Exclusive interview by Jim Coulson
He may have been swanning about in fancy London since memorably finishing second in Pop Idol to Will Young in 2002, but Gareth Gates is a Bradford lad through and through.
Thirty-year-old Gareth (yes, 30!) was head chorister at Bradford Cathedral Choir in his youth, being tasked with performing a solo for the Queen in 1997, and he often returns to West Yorkshire to see family and drop into the music academies he launched in the area with fellow singer Jonathan Wilkes.
Bradford is changing at quite a rate though, and Gareth is impressed with what he sees.
“It’s great to come back to Bradford,” he explains. “I took my little one who’s five to the City Park which is great, and all the kids were getting wet in the fountains. I can’t imagine anything worse! I’m too concerned about my hair”.
He’s also looking forward to the opening of the long-awaited Westfield Shopping Centre which was for so long just a hole in the ground, but with construction now steaming ahead it will be ready to welcome shoppers later this year.
“There are two Westfields in London and that’s where I shop,” he says. “It’s great for Bradford and will really boost the city centre. People from the city, if they want to do some decent shopping at the moment, they have to go to Leeds but they won’t have to any more.”
Gareth will be back in Yorkshire on 14 of March when he plays The Mart Theatre in Skipton, and he’s looking forward to coming home and rocking the town which is dubbed the Gateway to the Dales.
“It’ll be great,” he enthuses. “I’ve never played Skipton before. Of course I’ve performed round Bradford and I did a small, intimate acoustic gig at the Bingley Arts Centre which went down well and I think the people at the Mart Theatre heard about it, rang me and asked me to do the same thing there.”
Gareth Gates has come a long way since he was the shy, nervous 18-year-old with the stammer and the beautiful singing voice that wowed the judges and the nation on one of the first reality singing shows. However, whereas even the winners of The X Factor often struggle to get past the first single nowadays, Gareth seems to have the perfect career in which he can pick and choose the work he does, with plenty of variety to keep it interesting.
“I do a whole range of different shows,” he says. “I do the small, intimate gigs but then there’s the large halls, not to mention the musical theatre where I’m doing big shows. It’s nice to do the small gigs too and nice to do some in Yorkshire.”
Is it scary though, when the audience are that close up?
“Sometime yes!” he admits, “but I’ve got such a nice fan base that most of the time it’s the same faces that I see! Also, with the Skipton show being so close to home, there will be quite a few of my friends and family there too so it will actually be a bit like performing in my own living room!”
There are also likely to be a number of audience members who have risen through the ranks of the Gareth Gates Academy, the Yorkshire-based performing arts schools that encourage children to express and hone their singing, dancing and acting skills.
“A while ago I decided to help kids who wanted to perform and had the desire to pursue that,” says Gareth, “so I opened up an academy in Bradford which is still going well and is on every Monday. There’s one in Huddersfield as well – it’s just a chance for kids to come along and learn the basic areas of performing arts and I get there when I can to give the odd masterclass.”
And with 13 years in the business, Gareth has plenty of knowledge to impart.
“Yes, it’s been a while and I guess I’ve achieved a lot. With my time in the industry, to be able pass on what I know to the up-and-coming generation is great and I get a real buzz out of it.”
How has he managed to stick around in showbusiness while so many fall by the wayside?
“I think I’ve just been fortunate,” he laughs. “I guess it was one of the first of the reality TV shows and that final between me and Will gripped the nation “I’ve never stopped working and I’m actually busier than ever now” like none has since. It’s just the nature of the programme. It was huge at the time and I went on to sell five million records, I had five number ones, and then got into theatre.
I landed some great roles – I did Joseph, Les Miserables and Legally blonde. Yes, I ’ve been fortunate – I’ve never stopped working and I’m actually busier than ever now.”
Being busy at work is only part of the story for Gareth, who is also dad to five year-old Missy, his daughter with wife Suzanne from whom he is now separated.
“She’s already full on, all singing, all dancing!” says Gareth. “She said yesterday that she wanted to have a keyboard. She’s already playing the piano.
“I started singing at eight, playing the guitar at nine and piano at ten so music’s always been my life and I’m very happy that she wants to pursue that musical path too.”
It’s not all plain sailing with Missy, as Gareth readily admits “Often my speech isn’t too great and she’s at the age where she’s starting to notice and she often tells me off for not speaking properly! Even in public when I’m trying to order something from a restaurant, she’ll tell me that I have to think about what I want to say first before I say it!”
Will he encourage her to take up music as a career?
“I’m going to do what my parents did for me – they noticed at a very young age that I had a raw musical talent and they nurtured that and supported me in what I wanted to do and I’m certainly going to follow in those footsteps with my child.”
And finally, what’s next for Gareth Gates?
“I’m pretty much fully booked for the year,” says Gareth excitedly. “I’m doing my own gigs around the country and then later on I’m doing a musicals tour called Mad About Musicals which is a celebration of the best musicals out there. I’ll be performing with other West End stars in that, singing our favourite songs from the shows. That starts in September and runs right through till Christmas.”
How about a new album?
“I’m writing a lot at the minute,” Gareth says. “I’m hoping to have new material ready in time for the Skipton gig and potentially have a brand new album out before the end of the year.” Gareth Gates will play The Mart Theatre in Skipton on Saturday 14th March and details on that show and more are at www.garethgates.com. If you are interested in the Gareth Gates Academy, their website is www.garethgatesacademy.com