that entails, Chris has spent his December networking his way around the music industry, doing whatever he can to raise the profile of the single and as much money as he can from sales, downloads and streams.
When we catch up with him, he is joined by three other Fire Tones members in a green room inside the BBC’s Broadcasting House, as they wait to go onto The One Show. It is only a few days before the Christmas number one is announced, but the group shows no sign of relaxing their efforts in promoting the song as they battle for the crown with the likes of Ariana Grande, a group of school children and a song about sausage rolls.
Chris left Welshpool in the early hours of the morning to get to London in time to meet the others for a pre-record for Heart Radio, as well as spending the day in HMV’s flagship Oxford Street branch promoting the single.
Our conversation is interrupted every now and then by a floor manager or runner checking that they’re happy with what they’re saying, giving them a name badge, or taking them for a rehearsal before they appear later in the evening. It’s full-on, and Chris is the first to admit he’s exhausted, both mentally and physically.
“I’m extremely happy, but also extremely overwhelmed,” says Chris. “The thought that we’re doing all of this for charity is what has kept us going. That and the fact we have an amazing team around us helping however they can. Each of us has a network of friends and families showing support, and the response we’ve received from the public has inspired us to keep going.”
Chris has had to fit in his Fire Tones duties around the 120 hours he commits to Welshpool as a retained firefighter, as well as the hotel business he runs with his wife, Lucie, who he says has been his rock throughout the whole process. They even somehow managed to find time to arrange a wedding in the middle of their Fire Tones journey back in July.
When we ask the pair when they plan on taking time off from Fire Tones duty, Lucie says “Christmas Day, that’s it,” at which point Chris informs us he’s on call that day, before lying back down to try and catch 40 winks while he can.
We have been in with Heart Radio this morning ready to be on their show on Friday! Thanks Jamie Theakston and Lucy…
Chris and his fellow Fire Toners may be appearing today as part-time pop stars, but it’s clear that their day jobs come first. When waiting in the holding area to be taken to the studio, the team notice that a defibrillator on the wall isn’t in the correct setting, so Chris heads off to find someone in charge to tell them the kit could put someone’s life at risk if not used properly.
“We’re not celebrities,” says Chris. “We’re just real people who love singing, trying to do our bit to help, however we can.”
Considering it was his idea, Chris has been typically modest throughout the whole process. He barely features in the video of the song, preferring to let others take the limelight, and has done all he can to ensure everyone has their moment in the sun.
“Yes, doing shows and things is great, but personally I prefer going out and about to meet the public,” he says. “We were in a local church the other day and a school choir sang their version of the song, inspired by us. It was amazing. Even coming to London, which is a lot less rural than we’re used to, we’ve had the same sense of community. Our taxi driver today, when we told him what we were up to, refused to let us pay and wished us luck. That’s why we keep going, because now a number one could be on the horizon, we don’t want to let anyone down.”
Since they first started, Chris has maintained that while it would be great to reach Christmas number one, their main focus has been on raising as much money and awareness as possible for two charities.
“We’ve stuck to that initial goal all the way through, which is why people have responded to us with such overwhelming support,” he says. “It’s been amazing seeing the general public supporting the fire and rescue service through music.”
When we ask him if he could go back in time to that Welshpool pub last winter when he first had the idea, would he do it all again? His response is simple: “100% yes. I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved.
“Who in their right mind would take on something like this? Just think how hard it is to get your family all together at Christmas. Now imagine trying to get 43 fire and rescue personnel from across the country – who all work different shift patterns – to come along and record this song for you. The fire service isn’t the easiest place in the world to work in, we all have our own challenges, but, bringing together so many different fire and rescue services who now feel like family is simply incredible.”
There is still time to make a difference to The Fire Tones campaign for number one. Buy the cd, download the song from iTunes, Amazon Music, or Apple Music, stream it on Spotify, or watch it on YouTube.