Ben Thompson might be the headline act for the Parkes Elvis Festival this year but he is just as excited to at the festival as anyone else.
The London-born performer has achieved things most Elvis tribute artists could only dream of but said he can’t wait to see the streets filled with people who love the King as much as he does.
Mr Thompson and his fiance Rihanne O’Leary arrived in town on Wednesday and performed his first show on Thursday night. He was blown away by what he saw.
“Everything is Elvis, the shops go to such great effort and you can see how much everyone embraces it,” he said.
“Parkes might be a small town in Australia but it’s one of the biggest festivals. There are going to be 25,000 people here over the weekend and they are all here for one reason.
“To be here doing what I love is amazing and to be the headline act is really an honour and I’m going to give it 110 per cent.”
Mr Thompson will perform concerts on Friday and Saturday nights, and a final one on Sunday, but he is also excited to be part of the parade on Saturday.
“The parade looks cool I don’t know where I’m going to be but I told them to just put me wherever they like.
“I’m already amazed by what I have seen. I walked down the street and at one end was a guy who could have been 80, completely dressed up and belting out a song, and at the other end there is young girl, not even 10, doing the same. That is truly unique.”
Mr Thompson said he had done his research on Australian crowds to determine what kind of show everyone would want to see.
“Every audience is different and that’s important to remember. I think you have to do a bit of research and understand your audience. If you don’t and do the same generic show everywhere you go, it’s not going to be what they want,” he said.
“Here they want rock and roll and they want it fast so that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll do a ballad to get my breath back and get back into it.”
Mr Thompson has been an Elvis fan since he was three years old but it was as a teenager that he decided to perform some of the King’s songs.
“I wanted to be a drama teacher. I won’t say actor because I believe i’d have tried and failed but I got into performing when I was 14 and did my first tribute show at 15. It was a community fair with around 200 people but that was like Wembley to me. I had three songs and they went down better than expected. I didn’t look or sound anything like Elvis then.”
It got the ball rolling and before he knew it he was performing at pubs and clubs, and then found contests.
“I started to realise this is what i want to do full-time. I worked hard at it and started to travel around the UK in my final two years at school. Once I was finished I didn’t want to go to university, I was just like ‘let’s go, let’s do it’.”
Since then Mr Thompson has achieved things he couldn’t have even dreamed of, including performing with Elvis’ original backing singers, the Sweet Inspirations, on at least 30 occasions.
But despite being recognised as a leading tribute performer, he hasn’t let it go to his head or taken it for granted.
“I never forget the people who helped me get where I am and I always try to perform locally whenever I can but I also strive for the next big thing and for me this is the ultimate, to be the headline at one of the biggest Elvis festivals,” he said.