Perhaps best known as the England Rugby team’s first ever official anthem singer, Laura Wright is known as the soprano with strength who has performed around the world for audiences of all sizes, including intimate gatherings for the Royal Family.
2018 is set to be a big year for the crossover soprano as she heads back into the studio to record new material, sets off on tour with Russell Watson and walks down the aisle with her rugby playing beau, Harry Rowlands.
But her fiancé is just one of the special men in her life, as she told Kim O’Meara.
We met Laura on Wimbledon Common with treats and toys filling our pockets to find out more about the other, her beloved dog, Rocky.
Hi Laura! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today, how did Rocky come into your life?
Well, I know it sounds a bit cheesy but he was a present from Harry and it's kind of funny how we ended up getting him.
We had decided that we wanted to get a dog and we’d looked at loads of puppies and different dog breeds and narrowed it down to the idea that we both loved Labradors and we both loved Spaniels.
Harry had grown up with German Shepherds but we both wanted a dog that wasn’t too big because of where we were living at the time.
Rocky pictured with his new Action Football
So, after all of our research, Harry had, without me knowing, found a breeder and was speaking with them.
But it ended up that we were going to be moving house fairly soon afterwards and the breeder was then not sure if us moving home was going to disrupt the puppy, and this was all happening just before Christmas, so Harry thought since the plan was all going wrong that he would tell me all about it.
I said, ‘let’s just get in touch with the breeder and if he’s still available it’s meant to be and if not, we’ll start looking again in the new year’.
So that’s what we did and he was still available. His name was Percy at the time. He was the only one left and he was the runt of the litter. We both said ‘well, it’s meant to be’ so we drove to Lincolnshire, met his mum and dad and brought him home.
All Photography by Vivienne Edge Photography for K9 Magazine
Ah ok, so fate played a role!
We were both a mix of excited and nervous because it’s quite a big step in a relationship to have an animal, isn’t it – a dog especially.
It is. Had you been together long before you got Rocky?
We’d been together for just over a year at that point, so not that long really but I’ve asked Harry since then about it and he said he wanted to show me how he felt about us, that he wanted me to feel secure in our relationship and know that it was something that he wanted to last for a lifetime without proposing at that point.
He thought it was a sign of loyalty and love.
Like an eternity dog.
How old is Rocky?
He’s 3 ½ now. His birthday is in October.
Rocky pictured with his new treats, Pet Munchies
He’s a gorgeous dog. I wasn’t 100% sure how old he was because he has a white chin, which makes him look a little older from a distance, doesn’t it?
You’re right, yes. Most Springadors have a white blaze on their chest but he doesn’t have that. He has loads of white in his tail too.
Like a lot of gundogs, he loves swimming, so when we’re out I think most people just look at him from a distance and think he’s a chocolate Lab because he’s quite slim as well, but when you see him up close, you can see the Spaniel in him.
He’s a very happy, high energy dog (laughs).
How did you come up with his name?
Harry and I met at the Rosslyn Park rugby club, which is nicknamed the Rock so he’s named after that.
I had visions of him acting like his namesake Rocky (Balboa) before we met him.
(Laughs) No, he doesn’t act like him by any stretch of the imagination.
You mentioned that Harry grew up around German Shepherds. Did you grow up around dogs too?
Oh yes, mainly dogs and horses.
We had a black Labrador Retriever called Beth and she was just, although I think lots of people probably say the same thing about their childhood animals, but to me, she was just best dog in the world. I have so many lovely memories growing up with her.
I think growing up around animals gives you something so special and that’s what I want for my own children.
There’s something really special about the bond you can have with your animal, I think they understand a lot more than people give them credit for.
Rocky, for example, knows if Harry and I have an argument and his ears go back and we both console him. It’s amazing what solace you can find in animals.
2018 is a big year for you both professionally and personally, isn’t it?
It is, we are getting married this December.
Will Rocky have a role at the wedding?
He’ll definitely be there with us, we made sure the venue was dog friendly, but we haven't decided exactly what role he’ll have yet. We keep going back and forth between ideas because the idea that he would be a ring bearer wouldn’t work (laughs).
He’d just run around the church and jump up everyone. I could just see it being a disaster, so we just want to find a way that he can be involved and be himself (laughs).
Rocky pictured with his new Doris Donkey toy
How easy was it to find a wedding venue that was dog friendly?
I grew up in the countryside in Suffolk so I knew I wanted to get married around there and luckily most of the venues in that sort of area are used to having dogs running around, but it was definitely a concern.
Rocky’s not what you’d call a handbag dog, so we wanted to find somewhere that was right for him where he could run around. We were lucky that the place we spoke to was really understanding of that.
That said, they haven’t met him yet (laughs).
Rocky pictured with his new Lob-It UFO ball
When I got married my two dogs came along too, so it’s always great when you find a venue that’s so accepting of the whole family.
I think we’ll get everyone a little relaxed, it’ll be Christmas time so there will be mulled wine to help with that, and then he can go and tidy up under the tables eating any leftovers.
Rocky pictured with his new Kong Extreme toy
I’m sure he’ll love that and December will soon be here, but in between then and now you have lots to keep you busy, don’t you?
I do. I’m just about to go on tour with Russell Watson so we start rehearsals for that next month and I’m performing at the Grand National again this year in April. That’s always great fun, which makes the job easier (laughs).
