Gareth Gates on coming back home to Yorkshire

PUBLISHED: 12:37 11 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:36 20 February 2013

Gareth Gates on coming back home to Yorkshire

Gareth Gates on coming back home to Yorkshire

Bradford's favourite pop idol is back on stage in Yorkshire, as Jo Haywood reports

Gareth Gates mum wants to know what he wants for his tea. Shell have it on the table when he gets home, hes just got to decide if he fancies a Chinese or chicken with all the trimmings.

Im 27 years old, Im married, Ive got a three-year-old daughter and my mums still fretting over my tea, he says, grinning widely as he texts back.Im staying with my mum and dad at the moment.

I wanted to stay in the centre of Leeds, but my mum was not having that. So there are no late nights for me while Im here. My mums still my mum nothings changed.

Hes currently back in his home county in a new, original British musical penned by award-winning writer Elliot Davis and musician James Bourne, who is a former member of pop band Busted with two Brit Awards, six million record sales and seven number one songs to his credit.

Gareth(3.5 million records and four number one singles) plays Eddie, a have-it-all rich-kid hell bent on ruining the summer for super-smart geek Michael Dork, played by Aaron Sidwell, best known as Steven Beale in EastEnders, and brilliantly clever Holly, played by Eliza Hope Bennett whose big screen credits you may remember include Nanny McPhee and Inkheart.

This is my first villain, says Gareth, obviously relishing the chance to test his acting skills in a role that relies less on singing and more on delivering the lines. Hes completely different to everything Ive played before and hes completely different to me. Hes got a massive ego not like me. Hes very good-looking not like me. And hes the school bully; the show-off kind who makes everyone laugh. Which is definitely not like me; I was the kid hiding at the back of the class. Eddie is horrible, and I love it.

Gareth, a former head chorister at Bradford Cathedral, first met Loserville director Steven Dexter when he was five and auditioning for the role as youngest Siamese child in The King & I at Bradford Alhambra (his mum had seen an advert in the Telegraph & Argus). He got the part and they kept in touch intermittently over the years.

He asked me to do Oliver! in the West End, but I couldnt face it, says Gareth. I knew there was a lot of speaking involved and I just couldnt do it.

This is, of course, a reference to the Bradford stars well-documented battle with stammering, an infliction he has fought his entire life and which still puts him under immense pressure even today, he says.

Its very difficult to be the person you want to be when you stammer, he says. If you dont have a voice, you cant express who you really are. Luckily, Ive never found it hard to express myself musically. As a kid, I couldnt speak, but I could sing.

When he battled it out with eventual winner Will Young on the first series of Pop Idol in 2001, Gareth was not worried about the singing, it was the interview with Ant and Dec afterwards that really terrified him.

Its just really embarrassing, he says. I was so ashamed of my stammer, but it certainly got me noticed. For the first time ever, I could see my stammer was a positive thing. He has since qualified as a teacher of the McGuire Technique, an aggressive programme that helps people control their stammer or stutter. This doesnt mean, however, that his own battle is won. He will always have a stammer, but at least now he knows how to deal with it.

I still have to work hard at it and I still have major issues with speech, he says, his own McGuire Technique coach at his side providing support as we talk. I had a complete meltdown during the first read-through for Loserville, but I just stood up and did it again. If you dont face it head on, youll never conquer it. Its hard and embarrassing, but it works.

So much so that Gareth is now considering moving on from musical theatre, where hes won great acclaim in productions of Joseph and Les Miserables, into further acting roles. But why put himself through the incredible stress of auditions, read-throughs and performing without a musical safety net?

I like to challenge myself every day, and acting is pretty much the ultimate challenge for me, he says. I just have to make sure I know the words inside out and convince myself and everyone else that Im playing a character who doesnt have a stammer.

As well as acting, Gareth is also writing music again, perhaps for a new album, and working hard to develop his growing chain of performing arts academies, which he runs with fellow musical theatre performer Jonathan Wilkes. They have four so far including a thriving group at Gareths old school, Dixons City Academy in West Bowling with a fifth on the way in Leeds.

The academies are about giving something back something my family taught me from a very young age, he says. I really want to give children the space to shine. They dont have to audition and they dont have to be the best singer, dancer or actor, they just have to be enthusiastic and willing to learn.

If Dixons had opened a similar academy back in his day, would he have been enthusiastic and willing to learn?

I would hope so, says Gareth, after a short deliberation. Performing was always so important to me as a child because I couldnt speak and I was always a very hard worker.

I think I would have seen it as a wonderful opportunity to express myself through music. I couldnt share my ideas with anyone as a child through conversation, but I could have put my thoughts into songs.

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