Nicky Spence, tenor soloist in Michael Tippett's A Child of Our Time next Saturday, is "proud of be a son of Scotland".
He remembers a time "when it seemed I was never out of a kilt, and often seen on a hill singing Scottish songs". But these days the 32-year-old is firmly established on the international concert and operatic circuit.
At first, he had pop ambitions. "That was my idea of singing back then," he smiles. "Tom Jones and Scottish folk songs."
A high school music teacher who introduced him to Schubert, "started a love affair with classical music and eventually opera".
Always "a natural singer", studies at London's Guildhall highlighted the demands of "not just telling a story, but having the technical proficiency to sing all night, often over a large orchestra".
"I became aware of Pavarotti as everyone does, because he's a household name," but eventually Nicolai Gedda caught his ear and Placido Domingo "when he was in his prime. Domingo was such a stage animal and Jonas Kaufmann will probably take over his crown from here on."
Spence is clearly fascinated by the whole phenomenon of his particular instrument, the tenor voice.
"It's a bit of a fickle mistress," he explains. "There's an element of muscularity about it, making you very aware of your physicality when you sing. The bigger the music, the more visceral the connection between you, the sound and the stage."
His recent role as the apprentice David in English National Opera's Die Meistersinger has been praised by critics as "the perfect blend of impulsiveness and serious ambition" and "a lovable, melodious thug".
The Independent went as far as to suggest that, "apart from Nicky Spence's charismatic David, no single voice may leap out as world-class".
He found the role more challenging than even a top-of-the-bill character like Mozart's Tamino. The energy demands of the first aria were "terrifying and taught me so much about stamina. It's so long you really have to pace yourself."
As for the much-touted Wagnerian experience, "it's like slipping into a big bath and having the sound of 120 chorus members and a massive orchestra envelop you," Spence laughs. "It's something else."
The tenor is also on Nonesuch Records, a label that hosts artists from Steve Earle and Kronos Quartet to Emmylou Harris and John Adams, and plays Brian in Nico Muhly's new opera Two Boys. This murky tale of murder and cyber-manipulation, based on a real-life incident, played at London's ENO and the New York Met; Spence only won his role after a succession of gruelling auditions with director, composer and both opera houses.
"I like how Two Boys captured the contemporary in a way that was vital and had so much excitement about it. As a character, you felt you could really make your mark."
A Child of Our Times is a 1944 oratorio in which composer Michael Tippett set his own words as a plea for peace, punctuated with moving spirituals such as Steal Away and Go Down Moses.
"I adore oratorio," says Spence, naming Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius as a favourite.
"I cut my teeth on it at college and there's such a tradition with it in Britain."
This is his first experience with the Tippett piece and he is "falling in love with music that is just as poignant in our current climate as it was when it was written".
Although it is difficult to fit oratorio appearances into busy operatic schedules, "I enjoy the vulnerability that comes when you don't have costumes and makeup. I do like putting my tails on and having that special communication with the audience."