I’m also going to be singing at the England vs New Zealand game at Twickenham later this year, which will be one of the biggest rugby events of the calendar because it will be number one and two in the world competing against each other, so that’ll be very exciting.
And I’m writing some music for the Military Wives at the moment. They’ve asked me to write a song for them, which is something I do a lot of on the side, so I’m doing that with my co-writers just now, and then hopefully looking forward to being involved in the Invictus Games in Sydney later this year.
So, yes lots of things going on.
The experience of performing in all sorts of venues on tour, where you might be on the road for months on end, to one-off events, such as international games at packed stadiums must be very different. Which do you prefer?
For an artist, touring is the most amazing thing because you’re putting out your own music. But personally, I love the environment of a sporting arena. It’s an amazing feeling to hear people around you unite, regardless of where they’re from or which team they’re supporting, I love that.
I have done it for quite a few years and I think in that time we've had more political ups and downs as a country and across the world, but sport plays a really important role in uniting people and music is an integral part of that sporting environment, so for me it’s a really special part of my career.
I definitely worked on developing it. And particularly in the world of women’s sport, I feel I have a role to play.
I wrote the England Women Cricket team’s anthem, ‘Heroes’ so that they had their own piece of music. The team has gone on to win the World Cup and they’re doing amazing things. The kind of role where I can give more than a voice to an anthem is really lovely.
You mentioned the Invictus Games earlier. At the first event you performed your own song, 'Invincible', didn’t you?
I did, yes.
It’s a beautiful song, the lyrics are very fitting for the spirit of the Invictus Games.
Thank you. Yes, each time I’ve performed the song at the games it’s grown and taken on a new idea and a new theme.
The first time my brothers were with me, because they’re on the track, so it felt like a real family experience because it was in London. The second time it was at Disney World, Orlando and all of the friends and family of the military were there supporting, and in Toronto, Canada at the most recent games I was joined by a choir of 300 military wives, which was really special.
But the best thing is when you get one message on Facebook that says, ‘this song has really helped me’ and they say they’re going to try out for a team. So, that’s the purpose of the song for the Invictus Games.
The Invictus Games is a great initiative for that very reason, isn’t it. As an event, it’s grown quite quickly since 2014, probably in part because of Prince Harry’s role but he does tend to let the athletes take centre stage, doesn’t he?
Yes, of course. I think you can see he genuinely cares about it. You can’t fake the life experiences that you get from being in the military, seeing battles and losing friends.
It’s very real and it’s incredibly emotional being there. I cry most days when it’s going on. It definitely makes you appreciate how lucky you are.
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Okay, so let’s turn our attention back to your beautiful boy. Our next set of questions are ones you probably haven’t been asked before. Are you ready?
(Laughs) Okay, go for it.
Rocky pictured with his new Hedgehog
If you were to swap roles with Rocky for a day, how do you think he'd cope being you and what would you love most about being him?
I think he would cope badly being me, to be honest because he wouldn’t be able to nap on the sofa whenever he wanted (laughs).
If I were him, I think I’d find it hard when anyone left home.
You can’t deny those puppy dog eyes looking at you when you have to leave home, can you? And I think I’d struggle eating dog food too, to be honest (laughs).
For this question, we normally ask our celebs to match up the following star’s personality to a breed of dog.
But we’re going to switch it around this time, so based on personalities alone, which famous people come to mind when you see these breeds of dog...
Springador, like Rocky – Usain Bolt, because they’re both ridiculously fast.
Westie – Boris Johnson.
Rottweiler – Rita Ora.
Jack Russell Terrier – German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.
German Shepherd – The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, they’re very protective, big and strong, aren’t they.
Describe the last time you laughed out loud because of something you saw Rocky or another dog do.
(Laughs) I saw a viral video of an older gentleman who was a very down to earth chap, he was out with his dog and it was walking him. He’d clearly been dragged through the mud and he was saying ‘that’s the last time I take the dog for a walk…and you said get a dog’. It was really funny.
Rocky pictured with his new treats, Pet Munchies
Rocky always makes me laugh but one thing he always does which makes me really laugh is when he creeps upstairs and he gently pushes the bedroom door open with his nose because he wants to lie on our bed, which he knows he’s not allowed to do, but what makes me laugh is how quietly he tries to do it because when I hear him and say his name, his tail starts banging against the wall, which completely gives him away.
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I wear lots of lovely dresses performing, but I’m not really that glamorous off-stage. I’m happy wearing my big puffy coat walking the dog.
What do you think is the most important life lesson we can learn from dogs?
Loyalty. It’s the thing I value most in Harry and I always try to give it to my friends and family, being there for one another and being loyal to the people that care about you, and they should be loyal to you as well.
I think that’s what dogs are and it’s a dog’s best quality.
It’s a pure quality in a dog, isn’t it?
Exactly, and I think they can hit the reset button at the start of the day better than we can. They don’t take baggage with them. I think we can probably learn a thing or two about that from them.
Finish the following sentence, my dog is…a legend (laughs).
And finally, this is always a tough question and often requires a fair degree of thinking time but...if Rocky had the ability to speak and answer one question and one question only, what would you ask them?
Oh my goodness, that’s a really hard question.
I would probably ask him if he’s happy and does he love us as owners, and I’d hope he’d say yes.
Many thanks, Laura!