WHAT started as a means to make a bit of extra pocket money has now become one of the most popular Neil Diamond experiences out there.

As a teenager, Fisher Stevens was surrounded by the music of Neil Diamond - his father was a huge fan and his brother played his records - so he was always destined to have a link to the singer.

Despite having now travelled the world impersonating the American songwriter, life for Stevens actually started away from the limelight.

“My musical journey actually started on the drum,” Stevens told The Gazette.

“I wanted to fade into the background and never be the focal point. But one night we were out doing karaoke and the rest of the guys kept egging me on to do a song.

“I racked my brain thinking what the hell am I going to do and being surrounded by Neil Diamond I thought I’d do Sweet Caroline.

“It brought the house down and someone told me that I should enter a talent competition and that was it.

“I could never imagine standing on stage being Neil Diamond but here we are now.”

After taking part in a variation of the Stars in Your Eyes talent show, Stevens was picked up by an agency and began to build up a repertoire of Diamond songs to play in pubs and clubs.

However, being thrust into the spotlight was not something he was used to.

“I remember almost being sick before I went on stage,” added Stevens.

“It just wasn’t in my genes then to be a frontman, but I remember that transition from having a couple of beers and doing karaoke to being responsible for a night of entertainment, it was so much stress.

“It didn’t take long until I lost that and as soon as I got a microphone in my hand it was completely different.

“Obviously now it is completely different, there are still nerves, but it comes more from excitement these days.”

Fast forward to 2018 and Stevens now claims to be the definitive Neil Diamond act, putting thought into his productions and considering how he is going to piece together his sets.

And in the latest show, A Beautiful Noise, Stevens will take an audience on a journey through the five decades of Diamond’s career.

Stevens’ extraordinary vocal range, relaxed sense of humour and stage presence aims to transport people back to the 1980s, close their eyes and imagine they are in the company of Neil Diamond.

So, what has been the key to his success be? “You need to have the sound,” Stevens said.

“It is all well and good having the look, but if you don’t have the sound you can instantly loose an audience.

“You have to respect that people are paying a lot of their money to see what they believe is going to be like their idol.”

He added: “I learnt something very quickly when it comes to fans, and that is not to discount them as they probably know more than you do.”

A Beautiful Noise: Celebrating the Life and Music of Neil Diamond is at the Anvil on Friday, 2 November.

For more details and to purchase tickets, which range from £29 to £31, go to anvilarts.org.uk/a-beautiful-noise.