'˜It's a constant battle to overcome my stammer'
The difference between Gareth Gates on and off stage is striking.
When WOW247 speaks with him on the phone about his upcoming show at the Kings Theatre in Southsea, Mad About The Musicals, he apologises that he will be speaking slowly as ‘I’m working on my speech’.
Gareth has fought a lifelong battle with a stammer that he only now has under control through continuous work.
But when he’s on stage and performing, you’d be none the wiser.
Such is the powerful role music has played in his life.
And so far it’s going really well.
It’s basically a celebration of the world’s best musical theatre, from the West End to Broadway.
It’s the greatest hits, as it were, from all the biggest shows.
Along with Michael Courtney, they’ll be performing much-loved songs from the pen of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Kander and Ebb, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Boublil and Schonberg and many more.
Gareth says: ‘The audiences love it because they tend to know all of the songs, so they can sing along.
‘It’s a fun evening out for those who like this sort of thing.’
Since taking over the lead role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Adelphi Theatre in 2009, Gareth has been a regular on the stages of the West End and major national musical tours.
He played the role of Marius in the 25th anniversary tour for Les Miserables and has also been in Boogie Nights and Legally Blonde, among others.
As a result he was already familiar with some of the songs in the new show.
‘Yes, I’ve sung some of these songs before, like Les Miserables.
‘I did that for over a year-and-a-half in the West End and on tour.
‘I have a lot of good memories from that experience.
‘We sing songs from a range of shows, from older musicals, right through to modern day ones.’
Most recently however, Gareth has been starring as Willard in the touring version of Footloose: The Musical, based on the smash 1984 film.
He’ll rejoin the tour after he’s done with this show.
‘I’m doing Footloose for a year,’ explains Gareth.
‘I’m taking a break for eight weeks to do this, and then I’m going back into Footloose after this is finished.’
The production stopped at the Kings for a week – with our reviewer praising Gareth’s performance.
They also proved popular in The Phoenix, the nearby pub often frequented by visiting tours.
‘I absolutely loved it when I was there, I was a real tourist,’ he says of Portsmouth.
‘I went up the tower and hung out in the day a hell of a lot and I really enjoyed that.
‘The audiences there were great as well. It’s such a lovely theatre there, too.’
Gareth was still a teenager when he first came to the public’s attention as the runner-up to Will Young in the first series of Pop Idol in 2002.
His music career took off – he racked up four number one hits, including covers of Unchained Melody and The Long and Winding Road (with Will).
Gareth also scored a double platinum debut album. He has sold more than 3m records in the UK.
It was when the singles began to chart lower and he was dropped by his label that he began his successful second life on the stage.
‘In some ways it feels like it was only yesterday,’ he says of Pop Idol.
‘But in other ways it does feel like a good 15 years – I’ve achieved a hell of a lot.
‘Pop Idol was the first show of its kind, well before X Factor.
‘So no-one really knew what to expect from the show, there was nothing to gauge it on.
‘I entered it as a very young lad, not knowing what I was getting into.
‘But I’ve been very fortunate in what it’s brought me.’
Had he always wanted to be a pop star?
‘Music has always been my life and always been that much more special to me, just because I’m unable to talk.
‘Music’s always been my life.
‘From a very young childhood I learned to play all my instruments and sing, and I was never really able to talk very well as a child because of my stammer, so music really meant a hell of a lot to me.
‘Music was my only form of expression.
‘I always knew whatever I did, it would be in some area of music.
‘So I was very fortunate to have the opportunity that I did, and it’s opened lots and lots of doors ever since.’
Even now, he hasn’t given up on his solo music.
‘I constantly do my own gigs and concerts for my fans, so I think in the future it will be a mixture of both.
‘I really enjoy theatre and doing new shows that I haven’t done before.
‘However, I’m lucky that there will always be a fanbase there who wants to see my and my music as well.
‘Often I get a lay-off when I’m doing the shows, so I do my own thing then.’
There was also a short stint with a boyband supergroup called 5th Story.
He joined Dane Bowers from Another Level, Kenzie from Blazin’ Squad, Adam Rickitt and Kavana.
The group was put together for ITV2’s popular show The Big Reunion and subsequent Big Reunion Boyband Tour.
Is that still an ongoing concern?
Gareth says: ‘Unfortunately not, we had a great time while it lasted, however we only really agreed to be a group for the TV programme.’
Gareth’s battle with his stutter has also helped him win fans for the way he’s refused to let it hamper his career.
He has often spoken about it, and how he has used The McGuire Programme to help him overcome it.
But as he says, and is evidenced in our chat: ‘It’s a constant battle, I have to constantly work at it.
‘The times when I get lazy, or complacent, or I’m too busy to put the work in, then I have very, very bad days.
‘It’s all down to the amount of work I put in.
‘We kind of see ourselves as like athletes, and if an athlete stops training, or a musician stops practising an instrument, then they won’t be as good as they can be.’
As to his future beyond this show and Footloose, he has a few plans in the pipeline.
‘I’ve just signed up to do panto over in Belfast which takes me up to next February, and then after that – who knows?
‘I tend to know about a year in advance what I’m going to do.
‘I’ve been very fortunate that that’s how it’s been for the past 15 years.
‘I’ve always been super, super busy.’
Mad About the Musicals with Gareth Gates and Michael Courtney is at The Kings Theatre in Southsea on Saturday, May 28. Doors open 7.30pm.
Tickets cost £26. Go to http://kingsportsmouth.co.uk/whats-on/music/mad-about-the-musicals-with-gareth-gates/ or call the box office on (023 9282 8282).