HE’S one of the biggest stars on Broadway and in the West End but Ramin Karimloo will be revealing a totally different side - and sound - when he comes to Manchester later this month.

Best known for roles such as the Phantom of the Opera and Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, Ramin will be bringing broadgrass to venues around the UK before he heads off to New York to star in the world premier of the musical Anastacia.

Broadgrass - which combines show tunes with roots music - has proved a major hit.

“On paper this sounds like a disaster,” said Ramin, “but they are songs that we love to sing and it is music that comes from the heart.

“Originally I wondered if people would come to hear it and they did and they have brought their friends.

“The thing I love is that originally we would have a mainly female audience with their daughters and they would be dragging their husbands and fathers along. You could see the reluctance among them when they were in their seats but by the end of the show they were like ‘this is so not what we expected’.

“Now they are all coming back and bringing their friends. There is a nice feel to it, we don’t take ourselves seriously but we take the show and our music seriously.

“The shows are a real hootenanny, they are eclectic but people connect to the songs emotionally.”

Ramin grew up listening to the likes of Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogers.

“My ear, even at that age, was drawn to that untrained soulful voice like Ray Charles,” he said. “I love singers who put their heart and soul into it.

“At first I couldn’t quite explain what it was that was tickling my heart then much later I saw film O Brother Wherefore Art Thou and that was it, that was the sound.

“I then started to look into country and bluegrass artists and I fell in love with the simplicity of that style of singing.”

In theatre shows, Ramin is backed by orchestras in lavish productions whereas with the Broadgrass Band, it’s a much simpler affair.

“A good song is a good song,” he said. “As gorgeous as it is with a symphonic orchestra, we’re not touring with an orchestra. I’m touring with my buddies who are a bunch of hillbillies on stage so we make it truthful for who we are.

“Because I’m not a hit writing machine the world is our oyster as to what we can sing,” he said. “We will do some songs I’ve written and some of our favourite covers as well as reworkings of show songs such as Bring Him Home and Music of the Night. That’s the thing with our shows, no two sets are the same.

“We’ve got a good repertoire of songs now but that does make putting setlists together pretty tough.

“I didn’t set out to make a career out of this it’s just a chance to hang out with my friends, playing music we love.”

Ramin Karimloo and the Broadgrass Band, the Lowry. Salford Quays, Tuesday, January 17, details from 0843 208 6000 and the Lowther Pavilion, Lytham, Saturday, January 21, details from 01253 794221