It is 12 years since Gareth Gates was runner up in TV’s Pop Idol. Now about to turn 30 and a father of one, he has never been busier. Catherine Scott manages to catch up with him.
GaretH Gates is a busy man much in demand on television, stage and about to relaunch his singing career.
But as a result of being so in demand, his much publicised stammer has returned.
I meet Gates at the First Direct Arena in Leeds where he is promoting the last ever Dancing on Ice tour which visits the city and Sheffield Arena next month.
He is accompanied by another man he introduces as Chris, his voice coach.
Chris is a fellow practitioner of the McGuire Programme, the speech therapy course publically championed by Gates, himself a trained instructor in the technique.
It is based on learning a new way of breathing, using a different part of your diaphragm. But it is no cure and it needs constant practise.
“I am really busy at the moment which is great, but it also means that I don’t have the time to put into the programme and as a result I am having more downs than ups with my stammer,” explains the Bradford singer, who turns 30 in July.
“The whole point of McGuire is that we help and support each other. Chris travels with me at the moment to give me a little bit of support.”
And as we chat Chris is constantly watching the singer, signalling him to slow down and remember to breathe in the right places.
Even on these “bad” days, Gates is still a long way from the stammering baby-faced competitor in the BBC talent show Pop Idol.
It is 12 years since the Bradford choirboy was pipped to the post in the final of the hit TV show by Will Young.
The nation took him to their hearts when they saw and heard the difficulty he had communicating.
“I don’t stammer when I sing which is why my parents always encouraged me,” says Gareth.
“It took a lot to stand up there and try to speak but people seemed to like my story and for the first time in my life my stammer worked in my favour as it made me stand out from the others, it made me memorable I suppose.”
He went on to sell 3.5 million records and for a while his clean-cut image became tarnished when he was linked romantically to the glamour model Katie Price – despite initially denying it, saying he didn’t want his mum to know.
But for the last five years he has somewhat turned his back on his singing career, instead concentrating on musical theatre appearing in West End productions such as Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Legally Blonde, Les Miserables and Loserville at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.
“I have really enjoyed being involved in musical theatre but I really want to get back into singing again.” He is currently taking part in ITV’s Big Reunion, as one fifth of the “supergroup” 5th Story.
5th Story is made up of Gareth, Dane Bowers, Kenzie from Blazin’ Squad, Adam Rickitt and Kavana.
“I said ‘no’ when I was first approached,” says Gareth.
“I’m a solo singer so how can I be part of a show which is all about getting bands back together again? I can’t very well reunite with myself.”
But he did agree to go and meet the other members of 5th Story.
“I met the lads and we all got on and so I decided to give it a go. I’ve no idea as to the life of the band or how it will go down with the public.
“But I really enjoyed doing it. If it works, brilliant, we will probably make an album, if not then I will definitely be doing my own stuff.”
His Greatest Hits is being released on March 10 and it includes some new songs penned by Gates and he has more up his sleeve ready to go.
Filming for the Big Reunion started last October, he was also in pantomime over Christmas and was then approached to take part in the final Dancing on Ice series.
“I took part in the show in 2008 and I went from being terrible to being alright, and coming fourth. But then I was asked to do the 10th anniversary show which will be Jane and Chris’s last, I thought ‘why me?’ It was all former champions, but I approached it with a completely different mind-set. I wasn’t there to win, I decided to have fun and hopefully get through the first week and anything more than that was a bonus.”
Not only did he survive he has now been asked to appear in the live tour starting later this month.
“I’m not getting much sleep,” he admits. “It’s been tough juggling three jobs and my speech has taken the brunt of it. But I am really enjoying myself.”
When not working, Gates tries to spend as much time as possible with his four-year-old daughter Missy. Gates split from Missy’s mum, Suzanne, in 2012.
“She’s a real little performer,” he says of his daughter. “I miss her when I am working so much but try to spend as much time with her as possible.”
He also tries to return to Bradford to see his family as often as he can.
He opened the Gareth Gates Academy of Performing Arts in Bradford in 2011.
The after school academy is for children aged from five to 16-plus and combines the three essential disciplines needed in any area of performing arts; singing, dancing and acting.
“I’m really proud of the academy.
“It doesn’t matter how good you are it is about everyone having the chance to perform, which really helps their confidence.”
The success of the Gareth Gates Academy means he is now opening other clubs across Yorkshire.
“We are opening six clubs in Yorkshire to give more children the chance to take part in the things I did.”